The most important question you have to ask yourself before planning any trip is “Can I afford this?” If you can’t, sorry Charlie. Maybe next year. If you can, congratulations, you get to reward yourself with a glorious weekend in a college town to see your alma mater take the gridiron. Travel costs aren’t the only thing to take into account. There’s alcohol, tickets, food and plenty of other variables to take into consideration. Traveling with a degenerate friend who tends to get into mischief, despite being a homeowner? Better bring some bail money.
2. Travel Distance/Length
Is this just a quick, two-hour jaunt down the interstate to campus or are we talking about a 10-hour roadie through four states? Either way, the travel factor is important. Logically, the farther you go, the more it’ll cost you. Think outside the box and take the train if it won’t take more than five hours. It’s a solid way to start the party early and no one will bitch about who has to drive. I highly suggest the train-down, plane-back travel schedule if the town you’re going to has a non-stop back to your hometown on Sunday. If you really want to kick it up a notch, rent an RV with a few friends and roll up in style.
3. Home Or Away
Are you willing to step into the lion’s den or are you more comfortable with familiar territory? You might be able to get away with calling an opposing fan a panty-waist in your domain, but you’re just looking for a fight if you’re a visitor in theirs. But if you’re more of a mild-mannered fan, traveling to college towns for football weekends is an affordable way to travel as a broke-ass postgrad.
4. Concurrent Events
Is homecoming that weekend? Is your NFL squad playing in a major city nearby? Is 2 Chainz playing a free concert the night before the game? Maximize your trip and kill two birds with one stone.
A non-conference game against Florida A&M isn’t exactly the premier matchup of the season. Nor is the late-November game against the worst team in your conference. Rivalry games, big non-conference games and respectable opponents only. You’re already shelling out some decent bread to go to a game, might as well make it count. Paying $75 bucks to see your school beat the tar out of Georgia Southern is a sunk cost.
Do you actually want to spend three days with these people in close-quarters? That’s the first and most important question. The second question is, can everyone pay their own way? Your first year or two out of college can be financially tough for some. But it’s still their responsibility to know their limits. The worst case scenario is getting stuck with some poor sap who can’t feed himself or pay his share for the hotel.
7. Sunday Travel
If you drove, you can be flexible, but if you flew, I pray to God that you didn’t book your flight before noon, or else you and your friends will be doing your best McAllister family impression on Sunday morning, except you’ll all be hungover, and instead of leaving your son at home, you’ll be leaving your friend in a Motel 6 bathroom to be found by the cleaning staff. Airlines charge more for flights in the afternoon, but the extra $50-75 in airfare will be worth losing the hassle of trying to round up all of your friends to make the airport shuttle at 5am while you are all coming out of a blackout.
I’d recommend just staying at a friend’s house in town, considering hotels raise their prices on gameday weekends. But if all the couches are taken, you’re going to be sleeping on the floor of a dilapidated Econo Lodge on the outskirts of town. Make your arrangements well in advance to avoid this scenario. I’ve been down that road and it only leads to shame. Shame and scabies.
9. Length Of Stay
Is this just a quick weekender or are you taking vacation days to spend an extra night reliving your glory days? I’ve done both and I highly recommend spending an extra night, going down on Thursday to party with some coeds. Your liver will hate you come Sunday, but if you’re still just a year or two out of college, you can get away with showing up early for Thirsty Thursday. If you’re on the wrong side of 25, I’d recommend sticking with Friday-Sunday to avoid looking pathetic.
10. Tailgate Plans
Nothing worse than being the guys who wander through the parking lots with a dirty-30 in tow and nowhere to drink it. Most alumni associations host tailgates on gameday, so make sure you’ve signed up for membership before crashing it. If you were in a fraternity, any house worth a damn welcomes back alumni with open arms, cold brews and room-temperature breakfast.