Top Tailgating Do's and Don'ts

By Ashley Paskill on October 22, 2019

One of the highlights of the fall semester is college football, especially if your school has a team. If you plan on catching a game, even if it is just homecoming, you may want to try tailgating. This pre-game festivity is the perfect way to get you in the spirit for cheering on your favorite team whether you are catching a college game or an NFL game. Are you going for the first time or want to make your experience even better? Check out the tips below on how to make your tailgate perfect for you and your friends.

Do show your team pride

Whether the team you are rooting for is your school or another school you like, use the tailgate as a time to showcase your school colors. At the very minimum, wear something with the team’s colors or name on it. To go all-out, try to incorporate the colors into the food and décor of the tailgate. As long as you are not wearing the colors of the opposing team, you are safe! Put in a little effort and do not show up in your everyday clothes. Decorate your tailgate with colors so that those in your tailgate party can see where you are. Have a theme and make sure to incorporate your team’s colors into it.

Do not lose track of time

The whole point of tailgating is to prepare for the game, so it is important to plan out your activities and clean-up accordingly. That way, you do not feel rushed when trying to get into the stadium. Make sure you account for games, food, cleanup, and the distance from the stadium. If you have a lot that you want to do, make it a point to maybe tailgate beginning in the morning. Check with the stadium to see how early you can set up. That way, you can do everything and still have time to clean up and make it to the game on time. To help maximize your time, prepare for the tailgate ahead of time.

Do have everyone do their part

The whole fun of tailgating is bringing friends and other fans together. The community atmosphere is a favorite for many. Tailgating is a great time for those who love the team to show their love and pride, even if they are not the biggest fan of football. In order to ensure this community atmosphere, make sure everyone is involved in various aspects of the tailgating plans.

Setting up and cleaning up are the worst parts of tailgating. However, having family and friends who are helping to host the tailgate get involved with these aspects can help leave more time for the actual tailgate. This is especially true when it comes to cleaning up. You will want to make sure you have time to make it to the game itself, so it is important for everyone to get involved with cleaning up. Even something as simple as everyone throwing out their trash can speed up the cleaning process.

If you are hosting a tailgate, food is essential but can be expensive. Have others bring their favorite tailgate food and have a potluck-type event. That way, everyone has something they like and the pressure is off you to break your student budget. Just make sure everyone gets their serving dishes back if they are not disposable dishes. You can even make a theme and have everyone create a dish around the theme.

Music and games are also crucial aspects of the tailgate experience. Make a playlist that includes selections suggested by attendees so that they can hear their favorite music. Have the music be upbeat to get tailgate attendees pumped for the game. Decide whether you want to play the music from your car or from portable speakers. Have popular tailgate games such as cornhole on hand for those at the tailgate to play. This buys you some time while you cook the food.

Do not forget the essentials

It is easy to focus on the food, games, and music, but there are other things that are needed. In order to serve the food and drinks, plastic cups, paper plates, and plastic silverware are essential. When it is cold, it is easy to remember a jacket, but you may not feel like it is necessary to bring a hat or gloves. Even if you do, others do not think to bring them. To help out, bring some extras in case others get cold throughout the game. Also, to ensure that you can serve the food and eat comfortably, bring tables and chairs. If you do not have enough for everyone, have a few people bring tables and have your guests bring their own chairs. Make sure you have enough trash bags to fit all of your trash during cleanup.

Do have a variety of food options

Food is one of the most essential items of a tailgate, and it is important to have a variety of food that everyone will enjoy. It is the perfect opportunity to eat junk food such as chips, cupcakes, and pizza in the name of celebrating the game. For those who are of age, it is also a time to have an alcoholic beverage or two as long as it is enjoyed safely. As mentioned before, one way to ensure that you have something that everyone enjoys without buying everything yourself, you can have a potluck where everyone brings their favorite tailgate food. You can also serve the burgers and hotdogs and have guests bring sides and desserts for everyone. This helps take the pressure off you and your budget.

Image: Stephanie McCabe via

Do not forget to be healthy

In the midst of eating unhealthy food, it is easy to forget that these foods have a ton of calories. Make sure you offer some healthy foods such as a fruit platter or cheese plate for those who want to eat healthily or those who may be on a diet. Also, make sure you offer vegetarian options for anyone needing these foods. Salad is a great choice, and if you make the salad, have attendees who may want to have salad bring their favorite dressing to enjoy. Another option is to replace tailgating staples with healthier options, such as replacing beef burgers with turkey burgers. In addition to having soda and alcohol available, make sure to also have bottled water for tailgate attendees to drink so they stay hydrated.

Do keep the event family-friendly

As a college student attending your school’s sporting event, you are a representative of your school. You are the face that the public, including alumni, fans, and guests, sees at the tailgating and at the game. Therefore, it is crucial that you behave in a positive manner. Keep clothing appropriate and do not wear anything negative against the other team. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to cheer your team on, but avoid being rude against the opposing team, even if the teams are rivals. If you are attending a major league game, there may be even more families doing tailgates. It is important that you act accordingly so that you set an example for those who are younger. Tailgating is meant to be a positive and family-friendly activity at any level, so make sure that your behavior contributes to a positive atmosphere. Show good sportsmanship, even at the tailgate, to set an example for any kids that may be around.

Do not be too loud

It is understandable that you are excited about cheering on your team in the game. However, when tailgating, be respectful of other tailgates that are taking place. Avoid having your music up too loud and limit your yelling as much as possible. You would not like it if someone else’s music was blaring over yours or if noisemakers were being overused. Be considerate, thinking of how you would like it if someone was making as much noise as you are. Keep cursing to a minimum since there may be kids around.

Do help create a community atmosphere

The whole fun of going to the game and tailgating is being around other fans of the team you are cheering for. If you have extra food, share it with other tailgating parties. Invite others who may have a small gathering into your gathering and share food. Be considerate of tailgating neighbors and keep things lighthearted and fun. Gameday is meant to be positive, and starting fights and degrading the opposing team shows negatively on you and the other fans of the team. As mentioned before, have everyone at the tailgate get involved with various aspects of the event, from the food to the music. That way, everyone feels like they made a contribution and that this tailgate is theirs as much as it is anyone else’s. Show good sportsmanship inside and outside of the stadium so that the game is fun for all.

Do not be afraid to think outside the box

When tailgating, you probably will not have a lot of space to pack things in your car or truck. Making the most of the space you do have is essential. Keep a toolbox stocked with essentials. That way, everything you need is in one condensed place. Also, learning how to pack a cooler will help ensure that you can have as much food and beverages as necessary for your tailgate. Thinking outside the box can help you save space in your car and ensure that you have everything you need. Since surface space is limited, attach magnets to your beverage koozies to attach them to your car. Put a first aid kit in a pill bottle. Being creative will allow you to be prepared while saving much-needed space.

Do prepare for the tailgate

In order to have the best tailgate experience possible, make sure you prepare for the event. Make a list of everything you need and make sure you have what you need with enough time to go shopping if needed. If you are planning on serving burgers and have toppings for them, make sure you chop them up and have them ready to go. Skewer and marinate the kabobs the night before the tailgate. Make a schedule of events to ensure you have enough time for your food and activities before you have to clean up. Another thing to do the night before is to shape and pack the burger patties between pieces of wax paper. Being prepared and doing things ahead of time allows you to have more time for actually participating in the tailgate festivities and helps you cut down on day-of prep time. Bring fun game day accessories for all who are attending your tailgate just in case they do not have any. Tie the accessories into the theme so that you will be a community once you get into the game. Make sure you have a first aid kit just in case something goes awry.

Image: Syd Wachs via

Do not do harm to the environment

It is no secret that you will likely have a lot of trash after your tailgate. Unfortunately, this can hurt the environment, especially when you think of how many tailgates there are in the stadium parking lot and across the country. Luckily, there are ways you can help reduce the environmental impact but will not decrease the amount of fun you will have. Use reusable plates and silverware. Bring a bin to put dirty dishes in so that you can clean them later. Have a fully vegetarian menu to help reduce the number of animals being consumed. If you are having chili or soup, use bread bowls to help reduce waste. Have separate trash bags and bins for recycling and make a point to recycle things that can be. Use mason jars as drinking glasses. Recycle old laundry detergent bottles by turning them into handwashing stations. If you must use anything disposable, use things made from recycled materials.

Tailgating is one of the highlights of the game, whether it is a major league or a college football game. It can be memorable and awesome if everything goes well and if you prepare properly. Overall, creating a community atmosphere and being prepared are the most crucial tips for making the tailgate as great as it can be.

By Ashley Paskill

Uloop Writer

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