Road Trips and Travel Tips 2017-18

Important Notes

Getting to the Airport

There are now at least four ways to get to the airport:

We've had good experiences with Uber and Lyft and with the newest one, Wingz. Wingz is unlike the others in that you can book your ride to the airport in advance (instead of calling for a ride when you are ready to go), and you can book the pickup for your return flight as well. And you can request the same driver each time.

Cost-wise, a ride in a van or with Uber/Lyft is about the same as three days' parking. So if you will be away for more than three days, it's better to use some type of ride service rather than airport parking.

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, but only one under $20/day at SFO.

For SFO you can park in the airport-run long-term lot for $25/day, now payable with credit card or with FasTrak.

Skypark costs $19/day for outdoor or $21/day for covered parking. ParkSFO has a building where you can have covered parking for $17/day.

At SJC, the airport-run Economy Lot 1 costs $15/day.

Travel Information Sites

Use these sites to find flights and hotels.

LinkComment Our new favorite flight-search site because unlike all the others, it shows Southwest flights! Enter your departure and destination airports and your dates. In the list of results, filter by number of stops and use the sliders to set your preferred range of departure times. Our old favorite flight-search site and still a good one because of its clear compact table of available flights, which can be sorted on departure or arrival time or by "agony". (But no SWA flights.) Another way to list the flights available for a given itinerary. Responds more quickly than hipmunk, but the results cannot be sorted in as many ways. Shows SWA but not prices. While 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. The most comprehensive hotel search site, finds hotels in the most obscure towns worldwide and lets you book them directly. Bay Area Consumer's Checkbook found that Priceline produced hotel rates "lower than those available on other booking sites." Hotel price comparisons based on four other sites including Expedia and Travelocity; and user reviews of hotels.

Once you arrive, you can use one of these sites to find food and entertainment.

TripBuzz Enter the city and the class of activity (choose "all", you can narrow it down later), click "go". You get a list of things to do or see, and you can narrow the list from a pull-down menu. Tripadvisor again. Enter the city name then click Restaurants or Things to do.
Yelp Enter your city in the "Near:" field. Start typing what you want in the "Find:" field, for example "Entert..." and choose one of the options presented. Good for restaurants but also works for amusements, specialty stores, and services.

The Experienced Traveler

Fast(ish) Check-in with TSA Pre-Check

The TSA Pre-Check program allows you a lower-hassle route through airport security. The Pre-check line is not as short as it used to be! The program is popular and we pre-checkers are no longer scarce. Still, you don't have to remove jacket or shoes; you don't take your lap-top out of its bag; and you walk through a magnetic arch, you don't hold up your arms for the x-ray.

To enroll in the program, 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. Audio-Technica's are highly recommended and inexpensive. 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 many inexpensive and powerful ones, for example this one.

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. 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.

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.

After the Flight

Don't dispose of your old boarding pass casually. According to this article, the various barcodes on the boarding pass may contain quite a bit of your personal information, such as your frequent flier number, and it can be easily read by anyone. What can be gleaned from a discarded pass varies with the airline. Some put enough data on the pass to help an identity thief.

Road Trips!

Ohio State and UConn, 10-12 November

The Cardinal play Ohio State on Friday, 10 November, at 6pm. The location is St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State.

Then on Sunday the 12th, Stanford participates in "Countdown to Columbus" at Nationwide Arena, the site of the Final Four. There will be two games in that event: Stanford vs UConn at 1:30pm and Ohio State vs Louisville following.

Here is a map showing the relation between the two sites. The Ohio State campus is a ten-minute drive from the downtown area and the Arena.


Tickets for both events are being handled by the Ohio State ticket office. The Friday game is general admission; the Sunday event is reserved seating. Stanford fans are welcome to call Andrew Boppel in the OSU ticket office at 614-292-8098 who will sell the tickets to be sent via email in October.

Flight Logistics

John Glenn International Airport at Columbus (code CMH) is not served by any nonstop flights from a Bay Area airport. All flights require a change of planes in Phoenix, Denver, DFW or O'Hare. (Phoenix? Why would there be nonstops from Phoenix to Columbus, but not from SFO?)

With a 6pm start on the Friday, it is feasible to fly on the Friday, for example a 5am departure from SFO arrives around 3pm. For the return flight, if you don't care to stick around and see OSU play Louisville, there are return flights to SFO starting at 4:50pm (iffy) and later, for example an American departure via PHX at 5:55pm.


Downtown Columbus has all of the usual hotel chains, with at least four major ones in easy walking distance of the Arena, and several more around the nearby city center. Prices appear to run from $400-$500 for a Friday-Saturday two-night stay. (Add another $150 if you have to stay Sunday night as well.)

You can cut that in half by staying on the outskirts of town, but then you will require a rental car which wipes out some of the saving. Look for hotels west of town along I-270.

An important factor is that on the Saturday, Ohio State hosts Michigan State for football. That's likely to be rather a big deal in Columbus, and reason to book your hotel as early as possible.

Columbus Attractions

Columbus is situated on a curvy stretch of the Scioto river. While it is surely a most worthy city, it doesn't have any famous attractions. Here is Tripadvisor's list of attractions, and here is Yelp's list.

It looks as if one could spend a couple of hours strolling German Village. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum houses a large collection of cartoon art from all eras with a rotating exhibit of original works. The Central Ohio Fire Museum has restored fire-fighting equipment in a restored firehouse. The Kelton House Museum is an 1850-era Victorian mansion one can tour.

Tournament in Las Vegas, 23-25 November

This year's Thanksgiving tournament is the Play4Kay Shootout to be held in Las Vegas, November 23-25 (Thursday through Saturday).

Everything you need is linked from that site. Here's the schedule. Basically there are four games played on each of Thursday (Thanksgiving), Friday, and Saturday. Stanford plays Kent State at 5:30pm Thursday. Win that, and they will play (probably) Gonzaga at 8pm Friday. Win that one and they will play (probably) Ohio State—yes, the very same Ohio State they played just two weeks earlier—at 8pm Saturday.

Here's the link for ticket sales. A three-day pass is about $60. One-day tickets are also available. The venue looks huge on the seating chart, so you can probably safely wait and buy the tickets on-site.

Travel Logistics

Prices for flights from SFO or SJC to LAS are crazy for this holiday weekend: $350 and up. (Normal prices are half that or less.) Southwest still has some "wanna getaway" $150 fares for the Thursday, but the return fares for Sunday are all at $300+.

Driving to Vegas from the Bay Area is about 550 miles, and about 8 hours, via Bakersfield (per Google maps). We are looking at leaving on Wednesday and spending a night on the road in Bakersfield or East of it, and should still come in quite a bit cheaper than flying.

UA & ASU, 5-7 January

The Cardinal plays in Tucson on Friday 5 January at 6pm. They play at ASU in Tempe on Sunday the 7th at 3pm2pm. See below for a fun activity for the Saturday off-day!

Travel Logistics

The true die-hard will fly fairly early Friday, pick up a rental car at PHX, drive two hours to Tucson for the game, and have a nice weekend in Arizona (see below).

Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix (PHX) is well-connected to both SFO and SJC and it will be possible to return on the Sunday. American and Southwest both have 9pm departures for SJC, and United has an 8pm flight to SFO. There are also return nonstops departing just after 6pm; if you take a taxi or Lyft or Uber from the arena, you might make one of them (thanks to the revised 2pm start).

An option unique to this location is to make a one-day excursion to see only the ASU game in Tempe. We've done it twice and it works fine. Here's how.


As usual, you can 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.

Arizona Attractions

Cardinal fan Kim Thien alerts us to Grand Canyon University's schedule. Their WBB team is playing Seattle U. on Saturday. Why would we care? Because GCU's head coach is none other than Stanford great Nicole Powell. (And for those with longer memories, Nicole's assistant coach is Nikki Blue. Does it feel like not so long ago that Nikki Blue was UCLA's major back-court threat, facing off against Candice Wiggins? Well, that was 2002-2006, folks. Blue has since had a pro career and several years coaching.)

Anyway, if you'd like to give Nicole some love, head to GCU Arena at 3300 W. Camelback Rd (Google map link) for the 2pm game on Saturday.

Arizona offers other attractions. Here are some things to do around Tucson:

And some things to do around Phoenix:

USC & UCLA, 19-21 January

The Cardinal play at USC on Friday 19 January at 8pm; and at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on Sunday the 21st at 3pm.

Travel Logistics

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.)

However, there are endless flights to choose among and you can find a comfortable 2pm or 3pm departure on Friday. Sunday there are flights from LAX to SJC at 7:40 and 9:35, and several flights to SFO from 7pm on.


UCLA games can sell out; you should order tickets from the UCLA site (actually TicketMaster) 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.

Los Angeles Attractions

The following are some things that FBC members might enjoy doing in Los Angeles.

And if that isn't enough, here's Tripadvisor's list of things to do in LA.

OSU and UO, 2-4 February

The Cardinal play the Beavers in Corvallis on Friday 2 February at 6pm. The OSU game in Eugene is at Sunday the 4th at noon.

Travel Logistics

You can fly into Portland and drive south to Corvallis, but Portland traffic can be bad; what should be a 2-hour drive can be double that. So allow a good cushion of time for this route. An alternative is to fly into Eugene and drive an hour north. (Eugene airport has car rentals, although it would be a good idea to reserve a car with your favorite rental company in advance.) United has one nonstop flight SFO-EUG that arrives in time for this.

There is a return flight EUG-SFO at 7:10pm on Sunday, so it will be possible to return after the game.

It is feasible for a person unencumbered by a job to make this trip by road, and pleasant if the weather is decent. However, both northern California and central Oregon sometimes see snow. If one did intend on driving, the itinerary would be:


For OSU tickets, all the nice lower-bowl sections, including section D behind the visitor bench, are sold-out to season ticket holders. Some higher sections are reserved-seating and some are general admission. When single-game tickets are on sale, go to the ticket page or call 800-GO-BEAVS (800-462-3287) to buy tickets.

For UO tickets, order from this sales page. Sections 102P, 102L and 202 are behind the visitor's bench in Knight Arena, although 103P has better sight-lines. If you prefer to call, the number is 800-WEB-FOOT (800-932-3668).

Oregon Attractions

Here are a few things to do between games:

And here are TripAdvisor's Things to do in Eugene and in Corvallis.

UW & WSU, 23-25 February

The Cardinal play UW in the Hec Edmundsen Arena on Friday 23 February at 8pm. Then they travel to Pullman to play the Cougars on Sunday the 25th at 1pm.

Travel Logistics

This year's trip to Washington just precedes the PAC-12 Tournament, with the first games at Key Arena starting four days after the WSU game. Fans who are free of the nuisances of jobs and dependent families should just settle down to enjoy Seattle and the Puget Sound for a few days ahead of the tournament.

There are numerous and frequent flights from SFO and SJC to SEA. Back and forth between Seattle and Spokane is also easy; Alaska Air flies each way about every 90 minutes all day every day.


For Pullman it is safe to buy your ticket at the door. The Huskies can draw a big crowd, though, and you should order in advance. This is the ticket sales page or you can call (206) 543-2200.


For things to do in Seattle, see the PAC-12 tournament section, below.

Spokane is not the home of the Washington State Cougars, but it is where the team and visiting fans usually stay. Downtown Spokane has become more interesting in recent years, with much renovation and the completion of the River Park Square mall. The historic Fox Theater is a renovated performance venue which now houses the Spokane Symphony (which is performing the evenings of February 24-25). Recommended restaurants include Central Food and Santé Charcuterie; see also the Yelp list.

Manito Park is an urban park with gardens and a conservatory. Finch Arboretum is a peaceful green space. The Riverfront Park (which features "one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the nation"), the Riverside State Park and the Spokane River Centennial Trail are all either in or very close to Spokane and offer plenty of possibilities for hiking or biking—weather permitting.

It is about a 2 hour drive from Spokane to Pullman, where the Cougars lurk. Check the official WSU Campus Map.

PAC-12 Tournament, 1-4 March

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.

The City has prepared a special Visit Seattle page for Tournament visitors. It has links to hotels that have Tournament discounts, and links to lots of attractions and discounts.

Places to eat

For a quick meal and an hour of wi-fi 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. Another place we've tried and enjoyed, less than a mile from the Center, is Rigolletto, located in the basement of the Stackhouse apartment complex. For a luxurious pre-game brunch on Saturday or Sunday, reserve at Palisade. Tournament schedule does not allow much time for a leisurely dinner, but carnivores who find the time should check out The Butcher's Table for a swanky meal of Wagyu beef. Or for an informal meal, try The Brave Horse Tavern.

For more suggestions, see The "Thrillist" list, and the Visit Seattle Tournament page.

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—especially this year when the Cardinal plays in Seattle the week before.

New this year is Amazon's newly-opened corporate HQ, a dramatic cluster of glass geodesics called Amazon Spheres, located in the center of downtown at 2101 7th Avenue near Lenora st. Admission to the "Understory" exhibit space is free but requires a reservation: visit this page for info, and click "Visit Understory" to book a time.

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.

The famous Pike Place Market is somewhat overrated but fun if you've not been there before. 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. The Art Museum at its downtown location is currently featuring Seeing Nature, "39 historically significant European and American landscape paintings" from Paul Allen's collection.

Been there, did that last year? And you've been to the Chihuli Glass in Seattle Center? What about the Museum of Popular Culture—formerly the Experience Music Project, but it has rebranded itself and added more movie and pop exhibits.

OK, consider the Living Computer Museum, where you can get real hands-on time with a variety of old micro-, mini- and mainframe computers. Or the Frye Art Museum, with more modern works than the Seattle Art Museum.

Or, do you like books? Seattle has great bookstores. Start with Ada's Technical Books "where the technical mind finds what it craves". The Lion Heart bookstore in Pike Place Market is said to have a wide selection and a friendly owner. Twice Sold Tales is a used book store you can get lost in. The Book Larder specializes in cookbooks.

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.

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 lets you poke around miles of quiet roads through rustic scenery, cute small towns, and water vistas. On Bainbridge, get fish and chips at the historic Harbor Public House. (We did this last year; it was excellent!) Or if you explore Whidbey, find the little town of Coupeville and have a seafood lunch at The Oystercatcher.

Marijuana is now legal in Washington State. Adults may possess up to 1oz for private consumption. There are now a number of licensed marijuana vendors in Seattle. Go to HighAboveSeattle for a convenient store locator.

NCAA Sub-Regional, 18—21 March

The first and second rounds are at the sites of the top 16 seeds. Cross your fingers! The Cardinal might play the first two games at home!

NCAA Regional, 24—27 March

Locations are Lexington KY, Albany NY, Kansas City MO, and—the one we can hope for—Spokane!

Final Four! 30 March; 1 April

The 2018 Final Four is to be held in Columbus, OH, where the Cardinal will be playing a pre-season game. The semifinal games are on Friday 30 March and the final on Sunday 1 April.

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 Wednesday so you can attend these things on Thursday.

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 (Friday) and book your return flight for the day after that game (Saturday).

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. (I'm looking at you, AA!)