How to Plan a Picnic

Picnics are a relaxing way to spend a weekend afternoon and are a perfect way to reconnect with friends and family. I enjoy packing simple and delicious picnics full of flavor. Throughout the summer, I will continue my picnic series which will highlight easy to make picnic meals.

Whether it’s your first time picnicking or you need a refresher, here my quick tips for planning a picnic:

Why picnic?

  • It’s relaxing – you never know just how much you miss the quiet outdoors until you actually sit down on a sunny patch of grass with a bag full of food.
  • It’s affordable – during economic downturns, picnics are a prime ‘staycation’, an affordable way to site-see and spend time with family.
  • It’s easy to do – no need to buy tickets or pack suitcases, just grab some food and head out to a local park or even a distant corner of your own back yard.

Where to picnic?

  • Back Yard – you don’t need to go very far when packing a picnic, a shady area of your back yard can be just as fun. If not your back yard, maybe a friend or neighbor has a beautiful yard, field or forest to explore (but make sure to ask first!).
  • Neighborhood Parks – stroll down to your local neighborhood park and find a secluded, quiet corner to spread a blanket. It may be a little busier and noisier but is still enjoyable.
  • State or National Parks – although it may require a short drive, you’ll find larger parks and beautiful sights. Some parks may charge an entrance fee and have rules on food and beverages. Make sure to check before making the drive.
  • University Campuses or Municipal Buildings – wonderfully landscaped and often free to access, you’ll have fun people watching at the same time.
  • Cemeteries – oh, don’t be afraid. A friend suggested this to me once, the lush green landscaping makes for a special way to spend time with family passed.
  • Ski Hills – no snow or long lift lines make ski hills a wonderful summer option. Many ski hills are open for hiking and biking, providing many ideal picnic opportunities and scenic views.
  • Boats & Ferries – grass isn’t mandatory. Whether you need to rent a small boat or pay a ferry fare, getting out on the open water is a great way to spend an afternoon with a packed lunch.

What to pack?

  • Food and Beverages – the single most important thing to pack, but don’t make it complicated or too fussy. Sandwiches, boiled eggs and salads are favorites of mine.
  • Blanket, Tablecloth or Folding Chairs – while I don’t suggest hauling lots of furniture, a simple blanket or even folding chairs will work perfectly. Although the grass is always greener on the other side, sometimes it’s wet or covered in animal poo.
  • Napkins and Utensils – make sure to bring the appropriate accessories for the food you’ll be eating.
  • Bug Repellent and Sunscreen – these are must-haves if planning to be in the sun or in areas where you’ll find lots of flying critters.
  • Reading Material or Activities – I find it relaxing to read when picnicking and bring along all those magazines I never get around to reading. Bring along a book or even games if there are kids joining you.

Who to invite?

  • Fly Solo – some days, you just need to be alone. There’s no shame is getting the ‘me’ time you deserve. Feel free to pack your bag and head out on your own!
  • Romantic Interludes – there’s something romantic about taking a loved one out on a picnic. Surprise the special person if you life with a picnic made for two.
  • Bring the Gang – pack up the SUV with the kids and dogs, making a family adventure out of it. Allow the kids to participate in planning the location and food as well. Make sure to bring along activities the kids will enjoy.
  • Group Outings – plan a family reunion or invite all of your friends. With more people, you may find it useful to share the planning activities or to assign specific foods for the picnic potluck.

Sample Picnic Menus:
Stayed tuned to follow my picnic adventures in the coming weeks, with picnic menus and recipes being shared below:

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  1. Ooh, next time I come and see you (seeing as you are so fond of picnics and the sun), remind me to bring you a Philippine picnic mat!

  2. LOVE picnics. If possible, there’s gotta be a BBQ! I have great memories as a kid of all the summer Filipino barbecues at the park: skewers, pancit, rice, lumpia… the whole shebang! I’m sure there’s lots of this going on at the parks in Vancouver in the summer. And Manggy, are you talking about a banig? (or is that for sleeping? or both? sleeping at the park, perhaps?) :)

  3. We are huge fans of picniking at the beach. Sometimes I go all out and make a bunch of fun goodies, or sometimes we pick up fish tacos and go with that :) The bummer is that you can no longer drink alcohol at our beaches, so you have to be quite sneaky about it instead. I look forward to your picnic recipes!

  4. Our second date was a picnic to see the SF Symphony in Dolores Park. Matt put together a beautiful picnic from the local deli & had a sweet little picnic set for two with dishes, silverware, glasses & linens, I was sold. Now we keep that little picnic set in the car so we can have an impromptu picnic anytime

  5. I love the idea of picnics and have a stunning hamper, blanket, the works. It’s just that the weather here in England is so unpredictable, so that planning is always hard. As I type, it’s pouring with rain, but was sunny just half an hour ago! But your post has inspired me to plan for a picnic in my very own garden, by the lake…

  6. I laugh when you said cemetary. When I was a teenager I loved spending time in cemetary. Don’t ask me why. I always bring tablecloth and also seat covers. I can’t believe to see families that put their food right on tables. Can’t wait for more ideas for your picnics.

    You should add picnic of ferry. We always do a picnic on the ferry crossing from Vancouver Island to Vancouver. Even on the way back we stop at Whole Foods in Vancouver and buy lot’s of different salads for our picnic. It’s a real treat. The food on the ferry is so bad.

  7. this is a great idea!

    i like the idea of a sunset picnic, with a bottle of wine, a good baguette, and cheese…and pickles!

    i also like the sound of a pickle tasting picnic, a picklic??

  8. looooooooooooooooooooooooove picnic!!!! just had a great picnic at jericho beach last wkend where we could play volleyball, bbq, or just relax under the sun. your ideas are perfect!

  9. Hi Allen,
    I stumbled upon your blog in my search engine while looking around for some picnic advice. You have some wonderful ideas posted here so I just wanted to ask you if it is ok if I “borrow” your link. I’m having an “online picnic” over at my blog for Picnic Day (which was the 18th) I also plan on celebrating Picnic Month (July) and will need additional resources. Thanks so much for taking the time to offer ideas and recipes for a truly memorable feast!

    P.S. Here’s a link to my online picnic if you want to “play” the picnic game. I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…

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