Planning A Ballpark Trip

There are no pictures here. Just letting you know now.

The Short Story

This is if you don’t have time to read the whole thing (or just don’t care enough to go much further).

Last December, I was in a group text with two of my closest friends from Indians Twitter, Andy and Kyle. My memory of how exactly everything went down is a little foggy, but eventually the subject of a baseball road trip came up.

After doing the research, we agreed upon the first week of July, when Andy’s schedule would be free of high school sportswriting. The trip would include St. Louis, Kansas City, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Chicago (Wrigley), in order.

Over time in the winter, I booked the AirBNBs for the trip. We were lucky enough that somebody offered us a place to stay near Kansas City to help save on lodging. I’ll get more into details on that later on in the article.

Later on, I asked my friend Gary if he wanted to partake in the trip. He’s also a diehard baseball fan, and the trip involved his favorite team twice, the Atlanta Braves.

So with everything set in place, it became a waiting game.

But how did it all come to fruition? Read below for the more in depth story.

The Goal

Okay, 5 ballparks in the span of 7 days. Sounds awesome.

It also involves careful planning.

I’ve had it in mind to go on one of these baseball trips since 2015. In 2017, I did a couple of weekend baseball trips where I went to 3 ballparks in 3 days.

One of those trips was part of a longer Arizona vacation that was only suppose to include a D-Backs game. The trip was modified to include Southern California when it was discovered the Padres and Angels were both home the weekend I was out in Arizona.

The other trip was in June. That included Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Don’t get me wrong, those were fun trips and I had a blast on both.

However, I have been dying to go on a trip that includes 5-6 ballparks over the span of a week. Friends, the open road, and baseball.

In 2018, on the first week of July, that baseball road trip dream will come true.

You may have seen it a couple of years ago where some best friends celebrated their 30th birthdays by going to all 30 MLB ballparks in 30 days, all by car.

A giant road trip like that is on my bucket list. Maybe not 30 ballparks in 30 days (secretly hoping for that), but a good sized trip nonetheless. For now, a 5 city trip over 7 days will suffice.

The Planning

There’s a lot of planning.

The sooner you get things in place, the smoother your trip will go.

Living in Columbus, Ohio, I’ve envisioned two baseball road trips since 2015. The first one is a Mid-Atlantic trip. This trip includes one or both New York’s, Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore. Depending on how you feel you could also add in Boston and/or Pittsburgh.

The second trip is a midwest one. This trip includes St. Louis, Kansas City, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Assuming you read the beginning of this article and have stuck with it, you know which of the two trips was chosen.

Since the Midwest trip is the one we’re going on, let’s focus on that. Here’s a breakdown of the driving roughly from city to city, by hours and minutes.

Columbus to St. Louis: 6:00

St Louis to Kansas City: 3:30

Kansas City to Minneapolis: 6:15

Minneapolis to Milwaukee: 4:45

Milwaukee to Chicago: 1:45

Chicago to Columbus: 5:30

Keep in mind, this isn’t factoring in any additional stops. There’s nothing too major though. To me, anything under 8 hours is a totally doable drive. I drove to Philadelphia (my furthest drive yet) only making one stop, and that was for gas. When I have friends in the car and I have cruise control, it’s smooth sailing.

MLB releases its schedule for the following season in September. Picking the ballparks you want to visit can be a tough decision. Knowing where you want to go will put you a step ahead.

To help plan my trips, I use baseball-roadtrip.com. In very basic terms, you pick the teams you want to see, in which order you want to go, and how many days you want to take on your trip. Once that is done, the website will spit out all the possible dates that would work. Then it’s up to you to find which of those dates work best for you.

I put the Cardinals, Royals, Twins, Brewers, and Cubs in that order and let the website do it’s work. We quickly settled for the first week of July since we knew Andy wouldn’t have to cover high school sports.

Here is what that schedule looks like on baseball-roadtrip.com

Team Date Time (Local) Opponent Est. dist to next city  
Cardinals Sun – Jul 1, 2018 1:15 PM Braves 241    
Royals Mon – Jul 2, 2018 7:15 PM Indians 439    
Twins Thu – Jul 5, 2018 7:10 PM Orioles 332    
Brewers Fri – Jul 6, 2018 7:10 PM Braves 90    
Cubs Sat – Jul 7, 2018 1:20 PM Reds

You’re probably thinking “that’s a lot of time in between Kansas City and Minnesota.”

You’re right. So what do we do? The Twins aren’t home until Thursday, so no going up there earlier for a game.

“Hey, Evan, I realized in the very first sentence of this post you mentioned the Indians. Did you decide to stay in Kansas City for all three games?”

I’m glad you asked, random person. Yes, I did.

Whether by coincidence or luck/good fortune, things worked out perfectly for two reasons.

1: For 3 of us, the Indians are our favorite team. Seeing your team play 3 straight road games in person is always fun.

2. I was lucky enough to have somebody else I know from Indians Twitter who lives an hour north of Kansas City offer us a place to stay. Might as well take the 3 days of free lodging if it’s being offered to us.

For these trips, it always make sense to find a fourth person so the cost of gas and lodging will be less per person. But who would the fourth person?

Requirements for a baseball road trip: must like baseball and long car rides on a pretty frequent basis.

I decided to ask my friend Gary, who had joined me for the Philadelphia-Baltimore-Pittsburgh trip in June 2017. He’s a diehard baseball fan like the rest of us, but he also is an Atlanta Braves fan, and they’re playing twice on the trip. For Gary, the choice to go was a definite yes.

Andy, Kyle, and I get to see the Indians three times. Gary gets to see the Braves twice. We all like baseball and will go to just about any game presented the opportunity. Seeing our favorite teams is just an added bonus.

The Lodging

Okay, so you have your dates picked out. You know what ballparks you’re going to and what games you will be seeing. Now it’s time to figure out where you’re staying.

Unless you have a nice sized RV, you probably aren’t going to want to sleep in the vehicle you’re taking.

Here is the thing about hotels, they’re nice (the good ones). They can have things like a free continental breakfast, a pool, and a gym. Let’s face it though, you are usually overpaying when you stay at a hotel.

If there has been one thing that has been a money saver in planning this trip, it’s been AirBNB. I have found that AirBNBs are usually exponentially cheaper and far more cost effective than hotels.

When you are on AirBNB.com, you can use several filters to help you narrow your search down for the right place to stay.

My favorite of these is the “superhosts” filter. This allows you to see which hosts are highly recommended by other AirBNB users. Superhosts always have the best places to stay.  When you stay somewhere, you want a place that’s clean and the hosts are friendly and hospitable.

Then there’s the whole knowing people where you’re going. This is another one of those great money savers, if you can use it.

I don’t know if you have friends the places you’ll be going. Lucky for us, we do when we’re in Kansas City. Because we have a friend being gracious enough to open their home to us while in KC, we’re saving on three days of lodging. We also decided to forego lodging in Chicago. Since our game at Wrigley is a day game, we decided to make the drive back after the game.

Here is lodging breakdown:

St. Louis: $101.77

Minneapolis: $88.00

Milwaukee: $101.79

That’s the total cost of each AirBNB after everything is factored in. Add up each to get the total cost, and divide by four. The cost for three nights of lodging per person comes out to $72.89. That means each person is paying about $24.30 per night for the three cities above. Not bad.

The Tickets

Your other main expense is going to be your game tickets. I don’t have any real secret hacks I can give you, but I’ll try my best to tell you what I feel has worked for me.

There are a few factors that can affect the price of a ticket. Let’s take a look at them.

The Market: In a good baseball market, ticket prices will generally be higher and harder to find. Two good examples would be Boston and St. Louis, our first stop.

The Day and Matchup: I’m combining two things here. Simply put, a Wednesday Orioles-Royals game is going to be cheaper than a Saturday Yankees-Red Sox game. Don’t let that scare you. The chances of you seeing two good teams in every game you’re attending are slim. We are seeing three first place teams, but we’re also seeing three last place teams and two of them are the worst teams in baseball.

Where to buy: Before you buy your tickets, you should view several ticket sites. Compare the secondary ticket sites to the team sites when you’re checking prices. My main secondary ticket sites are StubHub, VividSeats, and the app Gametime. For this trip, four games were purchased off VividSeats.

Where to sit: This is up to you. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to their seats at a baseball game. When I go to a ballpark for the first time, my favorite place to sit is in the upper deck behind home plate. There’s three reasons I prefer that: tickets are usually cheap, the view is great, and it makes for the perfect picture.

Best of luck in your ticket buying!

The Other Stuff

I love baseball, but you don’t want to be sitting around all day just waiting for a game. You’re on vacation, after all. Go check out some of the main tourist attractions and local restaurants too.

St. Louis has the Gateway Arch, Kansas City has the Negro Leagues Museum and World War I Museum, Minnesota has the Mall of America and a thousand lakes, Milwaukee has breweries, and Chicago has more than enough to keep everyone entertained. I know we plan on doing the things I just listed earlier in the paragraph. After all, you only live once.

The Conclusion

If you have stuck around to read this whole post, I just want to say thank you. I’m over 1,900 words and I know how short attention spans are these days.

If you have read the whole thing, hopefully you found some helpful tips and tools for planning a baseball trip. My upcoming trip will be the biggest one I have embarked on yet and I can’t believe it’s finally almost here.

Wherever you may go out to a ballgame next, safe and happy travels.