L.A. Times Travel Show: How to find dream vacations for sports fans

Dodger spring training in Glendale, Ariz., is among the sports trips available through Jay Buckley's Baseball Tours.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Sports tours make the best gifts for grads and dads. And 2014 stands to offer up one of the most interesting sports schedules in years – featuring Olympic Games, World Cup finals, a Dodgers opener in Sydney, and a college season leading up to the first-ever college playoffs.

Oh, and the Chicago Cubs are getting a mascot. Not everything can be perfect.

Sports tour experts Dario Soto of Cartan, a sports tickets and hospitality service, and Matt Thornton of Jay Buckley’s Baseball Tours laid out several fetching trips -- near and far -- in their Saturday session at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show. They will appear again Sunday as the show wraps up its final day at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Also on the agenda Sunday: TSA spokesman Nico Melendez (11 a.m.), Travel Channel’s Adam Richman and actor and avid traveler Henry Rollins (2:30 p.m).

In Saturday’s sports panel, Soto discussed some of the options available to World Cup fans in the heavy schedule of elimination games, beginning June 13 and running for a month. Soto recommended travelers go early when all 32 teams and their fans are still in the country.

He also noted that games will take place in Rio de Janeiro and 11 other cities, providing a broad study of Brazil, its people and its culture. The finals will be in Rio, site of the Olympic Summer Games two years later.

Thornton, whose company virtually invented the baseball tour, offers up several options for West Coast fans, including spring training and regular season packages. His company also puts together New York trips that include Broadway shows and sightseeing. For fans, his company takes care of all tickets, hotels and ground transportation. “All you need to do is get on the bus,” he said.

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