picnic.jpgAfter a day or two of a family vacation, enough’s enough with eating out.

Skirt the whining, waiting and spending that go hand-in-hand with restaurant dining by pulling together a picnic lunch to enjoy at a kid-friendly locale. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1.    Assemble your wares. Many cities and warm weather vacation destinations have incredible outdoor farmers’ markets where you can pick up fresh and delicious lunch fixins for a fraction of what you’d pay at a restaurant. Bring a canvas bag and stuff it with freshly picked fruit, oven-baked breads, specialty cheeses, deli meats and homemade pies and pastries. Bonus: Local markets are superb for scoring a region’s local foodie treasures. Scout out U.S. markets at www.localharvest.org. For international locations, Google before you leave or ask your concierge to point you in the right direction.

2.    Pick your locale. The best spot for a family picnic is somewhere the kids can run around without you panicking that they’re going to get hurt or ambushed by some seedy character. Best bets are large parks with broad spaces (think New York’s Central Park or the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris), preferably with nearby trees perfect for hide-and-go-seek (within eyeshot, of course!). Look for a spot with comfy benches and a nearby playground and you’re set. Equally fantastic options: a beach, a city-center plaza or piazza, the steps of a museum or national landmark, the banks of a river or lake, your hotel balcony or terrace. If you happen to be vacationing in the chilly northern regions, you’llhave to buy your fixins at the local grocery and set up your picnic around the indoor swimming pool. No pool? A picnic on the floorof your hotel room can feel like an adventure to kids.

3.    Pat yourself on the back. Not only did you save some serious coin, but your kids scored an hour or so of their kind of activity. Plus, they burned off excess energy. The happy result: They’re primed and ready for the next leg of your journey, whether it’s a two-hour car ride to Aunt Margaret’s house or an hour spent roaming the halls of the Getty Center. Bravo!