The best tailgate parties require preparation and bringing the correct party materials. The first thing you’re going to need is the right vehicle, usually a truck or SUV work best. Other necessities include: an E-Z-Up tent, some camping chairs with a drink holder in the armrest, and folding tables that are required to set up almost everything. American Tailgater has great motorized coolers and other tailgating accessories.
Bring the right tools
We’ve seen some amazingly creative ideas for tailgate parties. How about a multi-level toolbox, with grilling forks, tongs and knives on one level, sauces and condiments on another, and napkins and plastic or paper plates on the third? You can add hand cleaner, Band-Aids and anything else you think might come in handy.
How to pack a cooler
You’ll need coolers. Probably at least two of the big ones. Pack a cooler with bottles and cans on the bottom, then pour ice over them to fill every available space. Then put your packaged meats, food containers etc on top of that. It means moving the food before you can get a drink, but it’s the most space efficient way of doing it.
If you have two coolers, why not put soft drinks and water in one, and adult beverages in the other. Then label them so you aren’t fishing around in frigid water for a beer and coming up with a cold can of soda time after time. Oh yeah, and why not freeze plastic water bottles before you go? They help keep everything cool as they melt back into drinkable water.
Prep as much as you can
Consider doing a lot of food prep beforehand. Make up lettuce, onion, and pickle trays covered with plastic sheets for quick hamburger assembly. Ditto the meat patties. You can skewer and marinate kebabs the night before so they can go straight on the grill.
Consider the possibility that you all may need breakfast the next morning, so bring eggs, pancakes, sausages, and a skillet in which to prepare them.
Keep it clean
Unless you think you’ll empty the coolers completely, remember to take a large plastic tub to put stuff in that you aren’t planning to throw away. You know, reusables. If you’re planning to barbecue, and why wouldn’t you, it’s a great idea to bring a metal bucket with a lid to dispose of the charcoal ashes. You usually can’t just tip that stuff into public waste barrels, and driving home with a Weber full of coals isn’t a great idea.
Another good idea we spotted is a makeshift handwash station crafted out of old plastic laundry detergent bottles. Fill them with water, then place a bottle of hand wash alongside, and paper towels on a vertical roller.
Create a great atmosphere
If you plan to play music from the truck’s stereo, you might want to consider getting one of those Auto Jumper battery helpers that plug into the cigarette lighter socket. They charge up while you’re driving around, then are able to send juice back to the car battery when it’s needed. Of course, bring jumper cables anyway.
Make it easy to be found
If you’re expecting a crowd, how about putting up a helium balloon to help them find you. Tell everybody what kind of balloon it is, because you may not be the only person who thought of this.
Probably the most important thing to do while you’re setting up is introduce yourself to the neighbors. It may prevent any misunderstandings that can arise during a noisy, fun-filled party. Besides, you may need to borrow something!
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Host a Tailgate Party like a Pro and was authored by Barry Winfield.