When it comes to every sports fan’s favorite pregame activity, there are two types of people: Those that tailgate, and those that tailgate with a bus. Does the first one even really count? We jest. All types of tailgating are respectable, but the charter bus tailgate is simply the ultimate. So hang out with us for the next couple minutes while we show you the ropes.

Why you should tailgate by charter bus

If you’ve made it this far, you’re already winning. We welcome you to the not-so-exclusive club of people that tailgate the right way.

For starters, consider the numbers game: When you tailgate by charter bus, you get to tailgate with more people. We’re no math experts, but our instincts tells us that’s a good thing. If your group size is somewhere in the twenties or beyond, you’ve gotta go with a bus. The coach bus, for instance, can hold up to 55 people, but more on that later. Another perk of the tailgate bus is safety. When you charter a bus, you’re assigned a personal driver, instantly avoiding the need for a designated driver or any chance of drinking and driving. Everyone can enjoy a few adult beverages without stressing about the drive home.

What kind of bus should you rent

That depends on a few things—size above all else. As mentioned, the coach bus holds 55 passengers, and that’s the biggest option. The minibus, on the other hand, is the smallest option with a capacity of 22. How far away is your tailgate? School buses are a staple of the short trip, while coach and mini coaches do well for longer trips thanks to amenities like on-board restrooms and air conditioning. Are you bringing barbecues, tents, food, and drinks with you? If so, you won’t want to be without the undercarriage storage that coach buses provide. Take a gander at our helpful guide before you make your selection. Renting for a travelling sports team? Consult our Guide to Sports Bus Rentals.

How early should you arrive

As early as possible! When you go to a sporting event, and in particular a football game, tailgating is equally important to the experience as the action on the field. Plan ahead and do your research. At Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots, for example, the parking lot opens four hours prior to kickoff. That means for a 1:00 pm game, you can start your party at the crack of 9:00 am! The earlier you arrive at an event like a Pats game, the greater the selection of parking spots you’ll have. Plus, you’ll avoid some of the inevitable gameday traffic. Oh, and the more tailgating the better. Some stadiums require reservations for large vehicles like coach buses, so call ahead to get the low down.

Parking large vehicles at a stadium

Most stadiums have designated spaces for large vehicles to station themselves. Teams encourage tailgaters to use charter buses as it’s the safest and most enjoyable option. At Gillette Stadium, for instance, buses head to Lot 52 for oversize vehicle parking, accessible from P10 North and South off Route 1. In Buffalo, the Bills have a designated bus tailgate area called Tailgate Village where fans can go BYO, or use their on-site catering option. No matter which stadium you’re heading to, make sure you take the time to research your parking options.

Packing

Preparing for a tailgate is just like preparing for a game—you’ve got to have a game plan. Thankfully, a charter bus allows you to pack all the necessities in one vehicle, provided you opt for the coach bus with its a solid undercarriage. If you do opt for a school bus, be sure to save a few rows of seats for luggage. It is illegal and unsafe to store items in the aisle.

You may want a tent to mark your spot, protect you in the case of rain, or provide some shade on a hot day. You’ll definitely want a grill to cook all the delicious food you’re going to bring. And the beers are a no-brainer. Be sure to pack plenty of water too, as it’s important to stay hydrated during a long day of tailgating. Chairs, tables, coolers, tupperwares and plates for serving, and plastic utensils and cups could round out your party.

Food ideas and cooking tips

Before you determine your menu, check the venue’s regulations regarding barbecues. At Gillette Stadium, portable grills are allowed, but not immovable, open flames. Grilled eats are the staple of the tailgate, for football or otherwise. You can’t go wrong with burgers, wings, or ribs on the cue, but don’t be afraid to mix it up with classics like chili, party subs, or brats.

How to set up

There are a few basic components to setting up your tailgate. The first thing you need to do is mark your territory—no, not by lifting your leg. Line up your bus so that you can set up shop right in front of the undercarriage for easy access to all your goods. Plop down your tables, chairs, and coolers in a manner that says, ‘We’re here to party’, and you’re off to a good start.

Pro tip: Bring two tables—one to set up next to the grill, the other for serving, away from the cooking. Now, equip your space with garbage and recycling bags to keep it clean, put out snacks foods while the mains are cooking, and set up a flag or some team gear so everyone knows who you’re rooting for!

During the game

The number one rule of the tailgate party: Be nice. It should be fun and respectful for everyone, including your squad and your neighbors. It should also be safe. Don’t let people you don’t know on the bus, and always keep a headcount to ensure your whole gang sticks together.

Drinking is a major element of the tailgate, but don’t overdo it. Cans are always a better choice than bottles for cleanliness and safety. Make sure everyone on board knows and respects the rules of the bus operator—many of them let you drink on the bus, but you don’t want to be the one that ruins that privilege for everyone else. And check with your bus company regarding their rules on alcoholic beverages.

Be clean

Keeping your area clean is a basic sign of respect to the tailgaters around you, and the venue operator that welcomed you. Garbage bags are a good start, and you can also bring an empty plastic tub for the dirty dishes that you’ll be bringing back with you. You also want to keep the bus clean, so make sure any dirty items that are coming back on board are packed away in a tidy manner. Serve food early (and often!) so that by tailgate’s end, you’re not rushing to clean up while the bus driver waits.