Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Concert Tips: Roadtripping It



Okay, so, worst case scenario happens: the band you love is coming to town but you found out too late. The mailing list ended up in the spam folder, the real world got in the way of meticulous concert calendar planning, or you slept through the alarm clock that would wake you up in time to make sure you logged onto Ticketmaster to buy those tickets. Any way you look at it, you, my friend, have failed epically at fangirling/fanboying. Congrats. So, this occasionally happens and, recently, the failing to get tickets phenomenon afflicted me. I have decided to put my failings as a fangirl on display and my subsequent road trip planning in order to help all of you during these dark times of "sold out" signs and "there are no tickets currently available" banners.





I present to you the nightmare situation. The 1975 are playing NYC and what happens? I totally get engrossed in my masters degree program and forget about concerts and cool things like that and MISS OUT ON THE 1975 AT TERMINAL 5 Tickets! Bleeding hell in a hand basket, my life is over.

Until I realize they are playing up and down the East Coast and there are tickets left for Baltimore. Oh, Frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Time to buy those tickets.

Now, in case you weren't paying attention, I wanted to see them in NYC which probably means I live in that area, savvy? Stay with me. Baltimore is down the East Coast in Maryland which means a good four to four and a half-hour trip. Still with me, loves? Lovely. What does this mean?

ROAD TRIP!

Woot!

Now, this isn't the first time I've had to travel and stay overnight to see a band. Case in point, two Green Day concerts:
1. Albany, NY, 2005, ditched school half way through the day, dropped the sibs at grandma and grandpa's and mom drove my friend and me up to our lovely capitol to see the Sons of Anarchy themselves.

2. Hartford, CT., 2009, drove all the way up the Merritt with the bestie in the passenger seat attempting to navigate (key word: attempting), get to hotel which, score!, has a walkway right to the arena to see GREEN DAY! (and some lovely ladies gave us sick tickets, letting us trade up from nosebleed to tier 1).

And concert road trips don't even begin to cover the mileage I put on my poor baby Archimedes just to find some fun. So, road trips are a thing I do. Therefore, I decided to break down how to do the whole road trip concert style for you lot.

1. MAKE SURE TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE
 You don't want to go through all this effort if tickets aren't available, right? You can usually do this just by calling the venue and asking them. They're pretty nice about it. If you're squeamish on the phone, check out Ticketmaster or whatever site the band is using to sell the tickets. I prefer calling the venue because sometimes they'll tell you how fast a show is selling out which is key when acting out the next few steps.

2. GET A CONCERT BUDDY
    Make sure this is someone who won't bail on you (flaky friends need not apply) and who you can stand to be in a car with for extended periods of time.

3. RESEARCH THE AREA
    Smaller rock shows are generally in pretty seedy areas. Make sure wherever you're traveling is safe. You don't want your night of music to end with a mugging or attack by zombies or something equally catastrophic.

4. BUY THOSE TICKETS!
    Once you have thoroughly researched the area, BUY THE TICKETS. This is kind of important, right? I mean, it's always nice to see a new area but why go if there's no incentive other than to see a rock made famous because some guy stepped on it before shooting someone during some war?

5. FIND A HOTEL

     First, find out where the venue is and then start looking for hotels in the area. Best way to do that is through Google Maps. Seriously, it's a Godsend. You can search for hotels nearby just by inputting the venue's address.

     When you think you've found a hotel you like, research it. Look at photos of it, read the reviews, make sure it has the amenities you like. This is just like any other vacation and you want to make sure you're comfortable for the night.

    For the best prices, I suggest using those discount sites. They really do work. My favorite is Expedia. Kayak.com is cool and all but it's really complicated and not necessary for an overnight or two day trip to another city.
 
    The only thing you need to keep in mind about these sites is that they do require you pay at the time of booking in order to get the discount, meaning, no holding on credit card. What I normally do is find the hotel and the discount price on these websites and then call the hotel. I can typically haggle with them to get the price on the website but hotel chains like Best Western have a central number. You can ask this central number to give you the hotel specific number so that you can call the hotel itself to make the reservation. That way, maybe you have a shot at getting the discount.

     Sometimes the hotels don't mention this but, typically, when you hold it on a debit card, the hotel will put a hold on your debit card for the amount of one night plus tax at the hotel. It's kind of underhanded but your other option is to hold with a credit card. They don't put a hold on your account then. I like holding my hotels and paying in cash at the hotel, just to make sure there aren't any problems and to make sure I'm being charged the right amount. If you're cool with paying up front, then just book through the discount site.

    Also, when finding a hotel, if you're not used to the area, stick to chains. My favorites are Best Western, Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn and some Howard Johnson's. If you're still not too sure of the area, sometimes the chains have a central number which you can place the reservation with. Ask the operator what the more popular hotel is in that area and if they know anything about the area. Sometimes they know this info. For example, when I called about the Baltimore concert, the lady said she didn't know the area but did know that the one we eventually booked at was the more popular one of the two in Baltimore. Typically, if more people are asking for that one then it's the better one.

6. CHECK OUT THE AREA
    We're going to be in Baltimore for the whole day before the concert so I'm already looking into things to do in the area. If you have time to kill, it's always cool to go see that rock that some dude stepped on before shooting someone in some war or maybe a shopping area that looks interesting. Either way, you'll have a way to kill time and get to explore a new area.

7. SCOPE OUT TRANSPORTATION
    You are no longer in your stomping grounds. For example, when I head into the City, I know just which subways to take and how to get around the West Village without resorting to a cab. In Baltimore, I'm going to be lost. Therefore, calling your hotel before the event or even asking when you check in just how to get to the concert is a good idea. That way, you can plan accordingly and make sure you leave enough time to get ready and get a cab/train/trolley over.

8. BRING EXTRA CASH
    In case of emergency, it's always good to have extra hard cash on you. Make sure you don't keep it in one place and don't carry it all on you at one time.

9. MAKE A GREAT PLAYLIST
    I've done the work for you and made you an awesome road trip playlist but, in case you don't like mine, spend some time making your own. I always love to play the entire discography of the band I'm going to see but that's just me.

10. HAVE FUN
    Honestly, road trips are the best. They're the time when you can blast your music, mock your friend's inability to use a map and explore another city.





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