The 2010 Winter Olympics are almost upon us. As the athletes gear up for competition and the excitement builds to the proverbial fever-pitch, you can’t help but wish you were going. After all, relatively speaking, Vancouver isn’t that far away. Unfortunately, unless you reserved your spot a year and a half ago—or unless you’re prepared to shell out your last dollar on exorbitantly priced scalped tickets—you might as well resign yourself to watching this once-in-a-lifetime event from your sofa. Right?
Wrong, says travel expert Christine Karpinski. Amazing as it may sound, it’s still possible for a savvy sports enthusiast to score a place in the stands without breaking the bank. And how does she know? Because she made an 11th-hour ticket purchase herself—and finalized her travel arrangements mere days ago.
First things first: Determine how you’re going to get there. Before you can even start thinking about watching a figure skater land that triple lutz in person, you’ve got to plot your plan for getting from point A (your home) to point B (Vancouver). If you live in the Pacific Northwest—say, Seattle—you’re lucky. It might be possible for you to drive across the border for a short stay or even just for the day. For everyone else, though, your transportation choices are probably an airplane or nothing.
Searching for flights online can be time-consuming and more than a little frustrating, but the process itself is fairly straightforward. Check with popular online travel agencies as well as the websites of individual airlines. If possible, play around with different departure and arrival points. You never know when a good deal might pop up, or how long it will last, so be ready to book quickly.
Find a place to lay your head. If you assume that accommodations will be tough to find this close to the Opening Ceremonies, you’d be right. “I won’t lie—during my own search for a place to stay, I found that many hotel rooms ranged into the thousands of dollars per night,” admits Karpinski, who ended up going a different route (see next bulleted point).
If you’ve got that kind of money in the bank and don’t mind spending it, finding accommodations shouldn’t be too difficult. For everyone else, though, it might be necessary to veer from the beaten chain-hotel path.
Consider booking an actual home away from home. If you have never booked a vacation rental home in your previous travels, it might be time to remedy that. In most instances, these cabins, chalets, and cottages are people’s second homes—or in the case of an event as crowd-drawing as the Olympics, primary homes. And they’re often a much better value than a hotel room.
Ready to buy tickets? Try the following tips. It’s safe to say that you probably don’t want to trust your luck to Vancouver’s ticket scalpers or pay the premiums they would charge. And sure, you could go with a major online ticket distributor or broker, because most have good reputations for making sure you get reimbursed if you purchase a bad ticket. That said, getting your money back might feel like poor consolation if you find yourself in Vancouver with no way to see the event you’ve been looking forward to.