Pack being short for Packers of course, our beloved home team. Ironically, this article is not about the Packers. It is about us following them around the country to watch them play football. It is about helping fans everywhere take a memorable trip of a lifetime. Late April often finds people peeling through the newly released NFL schedule to count up their team's wins and loss potential; while keeping their other eye on the NFL draft. What are Zeus and I doing? Well yes, the same, but also getting together with our boys to decide what city and stadium we want to go tour this year so we can cheer our Cheeseheads on in hostile territory. Six Years ago we set out on a journey to visit every NFL stadium. So far we have been to KC, Nashville, Pitt, ATL, Minn, CHI, and last year's San Diego. We typically only do one per year, but you will find the close divisional rivals offer you an opportunity to sneak in two some years.
Our goal is to enlighten you on how to prep for this type of trip, how to research it, and ways to choose where you want to go outside of just what your life schedule might allow. Most importantly perhaps is how to make the most of visiting another city and stadium with just a few days to capture it all.
1. This question is for Zeus specifically because he has been our team lead when it comes to finding tickets, flights, hotel, etc. My suggestion is to choose a competent team leader and then the rest of the group can supplement where needed. Zeus, tell us your secrets and where you start on this project:
Zeus- I tell you what Thayse, when I start planning our yearly trip the first thing I tackle is the ticket situation. Quite a few stadiums are sold out in the gold mine days of the NFL and you need to figure out if the stadium you are visiting is sold out. If they are, you need to hit up a ticket broker or visit eBay to find the best bang for your buck. I never book seats anywhere other than the lower section of the stadium. It is helpful to hop on the opposing team's talk forum and ask around about how the seating is in the stadium; they are typically extremely helpful. From there I book the closest hotel to the stadium and action as it is nice to not have to cab it everywhere to keep costs down. It is up to you if you prefer a nicer hotel or just a crash pad. Flights, if you are flying, are your own preference. I would suggest to book early. Once that is all set, try to poke around and plan any events ahead of time.
2. Alright, so you are all booked up, you have all of the above purchased and ready to rock. Now you need to figure out what you're going to do while you are there. Here are the top suggestions Zeus and I can offer on structuring your stay:
Zeus- I guess I can roll in where I left off on question number one. Take the crowd that you are traveling with into consideration here and plan from there. For instance, my buddies and I love to hit up sports bars and watch whatever is going on in the wide world of sports, so I map out the best establishments in the area for that. We always hit up one "nice" dinner during our trip, so find out where that could be. Check out events going on during your stay and find something that interests you. Try not to stay in the bar the whole time guys; I know it is fun, but enjoy the city. Stadium tours are always fun, try to soak up the opposition's culture as much as possible to make this experience as unique as it can be!
Thayse- I can tell you one of the first things we always do is head straight to the stadium. Just to see it and build excitement for the trip. Every city is unique, but typically known for something so I suggest focusing on its strengths in culture and cuisine. Nashville for example had great country music establishments and barbeque. Pittsburgh is a blue collar iron city and it was fun to walk around downtown and see the workers in their yellow hard hats, then hit up a Primanti Brothers sandwich that their known for. Surf the internet and watch the travel channel to find out what the city you are visiting has to offer and I promise you will have a good time if you stick with their strong suits.
3. When it comes to choosing where to go, I start with two words... Bucket List! Maybe it has to do with that random other team you love for no reason. A stadium you have always wanted to see and taste the history of. Or a specific player you would love to watch in person. Zeus and I share with you some of our criteria and the favorites we've been to and can't wait to see. Hopefully it gets your creative juices flowing:
Zeus- Out of the eight NFL stadiums I have enjoyed watching a game in, there have been a few stadiums that have really rocked and provided a unique experience. Lambeau Field is on the top of a lot of people's bucket lists. I would say that if you have never been, make it a priority to go. The closest atmosphere I have seen so far in comparison to Lambeau is Arrowhead. The people of KC make Sundays incredible with top of the line tailgating and a loud game experience. Out of the stadiums I have had the pleasure to visit, those are my top tier. LP Field in Nashville was also a fantastic experience. Good tailgating, passionate fans and a nice stadium. It is also home to my most exciting player to watch in person. 2011 was not nice to Chris Johnson , but we went and saw him in 2008 and he is fast in person, really fast. I would toss Aaron Rodgers in there as well; he throws a pretty mean ball.
Thayse- I'll take it a different direction and look to the future. This year is Seattle and I am pumped to go to Qwest field and hear the 12th man roar, even if they are opposing my team. I LOVE tailgates and so Buffalo is a place I've heard puts on a rival to Lambeau and definitely want to get there. I will finish with this: once you experience being the "away" fan, you have a newfound empathy for all of those you heckled at your home games. It can be a lonely feeling when you are surrounded by antagonistic company. On the flip side, I now engage with opposing team's fans because some of the great people we have met on the road helped make our trip what it was.
If you have more specific questions or comments on anything related to taking an away game trip, please comment below and we will respond.