29 Tips for the Best Tailgate Ever

Find out if you're getting ripped off on your car insurance in less than two minutes.
Find insurance savings (100% Free)
No long forms · No spam · No fees
Why you can trust Jerry
Jerry partners with some of the companies we write about. However, our content is written and reviewed by an independent team of editors and licensed insurance agents, and never influenced by our partnerships. Learn more baout how we make money, review our editorial standards, reference out data methodology, or view a list of our partners
This is the ultimate guide to throwing the best tailgate party ever! It’s fall, and first semester classes are back in full swing. But classes aren’t the only things back in action—it’s football season, which means it’s time to start prepping for tailgates.
At Jerry, we don’t only have you covered with cheap car insurance, but we’ve put together 29 tips for the best college football tailgate of the season.
Remember, though, that the best kind of tailgate is a safe tailgate!
It’s important to never drink and drive, so make sure you plan ahead with a designated driver or rideshare plan if you are drinking at your tailgate. Additionally, if COVID is still widespread in your area, take the proper precautions before attending a large gathering.
Nothing will put a wrench in your tailgate like getting a flat tire on the way there or accidentally locking your keys (and the cooler!) inside the car. With Jerry’s roadside assistance program, we’ll cover you for lockouts, towing, and emergency roadside assistance.
Now, the only thing left is to fire up the grill!
RECOMMENDED
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever

Packing and prepping

1. Plan to arrive two to four hours before the game starts

It’s never fun to try and navigate through a crowded parking lot! Arrive early to ensure you get a good spot and can set up with plenty of space. Plus, you can get the barbecue going, so hungry guests will show up right when burgers are hot off the grill.

2. Keep a tailgate emergency kit in the car

It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. With a little forethought, you can make sure that you and your guests are covered to prevent dehydration, sunburn, and any unexpected issues.
Some important items to include are:
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disposable masks
  • Extra water

3. Prep your food the night before

Pack your burgers, marinate your kebabs, and cut up your burger toppings to limit the mess. This creates one less thing for you to do so you can leave your house calmly without forgetting a thing. Use that extra time to get there early and scope out that prime spot!

4. Make sure you have food for everyone

The best tailgates have chicken, sausage, ribs, veggie burgers, etc.—it’s always worth it to have more options than the traditional beef patty. Your friends with alternative diets will thank you, and this way, people have the option to try something new, too!

5. Try matching up the menu with the team’s region

Try serving food that reflects the region. Consider prepping fish tacos if you’re rooting for the Miami Hurricanes, or gumbo if you’re an LSU fan! Matching the menu to the team is another way to make the party extra special and unforgettable.

6. Pack your cooler carefully to keep food cold

Not sure how to pack a cooler so everything gets transported safely? Here’s your two-minute master class on the perfect way to pack a cooler:
  • Put cans and bottles at the bottom
  • Top them with a layer of ice
  • Add the meats, then burger toppings, and other light items
And that’s it! Just remember to keep the items that need the most refrigeration closest to the ice layer so they stay cold.
Pro Tip: Use frozen water bottles in addition to ice cubes! Frozen water bottles not only double as ice packs, but they can help keep you and your friends hydrated throughout the day.

7. Label your cooler clearly

Keep things organized and easy to find! Labeling your coolers with their contents will help make sure your guests can easily find what they’re looking for. It also makes it easier to sort out non-alcoholic beverages—that way your underage guests don’t accidentally grab a can of beer when they’re looking for a soda.

8. Pack a couple of extra folding chairs, just in case

Bringing some extra seating is always a good idea—you might end up with a couple of extra guests or someone else might forget their chairs—and you never know when you’ll meet some cool fellow tailgaters!

9. Bring a first-aid kit and a phone charger

It’s important to make sure you have everything you need on hand for unexpected situations. A first-aid kit will make sure you’re all set for any minor bumps and bruises, and a phone charger will save any dying phone batteries—making it easier to secure that Lyft or Uber ride home.

10. Bring a couple of card games

If you’re arriving early, it’s good to have a game to help you and your guests pass the time and start some friendly competition. Besides, playing a game is a great alternative to sitting around on your phone.

11. Bring a temporary shelter in case of rain

No matter what is predicted in the weather forecast, sometimes the universe likes to play tricks on innocent partygoers. Bring a temporary waterproof shelter to keep any rain stays firmly out of your parade—the shelter can also provide some extra shade if the day is a scorcher.

12. Bring along a metal bucket to safely dispose of glowing coals

Glowing coals can be a pain to put out, and they can take a while to go out on their own. One easy way to sidestep any fire hazards is by bringing a metal bucket with you. When you’re packing up the grill, use the bucket as a fireproof receptacle to scoop up the coals.
Remember to be careful—the metal will be hot, so consider putting the bucket in an empty cooler and letting the ice cool it all down.

13. Pack a bottle opener

Double-check that you’ve packed your bottle opener...and then triple-check it, just to make sure. You can always make do if you still accidentally leave it behind—but opening a bottle is a lot easier with the right tools.

14. Dress up

Go nuts with the face paint, or try out a crazy costume in honor of your team. Don’t be afraid to go a little wild with your outfit so everyone will know which team you’re rooting for.
RECOMMENDED
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever

Before the game

15. Make the most of your space

Most tailgate areas are about 15 x 5 feet. Your setup is likely to be crowded with compact grills and equipment. Make sure your guests have the space to sit down and move comfortably—there’s nothing more frustrating than getting everything perfectly situated, only to realize there’s nowhere for the guests to sit.
Try to maximize your space so everyone has room to grab some food, grab a drink, and chill out!

16. When you set up the grill, take note of where the wind is blowing

No one likes getting smoke in their eyes. Check which way the wind is blowing, and make sure the seating area is in the opposite direction to keep everyone’s eyes (and lungs) safe.
Pro Tip: Use the speakers in your car to blast pre-game jams! This is a great way to further include your car in the party without spending money on expensive speakers. It’s always better to hear music from a top-notch stereo system than from a phone that’s placed in a bowl at just the right angle.

17. Tie a big helium balloon to your car so your friends can find you

Tailgates can be crowded, and phone service and WiFi are sometimes unpredictable. However, a big balloon is always going to be noticeable, and it will help your friends find you easily.

18. Use cupcake liners to keep insects out of your drinks.

Here’s a life hack to keep your drinks insect-free: Turn a cupcake liner upside down, poke a straw through, and voíla—instant anti-insect guard! Protect your drink so you can enjoy your pre-game beverages without worrying about any, uh...extra protein.

19. Bring extra accessories for friends

Not everyone has the foresight to get all dolled up at home, so bring stickers, temporary tattoos, or even plastic necklaces in your school colors to help everyone show their spirit!

20. Take lots of pictures

Make sure your tailgate will be a party to remember long after the game itself has faded from memory. Take a couple of snapshots here and there to capture the spirit of the party.

After the game

21. Leave your site better than you found it

Everyone might be wiped after the game, but you still need to clean up your space. Leave your space in better shape than you found it to not only show respect for your team, but for the stadium workers who have to pick up the parking lot.
Try splitting everyone into teams—one team on packing, one team on garbage duty, one team on cleaning up, etc.—so you can divide, conquer, and get home easily.

22. Plan ahead for your dirty dishes

If you’re bringing real dishware, make sure you’re able to transport it home safely and securely. One great trick for this is to line a clear plastic tub with a garbage bag and fill it up with any dishes that need to be washed at home.

23. Pour melted water over hot coals to ease transport

If the coals in your bucket are still a little too hot for comfortable transport, you can pour the melted ice from the coolers over them to make sure they cool down. You get bonus points for being a responsible tailgater and emptying your cooler at the same time!

24. Organize trash runs

Taking care of the trash is one of the most important aspects of cleaning up. If there’s a dumpster or garbage can nearby, assign a team to take it there, or make sure everything is bagged up and ready to be tossed when you get home.

25. Make sure everyone has a safe ride home!

Safety always comes first, and it’s definitely not safe to let someone get behind the wheel of a car when they’re unable to drive. If anyone’s been partying a little too hard, make sure someone trusted and sober can drive them home or call them an Uber or a Lyft.

26. Get some rest!

The adrenaline of the game might have you wound up, but if you have a lot to do the next day, your body will appreciate the rest. Have a glass of water, take a shower, and then get some good sleep. It’ll help your body rest and repair itself after a long and exhilarating day.

The day after

27. Drink lots of water

Hopefully, you stayed hydrated at the game, but after a big cookout and a party, it never hurts to drink some H2O. Drinking enough water will help you feel refreshed and ready for the day, even after a long night!

28. Share pictures with your friends

You didn’t take all those photos for no reason! Send them to your group chat before you forget so that everyone can hold onto the memories.

29. Start planning your next tailgate

By getting a head start on your next party, you can make sure that you’re all set in advance of the next game—and make it the new best tailgate ever. After all, the fun doesn’t stop till football season does!
RECOMMENDED
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever

Roadside assistance and affordable insurance

With these tips under your belt, your tailgate should be legendary. But, you can’t always predict what might happen on your way there. That’s why Jerry’s roadside assistance program is here to help! We’ll cover you for lockouts, towing, and even key replacement if you need it!
At Jerry, we don’t just offer roadside assistance—we also help you find the best price on the car insurance you need. If you’re worried you might be paying a little too much for your coverage, just download the Jerry app, and we’ll get you over 50 customized quotes from different top-of-the-line providers instantly!
Once you decide on a plan, Jerry will even help you switch providers. We’ll take care of all the phone calls and paperwork so that you can focus on making sure your tailgate is planned to perfection.
Don’t just take our word for it; see what some of our customers are saying:
"I’m a young adult in college. I paid overpriced insurance regularly until Jerry found me a fast and easy quote. It reduced my costs by 60%." —Niveah M.
RECOMMENDED
Haven’t shopped for insurance in the last six months? There might be hundreds $$$ in savings waiting for you.
Judith switched to Progressive
icon savingsSaved $725 annually
Alexander switched to Travelers
icon savingsSaved $834 annually
Annie switched to Nationwide
icon savingsSaved $668 annually

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

√
No long forms
√
No spam or unwanted phone calls
√
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings — it's 100% free