Traveling on a Budget to Support Your College Basketball Team this March
It’s down to the last few seconds. The star point guard steals the ball and dribbles his way down the court. Swish—the buzzer sounds. The game is over and your team is headed to the big tournament.
Every March the 68 teams compete in a frenzy of competition in the big basketball tournament . It’s competition at its best, the fans are loud, the rivalries are tense, and the games are exciting. It’s no wonder that thousands of fans travel in order to show their support for their favorite teams.
The excitement kicks off March 17th on selection Sunday . While supporting your alma mater or favorite college basketball team can be thrilling, it can also get expensive.
Between tickets to the game and lodging and other travel expenses, the cost can bloom in an instant. Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice school spirit for your budget. Use these money saving tips to keep your budget in line while still following all of the action.
The convenience of flying is hard to pass up. In just a few short hours you can make it from Los Angeles to New York. But that convenience comes at a price. Depending on the destination you are flying to and from, you could end up spending a few hundred dollars on the ticket. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of getting to and from the airport and checking a bag.
The 2019 schedule has games in cities all over the country, in places like Dayton, OH, Anaheim, CA, and Hartford, CT—all culminating in the finals in Minneapolis, MN. The variety of game locations means that you may have the opportunity to skip the flight and plan a road trip with your fellow fans instead.
If you live close enough to the city where the game is being hosted you could possibly drive in for the game, and drive home after—saving you money on lodging as well.
Budget Airlines & Cheap Flights
If you are planning on flying to a game, take the time to find a deal on airfare. When you’ve decided on the game (or games) you plan on attending set up a price alert . Many airlines offer the feature and apps like Hopper analyzes flight information and predicts prices to help you find the best deals on your travel expenses.
Then browse prices online to see what the going rate for flights is, this way you can identify when an airline is offering a good deal. Some airlines, like United , even run basketball tournament cheap flight deals. It’s also worth taking a look at budget airlines or other airlines that may not be included in travel search engines like Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier.
If you decide you want to make in the spur of the moment, look into last minute travel deals. You could end up saving up to 60% when booking a Priceline Express Deal. The steep savings come with a catch—you won’t know the exact flight times or airline until you book, but depending on your travel plans, it could be worth it.
If you have a travel rewards credit card, you could also consider booking your trip with your points.
Find Less Expensive Tickets
The average price for a regional round ticket in 2018 was $432 , less than the $465 in 2017. If you’re interested in attending more than one or have your sights set on a multi-game ticket, plan to set aside even more. With a bit of planning, you could score a deal.
Pay attention to any venues that are hosting local teams. In years past, ticket prices have been driven up by demand from teams whose campus is relatively close to the host city—think a short road trip away.
Last year the average price during the regional round in Omaha was $586 , which could have been attributed to Kansas’ close proximity. On the flip side, you may be able to find a good deal on tickets at a venue that doesn’t have a team from nearby competing.
As the tournament progresses, keep your eye on any upsets. While ticket prices and demand are influenced by a few factors, recent tournament prices indicate that when top teams get knocked out, people get less interested, and as a result, ticket prices get cheaper .
There are a few places to buy the tournament tickets , so depending on when you plan on buying, you may have options. You can buy tickets directly through the NCAA website, directly through the stadiums or venues hosting the games, or on ticket resale sites like StubHub or SeatGeek.
Find Cheap Lodging
Finding a cheap place to stay in a city that is experiencing an influx of visitors can be a challenge. Demand is surging so it makes sense that prices are inflated too. One option to cut the cost of lodging is sharing a room with your fellow fans.
If you and your friends are road tripping or flying together, why not make the most of the weekend and have a few people per room.
If you’re planning your trip on the later side, take a look at sites that offer last minute deals like Hotels Tonight . As an alternative to hotels, take a look at sites like Airbnb or VRBO where you can book short-term rentals.
Can’t Afford the Full Travel Experience? Host a Viewing Party
Is a trip to support your team not in the financial cards? Host a viewing party instead. While you may find it difficult to recreate the intoxicating excitement of watching the game in-person, gathering your friends and fellow fans could be a close second.
Set the theme with some fun basketball themed decorations. Make some snacks (a charcuterie board is always a crowd pleaser) and have your friends bring a drink of their choice. A comfy couch and some delicious snacks can make watching the big game on TV even more appealing.
Find a Bar that Is Airing the Game
If the thought of hosting a party to watch the game is overwhelming, head to a sports bar. Double-check that they’re airing the game, but you’ll probably find plenty of other fans who are just as excited about the matchup as you are.
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