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Tailgating Ideas to Rock the Parking Lot

Football season is in full swing, bringing with it game-day festivities, including ever-popular tailgating! The tradition dates back to the Civil War and has been a staple of sporting events ever since. Parking lots fill with fans wanting to relax and enjoy themselves hours before the big game.

Tailgate parties cover the spectrum from low key to carefully planned extravaganzas. The simplest options start with just serving sandwiches and chips in the trunk of a sedan. Some take it to the other extreme, with tents and tables, a tailgate full of food, and coolers full of beverages. College and professional football games are notorious for tailgate parties that go all out, and there’s stiff competition between rivaling teams over who throws the best party.

To some, tailgating is taken very seriously, so we’ve collected our favorite tailgaiting ideas to make the most of a pregame party.

Image by Ken Lund via Flickr cc.
Image by Ken Lund via Flickr cc.

Best Vehicles for Tailgating

Unsurprisingly, pickup trucks are the vehicles that first spring to mind when thinking of tailgating, as they have an actual tailgate. Also, trucks provide the best towing capabilities and cargo room for transporting campers, grills, tables, and coolers full of supplies. When planning a tailgate, find a friend with trucks like a Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Chevy Silverado, RAM 1500, or the Toyota Tundra. It’s even better if that truck has a cab with a full second row, as that offers room to transport both passengers and the equipment for the tailgate.

For example, the RAM 1500 provides seating for six, and also cargo space in the bed and the cab of the truck. There’s even “store-in-the-floor” storage under the rear seat area that can act like coolers! That is in addition to the spaces in the bed of the truck that are built into the bed rails and are weatherproof, lockable and drainable.

Image by Cara Ball via Flickr cc.
Image by Cara Ball via Flickr cc.

The majority of these trucks not only have great room for storage and the power to tow large items such as BBQ grills, but they also come equipped with storage compartments that double as coolers to keep the drinks cold – just add ice!

While tailgate parties most commonly take place in the back of a truck, there are SUVs and hatchbacks that also do the trick! SUVs are more closed off than the tailgate of a truck, but still offer tons of room for coolers and tailgating essentials. Some vehicles also come with convenient features ideal for tailgating. For example, Honda vehicles such as the CR-V and Element have a table that folds out from the back of the vehicle.

The Ford Flex is another SUV that was built for the tailgate. While it can seat seven which is a major plus for transporting tailgaters, the best part of this vehicle is the built-in refrigerator and the third-row seats that flip over to offer comfortable rear facing seating in the tailgate. This not only helps keep the beverages cold but also offers comfortable, shaded tailgate seating!

Image by RMM Pipe Band via Flickr cc.
Image by RMM Pipe Band via Flickr cc.

Another great alternative to a truck for tailgating is the Subaru Forester. While it is smaller than the big, heavy duty trucks, it still has plenty of room to transport supplies and backseat cargo trays which can be removed and cleaned, ideal for catching sandwich crumbs!

What to Bring to the Tailgate

Once the vehicle situation is figured out, next comes the packing. Depending on the seriousness of the tailgate party, a game day checklist could include any or all of the following: food, drinks, grills, propane, a TV, tents, tarps, canopies, tables, chairs, coolers, games, trash bags and heaters.

After making sure the menu is up to pro tailgating standards, it is important to properly stock the cooler. When packing food and drinks, put the cooler foods at the bottom, as this helps to keep everything at an optimal temperature. Make sure condiments are tightly sealed so that there is no spillage. Remember fill the cooler with plenty of ice! Whether it is bags of ice, ice packs or even frozen water bottles this ensures the food is kept perfectly chilled. It is also very helpful to label the coolers so everyone can easily tell what is in each cooler.

Image by dabruins07 via Flickr cc.
Image by dabruins07 via Flickr cc.

Other great things to take include generators, jumper cables and first aid kits just to be prepared. Try to think of everything that would possibly be needed and pack it. For example, bottle openers, extra toilet paper, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug repellent are all good things to consider bringing “just in case”.

Packing this all into a truck or SUV is like a game of Tetris and requires the perfect use of bungee cords. Items such as tables can be laid down to take up the least room and maximize the space for bulky objects such as coolers, tents and chairs. Also, make sure that lighter items which could fly away while driving are secured and stowed properly. No one wants to lose the tablecloths on the side of the highway!

It’s a good idea to bring something like a flag on a tall pole, a colorful tent or anything else that stands out and is easy to identify. This will help people find the tailgate and give a point of reference for others.

Do Some Research!

While busy planning the perfect tailgate party, it is easy to overlook the details and logistics of the actual tailgating location.

It is always helpful to research vital information such as the directions to the spot, if parking passes are necessary, the spot’s rules and regulations and
the available facilities — especially where the nearest bathrooms are!  Also knowing when the party starts is key to beat the crowds and get comfortable in the location. Once settled, establishing a meeting place after the game or discussing points of reference will help the group make their way back to the post game tailgate successfully. Finally, ask questions such as “Will our truck fit into our spot?” or “Is there room to spread out and set up camp either in front of or behind the car?” This helps to ensure that game day isn’t spoilt by any nasty surprises.

Image by BenSpark via Flickr cc.
Image by BenSpark via Flickr cc.

When this checklist is followed, the tailgate should be a success from transportation to the tailgate, to party setup and finally the party itself. Last but certainly not least,the most important thing to bring to a tailgate are THE TICKETS!

Tell us all about your next tailgate below!

By Allie Vadas

One thought on “Tailgating Ideas to Rock the Parking Lot”

  1. As a proud owner of a few Dodge Ram 1500s, I can attest to their versatility in providing enough storage for just about anything you want to do outdoors, including camping. Cargo storage is especially helpful.

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