With the combination of spring sunshine dawning and recent social distancing requirements, my family has taken advantage of our close proximity to the beach to pass many an hour beachcombing and picnicking. As a full-time islander, I have more than a few beach picnics under my belt. Follow along for my 10 essentials to pack for a low-key (yet realistic) beach picnic.
- Sun Shade. Unless you are picnicking on the most placid of days, the sun (there are typically no shady trees on a beach), the wind (which is happy to salt your food for you), and roaming birds and dogs will be out to get you. Investing in a little shade structure will go a long way towards your comfort and safeguard your cuisine. The light-weight and easily portable sunshades such as this brand are made out of tent materials, and much easier to manage than your standard beach umbrella.
- Backpacks. I get it, picnic baskets and Yeti coolers are the things Instagram dreams are made of, but they are a straight-up pain from a practical standpoint when you are packing in kids, dogs, blankets, chairs, beach toys and sun protection. After years of schlepping back and forth to and from the car and the beach, everyone in my crew now gets an appropriately-sized backpack to help carry in the beach-going essentials, including picnic food.
- Finger Foods (that Taste Good at Room Temp). I chuckle a little every time I see a lavish magazine spread of a beachside picnic full of elaborate platters of food. First off, even with a sun shade, the sand and sun (not to mention Fido and seagulls) will be all up in your charcuterie. To make the cut in my beachy spread, the nosh must pass two criteria: it must taste good at room temperature, and can be eaten without utensils. Sandwiches (which can certainly be fancy with the right ingredients), fruits, veggies, chips/crackers and cookies are my go-to.
- Picnic Blanket with Waterproof Backing. My waterproof picnic blanket, which has a cozy flannel top and waterproof bottom, is a staple at all many of my outdoor endeavors. Not only does it keep your bum and your picnic dry on various outdoor surfaces, it’s a cinch to dust off sand, grass, or other materials that might otherwise cling to- or stain your picnic blanket.
- Insulated thermoses. As mentioned above, I try to avoid schlepping in a cooler to a beach picnic as most beaches I frequent require a bit of a walk from the car to our sunny spot of choice. I do, however, still want to enjoy a cold beverage. Everyone in my family gets to pack in their own insulated thermos with their favorite cold drink.
- (Low-Riding) “chair-iotte”. We love casual beachside-dinners, watching our kids play in the sand and our dog swim in the sound as the sun sets. The most comfortable way to do this is with low-profile folding beach chairs, which provide easy access to the picnic blanket and ride low enough to be covered by your sun and wind shade.
- Cloth Napkins. You might be tempted to bring disposable paper napkins, but cloth napkins are not only better for the environment, they are also way less likely to take flight with a bit of wind (and typically cuter too)! We have a rule that you should always leave the beach cleaner than you found it, so avoiding items that get swept away is key.
- Baby Wipes. One thing motherhood has taught me is that baby wipes are an essential item on any outing, including of course beach picnics. They will clean up a wide array of accidents, from gum stuck to a shoe, spilled spritzers, and well, other sorts of accidents that kids may have. I have a pack in my car, purse, and of course beach backpack at all times.
- Trash Bags. Trash bags are one of the essential items people easily forget to pack on beach picnics. Many of the rural beaches we visit are not equipped with garbage cans, and items I’ll be taking home to wash will need to be wrapped up. And as I mentioned above, when we visit the beach, we pick up any trash (especially plastic) that we find, doing our tiny part to help our ocean and marine life.
- Baby Powder. Next time you pass the travel section at your grocery store or pharmacy, pick up and tiny bottle of baby powder for your next beach trip. Baby powder removes moisture from your body, so a quick squirt before hopping back in the car and sand is easily brushed off your feet, hands, hair, or really anywhere is accumulated, making post-picnic cleanup much easier.
Are the confines of your four-walls making you and your family a bit crazy these days? Hunt down your nearest beach, make some sandwiches, and remember to bring along my 10 practical beach picnic essentials.