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It’s about more than just the basket, though a charming wicker hamper doesn’t hurt. 

Melanie Lieberman
August 13, 2015

Nothing says summer quite like dining al fresco, and picnics are a classic way to enjoy the sunshine and the great outdoors.

Whether you’re picnicking solo in a foreign city (dining with the locals along the River Seine, for example) or enjoying a leisurely afternoon with friends in your neighborhood park, an outdoor spread is a great way to take advantage of the hazy, warm days.

Like packing a model suitcase, we have a fail-proof guide to picnic perfection.

It’s In The Bag

Your ideal picnic basket? We love this lightweight canvas tote, thanks to its water-resistant and wipe-clean interior. Insulation maintains food temperature, while the expandable drawstring top makes it easy to pack a feast for the whole family, and the collapsible frame lets you stow it away after picnic season comes to a close. If you’re looking for something a little bit more traditional, splurge on this English-inspired, woven-willow hamper. The corduroy-lined basket has everything you need for an aristocratic feast for four, including porcelain plates, plaid linens, hand-blown wineglasses, stainless steel cutlery, a cutting board, a wine duffel, cooler, and insulated flask. They’ve also managed to squeeze a fleece blanket inside: one less thing to check off your list.

Don’t Be a Wet Blanket

Soggy bottoms make for sad picnics. Keep things dry with Pendleton’s roll-up blanket. The plaid, pure-wool top is cozy, while the nylon backing keeps moisture from the ground from spoiling your picnic fun. When you’re done, simply fold the blanket back into the convenient leather strap and holster. If you’re dining beachside, opt for a sand-free blanket, which sifts sand and dirt through to the beach below.

The Bread and Butter

After you’ve packed the essentials (a bottle of screw-top wine, a baguette) consider easy-to-transport recipes for your summertime fête. Even if you’re not dining in a royal Parisian garden, try assembling a French verrine, or portable salad. Layer grilled chicken with avocado, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, or a taco salad with chili, guacamole, salsa, and chips on the side. Serve in a plastic jar. Keep things cool with frozen bottles of water (perfect for hydrating later) and don’t eat anything that’s been left out for more than two hours.

Go The Extra Mile

Sure, you can set up camp in a park just a stone’s throw from home. But why not make your picnic part of a greater adventure? America’s Best Cities for Picnics have staggering mountain views or lively springs perfect for waterfront dining. Best of all, you can fetch your fare from a favorite sandwich shop (po’boys in New Orleans, for example) or veg out while listening to live outdoor musical performances in cities like New York, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Providence. In the Rhode Island capital, picnickers can enjoy free concerts along the Woonasquatucket River every Friday during the summer.

Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.

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