How to win the day—even if your team doesn’t.

Burger at Tailgate Party
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

There are kids who have childhood memories of visiting new museums or playing soccer every Saturday. For me, I spent most fall weekends attending USC football games with my grandparents. Known as the USC Road Warriors, my grandparents attended every football and basketball game—home and away—for about 30 years. 

If there was one thing my grandparents were known for (aside from their unwavering support for the Trojans), it was their tailgates. A few hours before the game, my grandpa would load up his Sprinter van with all of the must-haves and they’d rally together all of their friends and have a potluck-style tailgate that people still talk about. Most of the time, my friends and I were eager to join in on the fun. And as a witness to some of the most family-friendly, rule-following tailgates, here are my top dos and don’ts when it comes to hosting your own.

Rose Bowl Stadium

Harry How/Getty Images

DO: Review the Stadium’s Specific Rules

Every stadium is different, so it’s important to do a little research before you head out to the game. You want to see where, when, and how you should set up your tailgate. Many schools or professional teams require that you use particular grills, restrict beverages to those served in aluminum cans (ergo, leave the glass bottles at home), and more. You won’t regret taking the extra steps to determine the best, most rule-abiding setup. After all, you don’t want the party to get shut down before it even begins!

DO: Prepare the Perfect Timeline

Game day is often overwhelming, especially if you’re playing host. My grandma was the ultimate planner, and always kept us on a schedule. You want to factor in any traditions, like how USC fans kick a flagpole for good luck prior to the game. If anyone in your group wants to roam around campus, you want to give them enough time to make their rounds before attending your tailgate. Parking can also be a challenge, so getting to the stadium early is highly recommended.

DO: Find an Easy-to-Maneuver Grill

After reviewing all rules and regulations regarding grilling, you’ll want to pick a trusty grill that you can take on the go. The recteq Road Warrior 340 Portable Wood Pellet Smoker Grill is fueled by 100 percent natural hardwood pellets. It has wheels and collapsible legs for easy maneuvering. You’ll also need power, so a generator is a must. For a more affordable grill, you can also pack the under-$50 Cuisinart CCG-190 Portable Charcoal Grill. As an alternative, premade sandwiches from your local deli are an easy option for hosts who aren’t interested in whipping up a full meal prior to the game.

recteq Road Warrior 340 Portable Pellet Grill

Courtesy of Amazon

recteq Road Warrior 340 Portable Pellet Grill, $599

DON’T: Forget About Sun Protection

Even as temperatures drop, your guests will appreciate a little sun protection. The Core 10′ x 10′ Instant Shelter Pop-Up Canopy Tent with Wheeled Carry Bag is incredibly portable and will give your guests a clear space to gather. To get even more brownie points, you can also have some sunscreen on-hand—just in case anyone forgets theirs!

Core Canopy Tent

Courtesy of Amazon

Core 10' x 10' Instant Shelter Pop-Up Canopy Tent with Wheeled Carry Bag, $100

DON’T: Lug Around a Heavy Cooler

Tailgates and a refreshing, ice-cold drink go hand in hand. The popular YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler has two wheels and a sturdy handle. Even more, it comes in eight different colors (just in case you want to match your team!). 

YETI Portable Wheeled Cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler, $450

DO: Curate a Spirited Playlist

While you want to be respectful to other groups, tunes are highly recommended for setting the tone of your tailgate. Connecting your phone to Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speakers will keep the celebration going until kickoff.

Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker

Courtesy of Amazon

Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker, $28

DON’T: Miss out on Extra Entertainment

Depending on your arrival, you can spend a lot of time in a parking lot during a tailgate. With that, you’ll need entertainment that travels well. One of our favorite ideas? This bean bag set that doubles as a cornhole game.

Crate & Barrel Bean Bag Toss

Courtesy of Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel 2-in-1 Bean Bag Toss, $160

DON’T: Let Your Friends Pack the Wrong Bag

It’s more than likely that the stadium has a clear bag policy, and not everyone remembers that. To this day, my grandma always has an extra one like this Vorspack Clear Bag to lend to a friend. 

Vorspack Clear Bag Stadium Bag

Courtesy of Amazon

Vorspack Clear Bag Stadium Approved, $12

DO: Share Some Supportive Merch

It’s completely understandable that not everyone will have your team’s merch. For their tailgates, my grandparents typically stocked up on game day pins and kept them in a bowl, but you can also order a few extra foam fingers or hats to supply your guests.

DO: Remember to Toss Your Trash

As a tailgater, it’s your responsibility to clean up after yourself. This is certainly not the most fun rule or activity of the day, but make sure to stock up on heavy-duty trash bags that you can fill up and toss before heading into the game.

DO: Enjoy the Game!

Some of my most cherished childhood memories were at (and in the parking lot of) the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Wherever you plan to tailgate next, don’t forget to enjoy your time with loved ones, stay safe, and always say “yes” to a soft pretzel.

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