2023 in review: Getting closer to some big sports and travel goals!

Photo collage of 2023 stadium and travel visits on Itinerant Fan

It’s become an annual tradition at Itinerant Fan to make the last post of the year a look back — and our 2023 in review saw me get back to the pursuit that birthed this site in the first place.

In 2023 I reached my goal of visiting every current NHL arena, thus adding hockey to baseball among sports for which I’ve completed the sports travel circuit. I’m also trying to get to every NFL stadium and NBA arena, and as of the end of the year I am five venues away from completion in both leagues.

That sets me up for an attempt to become an official member of “Club 124” by the end of 2024, and I’ve already begun mapping out that strategy for how to get to my remaining sites efficiently.

But reviewing my travel exploits in 2023, I realize that save for a quick layover in Vancouver, I never left the United States. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s likely that I’m going to travel more internationally next year.

Here’s a look back at how 2023 went for me — and how it will shape the direction of my travels, and of this site, in the coming year.

Big Blue Bear statue at the Denver Convention Center

Refocusing on domestic travel

I did quite a bit of international traveling in 2022, visiting Spain and the United Kingdom. Both of those trips had been postponed because of the pandemic, and some element of each of them had expiration dates. And both were incredible, but they came at the expense of seeing more of the stadiums in the “big four” U.S. sports leagues.

So in 2023 I refocused myself on hitting those previously stated goals. I entered the year with three arenas remaining to finish my NHL circuit, and knocked each of those out before the end of the regular season with visits to Carolina’s PNC Arena, Tampa Bay’s Amalie Arena and Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center.

Though my list of current MLB ballparks has been complete for a few years now, I was thrilled to make a few re-visits to some parks that I’ve always had a fondness for, including Dodger Stadium, Target Field, Citizens Bank Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Coors Field.

And in the fall, I chipped away at my NFL and NBA lists. The NFL is notoriously harder than the other leagues to make quick progress on, but I did manage to add three new stadiums to my list this season: the Jacksonville Jaguars’ EverBank Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium and Cleveland Browns Stadium.

As for the NBA, visits to State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Spectrum Center in Charlotte, Target Center in Minneapolis, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland and Kia Center (formerly Amway Center) in Orlando has me within striking distance of completing my hoops list, too.

Though the NFL season is winding down, there’s still plenty of time left in the NBA season for me to add more arenas to my list, and I’m hopeful of adding one or two more in the coming months.

Overlooking the court at Target Center in Minneapolis, as viewed from the upper seating bowl

How my traveling evolved in 2023

If you think that all these trips I took in 2023 cost a lot of money, of course you’d be right. So you might be wondering: How can I afford to do all this traveling?

I’m sympathetic to the struggles because I have the same issues that nearly everyone else does. I have a finite amount of money, and I also have a finite amount of time — after all, I do have a day job and a family at home.

I can say that one thing that has helped me go on more trips over the past year is that I have gotten more involved in travel hacking.

What is travel hacking, exactly? It’s the pursuit of earning travel points and miles through means other than actually traveling, primarily by taking advantage of credit card offers that give you large bonuses when you reach certain spending thresholds.

Because I’ve signed up for a few credit cards in the last couple years and earned the bonuses, I’ve had enough points and miles to at least partially fund three trips over the last year. And I’ve already purchased flights for a trip in early 2024 using points earned through credit card bonuses.

Now, travel hacking certainly isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like the idea of using credit cards for most of your purchases, or you find yourself often struggling to pay large credit card balances, then this is not something I would suggest.

I’ll admit I waded into this world with some hesitancy. But because I’ve found that I’ve earned quite a bit of points and miles without changing my spending habits, and I’ve proven to myself that I can carefully manage having more than a few credit cards, I plan to keep going in the future.

For my last sports trip of 2023, I purchased all of the flights and nearly all of the hotels using points and miles. I’m looking to do the same for another trip in 2024, probably in the summer.

Entrance to the Kop end at Anfield, home ground of Liverpool FC

Reviewing audience trends in 2023

As I review site traffic on Itinerant Fan in 2023, it’s always interesting to see what the audience is gravitating toward. Here are our top five most viewed pages in the last year:

  1. A guide to buying Premier League tickets from the USA
  2. MLB ballpark road trip ideas for the 2023 season
  3. 7 tips for going to your first baseball game
  4. Truist Park guide
  5. Minute Maid Park guide

Interest in visiting MLB ballparks has long been the primary driver of traffic to Itinerant Fan. But I learned this year that there are a great number of fans in the United States who long to travel to England to watch Premier League matches.

I’m glad to have found a topic that is of great help to a lot of people — I’ve gotten more comments and emails about this post than any other single post I’ve written for this site, with the feedback unanimously positive. The thought of traveling to Europe to watch sports continues to intrigue me, and I’m looking forward to creating more content that hopefully is as much help as this single post has been.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the top five is no surprise, as interest in baseball travel always ramps up in March and peaks around Opening Day.

What lies ahead in 2024?

As alluded to above, the pursuit of finishing my NFL and NBA stadiums list will be a primary focus. But I also plan on making up for not leaving the country in 2023 with at least three international journeys. One is a destination wedding within the family so it’s not my idea, but hey, it’s still an opportunity to experience a new locale and culture.

As you might have deduced from this post, I’m a pretty careful planner of itineraries. The issue of finite resources always comes into play when you are this ambitious in planning travel, and some trips I’m hoping to make will undoubtedly not come to fruition. But that’s OK.

After all, as I review what I’ve done in 2023, I didn’t quite get to everything I had hoped, but I still had a great, fulfilling travel year. In the end, that’s all you can ask for.

Edward de la FuenteEdward de la Fuente | Itinerant Fan
I live for sports, and I love to travel. My biggest thrill is combining the two. I’ve been blogging about sports travel for more than a decade, and traveling for sports for twice as long.
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