What to Take on a Picnic (a Packing Checklist with PDF)

A picnic is one of life’s simple pleasures of relaxing in the outdoors.  Laying on the grass, nibbling on food and sipping a glass of wine with the sun beaming down.  You can just feel yourself relaxing already.  But then you realise you have forgotten to pack an essential picnic item and home or the store is just too far away.  It could have all been avoided if you’d just stopped to use a picnic checklist.

Not to worry we’ll have you back relaxing on your picnic in no time with this picnic packing list. You can even download a PDF copy so you have it handy for every day trip or for lunch stops during longer trips.

In this Article on Things to Pack for a Picnic You Will Learn:

Click to Jump to Your Interest

  1. Essential picnic items
    • What to include in your DIY basket
    • Staying healthy
    • Optional extras
  2. Easy picnic food
    • Five meal ideas
    • Snacks
    • Deserts
  3. Picnic drinks
  4. Games and activities for the whole family
  5. Taking the pets

A cane DIY picnic basket filled food and wine
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The Picnic Checklist for What to Take on a Picnic:

There are just some things you need for a picnic to run smoothly.  Whereas other things are not essential but may make the picnic more comfortable.  Let’s start with creating a simple picnic basket.

The DIY Picnic Basket

  • Picnic blanket – even if you plan on using a picnic table the blanket is handy. You can use it as a table cloth, a place for babies to crawl, kids to sprawl out or as a last resort if you can’t get a table.
  • Picnic set.  Mine is permanently prepared to just fill with food and drinks.  I use one that is attached to a cooler bag*.  My set includes:
    • Plates
      • I prefer reusable plastic but you could use paper
    • Cutlery
    • Glasses
      • Again plastic is better in case of breakage
    • Chopping board
    • Serviettes/Napkins
    • Bottle opener
    • Serrated knife
  • For BBQ’s
    • Tongs,
    • Spatula
    • Newspaper (to clean the BBQ)
    • Possibly alfoil (to line the BBQ)
  • Food
    • Keep reading for picnic  meal ideas
    • Don’t forget condiments to go with your meal ideas
    • Add in freezer bricks so your food won’t spoil
  • Water and drinks

Staying Clean and Healthy

  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Wipes
    • To clean hands and dirty picnic tables
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Tissues
  • At least two empty plastic rubbish bags
    • One  for rubbish (if there are no bins please take your rubbish with you)
    • The other is for dirty plates etc.
  • Freezer bricks to keep your food cool
  • Depending on the weather, a jumper/sweater for each person or a rain jacket

Optional Extras

Top Trip Tip: You don’t need a fancy picnic basket just something to keep things cool and a container or small storage box for all your crockery (plastic is better but not necessary), cutlery and utensils

Easy Picnic Food Meal Ideas

Meal 1: Quick, Easy and On the Go

This first meal idea is my spur-of-the-moment picnic meal.  The idea is limited preparation is required before and during the picnic.

I pack the picnic basket with some drinks and freezer bricks and then we stop at the nearest supermarket on our way.

I start at the deli section and buy pre-sliced cold-cut meats like ham, salami and prosciutto.

Next is sliced cheese, not that plastic cheese that was in when I was a kid, but many popular brands now offer prepacked sliced versions.  We buy Coon Cheddar slices and Jarlsberg slices. Buying it pre-sliced saves having to try to slice cheese with an inadequate knife on a very small chopping board.

Finally to the bakery section for some fresh bread rolls.

Seriously I am in and out of the supermarket in 5 minutes and it is quite inexpensive!

Top Trip Tip: These are just suggestions – just choose whichever items are your favourites.  The idea is to be simple and fast

Meal 2: Zucchini Slice

This one takes a little forward planning, but is really tasty and a great way to hide a heap of vegetables if you have fussy eaters.  Plus it can be served warm or cold.


To keep it warm wrap the dish in towels or use a heat pack (the ones you use for sore muscles) and put it into a separate cool box – now a hot box.

As an alternative cook one of your favourite Quiche or Frittatas.

Top Trip Tip: Don’t forget to pre-cut the serving slices before you leave home and pack a spatula to serve

Meal 3: BBQ

Many parks now have free gas BBQ’s, make the most of them.

Before you leave home don’t forget to add BBQ utensils: tongs, spatula, scraper and some newspaper (to clean the BBQ).  Some people also like to line the BBQ with alfoil or a BBQ liner.

Make a quick salad, pack some drinks and don’t forget the tomato sauce (ketchup).

Have a look at what you have in the fridge/freezer or stop at the local supermarket on your way and purchase your preferred BBQ meat, my son loves sausages.  And don’t forget the bread rolls.

Top Trip Tip: Be prepared to have to wait your turn for the BBQ and pack some snacks – keep reading for ideas

Meal 4: Chicken and Salad

This is one of the easiest picnic food to buy – a cooked chicken.  You can do so much with a cooked chook, but really there is nothing like having the chicken as is.  To make it easy to manage during your picnic, break up the chicken at home and put it into a container or ask for it to be cut into eighths when you buy it.  Then just add some salad and fresh bread

Be as simple or as elaborate as you like with the salad.  You can make a quick simple green salad, get more enthused with potato or pasta salads.

Top Trip Tip: Keep it super simple and buy a ready-made salad whilst you are at the shop buying the chicken

Meal 5: Gourmet Sandwiches

You can either buy a loaf of fresh bread, rolls or family-size crusty loaf

Mix up fillings of:

  • Pulled pork
  • Ham with mustard pickle
  • Roast meats with tomato relish
  • Tuna onion and mayonnaise
  • Chicken and guacamole
  • Curried egg salad

Picnic Condiments

These are sauces and dressings that make your picnic meal delicious, choose what works for you.

  • Butter/margarine
  • Tomato sauce or ketchup
  • Salad dressing
  • Relish
  • Mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Drinks for a Picnic

I always take a bottle of water for each of us.

Depending on the mood/occasion add:

  • A bottle of wine
  • Stubbies of beer
  • Soft drink in individual cans
  • 100% juice boxes for the kids

Top Trip Tip: Be aware if there are any drinking alcohol restrictions at your picnic location

Picnic Snack Ideas and Deserts


If you are wanting nibbles before your meal take:

  • Dips
  • Variety of cheeses
  • Crackers
  • Cut carrot and celery sticks
  • Potato chips (crisps)

For some hot food ideas:

  • Mini pies
  • Quiches
  • Homemade Sausage rolls
    • My recipe includes hidden vegetables

Top Trip Tip: To keep foods warm use a separate cooler box/Eski for hot foods or wrap the hot food with towels to help hold in the heat.


Again I’m all about keeping things simple.  I like to just pop in some chocolates.  But cupcakes and slices work really well as they don’t require cutting or a plate.

To stay healthy include some freshly cut fruits or get creative and make fruit kebabs.

Check out my Weetbix Chocolate Slice included in the Picnic Packing List PDF

Packing Picnic Activities for Kids

Kids just can’t sit back and enjoy the surroundings they need to stay active so include a few small but energetic games.

Taking Pets on Picnics

Before you head off don’t assume that every place is going to love your furry family member as much as you do.  Many parks don’t allow dogs etc.  So double-check the park’s website before you leave.

Then pack:

  • Leash
  • Water bowl
  • Food and bowl
  • Poo bags

If you are driving to your picnic location don’t forget to secure your pet in the car with a pet car restraint*.

With everything packed you are all set now for that relaxing picnic – all you’ve got to do is decide where to go!

Continue Planning for Your Picnic

Depending on where you are planning to have your picnic and what you are going to do during your picnic you may find these additional checklists helpful.

Or if you would like something a little bit different and out of the ordinary consider an:

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