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How to Plan and Pack a Picnic

Updated on March 31, 2010

The Many Forms of Picnicing

Picnics can be as varied as the people who take them. (Although most people think of fried chicken in their local park.) As a child I remember taking picnics by the local airfield when my father worked late. My mother would load us into the car and we would stop at a fast food restaurant for our picnic dinner. Then we would sit together as a family and watch the planes taking off and landing. (My father always wanted to be a pilot.)

Another type of picnic I remember taking as a child is a hiking picnic. My father enjoyed getting away from the rush of daily life. So we would pack a light lunch which he would carry in a backpack. Then we all hiked out to whatever scenic location was his current get-away.

When I met my husband I started indulging in another type of picnic--the romantic picnic. Snuggled together on a blanket and nibbling on finger foods we talked about all our dreams for the future.

Then of course there were the group picnics. A wonderful way to get together for summer holidays, family reunions, church socials or any large group function. Of course these picnics tend to be a potluck style picnic with each family bringing only one large dish.

This is of course not an exhaustive list of picnic types, but then I would not have time to address them all here. For the purposes of this article I am going to focus on the typical family picnic, the hiking picnic and the romantic picnic.

The Family Picnic

The most common picnic is the family picnic at the local park. These are also the simplest to plan and execute. For myself, I keep a picnic blanket (it doubles as my emergency blanket) and some wet wipes in the back of my car so that my family and I can indulge in spontaneous picnics. When the mood strikes we stop at a local fast food restaurant and then find ourselves a picturesque park to enjoy.

However, those types of picnics tend to be less healthy than a well planned picnic. They also tend to be more pressured by the time constraints of your day.

So, in planning a picnic what is required? As I mentioned above a blanket is a nice place to spread out your food and yourselves for a relaxed lunch. But if you don't fancy sitting on the ground lawn chairs are always a good option. Wet wipes and a garbage bag will help with clean-up. Also, it is a good idea to have some type of recreation for the kids.

If you are at a park there are often big toys were the children can play. Some other good options include a ball and a bat, a volleyball and net, or kites. In my family we would often have a picnic in the summer to shoot off the model rocket we'd spent our vacation time constructing. Having an activity to occupy the kids gives you a chance to relax and enjoy the picnic too.

Now all that's left is to plan your menu. Food on picnics can be as varied as the people that eat it. However, I've compiled a couple of menu options to get you started.

Menu Option One:

  • Chicken - fried or roasted

    If you have young children it's easier if it's already off the bone.

  • Potato salad

    If you don't have a recipe of your own my family's favorite can be found here.

  • Coleslaw
  • Watermelon

    I prefer to cut the watermelon into chunks before I go that way I don't have to worry about packing a sharp knife.

  • Crullers

    These are a prefect combination with the sweet watermelon. If you don't know how to make them you can find a recipe here.

Menu Option Two:

  • Quesadillas

    For a simple recipe that I use click here.

  • Chips and Salsa
  • Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

    If you need a good recipe for fruit salsa you can find one here.

Toddlers love this particular menu because they love dipping their food.

Menu Option Three:

  • Chicken Salad

    I prefer the one at my local grocery store because they combine pasta, chicken and grapes.

  • Green Pea Salad
  • Kiwi Fruit

    Kiwi are nice because they can be cut with a spoon.

Necessary Equipment for a Picnic:

  • Blanket and/or lawn chairs
  • Wet wipes (for sticky fingers and faces)
  • Two Garbage bags (one for dirty paper plates and other trash and the other for non disposable dirty dishes)
  • Paper plates, cups and bowls (bowls are a good choice for salsa)
  • Plasticware
  • Ice chest with drinks


Hiking Picnic

With views like the one above available locally, who wouldn't enjoy a good day hike? Living in Washington I must admit that I believe day hikes are one of the best ways to picnic. However, I know that not every state has such beautiful vistas to tempt you away from the typical picnicking locals. But for those of you that do (or for those of you that just want a little exercise) this section is for you.

Obviously a hiking picnic is a little more involved than a standard family picnic. However, the joy of sharing your meal under a rushing waterfall makes the extra effort worthwhile.

When choosing a location keep in mind the experience and ages of your fellow hikers. If your current exercise program includes the walk from the back of the parking lot to the grocery store you may want to start small. Even a few hours of walking helps pull you away from the rushing pace of modern day life.

Finally when considering your meal options always remember weight. And don't forget you will have to pack out everything you bring in. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


  • Hiking boots for all participants
  • Backpack (for carrying lunch)
  • Walking Stick (while optional, it can help save your knees over uneven terrain)
  • Water bottles for all participants
  • Depending on the length of your hike you may also want to consider bringing a water filter.

Meal Item Choices:

  • Trail mix

    It is a good idea to give everyone a small portion to eat as they walk.
  • Dried Fruit or Fruit Leather
  • Salami and Crackers

    You will also need a knife to cut the salami.
  • Cheese and Crackers

    Again, you will need a knife.
  • Celery and Peanut Butter
  • Carrots, Snap Peas, Broccoli and/or Cauliflower with Dehydrated Vegetable Dip

    You will need a bowl and a spoon for mixing the dip.

Romantic Picnic

Romantic picnic often require a lot of preparation. For example you can stage a Hawaiian picnic for your significant other. It requires a couple of deck chairs, a kiddy pool for resting your feet in, some sun screen for massages, an ocean soundtrack (don't forget the CD player), a large picture of a white sandy beach and a Hawaiian menu (including the drinks with the umbrellas). Some additional options include leis and tropical flowers. Pull all that together and your sweetie can close his or her eyes are imagine that dream vacation. (The picture is to help visualization.)

As I said, they can be more work to pull off, but the beauty of a romantic picnic is that it can be staged anywhere from the local park to your bedroom. If you have a quiet sunny backyard it can be the perfect place for the Hawaiian picnic.

You could stage a star-gazing picnic at your local park. You would need a blanket for sitting on, a blanket to snuggle under, a thermos of coffee (or whatever your favorite hot beverage), some warm finger foods in an insulated container and, of course, a telescope. Some additional options include candles, books on star-gazing (and a flashlight) and romantic music (with a CD player).

The romantic picnic is really only as limited as your imagination. You can be as elaborate as your schedule and finances can afford. To help get you started I've listed what you would need for a simple romantic picnic as well as some menu options.

Also, a couple of quick notes on the menu: A romantic picnic menu often has a lot in common with a tea. Finger foods are much more romantic than whole sandwiches. It's hard to be romantic when trying to feed your significant other an entire sandwich versus bit-sized pieces. Baguettes lend themselves easily to bit-sized sandwiches.


  • Picnic blanket

    Sorry no lawn chairs unless you've got one big enough to share. However, pillows are always a welcome addition.

  • Candles

    Remember you will be placing them on an uneven surface so tea lights and votives are probably your best choice.

  • Romantic Music

    Don't forget the CD player. Also remember to check the batteries. Mood music doesn't work well if it cuts out five minutes into the picnic.

  • Champagne Glasses
  • Ice Chest

Menu Choices:

  • Sandwich of cream cheese, chicken and cranberries
  • Sandwich of cinnamon cream cheese, apples and walnuts
  • Sandwich of cream cheese, oranges and pecans
  • Sandwich of cream cheese and salmon
  • Strawberries and whipped cream (or chocolate covered strawberries)
  • Grapes
  • Tangerine wedges
  • Cherries
  • Champagne or non-alcoholic substitute

    Even pregnant women need romance.

A Few Final Words

Remember picnics can be as varied as the people who take them. Indulge your imagination.

If your family has a favorite meal, see if you can adapt it for picnicking. Does your family have a favorite activity. Plan a menu, pack a basket and make a day of it. If you really want to have some fun see what suggestions your children have.

Hopefully, my suggestions will help you get started with your own picnics. Once you've started I'm sure you'll find that picnicking also becomes a typical family activity.


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    • Diane Inside profile image

      Diane Inside 

      9 years ago

      I love to picnic, this was a great hub. I especially liked all the items you remind us to bring. Like wet wipes, something that is definitely needed but that we often times forget. Great information.

    • charmstotreasure profile image


      9 years ago

      Neat ideas! YOu can get creative with packing and not spend tons on a fancy basket. Good hub!

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      9 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Red wine is a good sub for champagne.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice hub Joy, but where is the wine? To glasses of a very good red wine is always a good idea.

    • fiona_33 profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      Really great topic for a hub. I love the idea of a picnic but I've never known what to take.

    • profile image

      Shai Picnic Food 

      10 years ago

      Wonderful Hub with wonderful menu options.

      Hiking picnic sounds amazing eapecially if it goes near places like that watefall.

      Thank you for a geat Hub. :-)

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      10 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Some of the best picnic scenery by far has been when I'm hiking.

    • profile image

      The Picnic Spot 

      10 years ago

      Wow! I would love to see the waterfall in your hiking picnic example! We love to park and watch the planes take off near the airport too. I never thought of picking up dinner and eating it picnic style at the airport. Good idea :)

    • MsCookM profile image


      10 years ago

      Some great menu ideas - I need to pack a picnic dinner for Friday night so this is a great help.

    • New Day profile image

      New Day 

      11 years ago from Western United States

      What a super, thorough Hub! I love all your ideas for the various different ways of picnicking.

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 

      11 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      Enjoyed the reminder that finger foods best for a romantic picnic! Nice! And, arent' wet wipes just the best invention? Between wet wipes, and zip loc bags, I don't know how my mother got along before these items available!

    • MasonsMom profile image


      11 years ago from U.S.A.

      This sounds like fun & yummy too!


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