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How to Plan an Epic Beach Picnic

beach picnic

A well-planned beach picnic is essential for a long, enjoyable day at the beach with friends and family. Food that is light, refreshing, and easy to handle is ideal for beach picnics, where you will be basking in the sun and enjoying the ocean.

That is, of course, if you took the time to properly prepare your beach picnic. Waiting until the last minute can result in stuff being forgotten, sloppy sandwiches, and sand in your teeth. 

Nothing beats a picnic on the sand, whether you live near the beach or are planning a vacation there. Whether you want a fun family outing or a romantic evening getaway with your sweetie, you will need to plan ahead of time. Here are a few things to think about as you prepare for your ideal beach picnic.

Check the weather conditions beforehand

It may sound obvious, but when you're in the midst of preparing the perfect beach picnic, the prospect of an unexpected thunderstorm may be the last thing on your mind.

Check the official surf zone forecasts and/or beach advisories before heading to the beach. You can also inquire about local weather and beach forecasts at your hotel or rental agency.

Bring a tablecloth or a big blanket

It may come as a surprise to some, but eating food prepared on sand is not a good idea. While a towel is fantastic for relaxing on, it's not the best choice for a picnic. Towels are usually on the small side, with sharp corners that spit sand all over your food spread.

Bring a proper beach blanket or tablecloth to sit on instead. This way, you'll have plenty of room to recline and it'll be simple to throw in the washer if any accidents occur.

beach blanket

Protection from the sun and wind

At the beach, sun protection is a given. On an overcast day, a huge floppy hat may suffice, but for a comfortable, sand-free beach picnic, some substantial shade and possibly even wind protection may be required. A beach umbrella is the answer here.

All of these shade options are portable, lightweight, and easy to install. They also fold up into a carry bag and provide total sun protection. Shade tents are also a great addition to kids' picnics at the beach or in the park.

They all have good sand anchors, and depending on how you set it up, the beach tent and canopy can also provide wind protection.

Snacks for the beach

You want to mix flavor and simplicity whether you're spending a few hours or an entire day at the beach. While you'll undoubtedly want to bring at least one meal, snacks will give you a boost of energy as you transition from lounging to swimming to a casual game of beach volleyball. 

The following are some tasty beach snacks:

  • Raw vegetables
  • Dips and hummus
  • Salsa and tortilla chips
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Almonds and pistachios are examples of nuts.
  • Protein bars or trail mix
  • Dessert is cookies!

Keep it cool

Many people like to keep ice in their coolers since it serves as a coolant and may also be used to keep drinks cold in glasses. However, this could result in something unpleasant getting stuck in the ice or something strange floating in the water glass (or whatever you might be drinking).

Use those handy gel-filled cold packs that come in a range of sizes and appear to last forever as an alternative. You can keep them in the freezer at home and use them for last-minute picnics. 

They remain far longer than ice and never leave anything unpleasant into your meals or beverages. If your beach picnic involves meat, mayonnaise, cheese, other dairy goods, or perishables, be sure you have plenty of ice in your cooler. Remove them from the refrigerator only when you're ready to eat, not before.

Paper towels, tablecloths, paper plates and napkins, silverware, and serving utensils work well in picnic baskets because they don't need to be kept cool.

ice

Table for a beach picnic

You could use the hard cooler tops to put your meal on, but a portable wooden table designed to be set in the sand is much better.

With a lightweight folding picnic table, you can keep your spread sand-free. It rolls up into its own bag and is robust enough to cut on, making it ideal for the beach.

If you're looking for a larger beach picnic table, we've compiled a list of the best portable folding picnic tables, which range from tables for two to tables that can seat a crowd.

Be prepared for the cleanup

When packing for a picnic, one of the first items to arrive after the food is a large supply of (biodegradable) wet wipes. Have you ever dropped a mayo-slathered sandwich knife in the sand? You need wet wipes.

Have you ever spilled a sticky piña colada on your beach chair? You need wet wipes. Have you ever had a small child wipe their greasy hot dog hands over your naked back? You need wet wipes. Don't want to be known as the person who washes their dishes in the sea? You definitely need wet wipes!

For the cleanup process, you'll need reusable bags or containers for leftovers, as well as separate bags for garbage, recyclables, and compost.

Finally, do one more sand sweep before shaking out the blankets and towels, repacking the wagon, and walking the mile back to the car, because a good beach picnicker leaves only footprints and melted ice and returns with only memories and a sunburn.

wet wipes

Other things to think about

Don't forget to carry lots of water when packing the cooler. To keep your picnic lunch chilly, put a couple of frozen water bottles in the cooler. Bring lots of napkins, wipes, and recyclable plates, and cutlery as well.

Beach picnics are a lot of fun, especially in the summer. With just a little planning, you can be beach picnic-ready all summer long! Have a great time at the beach with your family!