Things to Consider When Planning a Tailgate
Expert Advice

The first college football game of the 2023 season is just around the corner, and we can’t wait. It’s never too early to start planning for the next tailgate party in the parking lot or football watching parties on the home front. Here’s 11 things to consider when planning your next tailgate.

1. Timing is everything. You may think you know how long it takes for set-up, cooking, serving, celebrating and clean-up, but then again, a change in weather, new gear, a forgotten utensil, the smallest thing can mess up your timing. Be ready and willing to adapt. It’s a tailgate, not a job.

2. Be unexpected. Traditional hamburgers and beer? Fine. Bloody Mary’s in the morning? Good. But pizza sliders? Better. Vesper martinis? Fun. Bond fun. Mix it up now and then. The menu, the décor, the games. Rules are made to be broken, and tailgating legends distinguish themselves by delivering the unexpected.

3. Make it easy. Do everything ahead of time that’s possible. Pre-form burger patties. Marinate meats and veggies so they arrive on the grill seasoned. Cut, dice, season, freeze, pre-cook…if it can be done before you arrive in the lot, do it.

4. Think weird. Embrace unusual solutions. A hanging shoe rack with all those little pockets makes for handy storage at a tailgate for stuff like lighters, utensils, sunglasses, and keys when hung from the canopy. Throw frozen bottled water in the coolers with the perishable meats, cheeses, and veggies, so you can skip bagged ice. Or freeze water balloons instead. Bungee cord a fan to face down from the ceiling of your canopy for an ongoing, overhead breeze.

5. Talk trash. Don’t suffer the mess of loose trash bags. There’s lots of gadgets out there to hold garbage bags upright in all kinds of places, from connecting to your car to free-standing frames that can turn into tabletops. Bring sturdy tote bags to carry home recyclables. And make the trash receptacles easy to find.

6. The best may be the worst. You may be tempted to park right next to the stadium, but this could add hours to your exit as you wait for every car parked closer to the exit to leave. And how far away are those bathrooms? Pregame scouting of the lot—in person or via Google Maps—is just smart. 

7. Park it. Think before you pull into your spot. Where do you want to be accessing your trunk? Your roof rack? Need to hear the radio? You may need to back in.

8. Go RV. RVs are the pinnacle in tailgating luxury—kitchen facilities, your own restroom (relationships can be saved by a private bathroom), and even a bed for post-game naps while the lot empties. You’ll also have TV hookups to monitor the success—or hopefully failure—of your mortal football enemies. No need to own an RV either, just rent one now and then as your mood (or weather) shifts.

9. Brand your tailgate: Ickey Woods had the Ickey Shuffle, Michigan-great Desmond Howard struck the Heisman Trophy pose after every big play he made, and Cam Newton pretends to rip his shirt open like he’s Superman. A signature move defined their celebrations. Do the same with your tailgate. Create your own signature dish or drink. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary, just notable. Maybe as simple as a piece of bacon in your martinis.

10. Start traditions. Could be singing unique lyrics to a well-known tune to kick off your tailgate. Could be drinking a shot out of the thumb hole of a bowling ball. Could be an annual chili cookoff. Could be a goofy troll doll everyone has to rub before they head into the game. Traditions identify that it’s yours and yours alone.

11. Don’t have doubts. Know where everyone is supposed to be at what time, especially when the game ends. Keep the phones charged. Select a designated driver before hitting the lot. Communication is what gets you and everyone you love home and happy.