How to Take A Football Roadtrip

Football Roadtrip Tips by Natalie Parker

The start of college football season is one of my favorite times of the year.  Truly.  I hum “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” to myself like it’s Christmas.

If you’re a die hard fan like me, you might be getting ready to hit the road to follow your team.  Here are my tips for getting the most out of your trip.

What Not to do on a Football Roadtrip

If you take away one thing from this post, make it this:

Do not let the outcome of your trip depend on the result of the game.

I repeat:

Do not let the outcome of your trip depend on the result of the game.

I don’t care good your team is.  You don’t want your team losing to make you feel like you wasted a bunch of money.

Mr. P and I took our first football roadtrip together in 2006 when Cal played the University of Tennessee.  Having a game there was a big deal.  But, I had just started a new job so we didn’t take any days off.  We flew overnight and got there in time to do a bit of tailgating with our friends and go to the game.  We hung out a bit after the game then flew back the next day.  Did I mention our team got slaughtered?

Football Roadtrip Tips by Natalie Parker

It was a whirlwind and I’m glad to have seen the football spectacle at Tennessee, but I couldn’t shake the feeling on the way home that we’d not gotten that much out of the trip.

Lucky for me, I’ve learned how to do it right!

Tips for a Great Football Roadtrip Experience

These tips apply for college road games where the opponent is not an arch rival.  They work even better if it’s a non-conference, non-neutral site game.

Add a Day, Make Your Trip More than Just the Game.  Give yourself either the entire Friday or Sunday to check out the town.  Arriving Friday afternoon or leaving Sunday afternoon doesn’t count.  Take a tour of the campus, visit the student store.

Look up any Must-Eat Places.  College towns always have must-eat places.  Start Googling around, ask your friends who have been there.  Use the extra day you have built into your schedule to visit.  Two years ago in Columbus, we hit Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream and Schmidt’s Sausage Haus.

I have wonderful memories of alumni buying us steins of beer at Schmidt’s, eating a cream puff the size of a softball, the oompah band playing Super Mario, and deciding at the end of the night that I just had to buy a yellow Schmidt’s t-shirt for Mr. P with a giant sausage on it.

Football Roadtrip Tips by Natalie Parker

Locate the Main Drag.  Every college town has one.  This is where the main scene of bars and restaurants is.  In Knoxville it is Cumberland Avenue.  In Columbus it’s High Street.  Know where this is so you can check it out and find a cool spot to hang out after dinner.

Pregame with the Locals.  I don’t travel so I can stay in familiar territory.  If I’m on a trip, I’m going to check out the local scene and that includes pregaming.  Establish whether it is a tailgating or bar/restaurant culture (or sometimes both).  In Columbus, we hit the Varsity Club instead of our team’s tailgate and it was outstanding.

If it’s a tailgate scene, put on your team colors and take a walk through the area.  Say hello, take some pictures.  If you aren’t from a rival team, people are actually very nice and flattered that you traveled for the game.  You may even get a free drink!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “so you traveled all the way from California?”

Football Roadtrip Tips by Natalie Parker

Yes, you could get your friends together and throw your own tailgate.  Where’s the fun in that?  Step outside of your comfort zone for just a moment.  I hope my team schedules a game at Ole Miss at some point in my lifetime so I can put on a sundress and get The Grove experience.

Just Google It. You will need to do some advanced research, but not much.  If you know what you are looking for, it is pretty simple to find all of the above with some quick searching.

Don’t be a Dick. This should go without saying.  It’s amazing how normally nice people can turn into jerks when they put their team colors on.  Don’t be that person to give the impression that your team’s fans are assholes.  There’s no need to put on a jersey and start posturing before the game.  Be nice.  Introduce yourself to people.  Yell your head off during the game.  Then have fun and hang with the locals afterward.

Enjoy Yourself After the Game, Win or Lose.  Perhaps this is because I’m used to my team snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but I know how to let it go and still have a great time.  Hit some of the local food places and bars.  People are extra nice to you if your team just lost.  Sometimes people look at us like we should be back in our hotels, curled up in the fetal position, and despondent after a loss.  I think it says a lot about you as a fan if you’re able to go and enjoy the rest of your evening after a loss.

What about you?  Have you ever traveled on a football roadtrip before?

Football Roadtrip Tips by Natalie Parker

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