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The Tailgaters Checklist


I’m often asked what the number one tip is for a great tailgate party. The answer is an easy one: use a checklist.

The novelist Mark Caine once said, “Meticulous planning will enable everything a man does to appear spontaneous.” A good lesson for the tailgater.

Tailgating should be fun and spontaneous. But you don’t want to spontaneously run out of ice. Or drinks. Or food.

That’s where a good checklist can make the difference for you.

We all like to think we can remember everything we need; after all, we do this tailgating thing every weekend. But I bet you’re wrong. And I bet your wife or buddies will remind you of the time you forgot what you thought you could remember.

The start of football season is a good time to update your tailgating checklists. That’s right, checklists – plural. You want to have four checklists in all: one each for your vehicle, for pregame, for cooking and serving tools, and for wrapping up before you amble into the stadium.

Of course, these checklists take up more space than I have here, but you can download and print a comprehensive checklist at theultimatetailgater.com. In the meantime, let’s review the basics as you prepare to kick-off another year in the parking lot.

The vehicle checklist is the easy one. These are the items you need to make sure you get to the parking lot and home again, so you really need to gather up the items on this checklist only once a season. Your list should include things like car door de-icer (Chargers fans can probably skip this one), a first-aid kit, jumper cables, Fix-A-Flat and the like. Water is on the list, too, and you’ll want to keep refreshing it, but otherwise you can pretty much put everything in a bag and leave it in your garage ready to grab on your way to the game each week.

The pregame checklist is more about the setup itself. This is the list on which you’ll include your decorations, face paint, extension cords, towels, football/Frisbee, TV… you get the idea. Also an important element on this list is preparing for the weather with jackets, umbrellas, blankets and the like. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

And if you’re using a charcoal grill, be sure to have an ash container on your pregame checklist. Ashes should never be disposed of where they could start a fire or harm the environment. This is a must for your list. Plus, at many stadiums not having one will have you in a lot of trouble with the authorities. That’s a sure way to spoil a tailgate party.

Now comes the good stuff… the food and drinks. Your cooking and serving tools list is one to review each week to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Forget tongs and you’re turning food on a hot grill with your hands. Not a smart move. Neither is forgetting the bottle opener or napkins. Plus, your menu changes every week, so your tools list probably will, too.

When using the cooking and serving tools checklist from the website remember to add to it items specific to your tailgate menu and needs.

Your last checklist is a handful of items for when you pack up the tailgate and head to your stadium seats. They’re simple, no-brainers when you read them, but they’re easy to forget when rushing to make kick-off. Thinks like remembering to turn off your car, locking your car, and remembering your tickets. Oh, and don’t forget where you parked.

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