Packing for a tailgate party isn’t as simple as one might think. There’s nothing worse than getting to the stadium parking lot and realizing you forgot something important. Wondering what to pack for a successful tailgate?! Check out these tailgating tips and essentials from me, a seasoned tailgater, who has made tons of mistakes so you don’t have to!
The definition of tailgating is to host or attend a social gathering at which an informal meal is served from the back of a parked vehicle, typically in the parking lot of a sports stadium.
And although I agree it is very relaxed and informal as the definition states, it still stinks to be unprepared and missing important items you need to throw a successful tailgate.
We know a thing or two about forgetting some pretty key tailgating items. With us going into our 5th year as Miami Dolphins season ticket holders, we’ve pretty much made all the mistakes one can make when tailgating.
Here are our two biggest bloopers:
We broke our tailgating tent on our very first day of tailgating. We were such amateurs that we didn’t even know how to open our tent. (Shaking my head in shame!) For the next two football seasons, we tailgated with a tent that had a broken piece of frame dangling in one corner. Fun Times…
We brought our grill to tailgate but left the grill grates at home. Very humiliating moment! For Christmas, Zach and I surprised Patrick with an orange grill to bring with us when we tailgated at the Dolphins games. We were so excited to use it at our final game of the season. Patrick put the grill together at home but somehow forgot to pull the grates out from the box. We ended up eating potato salad, chips and fruit that day. Epic fail!
The above examples were our biggest tailgating failures but we’ve had tons of minor mishaps throughout the years. We are now the ones who sympathize with our tailgating neighbors who clearly have no idea what they signed up for. We’re such a humble family…never forgetting where we came from. Hahahaha!
If you don’t want to be the family that clearly has no clue what they are doing when it comes to tailgating, check out this comprehensive list of everything you need to remember for your next tailgate gathering.
What to Pack for a Successful Tailgate
Tent and stakes/straps
I probably should’ve added this to the bloopers section, but we also ruined another brand new tent because we didn’t have it secured probably in the ground. We left our tent stalks at home on an ever-so-windy day. To make due with what we had on hand, Patrick tried his best to keep the tent from blowing away by rigging it with whatever we had on hand. All of a sudden a huge gust of wind came and blew our tent (that was attached inside the handle of our cooler…remember we rigged it!) right over our truck and scratched the heck out of the side of it.
Don’t be us! Bring something to help keep your tent in place.
Table/Tablecloth with clips
Make sure you have something to hold your tablecloth down because the same wind that will blow your tent over can also take your tablecloth for a ride. A neat trick is to purchase a twin-size fitted sheet to use as a tablecloth because it secures around the perimeter of the table and keeps it in place. We were lucky to find a Miami Dolphins tablecloth from Amazon that was fitted just like a twin sheet!
Folding chairs/tailgating chairs
Grill with extra propane/charcoal
I can’t tell you how many times we have helped fellow tailgaters out because they’ve run out of propane. We always carry an extra propane tank with us for those “just in case” moments.
For those using a charcoal grill, make sure you have enough charcoal to last you.
Lighter and fuel
A long lighter comes in handy for that frustrating gas grill that just won’t ignite! It’s also a must when lighting your charcoal grill. The fuel is also for the lighting of a charcoal grill.
Tongs, spatula, and any other grilling accessories you need. You might want a sharp kitchen knife if you are working with steaks, brats or sausage.
Cooler with ice
You might need multiple coolers depending on the amount of people tailgating. If so, separate the drinks and food into different coolers. Make sure you have plenty of ice to keep it all cold.
Drinks, bottle opener, wine key, and koozies
I highly recommend bringing a ton of water! You’ll want additional non-alcoholic choices such as soda or Gatorade. Of course, you’ll want to bring alcoholic beverages as well. Don’t forget to bring a bottle opener for beer and wine key for your wine. When using koozies, we like to go with our team colors or logo for that extra team spirit!
Clorox wipes, paper towel, Wet Ones, tissue/toilet paper
Do I really need all of these? Yes, you do! Wet Ones are perfect for dirty hands after throwing around the football or a trip into the dreaded Port-O-Potty. The tissues and toilet paper are for the Port-O-Potty, too! Clorox wipes are used to wipe down dirty surfaces. Paper towels are great for the person manning the grill to lay down their tools or just to wipe the sweat off their face.
Make sure you clean up after yourselves and throw all your trash away before heading into the game.
Paper plates, plastic cutlery, napkins, and cups
All the supplies you’ll need to eat your yummy food!
You can go as easy or as difficult as you want with this. We’ve stopped at Wawa before and just bought subs and chips and were completely satisfied. If grilling scares you, it’s okay to just pass on grilling and go this route. Plus you’ll be able to knock off some of the earlier items on this list.
Normally, we grill hot dogs and hamburgers or some boneless pork ribs. When grilling burgers or hot dogs, you’ll want to remember ALL the extras that go along with it: buns, cheese, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.
Don’t forget the snacks too. We tend to go for chips or fresh fruit. We eat the snacks before and after the game and on the way home so make sure you have enough to last you.
Aluminum foil or Ziploc bags
You’ll want a way to cover any leftovers that you might have whether it be with aluminum foil or Ziplocs. We personally like Ziplocs because they close securely and we don’t need to worry about any water from the melted ice in the cooler seeping into it. We also place all our dirty grilling utensil inside a Ziploc bag when we are done using them.
Some of our favorite tailgating games are corn hole, Jenga (table-size Jenga and Giant Jenga), dominos, and Uno. Don’t forget the football to play catch with.
Not only do we use our wireless speaker to listen to music on, but we use it to listen to other games going on around the league. We also like to listen to the commentators giving their input about the upcoming game.
You’ll definitely want something to protect you from the sun since you’ll be sitting in it ALL.DAY.LONG.
Not only will you want team gear to wear, but you’ll also want gear to decorate your tailgating area with. We have everything from shirts, jerseys, glasses, necklaces, earrings and even teal and orange shoes. Show your team spirit!
Tickets and parking decal
Don’t forget your tickets to the game and your pre-purchased parking pass.
Approved bag to bring into the game
I have seen way too many women walk all the way from the parking lot up to the front of the stadium only to be told their bag is not in regulation with the NFL’s bag policy. The NFL is not the only organization that does this either. College football also has specifications on the bags that can be taken into the game. Check out the bag policy for the sporting event you plan on attending to avoid the headache!
I’m completely aware that this list for what to pack for a successful tailgate seems overwhelming. Honestly though, don’t be intimidated! Here’s the biggest piece of advice I can give to you when tailgating. Be nice to the tailgaters around you. In the event that you forget something, ask around and you’re bound to find someone willing to help you out!
Have I missed anything on my tailgating list? Are there any tips you swear by when tailgating? Let me know in the comments below. This old dog can always learn new tricks.
And before I go, Go Miami Dolphins!
Want to remember this? Post What to Pack for a Successful Tailgate to your favorite Pinterest board!