Road Trips and Travel Tips 2015-16
Getting to the Airport
There are now at least four ways to get to the airport:
- Drive yourself and park in a long-term parking lot,
- A door-to-door shared-ride van such as Supershuttle,
- A solo ride in a Lincoln Town car from a limo service such as 101 Limousine,
- A solo ride from one of the ride-share services like Uber, Lyft, or SideCar.
We've tried all modes and our favorite is the last one. We've had very good experiences with both Uber and Lyft. They offer all the comfort of a limo service; are almost as convenient as driving yourself; yet the fee is less than a taxi and close to that of the shared-ride van. You need to register your credit card with the service, then load its app on a smartphone. When you want a ride, open the app and request one. A car arrives in minutes. No money changes hands, no fuss, no tipping.
Cost-wise, a ride in a van or with Uber/Lyft is about the same as 4 days' parking. So if you will be away for more than 4 days, it's better to use some type of ride service rather than airport parking.
Airport Parking Reservations has a nice search that lets you find and book the best off-airport parking at (apparently) any US airport. They find a number of options under $10/day at SJC, and under $20/day at SFO.
For SFO you can park in the airport-run long-term lot for $18/day, now payable with credit card or with FasTrak.
Skypark costs $17/day for outdoor or $19/day for covered parking. ParkSFO has a building where you can have covered parking for $19/day (and you can print a one- or two-days-free coupon from their website).
There are several other SFO options; see the Airport Parking Reservations site linked above.
At SJC, the airport-run Economy Lot 1 costs $15/day.
Use these sites to find flights and hotels.
|hipmunk.com||Our favorite flight-search site. Enter your departure and destination airports and dates; you get a clear, compact table showing when all flights depart and arrive. Click a flight for details or to book it. (Doesn't cover Southwest.)|
|southwest.com||Southwest schedules and ticket sales must be accessed at the company site; they are not available from Expedia, Travelocity, or other aggregator sites.|
|Two great starting points: you enter your air travel information once; each returns links to a number of sites that offer the best fares. Kayak does hotels and cars as well.|
|seatguru.com/||When booking a flight, before you get to the seat-selection part, open this site in another window. Click on the airline and enter your flight number. Seat Guru shows you the seat map as that airline configures that type of plane, showing which seats to prefer and which to avoid.|
|us.lastminute.com/||For the bold (or feckless) traveller, buy bargain seats at the last minute.|
|booking.com/||The most comprehensive hotel search site, finds hotels in the most obscure towns worldwide and lets you book them directly.|
|Priceline.com||Bay Area Consumer's Checkbook found that Priceline produced hotel rates "lower than those available on other booking sites."|
|tripadvisor.com/||Hotel price comparisons based on four other sites including Expedia and Travelocity; and user reviews of hotels.|
The Experienced Traveler
Fast Check-in with TSA Pre-Check
The TSA Pre-Check program allows you a much faster, lower-hassle route through airport security. There is a shorter line, and you don't have to remove jacket or shoes or take your lap-top out of its bag. It makes air travel almost as easy as 1999.
If you are an older, frequent flier you may occasionally get the "TSA Pre-Check" note on your boarding pass without your doing anything. But you can have it every time if you officially enroll in the program. To do this, go to the Enrollment site, fill out a questionnaire, and sign up for an appointment. You will be interviewed and pay $85 for your Known Traveller Number. Then, whenever you book a flight you give the Known Traveller Number and your boarding pass will have the magic pre-check note on it.
Things to Have With You
Noise-canceling headphones really work, and make a huge difference. Besides the generally high ambient noise, you never know when there's a baby nearby who can't pop his ears. Bose are the best but Sennhieser's are a bit cheaper and quite effective. Earplugs are a cheap and portable substitute for noise-canceling headphones. EP5 Sonic Defender is the best brand.
Have a backup battery so you don't worry about your iPad, Kindle or phone dying. There are incredibly powerful, affordable battery packs.
For any but the youngest and healthiest travelers, Travelsox compression socks. Yes, they are goofy, but they prevent your feet and ankles from swelling up.
At the Gate
Don't pay airport price for water. Bring an empty sports bottle through security and fill it at a drinking fountain. Buy a sandwich or bagel just before you board: at least as good and probably cheaper than a "snack box" on board.
If your flight is cancelled, be nice to gate agents. They deal with people yelling at them and telling them sob stories all day. You be super nice and ask politely if they can help you. You are much more likely to receive a hotel, seat, etc. But first, call the airline reservation number. The people on the phone can do everything about re-booking that the gate agent can. When that doesn't work, the gate agent has the vouchers for meals and hotels. Make a real effort to swap a few friendly words with any member of the crew who addresses you. Ask how their shift is going, look sympathetic, say I'm looking forward to the flight. It does zero harm and results in an extra dessert or an extra-large wine on occasion.
The FBC has no "travel committee" as such. If you want to help organize fan activities on one of these trips, write to The FBC and volunteer!
Below is some information about the logistics and local attractions for some away trips.
The Cardinal drives to Davis, CA for a Friday evening game. Arc Pavilion is approximately 2 hours' drive from Palo Alto by any of several routes, except that Friday afternoon traffic is unpredictable. A good plan would be to leave early and have supper about 6pm at one of the many, many restaurants in downtown Davis.
The Cardinal flies to Spokane for what will likely be a competitive game at Gonzaga on a Sunday afternoon. The game is at 1pm, and there are multiple flights departing Spokane (GEG) between 5:30 and 6pm. This means you can return to either San Jose or San Francisco that day. Only one hotel night in Spokane! (Since it's a short stay, we are omitting our list of things to do in Spokane!)
Single-game tickets are available after 10/25 from the Gonzaga web site or at 509-313-6000.
This year's Thanksgiving tournament is near Fort Myers, FL. Games are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The all-teams Thanksgiving reception and buffet is Thursday afternoon. The official hotel is the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, a large resort complex with multiple restaurants and many amenities. However Booking.com offers a number of other choices.
This region of Florida has what looks like some interesting drives and scenery as well as a number of intriguing seafood restaurants. However, the tournament offers four games on each of the three days. There won't be a lot of free time for tourist activities.
Unfortunately, the tournament website is so badly designed we cannot give you a simple link to click for tickets. Instead,
- Go to THIS LINK
- Click where it says "Click here" (doh!)
- Click on the button marked "Women's" and then click "Continue"
Now you are looking at a page where you can purchase game tickets, hotel packages, and tickets to the Thanksgiving buffet. Note also the separate charge for "game transfer". The hotel doesn't offer a shuttle to the arena; you need to buy this bus pass to/from the official hotel.
It is not easy to get from here to Fort Myers (RSW) by air, especially if you want to be sure to arrive in time for a 5pm Thanksgiving reception. There are no nonstops SFO-RSW. There are nonstops to Miami, but it is a long drive from Miami across Florida to the West coast. We finally elected to take a red-eye, flying out of SFO late Wednesday night, changing planes in Charlotte NC in the morning for a short hop to Ft. Myers.
A one-game trip to Austin for a noon game on a Sunday. The game will be on ESPN. But if you fancy a trip to Austin, Virgin America has just the flights you want: non-stop both ways, departing SFO at 10:35 AM Saturday and departing AUS at 5:30 PM Sunday.
If you are going, it would be advisable to order game tickets in advance; Texas draws big crowds. The ticket office phone number is 512-471-3333.
The Cardinal plays in Tucson at 3pm on Saturday, the day after New Year's Day. Then it plays ASU in Tempe at 7pm on Monday night.
Welcome to the world of PAC-12 TV scheduling, carefully designed to provide maximal expense and difficulty for the travelling fan.
Well, whatever. The usual itinerary is to fly in and out of Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix (PHX), and drive two-plus hours each way to Tucson. There are nonstop flights from SJC and SFO that arrive in Phoenix around noon, in plenty of time to make a 3pm game in Tucson.
Unfortunately the last return flights depart PHX around 9:30pm, so there's no way you could see the Monday night game and catch one. Therefore to make this trip, you will need to spend three nights in hotels and return to the Bay Area on Tuesday morning.
If you have the right stuff to do this, figure on buying UA tickets at the door. You should always order ASU tickets in advance. The ASU ticket number is (888) 786-3857. Ask for section G to sit behind the visitor bench.
You will have all of Sunday and Monday for tourism. So, here are some things to do around Tucson:
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has more than 300 live animal species and two miles of paths. Located 14 miles west of Tucson in Tucson Mountain Park.
- Catalina State Park—bird-watching and hiking.
- Arizona State Museum (on University of Arizona campus) interprets the history of Southwestern cultures.
- Mission San Xavier Del Bac, an impressive example of Spanish mission architecture, built in 1783-97.
- Sabino Canyon in Santa Catalina Mountains offers hiking as well as narrated excursions aboard shuttle buses.
And some things to do around Phoenix:
- The Desert Botanical Garden is always worth a visit.
- The winter home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West gives a good tour.
- Shopping in Scottsdale.
- The Heard Museum has ten galleries of native cultures and art, including ethnological, historical and contemporary objects of Southwestern Native Americans, daily artist demonstrations, more.
- The Pueblo Grande Museum contains a prehistoric Hohokam village ruin that includes a platform mound, ball court and irrigation canals.
The Cardinal play the Ducks in Eugene on Friday at 6 (note: six, not seven) PM. The OSU game in Corvallis is at 6 PM on Sunday.
There aren't likely to be many Bay Area fans on this trip, as it requires giving up two work-days, plus three hotel nights for the long weekend.
United has two nonstop flights SFO-EUG that arrive in time for the Friday game, and you have a selection of return nonstops on Monday.
It is feasible for a person unencumbered by a job to make this trip by road, and pleasant if the weather is decent. The itinerary would be:
- Thursday drive 6 hours to Ashland, OR (many good motels and restaurants);
- Friday morning drive another 5 hours to Eugene; check into hotel; see game.
- Saturday and most of Sunday at liberty in central Oregon;
- Sunday afternoon see game in Corvallis, spend the night there (the Hilton Garden Inn is a very short walk from Gill Coliseum).
- Monday get a crack-of-dawn start and drive back to the Bay Area nonstop (this requires two drivers; do not attempt solo).
There are generally plenty of available seats at OSU, but to be sure of sitting in sections C or D near the visitor's bench you should call the Beavers' ticket office at (541)737-4455. For UO tickets the same advice applies; sections 102P, 102L and 202 are behind the visitor's bench in Knight Arena and the number is 541-346-4461.
Here are a few things to do on the long weekend:
- University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
- Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.
- Scenic day trip driving to Coos Bay/North Bend.
The Cardinal play at USC at 8pm (note: 8pm, not 7) on Friday; and at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion at 6pm on the Sunday. These are the only games against these schools this season.
The PAC-12 TV schedule forces a 6pm Sunday game; as a result there is very little chance of returning to the Bay Area that day. There is one American Airlines flight out of LAX to SJC departing at 9:55pm. If you don't have a rental car to turn in, and you can get a cab or Uber quickly, you might make it. Otherwise, and certainly if you are driving, you get to spend a third hotel night in LA.
It's a tossup whether to fly or drive for the L.A. trip. Given good weather, the door-to-door travel time is almost the same. (The Mythbusters tested it and got 5:33 one way, 5:25 the other.)
UCLA games can sell out; you should order tickets from the UCLA site when available. Section 101 and 102 are behind the visitor bench.
USC doesn't draw a big crowd to their nice arena, and all seats are general admission for women's games, so plan to buy tickets at the door.
Since you'll have all Saturday and most of Sunday at liberty in L.A., here are some things to do.
Eat at a Top Chef's restaurant! Some winners and runners-up of the Top Chef TV show have restaurants in the L.A. area:
- C. J. Jacobsen won Top Chef Duels 2014. He is executive chef at Girasol in Studio City.
- Brooke Williamson was runner-up in Top Chef season 10. Her restaurants are the gastropubs Hudson House in Redondo Beach and The Tripel in Playa Del Rey, and also a sandwich and breakfast bar Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey.
- Michael Voltaggio won Top Chef season 6. He owns ink on Melrose avenue.
- Ilan D. Hall won Top Chef season 2. He owns The Gorbals in downtown L.A.
The following are some things that FBC members might enjoy.
- Grand Park is a new downtown park, 12 acres built on top of a parking structure, with performance spaces, a wading fountain, and giant lawns.
- The Hotel Biltmore has appeared in many films and was the original setting for the Oscars ceremonies. Study some quick history before you go.
- The Museum of Jurassic Technology is an eccentric place. Wikipedia says its "collection includes a mixture of artistic, scientific, ethnographic, and historic, as well as some unclassifiable exhibits... The factual claims of many of the museum's exhibits strain credibility, provoking an array of interpretations from commentators." So, check it out!
- The Getty has lots of fine art in a stunning setting. On a clear spring day, great views of downtown. Room to wander and sit, and a nice cafeteria.
- The Huntington has even more, and more varied exhibitions than the Getty, and a vast garden. Nice cafe and tea room.
- Hancock Park, including the La Brea tar pits, the Page Museum in which the Tar Pit discoveries are displayed and explained, and right next door, the massive L.A. County Museum of Art. Just north of Hancock Park at 419 N. Fairfax is Canter's Deli, hit it for a pastrami, blini or an egg cream.
- The Norton Simon in Pasadena is another world-class art museum. On the way back, for something completely different, stop at the Soda Pop Stop, with 450 kinds of sodas and sarsaparillas and 500 kinds of bottled beer.
- The Skirball Center is a Jewish cultural center and a world-class museum.
- Gamble House is a magnificent turn-of-the-century villa, designed and stuffed full of furniture by Greene and Greene.
- Los Angeles: there is a "there" there, and you can find it on a walking tour led by the Los Angeles Conservancy. The docent-led tours are mostly on Saturday, or get one of their self-guided tours for use on another day.
- Disneyland! 'nuff said!
- Descanso Gardens, not as vast a garden as the Huntington but just as big a variety of plants and lots of places to sit and meditate.
- Is the Universal Studios Tour corny and kitschy? You betcha, and we loved it!
- For birders, Bolsa Chica ecological preserve in Huntington Beach has a great variety of shore birds visible from an easy walking trail.
And if that isn't enough, here's Tripadvisor's list of things to do in LA.
Stanford plays Cal at Haas Pavilion on a Friday night at 7pm.
If you are retired or can take the day off, you should start early and have an early supper at one of the many restaurants within walking distance of Haas. If you can't start early, you have very little hope of getting through Friday afternoon traffic in time for the game.
This trip begins with an 8pm Friday game versus the Buffs in Boulder. The second game is in Salt Lake City on Sunday, at 2pm. Neither team pulls large crowds, so plan on buying tickets at the door.
Here is a feasible itinerary:
- Friday, United 5693 from SJC to DEN, departs 10:11am, arrives 1:36pm.
- Rent car, drive 90 minutes to Boulder; check in to motel; find supper; see game.
- Saturday at liberty in Boulder/Denver area.
- Sunday, United 5283 DEN -> SLC, departs 7:55am, arrives 9:26am.
- Rent car, drive around Salt Lake; find lunch at one of many restaurants at the West end of campus.
- See game; drive to airport.
- Southwest Airlines flight 1745 departs 5:55 to LAS, change to SW flight 379 to SJC arrives 8:40pm
Once again the tournament is at Key Arena in Seattle. Seattle is easy to get to, with many flights by many carriers and a wide range of hotels. Key Arena is in the Seattle Center with plenty of parking and the monorail for access from downtown. Several comfortable hotels are in walking distance of the games.
Places to eat
This "Thrillist" article lists "Seattle's best new restaurants and bars 2015".
For a quick meal between tournament sessions, the food court in the Seattle Center is convenient to the Key Arena but frankly, not that interesting. For a proper meal, walk just a few blocks south of the Space Needle to the Tilikum Place Cafe, a delightful small restaurant with an inventive, French-inspired menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients. If you have a car, just a few miles south is the amazing Uwajimaya Asian Food Market with an interesting if hectic food court. (Ooh-wadjee-maya)
Last year we tried the Boiling Point, and it was a rather awesome experience. You get served your own gas-fired grill on which is sitting a metal bowl containing an extremely hot (in both senses) soup/stew. For the adventurous eater.
Or, for something completely different, go up to the other end of town to A la Mode Pies and explore the Phinney Ridge neighborhood.
Things to do
There is so much to do and see in Seattle, you really should arrive a day or two early just for sightseeing before you settle in for basketball. Two high points for views over the city (besides the familiar Space Needle) are the SkyView Observatory on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, and the Seattle Great Wheel. On a day when, as local people say, "the mountain is out" (i.e. not hiding in clouds) you will get a stunning view of Mt. Rainier from any of them.
If you have the time, it might also be worth visiting the famous Pike Place Market, which is consistently rated as one of the best places to shop for food in the US. In the middle of the market look for the elevator that takes you down to the waterfront esplanade. From there, a brisk mile walk along the waterfront brings you to the Olympic Sculpture Park, an outdoor wing of the Seattle Art Museum.
Want to get outdoors? In 1903, the city of Seattle hired the Olmsted brothers (sons of Frederick Law Olmsted who designed the UC Berkeley campus) to plan a system of parks. The jewel of that system is Volunteer Park, where you will find the Conservatory, a beautiful Victorian-style glasshouse that has just been restored in 2014, and also the Asian Art Museum specializing in the arts of the entire Pacific basin.
Like airplanes? Take your rental car to the south end of town and spend hours among vintage planes in the three hangar-sized galleries of Boeing's Museum of Flight. Then step outside and walk through President Johnson's Air Force One, and the last Concorde SST to fly. If you are interested in aviation, budget at least four hours for this stop.
Continue 30 miles south to Tacoma and visit the Museum of Glass, where you watch major works being blown in the working "hot shop" every day. Barely half-mile away in the confusing streets of waterfront Tacoma is the LeMay Car Museum, a huge collection of vintage cars presented in a vast but beautiful gallery. If you are a car buff, expect to spend at least three hours.
For a nice day-trip by car, take the Ferry to Bainbridge Island, or go to the north end of Seattle and take the Mukilteo ferry to Whidbey Island. Either jaunt gets you rustic scenery, cute small towns, and water vistas.
Marijuana is now legal in Washington State. Adults may possess up to 1oz of marijuana for private consumption. After a slow start at developing appropriate regulations, the state liquor commission has begun licensing retail shops. As of December there are at least three licensed retailers of recreational marijuana in Seattle, Uncle Ike's at 2733 4th Ave. South, Cannabis City at 3210 East Union St., and Grass in the far North end at 14343 15th Ave NE.
For the Cardinal, the first and second rounds are ... TBS!
Locations are Sioux Falls SD, Lexington KY, Bridgeport CT, and Dallas TX.
Perhaps things will go better than the last trip to Indianapolis. Nevertheless, here is how to schedule a Final Four trip.
First, arrive early. There's a ton of hoopla the day before: the WBCA high-school All-American game (often featuring an upcoming Stanford recruit), the battle of the bands (often won by LSJUMB), possibly a team reception (your team, all poshed up). For this year, arrive on Friday so you can attend anything on Saturday.
Second, book your trip on the expectation that Stanford will be eliminated in the semifinal. Reserve the hotel only through the night of the semifinal game, and book your return flight for the day after that game, in this case, Monday.
The point is, if Stanford loses, you don't have to make the agonizing decision whether to stay around and watch another coronation for UConn, or go through the fuss of trying to get an earlier return flight. You're all set to go. But if Stanford does win, there will be no objection from your hotel at extending your stay for two days. After all, a bunch of disappointed people just checked out! And your airline will usually not have a problem rebooking your return flight, although you might want to initially buy a higher-priced ticket that doesn't have a big rescheduling fee.
Logistics, tickets, things to do: TBS