The key to planning a picnic is the convenience factor.

When was the last time you went on a picnic? There's no better way to spend a free afternoon than relaxing outdoors with a simple meal and nothing else to do. Here are some tips and tricks to make your next outing a stress-free good time.

The Gear

You don't need a wicker basket to plan a great picnic, but it will make for some fantastic photos. Keep an eye out for a large, handled basket the next time you're out and about. If you don't have a cooler, just line a cardboard box with a heavy garbage bag to keep it watertight and toss in some frozen packs. Put it in the trunk so everything stays nice and cold to and from your picnic.

Let your drinks do double-duty as cold packs by freezing a few overnight. Don't forget to pour off a little liquid first! Last, but certainly not least, make a playlist and charge up all of your devices. Pack a spare power bank for your phones if you have one.

The Food

Sandwiches are the ultimate easy picnic food and they're infinitely better if you make them fresh. No one likes squashed white bread! Instead of wrapping up individual sandwiches, get a crusty baguette and a variety of rolls—think fresh bagels, croissants, or pretzel rolls...the sky's the limit! Toss some deli meat and cheese in the cooler, along with some condiments in plastic bags that you can snip and squeeze.

If you're feeling super-fancy, try this simple crab cake recipe and serve it with a green salad. You could also put together a sophisticated charcuterie plate with bits from the deli counter.

Supplement your main dish with some fresh veggies and dip. Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and green beans all make crunchy alternatives to salty chips. Brownies, fruit, and bars make great portable desserts.


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The Setup

If you're going somewhere with picnic tables, bring a tablecloth and some seat cushions for a bit of comfort. Vinyl tablecloths can also serve as picnic blankets, so pick up a few extra for anyone who wants to spread out on the ground. Make sure you have some bug spray and sunscreen on hand.

Bring outdoor games to keep everyone busy, like a horseshoe set, paddleball, or a football to toss around. Pack a deck of cards or two for the adults, and watch the afternoon fly by

The Cleanup

Don't forget a bag for garbage and another for recyclables. Pack a roll of paper towels, some wet wipes, and an extra jug of water and hand soap in case anyone gets really messy. Keep some empty 2-liter bottles on hand so you can fill them with tap water for times like this. Be sure to leave your picnic spot as pristine as you found it.

With a little preparation, you can have a picture-perfect picnic ready to go in a flash. Find a great spot to explore and plan one today!

What are some of your favorite picnic tricks or recipes? Share them with us in the comments.