Tickets to the big game are an essential element to the tailgate experience. For most, NFL or similar season tickets are hard to come by and even harder to afford. While multiple tickets and prime seats may be difficult to acquire, companies like Stub Hub and Ticketmaster often sell tickets for less than the going rate. If you’re just looking for the tailgate experience, many professional teams offer tailgate tickets alone for a fraction of the game admission price.

Three of the Kay men and I at the Army Navy game.

No matter where you buy the tickets or how much you pay for them, you always want to make the best of the experience. With that in mind, I’d like to offer some things to consider to keep your focus on the game and not on the circumstances, because nothing can ruin the big game like lost friends and family, wet socks, and food poisoning.

Dress for Success: Temperatures can change from tailgate time to game time, so be sure to bring layers of clothing for each family member. For cold weather, dress in layers and don’t forget hats, gloves, and appropriate footwear—leave those adorable stilettos at home.

The Early Bird Gets the Location: If you can handle a few hours of downtime, you are hereby appointed to stake the claim 3 to 4 hours ahead of time. Look at it as some extra time to do whatever you enjoy, and the tradeoff is that the early bird doesn’t have to participate in cleanup duty.

If you’re tailgating in a parking lot, select the end of a row at the innermost area for the most space and least traffic. Search for grassy areas or bring your own turf (rollout grass) to mark your spot. Be sure to mark it with a team banner as well, so everyone knows you’re the real deal and so other tailgaters can find you when they arrive much later.

Safety and Such: Timing is everything on food safety. Make sure your potato salad isn’t sitting out too long and that your hot foods stay hot and the cold stuff stays cold. My rule when it comes to such questions: when in doubt, throw it out. Try to avoid high traffic tailgating locations if you have smaller children or teens who have earbuds permanently attached. Lastly, be sure to douse those flames and properly dispose of smoking briquettes or hot coals—never dump them in a trash can or on the grass.

Tailgating at local sporting events can be even more fun with a personal connection, especially with special guests. Philip came home to support his younger brother Joshua on the field.


BYOC and No Worries: When you’re hosting the tailgate, be sure to delegate as well; it will allow you to have more fun. Most party people are more than happy to BYOC—bring your own chairs and loads of other things, too. Assign food items to attendees or let them volunteer to bring their favorite dishes. It will help relieve stress, save some money, and feel more a part of the team party.

One last thing:  GO AIR FORCE, BEAT ARMY!

©2016-2020 Ellie Kay


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