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!

 

Denver – the scene

(I recently wrote about a weekend bargain to Denver. If you’re considering it, I thought you might like to know & see a little more about the city.)

 

Just a few photos to set the scene. This was September 2015 and my son and I had a “guys’ weekend” in Denver for his birthday.

We attended a baseball game. And also a football game. We walked everywhere. Here are just a few photos of Downtown Denver so that you can get more of the picture and see why we felt comfortable in this city and enjoyed it so much.

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The iconic clock tower at 16th Street. A landmark which leads you to fabulous restaurants, bars, shopping and mini golf!
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Free mini golf in downtown Denver, next to the clock tower.
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Mini Union Station on the golf course
Coors Field
Coors Field
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History lesson, street side.
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The real Union Station behind us
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Inside Union Station
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Street art. Bison, I believe they were.
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Rather than a food truck, they had a Boutique truck!
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Fabulous heritage buildings, renovated.
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This jazz man had been playing this corner for a decade. So friendly & fabulous!

 

Blue Jays in Boston under $800

What if I told you that you could catch a flight, from Winnipeg, to Boston and see a couple Blue Jays games when they are hosted by the Red Sox at Fenway Park?

What if I told you that if you stayed a short commute from downtown, in a really well rated hotel, that you could have 3 nights and flights for under $800?

Would you be interested?

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Prices from Expedia.ca on March 16th.

There is a little price war going on among the airlines right now on this route. You can fly from Winnipeg to Boston (YWG to BOS) as low as $326 taxes in and return. However, the flights that I like best seem to sit around $375 (which is still amazing! You can’t get to Vancouver for that!) Prices are lowest between April and late June.

Baseball teams often have a “home stand” which means that they are playing several games at home. If you choose the right dates, you could see the Red Sox play two or three different opponents.

Tickets are in addition to the above noted prices and can vary widely depending on where you like to sit in the park and where you purchase your tickets.

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And, by the way, All Star tickets go on sale today. The big game is being played in San Diego this year at Petco Park, second week in July.

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The last time I saw the Jays vs the Red Sox was May 2014, in Toronto

Coolest thing to do with your Valentine! Literally.

 

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Vist Churchill Manitoba! Did you think I was going to say that?

You could go for Valentine’s Day weekend and (hopefully) see the northern lights. This trip could be surprisingly affordable. I just learnt that you can book a flight to Churchill, Manitoba from Winnipeg for 1400 Air Miles or less! (Flights Feb 13 – 15th, 2016 available at 1380 Air Miles.)

See, this is actually an amazing thing, because if you were to pay the cash price for the fare with Calm Air, it actually ranges between $688 and $1900 for a return ticket.

See the bargain? Staring to think it’s cool yet? The total taxes on the flight is $95. Not bad, eh?

There are just a few hotels in town, and they are not the Fort Garry, but, they will certainly do for an adventure weekend. At $139 (or less with a CAA discount) you can appreciate this opportunity for a bucket list experience. The Tundra Inn will pick you up from the airport too!

If the weather works, you could go dog sledding.  There are bed and sled packages available through Blue Sky Mush. ($400 for 3 nights accommodation PLUS a dog sled tour for 2 people!) Or, just a sled event is about $90 per person. www.blueskymush.com

But for everything Churchill, you need to check out the website.

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If you would like to go in July, or August which is peak tourist season, you might still be able to get your bargain flights off Air Miles (1400 Air Miles/1200 in low season), but hotels and tours will cost at least double. It’s simply supply and demand, and you are definitely wise to book early.

Via Rail also offers transportation between Winnipeg and Churchill. It is a 2 day ride and will cost between $400 (economy seat) and $1200 (cabin with meals) per person, round trip.

As a bucket list trip, I think it’s an amazing possibility. And it’s in our own backyard! At about $400-$500 per person, for 3 nights accommodation, air fare, meals and an activity, I think most Canadians would be envious. (Bargain price noted as with Air Miles redemption.)

 

Churchill in June. A field of fireweed highlights the landscape of Churchill in June. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)
Churchill in June. A field of fireweed highlights the landscape of Churchill in June. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)

 

Beluga whales, as seen in June on tour with The Churchill Experience. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)
Beluga whales, as seen in June on tour with The Churchill Experience. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)

 

Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling
Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling

Links:

Tundra Inn

Everything Churchill

Manitoba Tourism

The Churchill Experience

Blue Sky Mush

Assiniboine Zoo Polar Bear Conservancy 

Learn about polar bears

Via Rail to Churchill

 

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.