Of all the sports road trips you can plan out, we can’t think of one more romantic than an MLB road trip. Come to think of it, we can’t think of one more easy to plan, either.
Think about it: There are major-league games every day, unlike the other major sports leagues. Every team plays nearly every day during the season, 162 in all, so it’s much easier to see a game each day of your trip and you have many more city and schedule options for your chosen timeframe. Major-league ballparks are destinations in and of themselves, whether there’s a ballgame going on or not. And more so than other sports, baseball spectating is about leisure — which sports are more forgiving of their fans arriving late to games, leaving them early and wandering around while the game is in progress than baseball?
There is no right or wrong way to map out a baseball road trip, for sure, but there is an art to it. Logistically, you have to figure out how to get from city to city and ballpark to ballpark. You have to prioritize which parks and/or which games to see (for example, you may have always wanted to see your favorite team on the road at a legendary venue such as Fenway Park or Wrigley Field). And, you have plan it out so that you spend as little time traveling as possible and as much time enjoying yourself as possible — oh, and while spending as little money as possible.
So everyone’s road trip will be a little different depending on your priorities. But we can offer a few tips that have helped us along the way in laying out our various trips over the years.
1) Use linear routes
What we mean by that is, wherever your starting point is, head in one direction and try to stick to it throughout your trip. So if your first city is Chicago, you can go east to Detroit, then Cleveland, then Pittsburgh, then Philadelphia — but you probably don’t want to squeeze in an out-of-the-way city such as St. Louis or Minneapolis somewhere in the middle. Remember, more distance to travel means more time on the road and less time getting set to go to the ballpark.
2) Start and end in the same city
OK, Tip No. 2 is a little contradictory to Tip No. 1, because to do that you’ll have to change direction at some point, right? But this will help reduce some logistical issues if your road trip is taking you far from home in that you can just book one round-trip flight, and you can return your rental car in the same place where you got it from, reducing expenses. And besides, making your road trip route a neat circle is just as effective as making it a straight line.
(To really make it worth your time, make your starting point a two-team market and work the schedule so that you can see one of those teams at the beginning of the trip and the other at the end of it.)
3) Avoid weekends when you can
I know, a little tough when that’s when most people have free time. But weekends are nearly always more expensive than weekdays — hotel rates are higher, resale tickets are more expensive and in more demand, and thanks to dynamic pricing even tickets sold through the teams are typically more expensive as well. And there’s also the crowds. If you’re really on a budget, this is a key tip to consider.
4) Stay outside the city center
Another budget consideration. If you have a car, this shouldn’t be an issue. As tempting as it is to stay in a prime area of a city while you’re on vacation, lodging is usually the biggest expense of any trip, whether it’s sports-related or not. Staying in budget hotels near the airport can go a long way toward helping you upgrade your seats at the ballpark or splurging on that crazy ballpark food you’ve always wanted to try. And don’t forget that for many MLB ballparks, public transportation and park-and-ride can be your best friends.
5) Figure out a theme
Not necessary for crafting a fine road trip, but it’s fun nonetheless. For example, you can visit all five parks in California, or see every venue in the NL Central. The most common, of course, is following your favorite team as it goes on a long road trip.
6) Enjoy the ride!
However you go about it, just remember that you’re on vacation, the weather is (most likely) nice, and you’re spending your time watching big-league ball and seeing the country. Whether you hit three ballparks or 10 along the way, you’re doing something many baseball fans love to do and many others dream of doing themselves someday. Worry about the expenses and travel headaches later.
Did we miss something, or do you have a tip you’d like to share? Comment below or tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if we’ve inspired you to start planning a road trip of your own, start by checking out the venue guides on our Itineraries page.