Get the calendar!

Ah, first day of summer and the NHL teams officially release their 2016/17 schedules. Somebody clear my calendar, I’m going to need some time to look at this!

Work’s been a zoo lately and I’m dying to plan a trip. But with nary a prospect of a weekend off before October, I might just have to settle for planning a fall getaway. And, for me, that’s probably going to include an NFL game.

I can’t hide the fact that I love professional sports. And nothing beats great tickets to a big game. October is a fabulous time to take a sports trip. You could, theoretically, see NFL, NHL and MLB in one weekend if things align and you have a winning baseball team.

Last September, I took my youngest to see the Denver Broncos (pre-season game) and also to see the Colorado Rockies. We had two action packed days and nights in Denver. Denver is one of the ideal locations to see two or three sports in one trip as the stadiums/arenas are in close proximity to each other. Pick the right hotel and you can even walk to each quite comfortably, like we did.

Arizona has both NHL hockey and NFL football in the same Glendale entertainment district. That’s a great city to see as well and you’ll love the whole restaurant/movie/shopping plaza that is between the stadium and arena. We visited in December and had perfect weather.

When I get a free hour, and a huge cup of coffee, I intend to cross reference the NHL and NFL season schedules and find a few double-headers of note. Then…. step 2, we’ll find flights!

 

Planning the epic playoff trip.

The key to planning a playoff trip is to act quickly and decisively. There are three things that have to come together in order for this to happen.

  1. Know the date. Until you know the specific date when the games are being played, you’re in limbo.
  2. Transportation. Is this fly or drive?  And if it’s air fare you need, know that last minute prices can be steep. Are there alternate airports you can look at?
  3. Tickets. Do you have a reliable, trusted source for tickets?

When the Winnipeg Jets made the playoffs in April 2015, I knew I had to go. HAD TO! I bought tickets on-line (Stub Hub) within minutes of the games being confirmed. That was actually the easiest part

The biggest problem became acquiring a reasonably priced flight to Anaheim. Flights to the closest and most convenient airport, SNA, (John Wayne Airport) were already priced beyond my budget. LAX was the next one I considered, however the connections and times were going to fail me. At this point I considered re-selling my tickets. That’s when it occurred to me that I had enough airline points for a free flight to PSP. (Palm Springs) Though I normally wouldn’t have thought of Palm Springs, it was genius. It was a direct flight from YWG (Winnipeg). With no connections, that meant I could fly out the morning of the game.  I cashed in my points for the ticket, and arranged a rental car. Even in traffic, it would take 2 hours or less to drive to the arena.

The last piece of the puzzle was a hotel. Considering the trip was completely focused on the big game, I used Hotwire.com. Any well-rated area hotel would do.

It was mere days later that we were off and racing to Anaheim. The flight was on time and we arrived in plenty of time for the game. With the rental car safely parked at the hotel we grabbed a cab to the rink. We met up with dozens, maybe even a hundred like-minded fans at a nearby pub and then made our way to the game. While our team did not win, it certainly was a victory for the sports fan. What a memorable experience!

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From this event, I offer 2 tips.

  1. Check your loyalty clubs. You might just nab a free last minute flight. Huge savings over steep last minute cash prices.
  2. If you are going with a few people, consider renting a car/driver at the airport, rather than choosing your own rental car and fumbling with GPS and a stressed designated driver. We ran into a group of 8 that had hired a limo to/from Palm Springs. At a cost of about $100 per person, I thought they were genius.

 

When your team hits the playoffs for the first time in 20 years....
When your team hits the playoffs for the first time in 20 years….

 

Game 2 of the series.
Game 2 of the series.