Tips For The Best Tailgate Party Ever!

Check-lists can be the key to making your tailgate party the best tailgate party ever.  Veteran party animals have it down.  Make a really good check-list of tailgate party requirements, contents of your basic tailgate party kit and laminate it.  Leave some blank space at the base for last minute seasonal or temporary additions.  Cross off items as you pack them (Use a whiteboard marker).  Add things at the base of the list, such as special occasion foods or specific games. Use your smartphone or some paper and a pen, maybe a smart notebook.

Each tub, box or cooler should have its own contents list as well.  You’ll be amazed at how much easier this will make your day. Plan as much as you can in advance.

Ziploc bag your marinated steaks: Cheaper cuts of steaks seem to be more available in the stores on Wednesdays.  You can purchase them when cheap, rinse them and put each in a small Ziploc bag this size and refrigerate two days. Then freeze till game day.  Thaw the night before game day (in the fridge).  Just take out the steaks that are ‘ordered’ by your guests.  Don’t just cook the lot in one go. You can always cook more later in the day.

Ziploc bag your ribs: Pre cut and steam your pork ribs, then marinate in bags and if necessary, freeze till game day.  You can almost leave them that way till you arrive at the parking lot.  Put them in a lowish heat (covered) and cook till the flavor goes through and give them a last minute high blast to crisp up the outside (basting occasionally will also help).

Ziploc Sandwich Bag

Best Tailgate Party gear – Ziploc Sandwich Bag


Ziploc your fish: Say you have some pescavores in your party.  Take them some fish this way.  Pick a nice BBQ fish such as salmon or sword fish.  Cut it into serves.  Place each in a ziplock bag with a non-citrus marinade (the latter will pre-cook the fish and that would be disastrous).  Freeze till ready to party. Take it to the parking lot in its bag and remove from cooler an hour before cooking time.

Ziploc your Burgers: You can make burgers in advance up to ¾” thick and wide enough to fill the bag. Keep separate by using parchment or freezer paper.  Don’t defrost, just cook on BBQ 4-5 minutes side one and 3 -4 minutes side two from frozen state and the middle will stay juicy.

Check out the site rules. Do they allow flags?  Music? BBQs? Games? Check it out and you will be prepared.  If you are nearby and can zip down to the site and check it out, so much the better. Veteran tailgaters lay claim to a space and keep it for years.

Protect your booze: Keep the beer cool.  A layer of frozen water bottles, a layer or two of beer, a layer of frozen water on top (heat rises, cold falls) and your beer will stay frosty.  To avoid broken bottles, use dishcloths between layers.  You will use them on site.  Invest in a good quality cooler that can double as a seat or side table and wheels make it easy to position.

Avoid BBQ misery: Line your portable grill with aluminum foil for easy clean-up – there are some actual grill covers that will make this very simple as they are made exactly to fit the ribs on a BBQ rack.  Trim it if you have a petite BBQ and you can probably get 2 Weber BabyQ from one sheet.

Clean BBQ Disposable grill covers for your best tailgate party

Clean BBQ Disposable grill covers for your best tailgate party

Place a foil pan filled with a grease absorbent material beneath the grill top.

Freeze bottled water for your cooler: Buy water in square bottles and freeze it. Use these in your cooler instead of the freezer blocks. You can then have a decent supply of drinking water on hand. I have some refillable/recyclable square bottles and just fill from our water filter.  This also means that you will have less weight to take home as you can drink the water or use it for washing.

Modular containers: Make sure that all your items are packed in interchangeable modules.  It is really worth planning this out.  Tableware in a box with the napkins.  Games in their own container.  Plenty of room for coolers full of ale. Portable kegerator if you can do it.

Or growlers in a cooler.  I like the non-breakable steel ones.

Pack and store smart: Use large plastic tough storage bins that can double as seating to organize all of your tailgating gear.  If you can afford it, get the ones that can be wheeled. Something like this (as long as it fits in your car) is ideal as you can also see what is inside.

Best Tailgate Party ever - pack in wheelie plastic tubs

Best Tailgate Party ever – pack in wheelie plastic tubs

Pack chairs, canopy and other non-perishables in the car the night before.  Pick a comfy, multi-purpose chair. Just leave spaces for the coolers and perishable food.

Great tailgate party chair

Best tailgate party needs a great tailgate party chair

Set up right (and fast).

Location is vital for a successful tailgate party. Pick a good spot if you can but you will most likely be pointed in a specific direction and have no choice. However, if you do have choice, be selective:  park in the outer lanes as near to the exits as possible and when it is time to leave, you will be grateful.  Leaving fast will neatly cap off a good day as long as you are happy to take that fast paced walk to your car from the stadium.  You will avoid the exit gridlock altogether. When your friends arrive, they will be able to find you far easier. Place a flag on a pole next to your car.

Flagpole to Go for the best tailgate party

Flagpole to Go for the best tailgate party


This clever, collapsible flag pole can be used for portable or stationary purposes. Great for tailgating, its features include  4 Aluminum Telescoping Flagpole Sections Snap-Lock Sections that you lock together to the height desired and it can be used as In-Ground or Tire Mount.  It extends up to 19 ft. tall. For use with vehicles only.

Increase your visibility in the car park by raising a flag on your very own flagpole.  This is a lightweight aluminum demountable unit that is secured by your car. Won’t blow away in the wind but light to transport.

Then talk your buddies down!!!!! ‘We’re the Silverado with the tall Seahawk’s flag 3 rows from the west gate’ … easy!  Or give them a GPS reading.  Don’t let any of your guests waste good eating, drinking and gaming time by getting lost.

Spy out the toilet block.  You probably have done your homework on this.  Don’t be too near these but close enough to sprint there in an emergency!  There are usually rows of PortaPotties distributed through the parking lot. Don’t park right nearby, give it a row or two upwind.  You also want to avoid having the pee-lines anywhere near your party.

And a word on toilets: Campers will know that it is handy to have your own toilet.  Avoid the filth of the flooded and grubby porta-potties with their awful chemical whiff.

Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Complete Portable Toilet System

Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Toilet for your best tailgate system

Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Toilet for your best tailgate system

This is gold!  After eating Ma’s chili all morning, what could be better than this?  A full toilet in a tent, the system developed by NASA with plastic bags and solution to contain waste and wipes, it’s the kind used by the Armed Forces and packs into a small bag.  Super cheap and will give you years of service.  Need I say more?  If your site (or if there are a few of you together) has the space, this is a very inexpensive way to have comfort and convenience.  I would just advice putting a bit of ambient music nearby.  Just not the National Anthem. Oh, and anchor with some canopy weights.

Get a really great table and sink.

Deluxe Camping Kitchen Table

Deluxe Camping Kitchen and tailgating table

Deluxe Camping Kitchen and tailgating table


Here’s a camping kitchen setup that is a great way to adapt something designed for damping to tailgate parties.  So you have your portable bar, your grill, your cooler,  but this nifty setup has a sink, a stainless steel prep counter and shelves for everything.  Folds up into nothing for easy transport and is quick to set up. Has absolutely no negatives and is a good buy.  The good thing is that when you go to the Coachella festival, you can use it there as well.

Simple to Erect Canopy

Pop up that canopy and fly your flag at the top of your flagpole.  The quicker you can put up your canopy the faster your guests can kick back and relax.  The Colman is my favorite and includes 4 ultra-bright LED lights which operate from 4 x D batteries and can be dimmed from task to atmosphere illumination.  Very nice!

Best tailgate party - Coleman Canopy

Best tailgate party – Coleman Canopy

Note that the Coleman CPX 6 V Rechargeable Power Cartridge replaces the batteries and is a great backup source of simple power.  It has enough oomph to light up a Coleman lantern.

Best tailgate party - Coleman power pack replaces batteries

Best tailgate party – Coleman power pack replaces batteries

You can place a banner on top of the canopy or beside it and your guests can use it to orient themselves in the parking lot.

Car Locator App: Download it so that you don’t get lost.  I mean, after a beer or three, your navigational skills just may be lacking. So that trip to the bathroom could mean you miss the party!

Chairs, seating and furniture: While some of your guests may bring a chair so that they can relax at the tailgate party, you will need to supply something for seating and maybe a table.  You can use the tops of your storage tubs but a good drinking chair is hard to beat.  Choose one that can fold up to a small size. Some even have little tables attached and hanging pockets to stash phone, drinks, chip bags. See above – the Coleman chair is beautiful and functional as well.   Many of our articles review nifty folding tables and chairs to check them out.

Menu Hints

A simple menu is a better idea than someone having to spend all day fiddling with food.  Finger food shouldn’t be so messy that everyone gets mucky hands which they then transfer to your game equipment and so on.  Go for 2 meat items, some bread, 3 salads.  Chips and dips.  And maybe a dessert that you can either eat before the game or even after.  Coffee is handy too and if you are allowed to take it inside, do so.  You won’t have a dining table so choose food you can eat from a folding chair … skewered meats and vegetables are great.  Or just buy a rotisserie chicken on the way and tear it to shreds in the parking lot and serve it with the store’s trimmings!

Southern Living’s Tailgating Cookbook has some great ideas.


Charcoal may taste better but it’s hard to slow down the griller, dispose of the spent coals and packe away the BBQ and get the car packed up prior to the game. Gas is so much easier, less messy and less hazardous.  You don’t have to sacrifice taste – use some smoking chips and a layer of flavored rocks to impart the traditional taste.  Keep the BBQ to a size that makes sense.  You can find rigs to suit all needs but I like the tiny Cuisinart which easily has space for four hefty meals.

And the way we fit more meat onto its small space is to do it in relays.  Some people cook, others play games, others eat and so on.  But all the while, we play music and have fun.  No pressure!

Food Safety

Avoid foods that are easily perishable (eggy mayo, sour cream etc.) unless you have a dedicated cooler that remains shut when you are not delving it to it for goodies.  Don’t mix raw food and cooked food.  Don’t take leftovers home – just pitch them in the trash. Don’t over-cater.  After a day in the sun, most will not be safe to eat.  Trash bags are essential and a pack of antiseptic wipes will be handy.  You will also need bottled water for some routine hand washing.  Some caterers’ disposable food prep gloves are really useful (just be careful near the BBQ that you are not in melting distance).

Clean up the space as you go and also before you leave: Get lightweight, strong trash can that collapses to a flat disk for easy storage.  You line it with a 33 gal. bin bag.  22” x 28”, it can be washed and disinfected between uses. It will save you many trips to the parking lot trash containers. Take all trash with you.

Best Tailgate Party - Clean up as you go

Best Tailgate Party – Clean up as you go

Cool the BBQ before packing it away.  If you use charcoal, pour water over to cool it, wrap in foil and dispose of it in the correct parking lot receptacle (if they have one) or be sure it has been completely extinguished, cold and wet and pack in a metal (non flammable) box away from your fuel tank.  Be fire alert.

There should not even be a grease spot, piece of trash (or vomit trail ….) to mark where you have been.


Drink water, Alka Seltzer if you need it and don’t drive drunk.  A personal breathalyzer may be in order…But I don’t want to bring the party down.

Best tailgate party needs a personal breatalyzer

Best tailgate party needs a personal breatalyzer

So the bottom line is still ‘tailgate party on!’ Just be prepared for everything.