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How to Picnic While Traveling

Nomad Newlywed Picnics: in search of the ultimate personalized, outdoor dining experience!

We find picnicking a soothing art form that never loses its appeal. Looking back on our travels over the past few years, the Nomad Newlyweds have had some amazing picnic experiences. Which is why we decided to create an ongoing series for How to Picnic While Traveling. We want to divulge our picnic secrets, tips, and locations and hope you will share yours too!

To quote one of the great characters of our time:

“Hey Boo Boo, let’s go get us a pic-a-nic basket”

— Yogi Bear

Why Picnic During Your Travels?

There is something special about going to a market (with your loved one) to hand pick fresh fruits, meats, cheeses, and other delectable treats, then scour a planned picnic site for just the right spot to roll out your blanket, and finally partake in the picnic ritual together.

Three aspects we enjoy most about picnicking on our slow travel journeys:

1. Ease of Food Choice

We always look forward to visiting a local farmer’s market wherever we travel. In addition to markets, it is perhaps strange, but we find it fascinating to wonder around a local grocery store in a new country and see a plethora of unusual items. Andrew remember’s seeing ‘wieners in a jar‘ in Germany for the first time and simply had to take a picture.

The great thing about supermarkets and farmer’s markets is that you can pick exactly what you want to eat. Your picnic will include only the right food for the occasion. Don’t worry if its not on the menu (if you can even read the menu), and best of all, don’t spend hours trying to figure out what restaurant to select in a foreign city!

2. Lower Cost

We enjoy dining out on vacation as much as the next couple – its a real treat. Invariably, a travel budget always has a large amount dedicated to meals. As such, why not save some cash by having a picnic instead?

Lunches are a great opportunity to grab something from a market or grocery store and picnic in a park. In addition, the occasional picnic evening meal can be the perfect time for romance and a more elaborate feast.

3. Dining Al Fresco

On the beach, in a park, overlooking a stunning vista on top of a mountain … the choices of where to picnic while traveling are endless. Besides, who wants to be shut inside surrounded by noisy/annoying table neighbors anyways?

We love the freedom and adventure that only dining outdoors can provide.

4. All the Newlyweds are Doing It

Okay, this one doesn’t really count. The Nomads like to think that all newlyweds are doing it. All picnicking, all the time. Let’s be honest, guys and girls alike enjoy that special alone time that an intimate picnic can provide in spades!

Over the next year or so Andrew says he really wants to pursue what he calls Adventure Picnicking. It’s a term he made up on the spot while editing this article, which fuses together the art of picnics with the love of off the beaten path locations. Who knows, maybe it will become the next big thing since sliced bread in a picnic basket!

Perfect Picnic Planning

Try saying that three times fast! Planning for a perfect picnic while on vacation is nothing more than choosing a great location, bringing something to sit on, and packing delicious food and drinks.

It is hard to suggest a picnic plan as each situation will be different. A couple traveling on their own will plan differently than a family of 5 or a family with a pet dog. Similarly, young children or elderly members of your picnic party will each have different needs.

While there is no exhaustive list of things to consider, start with the following:

  • Do you need restrooms? If so, how far away should they be located?
  • Will you require the availability of running water?
  • Do you have to walk or hike a long way to reach your picnic spot?
  • Do you need to choose somewhere that can accommodate a large group?
  • If your dog will join you, is the location pet-friendly?
  • Is the location protected from the wind, rain, or sun?
  • Are there too many insects or bugs that will ruin the overall experience?
  • Is the location only open during certain hours?
  • Keep in mind: A hot climate or temperature will dictate if you can pack food that need to be kept cold

Location, Location, Location

The best picnic location is a myth. There are as many great picnic spots as there are places in the world to see.

Even a single city park can have multiple vantage points that offer equally excellent picnic experiences. It all depends on what you feel like doing in the moment. Do you want a romantic spot for two on a secluded beach? How about a skyline city view on top of a hill? Or perhaps you want to be in the heart of the action right beside an iconic landmark.

Atmosphere, surrounding noise level, temperature, and general locale will all have a bearing on the location you ultimately decide to park your blanket. Sometimes you have little choice, while other times there is a smorgasbord  of locations laid out in front of you

My Picnic Accessories

Picnicking while traveling presents unique challenges. If you fly to a destination then you likely won’t have a picnic backpack in your possession. In that case, you need to get creative. We once went to a local fast food joint in order to procure a plastic knife, spoon, napkins, and condiments. Just ask, and they are usually quite helpful.

At a minimum, the essentials for a successful picnic include:

  • Something to sit on – preferably a nice big blanket that is water resistant on one side
  • Something to eat/drink from – cups, plates, and bowls are always nice
  • Something to transport your food, and subsequent waste
  • Something to open bottles, cans, or other – think portable wine corkscrew or bottle opener

Road trips via car, bus, or train mean you can take your handy picnic gear along.  Extreme picnic fanatics, like the Nomad Newlyweds are becoming, may include an all-in-one picnic backpack in their suitcase. Either way, your picnic life just got a whole lot easier.

We have a picnic backpack for four that Meredith received as an engagement gift – we absolutely love its versatility and functionality for picnics. Our backpack includes everything one needs to dine outdoors:

  • Cold storage main pouch
  • Large and small plastic plates
  • Stainless steel cutlery and cheese knife
  • Cloth napkins
  • Wine glasses and corkscrew
  • Side straps with attached rolled-up blanket
  • Side Straps that hold a wine or water bottle pouch
  • Wet napkins
  • Salt and Pepper shakers

These four picnic backpacks from Amazon contain similar items as ours, and each get strong ratings.

Picnic Food

Best Foods to Pack

Let’s talk about what really matters for your picnic: the best foods to pack!

picnic food tomato sausage cheese and bread

Traveling in foreign lands means there are bound to be mouth-watering morsels that will find their way inside your picnic basket. Obvious picnic fare such as a fresh loaf of bread, cheeses, cured meats, crackers, olives, strawberries, grapes, and other seasonal fruits all go great with a bottle of local vino to wash it all down.

In addition to the above, bring easy-to-prepare foods such as sandwiches, wraps, hard-boiled eggs, chicken wings, carrot and celery sticks, chips, cookies, dried fruits, nuts, and so on.

Best Foods to Avoid

Some foods are best left at home. You may be tempted to sneak them into your backpack, but don’t say we didn’t warn you not to bring them! This list is by no means exhaustive, nut here are a few foods we avoid on our picnics:

  • Foods such as mayonnaise that can easily spoil
  • Ice cream-based dishes or anything else that can melt quickly
  • Foods that you can’t easily cut
  • Cheddar cheese. Most people think any type of cheese is good for a picnic. However, in warm weather cheddar can become oily and it is best left at home.
  • Chocolate. Sorry, but we are on the fence with this one. Bring it, but don’t forget about it in your bag and end up with a stick, melted mess!

Picnic Fun & Games

Don’t simply dine and dash. Take the time to enjoy your picnic surroundings and the location you find yourself. Better yet, relax and enjoy the sun at the beach. Read a bit from that novel or magazine you brought along. Play a game of Frisbee or a couple rounds of your favorite game (ours is Yahtzee as all we need is five dice, a pen, and one sheet of paper) that easy fits into your picnic case.

People watching is another popular sport that Meredith enjoys, she can often be found on a picnic blanket trying to spot A-list, B-list, or any other-list letter of celebrity.

For those that prefer to go with the flow, bring a backup entertainment item just in case your ‘we like to wing it‘ plan falls through.

Most Memorable Picnics

  1. Picnic in Holland Park, London
  2. Picnic next to the Eiffel Tower, Paris