Student Life

Tips for tailgating in style

Fall is here and so is college football and tailgating season!

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High School Parent | College Parent

Nothing compares to celebrating with your student, friends, and other families before, during, and after the big game. Whether you’re a seasoned tailgater or first-timer, we have tips for making the day great.

Plan ahead

Every university has its own tailgating policies. Start by visiting the school website — you should find a tailgating guide with home game schedule, maps, fees, and rules. There are usually designated tailgating parking areas — some are first come, first served while others are reserved for guests who pay by the game or season. Review the rules about prohibited items, alcohol, signage, etc.

Arrive early, stay late

Make a day of it and arrive at the parking lot as soon as you’re allowed in (usually 3-4 hours before game time — this information will be on the website, too). You’ll have a better shot at a good parking space — some people like to be close to the stadium entrance while others prefer proximity to the parking lot exit or perhaps a grassy or shaded area.

Have food ready to serve a couple of hours before kick-off, giving yourselves plenty of time to eat and clean up. If you’re not positioned for a quick getaway after the game, a mini post-game tailgating party is a great way to stretch out your together time and avoid the crush.

Mark your territory

Make sure people can find you as the parking lot fills up by having a flag to identify your spot. Under the tire “flagpole-to-go” stands are available at hardware stores and online.

True colors

You’re there for your team — show it! Team colors, flags, and face paint are part of the pageantry. For extra spirit points, decorate your tailgating site in team colors and memorabilia. Your student will love helping with this!

Early bird menu

As with any party, do yourself a favor and cook/prep as much as possible ahead of time. Think about dips, salads, and side dishes that can be made and refrigerated a day or two before the event. If you’re grilling steaks, you can put them in large Ziploc bags along with their marinade and freeze them for a week or more — the night before the game, take the bags out and let them thaw in a small cooler. On arrival, the meat should be ready to grill. Make sure you have lots of everything — you don’t want to run out of food or beverages.

Keep cool

Coolers stay cold longer when prepped correctly. Refrigerate drinks ahead of time so they go into the cooler already chilled. If you’re bringing bottled water, it can be frozen and the bottles (along with blue ice packs) can supplement the bagged ice cubes. Experienced tailgaters’ number one recommendation: “Don’t run out of ice!”

Mighty mugs

Instead of disposable plastic cups, consider reusable cups and mugs (the insulated kind that can be used for both hot and cold drinks). It’s better for the environment, and makes it easier to keep track of your beverage. Ask your guests to bring one, too.

Bin there, done that

If you expect to tailgate regularly, large plastic storage bins are great for organizing and transporting supplies. Use them to sort and pack plates, utensils, tablecloths, paper goods, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, blankets, folding chairs, rain gear, etc.

Under the elements

Fall weather can be changeable. An easy-setup canopy is good insurance against an unexpected shower and also provides a welcome break from the sun on warm days.

Leave no trace

At the end of a big game, trash bins are often overflowing. Bring your own garbage bags and carry your waste back home. Carefully restow your gear so it’s ready for the next home game!

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for additional tips, insight, and to help your college student succeed. You may also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our Community Forum and College Parents’ Facebook group.

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