Travel Tips for Super Bowl fans heading to Los Angeles

(This is a slightly different version of a story we wrote for NBC News online)

Football’s big day is coming up. The Los Angeles Rams are set to play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl 2022 on Sunday, February 13 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, less than 4 miles from Los Angeles International Airport.

If this is the year you are determined to be in the stands on game day – or at least in town for the festivities – here are some tips on how to get there, book a hotel, and get a ticket to the game.

Spoiler alert: It won’t be cheap.

Flying in for the Big Game

Local Rams fans can skip the plane ticket search because this year’s Super Bowl is being played in the team’s home stadium. But Cincinnati Bengals fans and others hoping to fly in for the game have a short window to look for and lock in last-minute flight deals. 

The good news is that in addition to the bustling Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) there are multiple commercial airports in the area. So, sports fans who don’t find a good fare into LAX can expand their search to nearby, smaller airports such as Long Beach (LGB), Burbank (BUR), Ontario (ONT), and others to compare fares. Plus, some airlines, including United, American, and Delta have added extra flights to help Cincinnati residents make their way to LA.

With the game just a few days away, there are still flights available, says Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, “But it’s getting more difficult to get them cheap.”

In addition to expanding the pool of cities (at both ends) when using search engines to find fares, Keyes says travelers should keep in mind that Southwest Airlines flights only appear on the Southwest site. Fans will also be able to find better-priced flights by expanding their travel dates beyond the weekend. “Consider making it a week-long vacation,” says Keyes. “Because fares will certainly drop by half the next weekend.”

Daily rental car rates, and the parking fees at hotels and at the stadium can be quite hefty, so Keyes also suggests checking car rental rates on Turo, an Airbnb-type service for rental cars, or relying on rides hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to get around.  

Wing in on a private jet

If you can’t find a good fare for a commercial flight or don’t want to deal with the hassle, another option to consider is flying in for the big game on a private jet.

In part, because the Rams are the home team and the Bengals are a small market team, the number of private jets heading to the game is expected to be below the record-levels set in 2014, when the Super Bowl was played in New York/New Jersey, and in 2020 when Miami hosted the big game, says Doug Gollan Editor-in-Chief of Private Jet Card Comparisons.

But there are still plenty of private jets heading to the Los Angeles region for the game this year and plenty of seats for those willing to pay the price and accept surcharges that can range up to 100%.

“From Cincinnati to Los Angeles and back on a jet that seats 8 passengers, I would expect the fare to be around $100,000,” says Gollan, “Although normally you could probably get that flight from around $70,000 roundtrip.”

While there are plenty of upsides to flying to and from the game on a private jet, Gollan notes that with one-off charters there could be some downsides. “If your provider cancels your flight, they won’t just rebook you on the next flight, as commercial airlines do,” he says. “They will requote the trip pricing based on the new aircraft they’ve sourced as a replacement, and you can either pay the new – higher cost or get a refund.”

And that may not be ideal for those who have game tickets and nonrefundable hotel and limo reservations.

In the airports

For those flying to the big game, the parties will start at the airports with pop-up souvenir stands and fan activities in the terminals.

To send Bengals fans off, Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport has a giant “WHO DEY” balloon sculpture and signage and will be handing out CVG bag tags and CVG/Bengals rally towels.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has hard-to-miss Super Bowl signage and a good-natured wager with CVG airport in which the CEO of the losing team’s airport will have to wear the winning team’s QB jersey for the day.

LAX also has a detailed travel “game plan” posted for travelers with information on everything from getting around the airport and in the city to tips for negotiating the busy times at the airport after the game.

For the past year or so, LAX, and other regional airports have been working with National Football League (NFL), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), among others to safety and security for travelers heading to and from the game, especially during the busy post-game “get away” on Monday, February 14.

“Our passenger projections show that the number of travelers departing airports in the LA area will be similar to what we routinely see on a busy holiday weekend,” said Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman.  She said in addition to some unseen precautions that will be in place, travelers will be able to spot some of the more than 30 TSA explosive detection canines and handlers working at the airport and other Super Bowl venues in the LA area.

Dankers says TSA’s key message to Super Bowl travelers is to arrive at the airport early and arrive prepared. That includes packing game souvenirs with significant monetary or sentimental value in carry-on luggage along with any Super Bowl souvenir programs.

Hotel Room and Home Rentals  

Average daily rates for hotels in the Los Angeles area have already surged to $445 a night, so you haven’t booked your Super Bowl lodging yet, be prepared to shell out some big dough and agree to a minimum length of stay.

“It’s the Super Bowl, so inflation is expected,” says Melissa Dohmen at Hotels.com, who notes that hotels in some top LA-are neighborhoods, including LAX, downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica are currently charging up to $1,500/night. Rates in South LA, East LA, Long Beach, and the LA Valley are trending lower, at about $150 to $300 per night.

For those looking to rent a vacation rental, Vrbo reports a surge in rates to an average $620/night. A search of Airbnb rentals in Inglewood, CA over Super Bowl weekend returned offerings for an average of $931/night.  

If you’re still looking for lodging, don’t give up.

“It’s definitely worth checking back closer to the game in case cancellations happen says Gaby Flores, Director of Sales & Marketing at Hilton Santa Monica. “Some hotels will receive cancellations close to the game. And most rates will drop down for last-minute arrivals, if they are not in a sold-out situation, to try and pick up those last-minute bookers.”

Need a ticket?

As of Tuesday, Super Bowl tickets were being offered for between $4400 and $22,000 apiece on sites such as StubHub, Ticketmaster, and Gametime.

Of course, it’s also possible to head to the LA area without a ticket to the big game and still have fun. Fans events and watching parties will be taking place all over the region. And tickets to the Super Bowl Experience, an interactive football theme park at the LA Convention Center are $40, but free for fans who get their 1st, 2nd, or booster COVID-19 vaccine at the center during the event.

Thanks for visiting Stuck at the Airport. Subscribe to get daily travel tidbits. And follow me on Twitter at @hbaskas and Instagram.

 

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