Whether it be a Super Bowl, World Series, NASCAR race, the Kentucky Derby, the World Cup, the Masters Golf Tournament, the Final Four, or a college football rivalry game, there are few things in life as exciting as attending a major sporting event. The perfect storm of media hype combined with the anticipation and unbridled exuberance of rival fans converging on a single destination in a quest for world dominance makes for an unforgettable experience.

When making a pilgrimage to one of these competitions, even the most seasoned traveler can face challenges as difficult as those faced by the competitors on the field. Success requires planning, execution, and sheer will power. So whether the team you’re rooting for wins or loses, you can emerge victorious by adhering to these simple tips for traveling to a major sporting event.

1. Make travel arrangements as far in advance as possible

Availability of flights and hotels can be extremely scarce. Booking early will assure that you can get there and that you’ll have a place to stay.

2. Consider ancillary cost when booking your hotel

How you are going to get to and from the airport and the event? Rental Car? Taxi? Public transportation? How much will it cost to park at the event? While hotels in outlying areas are generally less expensive than in town hotels, you may find that you can actually save time and money by staying at a pricier hotel that is within walking distance of the venue, or easily accessible by public transportation. Do your research.

3. Purchase tickets from a legitimate source

There are a lot of scams involving counterfeit tickets. It’s best to purchase tickets from a team-sanctioned ticket reseller or through a site like stubhub.com that guarantees the  ticket. The ticket could still be fake, but at least you can get your money back. If you purchase a ticket outside the venue from an individual who is not a licensed ticket broker, tell them that you want to ask see their driver’s license snap their picture to show the police should the ticket they are selling you be fake.

4. Arrive early

You’re going to a big bucket list event. You don’t want to miss the pre-game ceremonies because you’re stuck in traffic, or trying to find a place to park, or standing in line waiting to get inside. Plan on arriving at least two hours early so you can experience the tailgating scene and feel the energy from the crowds as anticipation of the big event builds.

5. Be respectful of opponents fans

Good-natured ribbing is always fun. But with throngs of die-hard fans in varying states of sobriety, things can easily escalate from teasing, to taunting, to provoking. Remember that you represent your team and fan base. Show that your fan base is classier than theirs and exercise restraint. You don’t want to get in a fight and get ejected from the stadium or thrown in jail.

6. Make purchases outside the venue 

Food and souvenirs can be quite expensive inside the venue. You can save a lot of money and probably find much better food by eating before you go inside. Heck, if complement tailgaters on how good their ribs smell, they might invite you to try some of their food for free. As for souvenirs, the best deals are to be had from venders outside the venue after the event. They don’t want to carry any inventory home and are much more willing to bargain. Besides, if you can hold off purchasing your souvenirs until after the event, you won’t have to worry about keeping up with your purchase during the game.

7. Plan your potty breaks

The best time to go to the restroom is during a commercial time-out just before halftime or other official break in the action. If you wait until halftime, you’ll likely have to wait in an extremely long line, and run the risk of having an accident in your pants, which would certainly ruin you day. You also run the risk of missing a game-changing play when the event resumes because you’re having to ask the person in the next stall for some toilet paper.

8. Use your smartphone

With the right apps, your smartphone can be the only tool you need for making the most of your trip. Yelp is great app for for reading reviews and finding nearby places to eat. Instagram enables you to make your friends jealous by sharing your pictures over multiple platforms. Expedia has an app that offers last minute deals and big savings when you bundle your airfare, hotel and rental car. Google Maps will help keep you from getting lost. And of course TripIt is essential for keeping your itinerary organized.

What tips do you have for traveling to a major sporting event? 

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