How to put a trip to Tempe under the tree

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On Sunday night, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which will take place on December 28 in Tempe, Arizona, announced a matchup featuring K-State and Michigan. The Wildcats, who have become frequent participants in postseason bowl games since Bill Snyder took over the head coaching reigns in 1988, will be back in the desert a year after falling to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale last season.

Since bowls take place over the university’s winter break, typically in a vacation destination-type city, a huge percentage of students would jump at the opportunity to take a road trip to cheer on the Wildcats. If you have one of these students in your life and the financial means to do it, chances are you can’t do much better for a Christmas gift than making such a trip happen.

There’s a lot that goes into a trip to a sporting event in another state, but I’ll stick to the three most important details: travel, lodging, and tickets.

Travel

There are about 1,100 miles between Manhattan and Tempe, presenting the biggest challenge of the trip: travel. Your primary options are to book a plane ticket or hit the road. There are a number of costs and benefits associated with each.

The most cost-effective way to get to Tempe is to make the 20-hour drive. At 25 miles per gallon, you’ll spend around $170 on gas each way. An easy way to cut this cost down is to bring a few people along to pitch in at the pump – a decision that will prove beneficial later on with lodging and other expenses. A major advantage in driving yourself is that you won’t have to pay for taxis to get around the sprawling Phoenix metro like you would if you flew. Plus, you’ll drive past some pretty cool territory as you drive west. You’ll see the Sandia Mountains outside Albuquerque, N.M. before entering into the Colorado Plateau in northwest New Mexico. From there, you’ll drive through the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world until you pass the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, Ariz. Then, as you head south to Phoenix, Ariz., you’ll drop more than a mile in elevation and pass sprawling expanses of saguaro cacti.

If you’re looking to spend a little more money to cut down on travel time, you can book round-trip airfare from Kansas City International Airport to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport on Southwest Airlines starting for around $500. This is an option in which costs will stack up quickly: a checked bag fee here and a cab fare there will definitely add up.

Lodging

If there’s anything Phoenix has more than enough of, besides malls, it’s hotels. However, booking in advance is a smart move if you want to be close to the stadium as throngs of people in purple or maize-and-blue will flock to the area between Christmas and New Year’s.

The best rate I found for Thursday, Dec. 26 to Sunday, Dec. 29 was $48 per night at the Ramada Tempe/Arizona Mills Mall. The reviews on Google Hotel Finder checked out pretty well, so it wouldn’t hurt to book soon before the rooms fill up or the rates climb.

Obviously, if you’re looking for some nicer digs, they can be found all over the metro on almost any budget.

Ticket

K-State’s 11,000 ticket allotment offers some prime seating for the game at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium. The best route to go for a student is to purchase through the university. For ICAT pass holders, they are available at the Bramlage Ticket Office starting this morning, and they’ll go on sale to all other students Thursday.

Student tickets cost $55 apiece. If you plan on sitting with friends, you’ll need to go to purchase your tickets together.

All in all, a complete bowl experience can be gifted for as low as around $600, depending on miscellaneous costs like food. For a K-State football fan, there can’t be much better than a mini-vacation to Arizona to watch the Wildcats take on Michigan.

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