I’ll admit to being somewhat of a sports fanatic. I blame it on being raised in the south by a family of avid Alabama football fans. While I’m not so fanatical as to have Bear Bryant and Nick Saban tattooed on my butt cheeks, I would consider selling a kidney to get 50-yard-line seats at a National Championship game.
There are few things in life as exciting as attending a major sporting event. Whether it’s the Super Bowl, the World Series, a NASCAR race, the Kentucky Derby, the World Cup, the Masters Golf Tournament, the Final Four, or the Olympic Games, attending a major sporting event is an unforgettable bucket list experience.
Traveling to these epic events can present challenges every bit as demanding as those faced by the athletes on the field of competition. Success will require careful planning, execution, and sheer will power. Whether your favorite team, horse, driver, or golfer wins or loses the competition, you will emerge victorious in your adventure by adhering to these eight tips for traveling to a major sporting event.
1. Make travel arrangements as far in advance as possible
Availability of flights, hotels, and rental cars can disappear in a hurry. Booking as soon as you know that you’re going to the event is the only way to assure that you can get there and that you’ll have a place to stay.
2. Consider ancillary cost when booking your hotel
Though hotels in outlying areas are usually less expensive than hotels in town, you need to consider how you are going to get to and from the airport and the big event. Rental car? Taxi? Public transportation? How much will it cost to park at the event? Do your research. You may find that you can actually save time and money by staying at a pricier hotel that is within walking distance of the venue, or easily accessible by public transportation.
3. Purchase tickets from a legitimate source
Beware of scams involving counterfeit tickets. It’s best to purchase tickets from a team-sanctioned ticket reseller or through a site like stubhub.com that guarantees the ticket. The ticket could still be fake, but at least you can get your money back.
Some states allow licensed ticket brokers to sell tickets within a certain distance from the venue. You’ll definitely pay more than face value but the risk of buying a counterfeit ticket is diminished as brokers are careful about vetting the tickets they purchase to sell.
Purchasing tickets from unknown individuals can be risky. Whether it’s someone who placed an online ad or someone standing outside the venue, try to get as much information about the seller as you can. Ask where are they from, where they work, where they purchased the ticket, why they aren’t going to the event, etc. You might consider asking for their identification or if they would mind posing for a selfie with you. That way you’ll have more information to give the police should your ticket be fake. Use your instincts before handing over your cash.
4. Arrive early
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to arrive at least two hours early. You don’t want to miss the pre-event ceremonies because you’re stuck in traffic, trying to find a place to park, or standing in line waiting to get inside. Remember this is a bucket list event. Make the most of it by getting there early so you can experience the tailgating scene and soak up the energy from the crowds as anticipation of the big event builds.
5. Be respectful of opponents fans
Good-natured ribbing between competing fan bases is part of the fun of attending a major sporting event. But things can easily escalate from teasing, to taunting, to provoking, to fighting, particularly among die-hard fans in varying states of sobriety. Represent your team and fan base by staying classy and exercising restraint. Don’t risk getting ejected from the venue or thrown in jail because you got in a fight.
6. Make purchases outside the venue
Food and souvenir prices are notoriously high inside sporting venues. You will almost always save more money and eat better food outside the venue. I’ve found tailgaters to be among the friendliest people in the world. Compliment them on the smell of whatever they are cooking and you’ll likely get an invitation to join them for a bite.
The best deals for souvenirs can be found from venders outside the venue, after the event. They don’t like having to pack up and carry inventory home and they are much more willing to bargain. This is particularly true if the T-shirt or souvenir has a date or year on it. They know they won’t be able to sell it because it will be obsolete before the fans get out of the parking lot. By holding off on purchasing souvenirs until after the event, you’ll have the added benefit of not having to keep up with them during the event.
7. Plan your potty breaks
Waiting for halftime to go to the restroom is a bad idea. You will have to wait in an extremely long line. You will run the risk of missing a game-changing play when the event resumes because you’re having to ask the person in the next stall for some toilet paper. Worse yet, you will run the risk of having an accident in your pants. The best time to go to the restroom is during a commercial time-out, before half-time, or other official break in the action. Your other option would be to wear adult diapers to the event and not worry about it.
8. Bring a charging device for your smartphone
With the right apps, your smartphone is the best tool for making the most of your trip. Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great for sharing photos of your adventure with your friends. You can find nearby places to eat and read reviews with Yelp and TripAdvisor. TripIt is great for keeping your itinerary organized. Google Maps will help keep you from getting lost. And the Expedia app offers great deals and big savings when you bundle your airfare, hotel, and rental car. While apps can enhance your trip and help preserve your memories, they do tend to drain your phone’s battery so bringing a portable, battery powered charging device is essential.
Which major sporting events are on your bucket list?