Planning

 

Away trips are a special thing. They’re one of the unique things that have brought many people into the ECS. Whether it be derbies in Portland or Vancouver, weekends in LA or San Jose, long trips to Toronto or Philadelphia, or CCL matches in Guatemala or Trinidad, every away trip we've been fortunate enough to attend has been a great experience, formed new friendships, and strengthened old ones. It's an experience we cannot recommend highly enough, and because we love you all, we want to offer some advice to help you experience the things so many others have before you.

We group Away Trips as follows:

A.  Drivable - These are the places we don't mind sitting in a car to get to. We plan to attend every one of these matches if they fall on the weekend. These are Portland and Vancouver (And some of the serious road warriors include SJE and RSL too. Consider these if you're into longer road trips.)

B.  Weekend Recreational Trips - These are places we want to go to and just hang out with our travel companions, drinking, singing, and having a good time. For us, these typically mean flying out Friday night after work and  flying home Sunday night. Airfares for these trips are regularly available for $200-$300. LAG, CHV, COL, SJE, RSL

C.  Weekend Tourist Trips - These are places we want to go and see the city (usually because we've never seen the tourist traps for which the city is famous.) Typically, we'll fly out Thursday and come back Sunday night. These tend to be longer trips, East coast cities that we only play away every other season. TOR, PHL, DCU, NYRB, NER, CHI, CLB.

D.  Vacation trips - These are the places we want to go to for a week, to really explore and make the most out of an extended vacation. This is typically for CCL, but we've also done it when able to combine multiple games over the course of a week. We also include MTL in this group. This season, the PHL weekend – KC midweek match is one of these, and there’s a LAG-CHV bookend trip over Memorial Day weekend. Catch the LAG match, hit Disney, then hit the Chivas match.

 

The "How To" written here is not a gospel. It's not the be-all-end-all of trip planning and once you’ve hit the road, let us know the methods to your away trip madness, and we’ll add ‘em!

  • Figure out what games you want to attend. Sit down with the away schedule and review it. What days can you get off work? What cities are you most interested in visiting? What opponents do you most want to see our Sounders defeat? The day the schedule comes out, we sit down and rank every away match of the year based on our interest. 
  • Find your crew (not you, Columbus). You know where you want to go, so start talking to your friends about it. If you’re new and don't know anyone, post in the away thread for the match and take a chance. Tell them you need to share a hotel room. Ask if someone wants to split the cost of a rental car. Things like that. The large majority of ECS members do not bite. (And the ones who do are usually pretty cool.) You'll end up meeting some new people, and it'll likely be awesome - you just have to take yourself out of your comfort zone.
  • Start looking for flights. This is the fun part, and it's not as much work as you think. There are great websites out there to help you with it. Our favorite is http://www.yapta.com, which will track the prices of flights every day. Accounts are free, so just sign up and start tracking flights. Within a week or two, you'll start to get a good feel for how airfares work. Here's some pro-tips:

1.  Airfares almost always are lowest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and are highest on weekends.
2.  Airfares are not usually at their lowest rate with long notice (4+ months). Search for a date 2-3 months out, or use tools like Alaska Airlines "Low Fare Calendar" to see how airfare changes based on how far ahead you book. 
3.  Be loyal. We know it's annoying to pay the extra $10-20 on airfare to stick with your favorite airline but consider the benefits: upgrades, free trips, and WINNING A FREE TRIP ON ALASKA BY USING ECS' EASYBIZ. Once you catch this away match bug, we promise that you'll be racking up the miles much quicker than you think, and when you start getting a benefit from them, it feels like you're being paid to go on away trips (Could it get any better than that?!?!)

  • Look for a hotel. One of our favorite resources when planning a trip is http://wikitravel.org/, which contains succinct (ed note: unlike this article…) descriptions of cities you may visit, the different parts of town, and often suggests hotel based on budget. We usually use this to find what part of town we want to be in - something with public transportation, good bars, and other ECSers (refer back to the current and past away trip threads, you'll see where other people stay). At that point, there are innumerable websites to search for hotels based on location, http://www.hotels.com, http://www.booking.com, http://www.tripadvisor.com are a few of our favorites. Check the ratings, make sure you aren't staying in a dump (unless you like dumps, then please help yourself) and book. Don't put too much thought into it for the shorter trips: you won't spend much time there anyways - it's all about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Something close to the stadium, or something that provides easy access to the stadium is usually what matters most.
  • Non-Match Planning. For big away trips (SJE, LAG) there are usually plans discussed in the away trip thread. If your trip is a smaller one, designate someone in your crew to plan what you're going to do while you’re in town. Find a bar with a unique reputation (we love speakeasies); figure out how to get to the tourist traps that made you pick this trip, etc. We hate city tours, but we love seeing things that other people typically take tours of. Find a company online that does city tours and 9 times out of 10, their website will list the places they'd take you. Go there without them.
  • Just do it. Have the time of your life, forget about the problems you're having at work or at home and enjoy yourself. You're on vacation, make the most of it!