One of my favorite ways to take advantage of the beautiful summer weather is to round up family and friends and go for a picnic. It takes just three easy steps; I pack a cooler filled with delicious food and refreshing beverages, I plan a few fun games, and prep a great playlist of music. If you’re looking to plan an outing to a local park, a nearby beach or even your backyard, follow my lead and use some of these tips for a picnic-perfect excursion.

Plan a delightful picnic

One of my favorite ways to take advantage of the beautiful summer weather is to round up family and friends and go for a picnic. It takes just three easy steps; I pack a cooler filled with delicious food and refreshing beverages, I plan a few fun games, and prep a great playlist of music. If you’re looking to plan an outing to a local park, a nearby beach or even your backyard, follow my lead and use some of these tips for a picnic-perfect excursion.

Plan a delightful picnic: Choose the right cooler

Choose the right cooler

A good cooler is a must. You have so many choices these days—soft-sided coolers, backpack coolers, and hard-shell coolers with wheels. Soft-sided coolers are often lighter and easier to carry and tote around. But hard-shell coolers are more durable and tend to keep foods colder longer. Choose one based on the size of your party, the amount of food you’re packing and how long you’ll be out. You want to find the right balance; ice should take up roughly 50 percent of the space, but keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better. A tightly packed cooler stays colder longer than one that’s more loosely packed. The extra air space in a cooler will heat up quickly and can make it hard to keep foods fresh and cold.

This backpack cooler is great and easy to carry for short outings and small food hauls.

This soft-sided cooler comes in a variety of sizes and colors, and has a lot of cool features.

And this hard, wheeled cooler is great for bigger crowds.

Plan a delightful picnic: Use these food-packing pointers

Use these food-packing pointers

The ideal cooler temperature is 40˚ or below—you can place a small thermometer at the top of the cooler to gauge the temperature. Raw foods, like meat, should be kept separate from prepared foods. To be super safe, I like to pack one cooler for food and a second one for drinks. This helps prevent cross contamination (as ice melts, bacteria can be transferred to drinks and other cooler items). But also, coolers are opened frequently for beverages, so packing separate coolers helps cut back on the times the food cooler is opened and exposed to warmer temperatures. The fewer times you open a cooler, the colder it will stay. I like to freeze water bottles the night before so I can use them to help keep things chilled and prevent things from getting too soggy from the melted ice. Bonus: you can enjoy a cold beverage as they melt during the day.

Plan a delightful picnic: Stay happily hydrated

Stay happily hydrated

It’s important to stay fully hydrated in the summer heat. Remember, by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Water is always a great option, but if you want a bit more flavor, flavored sparkling water can hit the spot. Or, try this delicious Watermelon Spritzer that you can easily scale up for a crowd. To make, puree 8 cups watermelon in a blender for about 30 seconds, or until it becomes watermelon juice (you may need to do this in batches if your blender is small to medium in size). Add it to a large pitcher with an optional ¼ cup lime juice, and 1 to 2 cans LaCroix Pastèque Sparkling Water. Stir well to combine everything and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to pack it up. For a fun garnish, sometimes I freeze cubes of watermelon and plunk a few into each glass before serving…they act as “watermelon ice cubes.” 

Plan a delightful picnic: Plan your menu

Prep your picnic menu

Prepare a feast for your get-together by whipping up one or more of these summer recipes:

• Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
• Apple Cider Cole Slaw
• Kale Pesto Macaroni Salad
• BLT Pasta Salad

Pack them in sealable containers and make sure to keep them in the cooler until it’s time to dig in.

Plan a delightful picnic: Get your game on

Get your game on!

After we feast, my gang likes to play hard, haha. All the kids and adults join in to play whatever activities we’ve brought along—frisbee, bocce, ring toss, lawn darts, corn hole, ladder ball, horseshoes, badminton, volleyball, three-legged races. We’ve played freeze dance at family picnics and even had water balloon/water gun fights on hot days. Use your imagination—the sky’s the limit when it comes to having fun at your next get-together.