So, you dream of escaping Chicago for a little fun, sun and preseason baseball, but you lack the money to make the trip to Mesa and the new Cubs Park. As an underemployed musician who has spent years on the road improvising travel on the cheap, I'm here for you with a couple of Pro Tips as to how you can make your Spring Training dreams come true, without breaking the bank!
Flights to warmer climates can be expensive during Spring Break, but I've only paid an $85 annual credit card fee so far for my trip to Phoenix and back. There are many credit card and bank reward cards that will give you miles for every dollar you spend. I know I'm being Captain Obvious here, but my particular card (AAdvantage) gives me extra miles for everything from buying music on iTunes, guitar strings from Musicians Friend, and for drinking and dining at certain restaurants. I put everything on this card. Bills, rent, groceries. Everything. After a year of putting all your expenses on the card, and shopping at partner retailers, you'll easily have enough for a free round trip ticket, if not two.
Hotels can cost far more than your flight. Even a hotel with the following review goes for over $54 a night. "Crackheads screaming at each other, 3 cop cars showing up and cops circling my building, bugs in the kitchen area, door was broken from being kicked in previously and wouldn't lock, fridge door wouldn't close, carpet was stained everywhere, no toilet paper, syringe on the ground near my vehicle in the parking lot, they couldn't find record of my reservation when I checked in, garbage overflowing out of the dumpster and into the parking lot, staff asking questions about what time I'm leaving and what room am I in, piles of dog crap on the ground, etc. I can't make this stuff up. If you're a scumbag crackhead or meth addict, this is the place for you."
$250 for a five-night stay in this joint? Umm…no thanks… Instead, I used Airbnb. If you are not familiar with Airbnb, it's a site by which you can rent private rooms or entire apartments from people for sometimes half the cost of a hotel. You can save even more, if like me, you are willing to stay with strangers. Currently, I am paying $30 a night to stay with a lovely young couple, Sam and Asia, and their 2 dogs. Yesterday, they even cooked me breakfast! (vegan chorizo and potatoes). Kitchen access for preparing meals at home is key when trying to save money. They've also driven me to Walmart for a few travel necessities, and allowed me use of their bikes to get around. Sam even gave me his yearly bus pass because he usually skateboards to work. People that are willing to open up their homes are often the same kind of people who will give you the shirt off their back, and Sam and Asia are those people. So, crackhead hotel or nice young generous couple? No brainer.
I've already mentioned biking and public transportation as my method of getting around. So, no. I did not rent a car. Which would have cost over $300 plus gas. Public transit is not always the easiest thing in the world utilize in some cities with buses and trains few and far between, but Phoenix's light rail and bus system can get you from the airport (the Skytrain to the light rail is free) and to most ballparks in under an hour. (Provided your Airbnb place is somewhat centrally located.) For example. My Airbnb is only two miles from Cubs Park (an easy bike ride or walk), and Monday's game against the Giants in Scottsdale was six miles, a half-hour bike ride, or a 40-minute bus trip. There are many fare options too, depending on your plan. A seven-day pass is only $20, a day pass is $4 and a single ride $2. Parking alone at Cubs Park is $7, and if the line of cars to get into the ballpark yesterday is typical, some of those fans didn't enter the stadium until the third inning, while I strode in during the lineup announcements.
I went to the game with my cousin yesterday, and he drove me to the ballpark. We did not pay to park however, as you can easily park on a side street within a mile of the stadium. Not sure if it's legal, but we were not ticketed or towed. Furthermore, the light rail is on the honor system as far as paying your fare goes, with occasional "ticket checks" by agents. My $2 ticket from the airport to my Airbnb was not checked. So I didn't really have to pay, but it's the right thing to do.
Finally, tickets to the game. Here's what you need to know. Cubs games Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be sold out, so get your tickets early and from the Cubs. You might even buy a few extras and make some money! An $8 ticket yesterday was going for $60 as a scalp! With that kinda scratch, you might even pay for your whole trip. However, during the week, when most folks have to work, it may be a better move to Stubhub it. Example. The Giants charge $25 for their cheapest general admission ticket, but I paid $16. Still too much, in my opinion, but better than $25! You have to watch Stubhub as if it were the stock market. Tickets for Monday's game were hovering around cost, but at 6 a.m Monday, they dropped to $16, but before game time they jumped back to $24. It's a gamblers game, but it saved me $9!
I also drank free last night! How? By playing a rock and roll show at Rogue Bar. I realize all of you reading this may not be able to play a rock and roll show, but if you can, you can save a fair amount of money. My two beers and scotch cost me a whopping zero, as often times bands drink free. So join a band and save! (Sidenote: Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie promoted my gig on the cubs.com broadcast yesterday -- many thanks to them!) Give a listen: Mick and Len shout out Danny Rockett's gig.
So what have I paid so far? $85 for my annual credit card fee. $120 for four nights' stay with Asia and Sam. $2 for my light rail ticket from the airport, $49 for game tickets (including tickets for two more games). $256 total -- not too shabby!
Stay tuned for more money-saving adventures, when I have to find a way to get to the Mariners/ Cubs game in Peoria on Wednesday. (Hoping for a lift from a Cubs fan in exchange for some gas money). I also need a place to stay that evening, as Asia and Sam can't accommodate me that evening. Maybe I'll stay at the above-described motel, just for street cred and a good story. Plus, a bus trip to see the Cubs in Las Vegas! (Which will likely be full of similar clientele as the motel.)
See! You can be a Hundredaire and still come to see the Cubs in Mesa! More money saving spring-training tips to come!
PS. If you're heading to the game in Peoria on Wednesday, let's carpool! Email me at this address.
PPS. Awesome to meet the legendary Al Yellon in person yesterday! (Al, sorry I talk so much while you're trying to score!)