Advertisement

March Madness travel tips: Saving time and money going to the NCAA tournament

Share via

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Traveling is not a good thing in basketball.

You don’t want your team to do it on the court, and it’s a pain to do it off the court -- at least when you found out yesterday that your school is playing a time zone or three away.

If you’re scrambling to book reservations to follow your boys to Detroit (or at least part way there), here are some some tips to get you to your seat before tipoff.

Advertisement

FLIGHTS -- WEATHER -- LODGING -- LOCAL ADVICE -- GAME TICKETS

Flights

  • Kayak.com is the first place I check for cheap airfare. It’s a different business model, but think of it as the Craigslist of travel. Kayak seems to either partner with or one-up all the other heavy hitters (Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity). I’ve also heard good things about Mobissimo but haven’t used it yet.
  • Unfortunately, Kayak misses a couple of the best budget carriers. Specifically, you should double check on Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America for good rates and dependable quality. My personal favorite is Virgin America. While they only fly to a few destinations, it’s clearly the airline for the millennial generation -- tons of in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, on-call food, and even WiFi on select flights.
  • Still can’t meet your budget? Google your destination. You might see an ad for a cheap flight.

Weather (to plan your packing)

  • Everybody should know about Weather.com by now. Even if you’re a regular, make sure you’re checking the 10-day forecast for your city of choice. It’s at least as reliable as the local weatherman, and gives you all the info you need with one glance.
  • While less practical, I’m always amused by GoingToRain.com.

Lodging

  • You’re reading a sports blog, so there’s a good chance you’re a college student or upcoming sportswriter. In other words, you’re more broke than the BCS. While I don’t have personal experience with the site, I’ve had several friends (and fellow sportswriters) recommend CouchSurfing.com as a cheap (heck, free) alternative to a hotel.
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and whatever other social networking sites you’re on to announce your travel intentions -- and needs. You never know if a long-lost friend might be able to hook you up at the last second.
  • Quickbook.com can find you good deals on higher-end hotels.
  • When all else fails, go back to Kayak (or Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline or Travelocity).

Local advice

  • FanFoodie.com is a stinkin’, rotten, awful idea. In other words, I’m really jealous that I didn’t think of it first. They guys behind HuggingHaroldReynolds.com are the brilliant minds behind the site, which has guest contributors from around the country (I did one a couple months ago). Check it out, and look for the categories just to the right of the main column. Click on the city you’re going to, and prepare to eat well!
  • Sure, you know about Google Maps. Sure, you use it for driving directions. But did you know they also offer public transportation and walking directions? Next time you’re filling out your start and end locations, look for a drop-down menu that says ‘by car’ and change it to your mode of preference. Unfortunately, this is good for some but not all of the NCAA tournament cities.
  • Speaking of Google, travelers on a budget should search for ‘rideshare’ (try it with and without the name of your destination city). They say nobody rides for free ... but you can if it gets the driver into the HOV lane.
  • Use the forums at TripAdvisor.com to post a question. Unlike Citysearch, you won’t be left wondering if you just got advice or an advertisement. A friend recently went to Istanbul (not Constantinople) and got a recommendation for a good burger.
  • LikeMe.net is a relatively new site, but has some good recommendations for places to go. The first time I went there, it told me to check out three of my favorite places in my hometown.
  • Yahoo Travel has a number of local guides that will give you tips on what to see and do at your destination.

Game Tickets

Advertisement

  • You can always try the official NCAA men’s tournament ticket page, but some sites are already sold out.
  • If you like to hedge your bets, check out FirstDIBZ.com. The site allows you to plunk down a non-refundable deposit (ex: currently $25 to $150 for UCLA depending on the seat). If your team makes the semifinals in Detroit, they will guarantee you the opportunity to purchase the seats at face value.

Got another tip? Submit a comment and let everybody know!

-- Adam Rose

Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

Advertisement