One of the reasons that picnics are fun is that you are taking your party on the road, away from your home. The tricky thing about picnics is that you are taking your party on the road away from your home! This means that you won't be able to dash into your house to get the corkscrew you need to open that bottle of wine, or the knife for cutting that wedge of cheese. But if you're organized and have a checklist, your picnic will become all the best things about eating in the great outdoors, including the change of scenery from your backyard.
Here are my top suggestions for items you'll want to pack for your next picnic.
Things You May Need or Want to Bring Along on Your Picnic
A Picnic Basket, Hamper, Tote, Cooler or Backpack - Whichever style you choose, whatever you call it, you need something to transport the food, the drinks, and the place settings. If your food isn't perishable, and you will be driving your car close to the picnic location, a traditional picnic hamper will be charming. If you plan to hike deep into the woods, a backpack style picnic carrier may be more appropriate. And if you're bringing along a lot of food and beverages that should remain cold until served, a cooler, even on wheels, may be best suited for your needs.
A Picnic Blanket - Unless you're planning your picnic in a location that has picnic tables waiting for you, you'll want to bring along a blanket to sit on and to spread out the contents of your picnic basket.
Any blanket will do, as well as an old comforter, table cloth, or even flat bed sheet in a pinch. But some real picnic blankets have a waterproof lining on one side which will come in handy to keep you dry when the grass or sand is damp.
Plates, Glasses, Utensils, Napkins - Yes, you could just eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwich straight from the little plastic bag in which you packed it and wipe your hands on your shorts.
But if you'd like to make your picnic feel more special, you'll want to bring along a proper table setting. Depending on the occasion and location of your picnic, your place settings could be as casual as disposable plates, cups, utensils and paper napkins, or you could bring along your best china, crystal, silver and table linens. Just remember to pack things carefully to avoid breakage.
Corkscrew or Bottle Opener - These are the kind of items that will make you curse the day you took your picnic away from the back yard if you forget to bring them along. If your picnic includes a bottle of wine, imported sparkling water, or any other beverage that requires more than your bare hands to open, remember to pack the appropriate gadget for opening them.
Cutting Board and Knife - As mentioned above, you could bring along sandwiches in little plastic bags for your picnic. But a much nicer, fresher approach would be to prepare your sandwiches on site. This way, you will avoid soggy bread, and you'll only need to chill the perishable ingredients instead of the entire sandwich.
Ice Packs or Thermos - Remember to keep your food safe by packing ingredients with enough ice to keep it chilled until served.
Likewise, if you bring hot food to your picnic, use a thermos to keep it at a safe temperature.
Trash Bags - You enjoy the outdoors, so I don't need to tell you that leaving your trash behind is a bad idea. However, in addition to the bags you'll bring for your trash, you may also want to pack a few plastic bags to bring home the dirty dishes and glasses to keep your lovely picnic basket from getting soiled.
Paper Towels or Wipes - While we're on the subject of cleaning up, you may want to pack paper towels or wipes to clean the picnic table if you're using one, or your hands before and after you eat.
Atmosphere - Your picnic site may have enough atmosphere to create the picnic mood you desire. But if you want to make it extra romantic you might want to bring along flowers, candles, and a lighter.
If you do light candles, be very careful to keep the flame contained and put it out completely before you pack up to go home.