March 9, 2014
As much fun as we have ballhawking at our "home" parks, sometimes the thrill of the open road and a different stadium calls out to us. I hear and heed this call quite often. I live in suburban St. Paul, MN but have fallen in love with the Kansas City area and have become a Royals fan. I will be attending a little over 40 percent of KC's home games this year. This means over 30 nights in hotels, over 30 tickets purchased, and a minimum of 12,000 miles driven. I also have a family baseball road trip planned that will take us to Miller Park, Wrigley Field, Progressive Field and PNC Park.
So, I have a lot of experience in planning baseball road trips and have some tips to do it on a budget. After you have decided where and when to go you will need to ask yourself is your vehicle up to the task? And, even if it is, do you want to take it? If you decide not to take your own vehicle I strongly recommend researching for a rental car company that offers unlimited miles and allows you to drive to any state you wish. I use Hertz as I have found their prices the best. A weekly rental is actually not that bad of a deal. You can get an intermediate car like a Chevy Cruze that gets great mileage for around $200 a week (provided you are 25 or older). The nice thing about a rental car is that if it breaks down or some texting teen rear ends you, you simply call the 1-800 number and the rental company sends a tow and gets you into a different car and you on your way.
My biggest tip is to learn how to use Priceline and Hotwire for hotel/motel rooms. I have saved well over 50% on average by using these services. The best way to learn how to use them is by going to a website called betterbidding.com. There you will learn the ins and outs of navigating the third party bidding sites. For example, I "won" a Marriott property in Chicago for June by naming my own price on Priceline for $64 a night. I then went to Marriott's website and checked on a room at that property and it was regularly $209 a night! These savings are not atypical.
Have you ever heard the saying a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? Well, a lot of companies subscribe to that theory and will provide healthy discounts if you pay in full on a non refundable reservation. I save a lot of money by pre planning and pre paying for rental cars and hotel rooms. The downside is that these reservations are non refundable. If something comes up and you can't go on the trip, you are out the money.
The more the merrier is an expression that can save you big on road trips. The more people that come along means the more ways that things like gas and lodging can be split and lessen your costs. Although I caution you to realize that spending hours on end in a car or a hotel room with someone can fray your nerves. So, make sure you are travelling with people whose company you enjoy. Inviting that friend of a friend with questionable hygiene and a need to stop every 50 miles to use the bathroom might save a few bucks but cost you a portion of your sanity.
Another thing I do is plan and pay for my trips piece by piece. This doesn't necessarily save you money, but it does help you budget. Rather than paying for over 30 nights in a hotel in one sitting, I will reserve and pay for them one trip at a time with a few weeks in between. I may pay for the 3 night hotel stay on December 3rd, then pay for the rental car (if I am using one) on December 18th, and then buy a $150 gas card on December 30th. For me, I know that there are a few restaurants in the Kansas City area that I like to frequent so I will purchase gift cards to them in the off season. This method means that even if you only had $250 to your name on the day of the trip it would not be a big deal since all your major expenses have already been taken care of and all you have to do is enjoy the ballgames.
A great resource for baseball fans is the website http://www.baseball-roadtrip.com/. This website does the work of planning a multi stadium road trip. In the past, I would have to lay out multiple teams schedules side by side and try to find out when they were at home on successive dates. This method could be very time consuming. But, now the website does all the work for you.
The nice thing about ballhawking and this website is that it really does build a community of people with a shared hobby. When planning a trip to a new stadium, I will often reach out to a ballhawk at that stadium to give me tips on everything from scoring cheap tickets to where to park and the best places to ballhawk.
As the start of regular season is getting close enough to taste, Big Glove Bob wants to wish you safe travels in 2014 and beyond. May the wind be at your back, the baseballs all fly in your direction and the hostess at Denny's you meet after the game not have a gag reflex.
Big Glove Bob is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.