Hosting a Tailgate? Here's How to Save Time and Money

For Citi, by Katie Choi

Football and tailgating go hand in hand – what could be better than cheering on your team with hundreds of other fans before a game? But the food, drinks, tickets, and other expenses can add up fast. According to a survey conducted last year by DirecTV and the IPG Media Lab, the average in-stadium tailgater spent almost $200 per game. To get the most out of your tailgating experience and remain on budget, keep these 6 tailgating tips in mind.

1.  Park smart

Each stadium will have different parking options available, but the most important tailgate parking tip is to arrive early, according to tailgating expert and blogger, Dave Lamm. This will allow you a greater opportunity to secure prime parking: "Corner spots are usually the best because you can spread out a bit more," Lamm adds. When it comes to trying to find your fellow tailgaters in a crowded parking lot, both Lamm and Luke Lorick, President of the Tailgating Challenge website, agree that the MeetBall* app can come in handy. "You can drop a pin on the map and share your location with others arriving after you. That way, they have the ability to find you in the sea of cars at the stadium," says Lamm. He adds that if you're a regular tailgater, season parking passes may also be worth considering, as some offer holders privileges – such as getting access an hour earlier than the paying public.

2.  Keep track of your gear

When you're tailgating with a big group, it's crucial to keep on top of who's bringing what – or you could end up with ten packs of hotdogs and no chairs to sit on. Using an event-planning site or app like ThingToBring* can help. This free service lets you create a list of necessary items – from big essentials like a folding table and portable grill, to smaller items like snacks and cleaning supplies – and share it with friends and family. Everyone can sign up to bring something, which saves time, avoids duplication, and allows you to share the cost of the party.

If you're in the market for tailgating gear like stadium chairs and pop-up tents, try to borrow what you need until you can find a good deal. "The best time to look is two weeks before the start of the season until about two weeks into the season, when companies are trying to get their products to tailgaters ahead of the college and professional football seasons," according to Lorick.

Related: 6 Awesome Apps for Your Next Outdoor Party

3.  Save on food

Instead of splurging on steaks, pork chops, or chicken breasts, look for more affordable tailgating food like chicken thighs, wings, burgers, and sausages. "I love grilling chicken thighs because they're cheaper than breasts but much more flavorful," says veteran tailgater Mike Oien, who hails from Minnesota. "Plus, they tend not to dry out if you get distracted and accidentally leave them on the grill too long."

4.  Be prepared for the weather

From sweltering heat to sudden downpours, you don't need to be caught by surprise. Weather apps like Dark Sky* can predict, down to the minute, the movements of the weather in your exact location – so you'll know if you need to bring ponchos or a pop-up tent. You can set up push notifications to alert you when it's about to snow or start pouring, or create your own for wind, temperature, and more. Whatever it's like outside, take lots of layers, recommends Candice Groves-Dubrowny, a New York football fan who's been tailgating for 25 years: "You're outdoors for hours – sometimes from first thing in the morning to late at night – so I never regret packing more than I think I'll need." Being prepared for the weather is one of the most underrated, yet necessary tailgating tips to be aware of.

5.  Join an established tailgate

If you and your friends are traveling for a game, or just want to try out tailgating ideas without committing to buying all the equipment, there are multiple options to consider. At some stadiums, you can pay a cover fee to join a big tailgate party that includes food, drinks, shelter, and music. If you'd rather host a private party, there are several companies that can provide you with everything you need to throw a perfect tailgate – from private trailers to tent rentals. And in Miami, the recently-launched service, UberTAILGATE, lets you reserve a private tailgating spot complete with furniture, grilling tools, and food and drink if desired – and, of course, provides a car and driver to take you to and from the game.

6.  Get social

Looking for the latest game updates, ticket giveaways, or even the perfect chili recipe? Consider following your team's official page on social media. Not only can you get into a spirited pregame discussion with your fellow fans, but you can also know if a parking lot is full or if there any traffic delays before pulling into the stadium. Sharing your tailgate on social media can also help you score big deals. Groves-Dubrowny says that her home team offers the chance to win free tailgating equipment by tagging your photo with designated social media handles and hashtags.

By following a few simple tailgate tips, you can cheer on your favorite team this season without stretching your budget. For more ideas on how to trim costs when entertaining, see 5 Tricks to Keep Your Party on Budget.

*Remember to always check the app terms and privacy policy before downloading these or any other apps and make sure you understand and are comfortable with the types of information collected and how it is used.

Katie Choi is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor that has covered topics ranging from food and health to homekeeping, gardening, and pet care.


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