Best Cooler Packing Tips

There are quite a few blogs that claim to have the best cooler packing tips. Very well… I can agree that many do have valid points about prechilling the coolers, layering, and whatnot. The problem I’ve noticed is that most of these tips and tricks are targeted towards campers, not beachers. (Folks that go camping vs. those who go to the beach… I’m sure you were able to figure that out 😉) As you can imagine, there is nothing so disheartening as reaching into your cooler mid-day only to find its contents lukewarm. It is a sad state of affairs, I know,  but so avoidable! With a little preplanning, you will have the coldest, most well-stocked cooler on the beach! And, you know I’m going to teach you how!

Chill Out!

best cooler packing tips

There is a popular misconception that loading your pack down with bulky ice packs and pounds of watery ice is the only way to achieve maximum chill factor. This is simply not true. From my experience, ice packs and ice are only a third  of what keeps coolers coldest all day long in the summer heat. Packing techniques are, of course, another key element. Freezing food and drinks is the final key. Check out this list of freezable foods that will thaw just in time for lunch:

  • Fruits like grapes, peach slices, apple slices (tossed in a little lemon juice to prevent browning), cherries, & strawberries.
  • Yogurt tubes
  • Juice pouches (delicious slushies when they start to thaw!)
  • Water Bottles
  • This one is only for the adults in the group! Frozen bag of pre-made cocktail– This baby will help keep your cooler ice cold. If you happen to enjoy box-o-wine, remove the box, freeze the bag and voila… a lovely bag of wine cooler with a ready-to-pour spout! Or fill that bag up with any other cocktail mixture and enjoy your day in the sun. (Enjoy responsibly, especially on the beach!)


Wrap It Upbest cooler packing tips

Sandwiches or wraps? Well, wraps obviously! What is better than a full meal you can hold in one hand while tanning your legs? Nothing, that’s what. That being said, here are my reasons for supporting wraps over bread for picnic purposes. Bread gets squished very easily and has to be packed with care. Wraps hold together well  and can take a little abuse without getting  bent out of shape.

Also, anything that can be put on sandwich bread can be put on a wrap, and then some. Have you ever tried to stuff a sandwich full only to have it fall apart at the seems? (Once upon a time, I got so mad a peanut butter and banana sandwich because it refused to hold together. I picked it up and squished it between my fingers, cursing the sticky mash that oozed from my little hand… I was five years old. Took me years to attempt another one…) So yea, wraps are the way to go at the beach. Let us not forget that you only hand to have one relatively clean hand to eat a wrap! Here are just a few family-friendly wraps that will be just fine hanging out in the cooler.

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

best cooler packing tips

  • Chicken – Cooked, shredded chicken is best but frozen tenders or nuggets cut up work well too.
  • Buffalo Sauce – Use your favorite (Frank’s & Texas Pete are my favorite!)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Lettuce & Tomato – Optional but oh, so good!
  • Ranch or Blue Cheese dressing (Or Blue Cheese crumbles) – Gotta have ’em!
  • Large Flour Tortillas

Mix the chicken, buffalo sauce (to spice preference), & cheese. Fill the center of your tortilla with the mixture, adding lettuce, tomato, & sauces as desired. Fold in the sides, roll it up, & wrap it tight in wax paper or foil.



Asian Crunch Wrap

best cooler packing tips

  • Chicken – Cooked, shredded chicken is best but frozen tenders or nuggets cut up work well too.
  • Coleslaw mix – Cabbage and Asian food go hand-in-hand.
  • Sweet Chili Sauce – Mae Ploy… I live for it!
  • Soy Sauce – Just a splash for flavor
  • Fresh Cilantro – It wouldn’t be the same without it… so fresh & delicious.
  • Fresh Green Onions
  • Roasted Peanuts – That’s the crunch!
  • Large Flour Tortillas

For every 2 cups of coleslaw mix, toss in 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce, 2 chopped green onions, & 1 tsp soy sauce together. Lay chicken on tortilla, adding slaw mixture, & top with cilantro & peanuts. Fold in the sides, roll it up, & wrap it tight in wax paper or foil.



Cranberry Turkey Wraps

  • best cooler packing tipsMandarin Oranges
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Apple – Peeled & diced
  • Nonfat plain yogurt – Greek or otherwise
  • Mayo  – Just a little dollop
  • Lettuce
  • Turkey Breast – Grab your favorite from the deli at Publix
  • Mozzarella Cheese – Sliced thin for sandwiches
  • Pecans
  • Large Flour Tortillas

Mix a little mayo with the yogurt and spread on the tortillas. Layer on the lettuce, cheese, turkey, fruits and pecans. Then… you guessed it, fold in the sides, roll it up, & wrap it tight in wax paper or foil. Naturally, depending on the size of your group, and who wants what, all of these wraps can be tailored to individual tastes!



Pack It Up!

best cooler packing tips

Packing frozen fruits in Tupperware protects them from squish-age, and helps them act as ice packs. The sandwich wraps should be fine wrapped in wax paper of foil, and then protected in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Chips and whatnot go directly into the beach bag or dry storage pouch!

When it’s time to assemble your goods, keep in mind that cold air settles to the bottom of your cooler. It is a good idea to pre-chill your cooler in some way, either by filling it with “sacrificial ice”, or chilling it in the freezer (if you have access to a freezer big enough, that is.) I prefer the “sacrificial ice” method.



So, this is how the pros do it:

  • Fill your cooler with ice, up to 12 hours before your beach day (the night before will work just fine.) Let that bad boy chill…
  • In the morning, dump the ice… yes, just let it go, that’s why it’s sacrificial.
  • Add a layer of block ice on the bottom – Make your own by freezing water & salt in Tupperware containers or empty milk/juice cartons. Salt keeps the ice colder, longer!
  • Add your frozen water bottles & juice pouches to the cooler.
  • Layer your picnic food – Amazing, delicious wraps in this case!
  • Top with your chilled snacks – Frozen fruits, yogurt tubes, etc.
  • Add a light layer of loose ice or a few frozen juice pouches.
  • Anything that does not require refrigeration, I say pack in a separate compartment or toss them into your beach bag. The less that cooler is opened the better!


It’s not that I’m against ice packs, I just like the fact that you can leave whatever ice has melted right there on the beach rather than carrying back thawed ice packs. Remember, keep that load light. You will thank yourself later, I promise! And for the love of all that is beautiful and natural, please leave only your footprints! Bring a small trash bag to collect any garbage and take it off the beach when you leave.  The beach will thank you!



Vacation Smart, Not Hard!


best cooler packing tipsIn my noble pursuit to provide you with the best vacation information possible, I wrote this post especially for all my beach-goers. These here are the best cooler packing tips for a day at the beach, tried and true, and they haven’t failed me yet! And you, my vacationing friends, you are above squished, soggy sandwich and lukewarm yogurt! Take it from me, these tips will save you from some real headaches (and gross lunches.)

Of course, you can always leave me comments about your very best cooler packing tips and tricks… I’d love to hear them! Like I’ve said before, “Vacation Smart, Not Hard.” I stick by this statement with all my passion for vacation pleasure, and my disdain for things being more difficult than necessary. It’s the beach, not rocket science after all. You’re here to relax… and that’s just what you should do.


Until Next Time, Stay Salty!

Christine B.

Author: Christine Britten

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