National Picnic Month 2021 – How to Plan the Perfect Picnic

July is National Picnic Month. And with lockdown almost over and the weather heating up, why not celebrate with some alfresco dining at a local beauty spot? 

What better way to wind down and relax than to pick up your picnic basket and head outdoors with your loved ones. Whether you fancy a pork pie in a park or sandwiches by the sea, we’ve got some great tips to help you plan the perfect picnic. 

Pick the right spot

All good picnics start with the ideal spot. Somewhere scenic and idyllic, and with plenty of natural shade. If you’re looking to get away from the noise and hustle and bustle of urban life, choose a pretty English Heritage site, or a seaside location with stunning views. Though don’t overlook city-central picnic spots like London’s Royal Parks, Wollaton Park in Nottingham, or Sefton Park in Liverpool.

Although a remote spot might seem tempting, you’ll need to think about toilets and other facilities if you’re picnicking with a group or with children. Also, if you’re packing a large picnic and chairs, you might want to choose a spot you can drive to. Aim to set up under a tree so you can enjoy some shade on a hot day. And make sure there’s plenty of surrounding space for children and dogs to run around. 

Choose a picnic basket

Once you’ve chosen your location, you next need to think about investing in a good picnic basket to store and carry your food. Wicker baskets are charming, but not always the most practical option. Before you invest in a picnic basket, consider if you’ll need a two, four or even six person basket. Or you might want to opt for an insulated food bag to keep food fresh and drinks cool. Do you want proper plates and glasses, or would you prefer practical paper or plastic versions? A bag with different compartments will be good for keeping food or utensils separate. And choose one that’s comfortable to carry too. 

Select a good blanket

A red and white picnic blanket with a wicker basket and a bottle of Champagne
Credit: Jelleke Vanooteghem

A picnic blanket can make or break your day out, as not all blankets are created equal. It should be big enough to accommodate you and your family, and provide enough space for your food and drink too.

A good picnic blanket should be soft, but hard-wearing so you can use it again and again. And look for one that’s waterproof on one side so it will keep you dry on damp ground. Opt for a blanket that is compact, and which stays folded with straps or Velcro to keep it neat and portable. And ensure your blanket is machine-washable in case of grass stains or spillages. 

Check out Amazon’s range of picnic blankets to suit every budget.

Be creative with your recipes

Why not ditch the usual soggy sandwiches and packet sausage rolls, and choose fresh summer produce for salads instead. Pasta is great served warm or cold, as is homemade bread and rustic tarts. You can make quiches or tarts a day or two ahead of time. And puff pastry pinwheels make quick and tasty snacks. Pack any dips or condiments you might need—small sachets are handy, or divide into small pots or jars—and don’t forget the desserts. Think fresh fruit pies, jellies, and fudgy brownies. Delicious!

Pair your food with some refreshing homemade lemonade, delicious fruit punch, and revitalising spritzer’s. And keep your picnic at its best with insulated bags, cooler mats and portable ice trays to keep food cool while being served. You’ll also need to pack plates, cups, napkins and cutlery to eat with. And don’t forget serving utensils, and a corkscrew or bottle opener so you can enjoy a cold beer or a glass or wine or two in the sun.

Keep it comfortable

As soft as your picnic blanket might be, it’s not always comfortable to sit on the ground for long periods without your bottom going numb or your knees becoming stiff – whatever your age. So, if you’re enjoying a picnic with friends, ask your guests to bring a cushion to sit on. Or even a little folding chair if they wish! This will free up space on your picnic blanket, and will allow everyone to sit where they want – pleasing both sun-seekers and shade-chasers alike. 

An extra throw or blanket may be appreciated if the weather should become chilly. And don’t forget to pack sunscreen, and insect repellent to keep those pesky bugs at bay. 

Amazon has a huge range of accessories so you can picnic in style.

Entertaining the kids

If you’re planning a family picnic with young children, it’s unlikely they’ll want to stay put for hours. Firstly, try and choose a spot close to toilets so you won’t have to hunt around when the need to go arises. Make sure you pack food they will actually want to eat. And don’t forget to take along some toys and games to keep them entertained while you sit and relax – a football, a skipping rope, or a bat and ball set are perfect. The kids will have fun, and you can have a little time out to enjoy your picnic.

Don’t forget to clean up

After a relaxing picnic at an idyllic spot in the sun, you’ll need to clean up after yourself at the end of the day. Take a rubbish bag or two, and if you can’t find an empty bin, take your rubbish home with you. And if you’re into recycling, separate your rubbish out so you don’t need to rummage through when you get home.

It’s also a good idea to pack small storage bags or food containers so you can take any leftovers home. And always carry hand sanitiser to keep your hands clean. Baby wipes will come in handy as part of the clean up operation at the end of the day too.

Whether it’s a picnic on the beach, in the woods or even in your garden, there are so many ways to enjoy a picnic – just don’t overcomplicate it. Sometimes, less is more, so keep it simple, and most importantly have fun spending some quality time with your loved-ones. One of the biggest picnic mistakes is overpacking. And while a large wicker picnic basket is charming and romantic, it’s not always practical. They can be heavy, and a pain to transport. But if you do go for a cute traditional style basket, then opt for an insulated one to keep your food fresh and your drinks cool. And while it’s fun to pack lots of different types of food, it’s easy to take too much, and then have the hassle of repacking the leftovers to take home at the end of the day. So, plan your picnic well, keep it simple, and you can enjoy the perfect day out with your family and friends this summer.