Bringing in your own picnic lunch to Schlitterbahn is one of those things that sets our family of waterparks apart from everyone else in the business. We can’t begin to tell you the times our colleagues at theme parks and other waterparks shake their heads about the choice we have made to “leave money on the table.” (Of course, we don’t see it that way. We see it as being true to our mission of being the kind of place families can come and have a great time. But I’m preaching to the choir here, right?)

As a busy mom myself, I suffer from an extreme lack of food imagination when it comes to packing our ice chest for the park. Granted, I’ve got one picky eater and another child who will live on into her 90s on pizza alone, but I still dream of packing the perfect gourmet picnic in our ice chest. A picnic worthy of the Food Network. A picnic that will have everyone gazing over to our table with longing. A picnic that says “now there goes SUPER MOM!”

Unfortunately my picnics say more like “can we get a turkey leg instead?” and “is she really wearing her towel like a cape?”

In the meantime, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite tips for keeping whatever you bring to the park nice and iced.

  • Start out cold and keep it cold. Make sure your food goes in cold to ensure it stays that way all day.

  • Ice it early. Consider ice-ing your ice chest the night with a bag of ice to pre-cool it.

  • Secret weapon: Rock salt. Rock salt lowers the freezing point of ice and actually helps keep ice solid twice as long.

  • Let it float. Don’t drain out cool water from melted ice. It’s still helping keep your things cool. Keep in mind ice is available in the park. However, be sure to bag items to keep them dry.

  • Freeze things you normally wouldn’t. Frozen grapes double as ice and a slushy snack. Freeze juice boxes, then cut off the tops to create slushies. Not only are they delicious, they help add to the cooling system as well as doubling as food!

What tips do you have?