11 summer picnic/beach favorites + sandwich recipe

one of my favorite things about summer? the weather. it's impossible for me not to want to go outside, to bask in the sunshine. the heat also gives me an excuse to slow down and enjoy life — something that I've been actively trying to do.

it's so easy to be gogogo all the time, especially if you're super Type A like me. there's almost a sense of guilt, a nagging at the back of your mind, if you're not doing something "productive" or crossing something off your to-do list.

but more and more, I've realized that rest is important. that time to unwind is important. and it feels good.

I start my full-time, real person job in a couple of weeks, so I've been spending more and more time trying to live life to the fullest in the little ways: picnics in the sun with friends, beach days, napping outside... 

so here's to summer, to slow-living in the summertime (and hopefully, a little more during the rest of the year too).

I've put together a list of my favorite summer picks for outdoor activities, along with an avocado-salmon salad recipe that's perfect for filling sandwiches to bring on these excursions — scroll to the very bottom of this post if you want to go right to that!

11 summertime picnic/beach favorites

summer picnic vitacost

1. sunscreen

there's no question about it — sunscreen is definitely a must-have. I use all-natural products on my skin, so it's important to me that I find a natural sunscreen. as much as we want to get that golden glow, it's also vital to protect our skin — not only from skin cancer, but also from aging. my mom has drilled into my the importance of wearing SPF daily from when I was a child, and her skin is wrinkle-less, so I'm going to listen to her.

I'm currently using MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Clear Spray SPF 30 on my body, which is a zinc-based sunscreen that's paraben-free, vegan, and free of all artificial colors and fragrances. it's also reef safe, meaning that it doesn't contain oxybenzone, which causes coral bleaching and has toxic effects on young coral. I like spray sunscreens because it's way easier to apply — an old habit from my competitive swimming days.

on my face, I use Tarte's Tarteguard 30 Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30, which is also a physical sunscreen (ingredients here). a cheaper option is the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, which I've used for years.

2. coconut water or a hydrating snack

watermelon + beach

hydration is important. and when it's hot out, drinking too much water can actually "flush" the electrolytes out of your system, causing an imbalance in your kidneys. you can prevent that with hydrating, electrolyte-rich food and drinks; two of my favorites are fresh watermelon and coconut water.

a quick note on coconut water: not all coconut waters are made equal. some have added sugars, some are processed/pasteurized with high heat, some just don't taste as good as others. my favorites that taste the closest to you actually cracking open a real coconut are Taste Nirvana, Harmless Harvest, and surprisingly, Trader Joe's 100% Single Origin Coconut Water (they also have King Coconut Water, which comes in a juice box form).

3. bug repellent

birkenstocks

mosquitoes love me. if mosquitoes love you too, bug repellant can save you a lot of pain. most bug repellents contain DEET, which is a strong chemical that has a slew of negative side effects, but the All Terrain Herbal Armor™ Natural Insect Repellent from Vitacost's summer shop uses essential oils to ward bugs away.

4. smoothie bowls (or anything cold)

mother juice smoothie bowl

if you're lucky enough to have a smoothie shop close by, definitely hit that up. there's nothing quite as nice as sipping on a cold smoothie or enjoying a smoothie bowl in the sun.

5. protein-packed snacks

vt smoke sticks

snacks are key in pretty much all situations. make sure to pack some snacks with protein to prevent hangry-ness and keep you full for longer. my favorites are the mini Vermont Smoke and Cure meat sticks — they're basically like those jerky sticks of your childhood, but much better — no weird ingredients here.

6. sunglasses

ray bans sunglasses

fun fact: your eyes can get sunburned. make sure to pack some shades to protect those peepers!

7. flip flops

summertime flip flops ray bans

pretty self-explanatory if you're heading to the beach — don't get sand in all your shoes! my favorite? the So Cal-born classic Rainbows.

8. hats

vt smoke and cure hat

triple duty here: protect your face from the sun even more, give you some shade when reading, and hides messy beach hair. win win and win.

9. crunchy snacks

picnic essentials crunchy snacks

salt's important too on hot days, and crunchy snacks are always more fun. you can make it classy with this gluten free cracker, prosciutto, and grape mix, or you can keep it classic with something like Jackson's Honest Coconut Oil Potato Chips (not going to lie — I hate potato chips and these are the only ones I've ever liked).

10. insulated water bottle

healthy human beach

lukewarm water is just gross. that's why insulated water bottles like Swell bottles and Healthy Human tumblers have become so popular. I actually put a green smoothie into this bottle and used my 40oz Takeda bottle for water. you can, of course, bring all sorts of fun things in these bottles... use your imagination.

11. a good book (or a good friend) or both

wild cheryl strayed

sometimes, you need outdoor time by yourself. even if you plan on just people-watching, a book is a good thing to have handy; I challenge you to put away your phone and just read. the same goes with friends — I challenge you to put that phone away and just talk.

bonus: avocado salmon salad sandwich recipe

sandwiches are perfect for bringing as a meal on these trips — they're satisfying and very portable. this is a play on a tuna salad; it's packed full of protein and healthy fats.

avocado salmon salad

serves 2 | gluten free, dairy free, paleo | time: 10 minutes

ingredients

directions

  1. combine all ingredients in a bowl and mash.
  2. put on top of grain free bread, top with red pepper flakes, and enjoy!