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What to pack for a summer outdoor picnic (essentials & food/drinks)


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It has turned into quite a passion for me recently, visiting a nice place and enjoying a summer outdoor picnic. Ideally sitting in nothing but nature, few other people around, a nice view and good company and yummy food. Is there a better way to savour a summer evening? I doubt it… You don’t always have to travel far, just look up places nearby your area and maybe you’re even able to walk to an ideal picnic spot!? The best is often so close! You just have to be open to discover it 🙂 In this sense, I absolutely encourage you to just go out, and enjoy a summer outdoor picnic! Either alone, or with friends/family. You definitely won’t regret it!

Al Fresco Picnic

Personally I like to enjoy al fresco picnics, in summer, meaning that everything is cold. Otherwise it will get a bit more complicated in keeping hot meals at least pleasantly warm until they are ready to be devoured. With an al fresco picnic, just pack everything you will need in a cooler, grab a blanket, some more essentials, and you’re ready to go. Either buy pre-made Antipasti plates at a Deli/Supermarket or prepare everything yourself, and the basics are covered. The best kind of picnics are the ones that are spontaneous and impromptu. You certainly don’t need much for a perfect picnic, the right company is often already more than enough, but maybe my essentials and favourite outdoor meals will give you some inspiration. Definitely don’t plan and wait too long for your first or next summer outdoor picnic, summer will be over in a blink, enjoy it while the temperatures last!

Radler Beer with a sunset view over Lake Constance
Radler Beer with a sunset view over Lake Constance

My summer outdoor picnic essentials

  • something to sit on (Picnic blanket/blanket & sitting pads/Seat cushions, pillows)
  • blankets, scarfs, jackets (for then it gets cold, after sunset)
  • reusable plastic utensils/tableware (Plates, bowls, cutlery, sharp knife for bread/fruit/meat/sausages/cakes/…, reusable straws,..)
  • plastic bag for trash (at least one for both organic/plastic waste)
  • napkins and tissues / paper towels or more fancy: cloth napkins
  • cooler bag and sufficient cooler/ice packs for all fresh food and drinks
  • protection in form of Insect spray/sunscreen/hats/sunglasses
  • sources of light, either ambient light or strong light for darkness (avoid open fire!)
  • light entertainment like a music box for the best summer playlist, books or magazines, binoculars, for kids a kit to explore nature/insects
  • additional decorations such as a single flower or flower bouquet
al fresco summer outdoor picnic essentials travel blog joy della vita
al fresco summer outdoor picnic

Food & Drinks to bring for an al fresco summer outdoor picnic

When it comes to the foods and drinks I bring to a picnic, I like to pack everything separately. In reusable containers, preferably glass containers. This helps in bringing everything to the location safely, without everything mushing and combining/baking itself together. Just imagine preparing a cheese and crackers board at home, not fixing it in a form properly, and until you arrive at your picnic, when happily unpacking the board, all the crackers are broken and the cheeses are melted together in one unpleasing dollop. If you have to prepare something like this beforehand, use a strong plastic wrap to fix everything, and place it in a cooler bag or mobile refrigerator. Or why not cut and place everything on a board when you are already at the picnic spot? A picnic is about enjoying slow eating and having a good time, no need to rush anything. Especially if you are somewhere, with someone special, and are awaiting the sunset of the slowly setting sun. Take it slow and easy, and enjoy every second!

  • bread (baguette, bread rolls, fresh loaf, …) & pastries (croissants, pain au chocolat, Brioché/Challah/Hefezopf, ..)
  • savoury bakes (filled/topped puff pastry, Veggie/Meat Quiche, cold Tarte Flambee/Pizza …)
  • fruit (best if pre-sliced like melons, apples, peach, mango, pineapple or whole like berries, stone fruit, pear, …)
  • cheese (something to dip like cream cheese, pre-cut like feta cubes or whole like Mozzarella, Parmesan, Cheddar or Camembert, …)
  • meat (raw/pre-cooked/grilled sausages, salami, cooked or cured ham, …) & fish (canned fish such as tuna, herring, sardines, maties, mackerel, …, fresh lax, Caviar, …)
  • veggies (whole like pre-peeled carrots, cucumber, radish, bell peppers, Avocado, …)
  • pickled goods (like pickles, pepperoni, beetroot, cold but grilled veggies, …)
  • pre-cut salad but with the dressing/vinaigrette in a separate bottle/container (to keep the salad fresh, not mushy) – either mixed salad, greek salad, or salads with couscous, noodles, …
  • miscellaneous things like butter, spreads such as hummus/guacamole, jam or chutney, cooked eggs (can be even stored unrefrigerated, great for picnics), spices such as salt, pepper, chili flakes or Tabasco/Sriracha
  • sweet (best is something that needs to be chilled at best, not frozen (no ice cream…), like yoghurt parfaits, Tiramisu, Cake or Pie/Tarte, granola/fruit/chocolate bars, …
  • Non-alcoholic drinks (plain water, soda, homemade or store-bought lemonades, fresh or store-bought juices, iced tea, hot tea, …)
  • alcoholic drinks (beer or Radler, pre-mixed cocktails (in a temperature-resistant tumbler/bottle), wine or champagne, …)

What else do you think is still missing from this list? What is your absolute favourite picnic food or unmissable outdoor dining essential? Write me on Twitter @joydellavita or Instagram @lisa_joydellavita

picnic avocado toast tomato cream cheese travel blog joydellavita lake constance
picnic avocado toast with tomato and cream cheese
summer outdoor picnic food veggie vegan vegetarian travel blog joydellavita
summer outdoor picnic

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35 thoughts on “What to pack for a summer outdoor picnic (essentials & food/drinks)

  1. Lovely ideas here! These would even do for fall picnics. If the rain stays away I love to bundle up and go for a picnic. We’ll even bring our youngest cat with us.

  2. We love picnics! I think you have a perfect packing list for a summer picnic. 🙂 First thing I searched in your list was “Pillow” and I found it. No point if one cant lie in the warmth and catch a nap. 🙂 🙂

  3. I really miss having an outdoor activity like this. Unfortunately, the pandemic stopped me from enjoying outdoors at the moment. If everything went back to normal, this is definitely one of the things i will do. It would be fun to bring my adorable nieces and nephews with me.

  4. I have been on many wonderful picnics through the years and learned many things to pack. One of my favorite things is a nylon-lined blanket so no moisture gets through.

  5. That’s a great list, you’ve covered just about everything you would need for a picnic…I really can’t think of anything else to add. And I do agree with the cold food, so much easier!

  6. This is such a great resource for planning a picnic. There’s nothing more fun that laying out a blanket and having a meal with your family or significant other.

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