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Minor League Travel Guide

Minor League Travel Guide
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FOR THOSE TIRED OF HEARING “ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER”…

I feel like this is potentially the equivalent of liking your own Facebook status, but can I get an “AMEN” on the title for this one ladies?

The baseball season is underway, which means many of you are busy doing one of two things: either you are booking flights or you are in the process of finding the delicate balance between home and away games that fits your schedule — and your wallet.

I have been there many times before and I know the stress of clicking ‘purchase’ on an airline website knowing he could get moved across the country the minute after the money is deducted from your account, or the night before you get there.

Daniel and I have been together for almost five years now and while only one and half have included professional baseball, long distance was always the name of the game in the summer. I don’t have the answer to the touch-and-go nature of professional baseball besides maybe a mind reader for minor league coordinators.  What I do have are tips and tricks I learned along the way for saving money and making the most of my time with my man.

It’s just about time for a minor league travel guide, ladies!

BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT

What do you use to book your flights?  Many times, without knowing it, we pay so much more for flights than necessary.  When I started using Kayak, I completely changed the way I planned trips.  Not only does it offer trips through multiple carriers to find the best deal, it features a price trend graph, so you can judge how the fare will change over time.  You can also make your dates flexible to find what days are cheapest for certain destinations or see how many seats are left at a specific rate.  Bing also provides price graphs to judge when to buy.

Even with these tools, I have waited too long because I anticipated fare drops and ended up paying the price, literally.  Obviously, the more in advance you can book tends to be better, but not always.  When booking flights, keep in mind Tuesday is usually a sale day for airlines, so watch for that.  Also, planning your trip to fly in Friday and out Sunday usually means a more expensive fare — find a way to travel on obscure days during the week.

You don’t always have to book a round trip flight.  I have gotten much cheaper rates by researching two separate one-way flights, especially when I want to extend my trip by going to away games.

Regarding booking a flight without knowing whether he will get moved or not — I am going to be honest — I don’t have an answer.  I have never got caught on the wrong side of this situation, but I would encourage you to think twice about the travel insurance offered when you purchase your flights. The extra $11 may be worth it to avoid losing a few hundred because of a last-minute move.

As we all know, our guys spend a lot of their time at the field and even with off time, many do not have cars.  To add to the craziness, minor league baseball teams don’t tend to be in large towns with major airports nearby.  So how do you get around?

I think there is a misconception about rental cars – that you can’t get one unless you’re 25 – wrong!  Some of you have potentially booked a rental car in the past and got hit with underage fees.  Luckily, there is a way to avoid them.  Start by going to Kayak and searching for a rental car for the dates of your trip.  Once you see the carriers in the area, go to their specific websites and go to the “deals” or “specials” tab to see what coupons they have available.  Also, don’t be afraid to search “Enterprise coupons” or “Avis coupons” on Google.  You may be surprised what you find.

TIPS FOR RENTING YOUR CAR

1) I have found Avis usually always has a coupon to avoid the 20-25 underage fees.  If it doesn’t show on the website how much they charge, call and ask.  Don’t wait until you pick up your car to get slammed with what can be a $35 per day underage charge.

2) Check for rental car locations in the city, away from the airport.  I got a car in the past for $100 less simply because it was at a random location in the city, not directly at the airport.  Many of these locations have an airport shuttle, but I will talk about shuttles more in the next section.

3) Be sure to see what the mileage allowance is before you rent.  Depending on if you are staying around the city or going to an away game, you wouldn’t want to be hit with those charges when you drop off the car.

4) If you choose to fly out of a different airport than the one you came in to, make sure you know that your rental car will be much more expensive.  I have done it before, but it adds about $150 to your fare, if you’re lucky.  Sometimes you can find a discount for a different return location, but they are rare.

5) Purchasing insurance through the company doesn’t hurt, but I personally usually say “no” because I have car insurance that covers rental cars.  Check your policy ahead of time to see what the best option is for you.

Don’t count out the shuttle These come in many forms – hotel shuttles, rental car shuttles and city shuttles (if you feel comfortable with public transportation).  First, check if your hotel offers shuttles from the airport or to local places within a certain distance (the field or offsite rental car location).  Also, some major airports have shuttles to smaller surrounding airports that are typically very affordable (for example, Chicago Midway to South Bend is just $45).

RESERVING YOUR HOTEL

And then there’s the hotel…. If your man has a house or apartment of his own, this may not be an issue for you.  If you don’t have that luxury, there are still ways to find budget lodging.

1) If your man’s team has an odd number of players, typically they can sign up for the extra room on weekends, making your room free.  Even number?  See if any other ladies are coming into town and have the guys sign up to room together and split the cost of the extra room.  (By the way, if you didn’t know about the odd number trick, don’t feel bad or take it out on your man, a good majority of them don’t know what’s going on outside of the 9 innings each night.  It’s not that they’re dumb — they’re just focused on the prize).

2) Each team has a “team hotel” where they typically have a very affordable rate for family and friends visiting to watch games.  Even when your man is on the road, mention you are there for the games and they will typically get you a great rate.  Last year, I got a decent hotel for $55 a night with the “Yakima Bears” rate.  Excellent.

3) The team rate should be your best bet, but if not, search Google or the hotel website for coupons.

4) If you have never booked your own travel, let me issue some words of caution regarding hotels: always read the reviews.  There tends to be those gripers that always exist.  Pay attention to what the negative reviews say.  Shy away from hotels with reviews mentioning dirty premises or unsafe parking lots or hallways.  I know it seems self-explanatory, but a quick check of the overall feeling in reviews can save you some heartache (and moolah) when you arrive.

FINAL TRICKS

1) I am not sure how much you use Groupon or Living Social, but when you’re planning an expensive trip, they can be your best friends.  Find date ideas and restaurant discounts.  Or, how about a half-price mani/pedi to relieve stress and pass time while he is at the field?

2) This seems silly, but do you have a credit card?  Not a debit card, but a true credit card?  Most rental cars will require a credit card to rent a vehicle.  Most hotels are ok with debit cards, but they will hold $40 to $60 on your account regardless, until you check out.  From someone who has done it, don’t flip out when you see the charge on your banking app.

3) VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Baseball girlfriends/fiancées/wives are a sisterhood.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to the other ladies on your man’s team and talk about how they made their trips work.  Or, what about planning visits on the same weekends to cut cost?  Not to mention, while there are few of us, some women may be living with their men full-time and I speak for all of us when I say — we would love to help you.  Most of us have all been in your shoes before and know exactly what you’re going through.  Give one of those ladies a text or Facebook message.  As much as the guys make fun of us for our friendships, they secretly love the bonds that make us stronger while we manage the challenges of long distance.  Most of them will jump at the chance to help with the exchange of phone numbers.

Safe travels!

Watts

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Chelsea Watts Chelsea Watts is the wife of minor league left-handed pitcher, Daniel Watts. After starting a public relations career in Atlanta, she chose to take the road with her husband full-time to pursue his dream. She continues to work as a freelancer while blogging about the craziness of the minor league life.