If you’ve been around for a hot minute, you know we’re big on picnicking! We’re in that prime season where it’s not too hot and the bugs haven’t mobilized to carry you away yet, so I’ve got all your must-have picnic essentials for picnicking in Southeast Texas!
The pandemic really forced us to get creative when the cabin fever was knocking at the door, and I quickly found that my boys didn’t need anything extravagant or fancy or over the top. They were so content with something simple and easy as long as it meant a change of scenery. It really made take a step back and realize that all of the pressure I put on myself to make every day the all-caps BEST DAY EVER is just that – pressure I put on myself. My boys are so happy basking in the magic of ordinary days, and I’ve been more than happy to follow their example. It’s just another example of kids teaching us while we’re supposed to be teaching them.
The beauty of picnics is wrapped up in their simplicity. I know Instagram and Pinterest are full of these over the top glamping extravaganzas with swags and bunting and balloons and real fine china and huge floor cushions and tents with actual furniture… and it’s just A LOT. Don’t even fall into that trap, sister.
“Picnics should be perfectly easy.”
My bestie said so, so it’s facts.
Here are some of our favorite, most used picnic items to help you plan your next picnic!
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Must-Have Picnic Essentials for Southeast Texas
Waterproof Picnic Blanket
Made of 3 layers of thick and sturdy fabric, this blanket is perfect for a picnic with pals!
-WATERPROOF, SANDPROOF, DIRT-RESISTANT
-LIGHTWEIGHT & PORTABLE
-79″x79″ (comfortably sits 4-8 adults)
We love our picnic blanket so much that it rarely leaves my car except for the occasional washing. An oversized, waterproof blanket is a MUST! Even if the ground isn’t wet, there could be all sorts of thorny, prickly unpleasantness hiding in the grass. Plus, we often find ourselves deciding to go on a picnic last minute, on-the-go, between other adventures, so having a good waterproof blanket lets us lounge around on the ground to our hearts content without grass or dirt stains to worry about for the next stop.
If you’re picnicking or spending the day at the beach, I highly recommend this waterproof, sand-proof, magical unicorn of a beach blanket. It’s lighter weight, thinner, and folds up smaller, and the water and sand somehow bead up on the surface instead of getting stuck in the fibers, and it’s a breeze to just shake out and throw it in the car when you’re done.
Collapsible Insulated Picnic Basket
Made from durable fabric with an aluminum handle, this picnic basket collapses flat for easy storage between outings.
-Insulated & leak-free
-Features an exterior pocket for napkins, car keys, wallet, etc
-17.5″ x 10.5″ x 10.5″
I learned quickly – the hard way – that a good picnic basket is essential. I also learned that the cute, vintage, wicker ones are expensive. We settled on this one (in the lime stripe print) as an alternative, and although it was fairly begrudgingly at first, I have to say that we’ve been very happy with it! It collapses flat when not in use so it stores easily in the pantry or in the little area in the back of my SUV where I keep all of our adventuring supplies. It’s insulated, so it does a fantastic job of keeping all of our cold things cold. I’ve never tested it with hot dishes, but I’m sure it would be the same. The frame is aluminum so it’s sturdy, but also very lightweight and my kids can easily carry it. Four stars from us!
This is more of a joke, since it never fails that I always forget napkins, and I always end up needing napkins. Like any mom, I have a glove box full of fast food napkins that I can’t bring myself to throw away, but I always forget to grab a handful to throw in the basket, and where we settle down to picnic is sometimes a good distance from where we were able to park, so. Pack napkins. Put them on your list. Highlight it. Underline it. Add a star. Napkins.
Sunscreen & Bug Spray – because even when it’s “not too buggy”, it’s still kinda buggy in SETX.
You know I can’t go long without talking about food. Is it a picnic post if we don’t talk about food? No!
Remember, picnics should be perfectly easy. We’ve driven through Whataburger or Rao’s or any of our local favorites at the last minute and then headed to one of our favorite destinations, but I get burned out on fast food pretty quickly, and then I start hearing this weird combination of my mom’s voice and my husband’s voice both saying, “there’s food at home.” So sometimes I literally just stand in my pantry randomly grabbing things I already have that I think will transport well. If you want to put together a meal from home, here are my favorite options:
- chicken salad (H-E-B has a really delicious rotisserie chicken salad in their Ready Meals section. It’s kind of funny, when we go as a group, to watch everyone bring out their own package of H-E-B chicken salad because we all love it. Their cranberry turkey pecan salad isn’t bad either! H-E-B also stocks rosemary crackers over by the deli that are a perfect pairing!)
- crackers (Ritz, Club, goldfish, animal – whatever your favorite is)
- fresh fruit – since we’ve been visiting berry farms lately, we’ve been enjoying bringing along some of the literal fruits of our labor like strawberries and blueberries! Bananas and apples are also favorites.
- My mom friends and I have also discovered the deliciousness that is fresh mango slices with chamoy and tajin. It’s super easy to slice and prepare ahead and then pack!
- Cheese sticks
- PB & J sandwiches
- Lunchables (perfectly easy, remember? Don’t overcomplicate things. Lunchables come pre-packed with all the essentials. Work smarter, not harder.)
- Juice boxes, or some kind of drink option that isn’t going to gush everywhere if it tips over.
Not Essentials, but ….
There are things here that I wouldn’t necessarily deem essential, but they’ve brought joy and generally just made our picnics and our days better, so I didn’t want to do anyone a disservice by not including them. Consider these optional add-ons. The confetti to an already great party.
Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
- -Astonishing Sound-24-Hour Playtime-IPX5 Waterproof
-Available in black, red, or blue
We’re those people who like to have music constantly playing in the background. I love hearing a song and instantly being transported back to a great day or a great moment, so I kind of love the idea that I’m creating the soundtrack to my life where ever we go. Bluetooth speakers can get expensive quickly, especially the waterproof ones, but I’ve found this Anker brand from Amazon to be top notch in terms of quality, sound, and price. I own several of their products with zero complaints.
I’m also big on waterproof and drop-proof anything, because kids.
2-pack octopus kites
-Package includes 2 kites (red and blue)
-Super cute octopus design that kids love
-Easy to fly and control. Suitable for kids or adults
-No assembly required. Just attach the string and start flying!
-28″ x 158″ – over 10.5 FEET of tail string!
We LOVE these kites. They’re HUGE and they have over 10.5 feet of tail string. All you have to do is pull them out of the package and attach the string and you’re ready to fly. They can be a little much for little hands on windy days or at higher altitudes – we learned the hard way when we lost one at the beach. But seriously, they make my kids giggle every time. I love that they come in a 2-pack too, so they’re exactly the same aside from the color. Everyone chooses a color and that’s their kite and it stems off the argument from the get go.
I obviously don’t recommend flying kites around lots of trees, power lines, or when there is lightning.
Throw Throw Burrito: Extreme Outdoor Edition
-Collect sets of oversized cards more quickly than your opponents while simultaneously ducking, dodging, and throwing 3-foot tall inflatable burritos!
-For 2-6 players, suitable for kids and adults.
An outdoor game where the rules include beating each other down with giant inflatable 3-foot burritos? Just add it to your cart, sister. It’s your kid’s new favorite game.
Things you probably already have around the house like balls, bubbles, jump ropes, hula hoops.
I don’t always recommend chalk, even though it’s washable, because we have a hard and fast rule of leaving things the way we found them. This includes picking up all of our trash, not letting the kids pick flowers (especially if it’s a private estate or a botanical garden – I’m a little more flexible if they’re wildflowers), making sure we stick to designated parking areas, following all signage, etc. You know how it is when one person ruins it for everyone, and I want to make sure we’re never the reason that others can’t enjoy something.
But understand that NONE of these are strictly necessary! I tend to bring the bare essentials unless I know we’re making a day of it. Forcing kids to find their own solutions to boredom, especially when it brings them to exploring nature, is a particular passion of mine. I’m a big believer that creativity is born from boredom, so I try to let my kids get bored often. I’m not their tour guide or their cruise director. I’m more than willing to go shoulder to shoulder with them to explore and observe and create and participate in whatever they come up with, but it’s not my job or my responsibility to pull activities out of a hat at a moment’s notice. Kids are naturally curious, and picnics are such a wonderful opportunity for them to really flex that curiosity as well as their independence.
Remember that picnics should always be “perfectly easy” and you should leave feeling relaxed and refreshed, like a mini day at the beach. Let me know if this helped you plan your next picnic!