9 Mistakes Every Tailgater Makes
Expert Advice

Image: Deposit Photos, sjlocke

They say you learn from your mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you should strive for genius by making as many as possible. While mistakes are proof you’re trying, wouldn’t it be nice to just get it right the first time? Of course, it would. And nowhere may that be truer than when hosting your very own tailgate.

Sure, surrounded by family and friends—people who love and support you—is a safe place to make mistakes. But it also means a lifetime of good-natured ribbing. There’s no shame in wanting to be known as the guy or gal who throws epic tailgates, rather than the one who accidentally set fire to the tent with a grilling gone bad moment. The good news is that with these 9 mistakes every tailgater makes, and prevention tips rounded up below, you’re well on your way toward true, unblemished guru status.

Mistake #1: Going Solo   

Prevention: Delegate 

In the same way it takes a village to raise a child, it takes more than a guru to pull off a great pregame party. Trying to do too much—or, gasp! all of it—can make for a stressful day for you. Remember that the point is to have fun. Remain the master of the tailgating domain by getting your minions—er, guests—to help with the grunt work. Assign specific tasks to those invited, and don’t be afraid.

Mistake #2: Forgetting A Must-Have       

Prevention: Make A List

 Leaving behind a bag of chips or your lucky team hat might be no big deal, but space out on ice and you’ll never hear the end of it. After all, items like a grill, burgers, ice and beer are the bedrock of any good game day. Avoid these kinds of issues by following the practices of the big man himself: Santa, that is. Make a list and check it twice. Start the list as soon as the party date is set, and keep adding items as you think of them. When packing, double check your list to make sure nothing is left behind.

Mistake #3: Winging It                    

Prevention: Get Organized & Plan 

If you’ve ever been with a tailgater worthy of legendary status, then you were in the presence of a real guru. There was an easy flow, conversation rolled off the tongue, the food was amazing, the drinks were ice cold and everyone had such a good time that they refer to it as the bar to which no other party may ever quite reach. While it appeared effortless, the day didn’t happen on a whim. Lots of planning and organizing (and likely a heavy dose of experience) went into making it all possible. If you want to achieve similar greatness, you gotta put in the prep work.

Mistake #4: Malfunction                 

Prevention: Do A Dry Run 

Collapsing tents, grills that won’t start and portable heaters that scorch your guests can definitely bring the festivities down a notch. While some minor mishaps may be out of your control, having a good working knowledge of how to use, set up and fix your supplies can save you a lot of strife. For new equipment or gear not used often, study the manuals and have them on hand as you do a test run at home. Replace any missing pieces and repair any problems before you arrive at the parking lot.

Mistake #5: Not Knowing Your Audience          

Prevention: Ask Questions and Plan Accordingly 

Not everyone loves a college frat-style tailgate, complete with keg stands and beer pong. While there’s a time and place for that style of party, keep your guests in mind when planning food, beverages and entertainment. Have more ladies in attendance than normal? Consider setting up a Bloody Mary bar. Know the little ones will be in tow? Be sure to have food that will fare well with their pickier palates. Send out an email or text guests to get their preferences before you start planning.

Mistake #6: Alcohol Only Tailgate            

Prevention: Pack Water and Other Drinks 

As hard as it may be to believe, beer does not a tailgate make. While it’s a definite must-have for many, the essential for all is water. Standing on blacktop while outside in the elements—hot or cold—can leave a person parched. Add in saltier fare and alcohol, and it’s a recipe for very thirsty guests. Pack bottles of water to quench your guests’ thirsts, while also having a few on hand to help with putting out fires and cleanup. Also keep in mind that not everyone drinks alcohol, especially during the day. A gallon of tea or a cold Diet Coke will make someone really grateful.

Mistake #7: Burning The Food                 

Prevention: Cater To Your Strengths 

You know the saying: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Well, the same can be said for the grill. Lighting a flaming hot fire might seem like the right way to get cooking, but sometimes a cooler touch is the better approach. Foods like hot dogs are already cooked; the grill just needs to warm them to a temp that makes them tastier. Pump up the heat on these, and you’ll end up with shriveled or blackened food no one wants to touch. If grilling isn’t your hot spot, don’t be too proud to hand over the tongs to a more masterful chef. Better yet, save the work and cater your event.

Mistake #8: Not Enough Space                 

Prevention: Band Together 

Parking lots can get cramped fast on game day. If you’re hosting a big group, you’ll need more than one spot to make sure everyone fits without crowding the people parked next to you. Get to know the lay of the parking landscape, and plan with friends to drive together so that you can pull in next to one another for a bit more breathing room.

Mistake #9: Duped By Mother Nature               

Prevention: Prep For All Weather 

That Mother Nature is a fickle woman. At any time, lightning can strike, rain can pour down and temperatures can plummet. Try as you might, you can’t control the weather. However, you can pack to be prepared for whatever she may throw at you and your guests. Stock up on inexpensive rain ponchos, fleece blankets and sunscreen to keep your guests comfortable no matter what the skies have in store.