Every year at the holidays, I head to England to watch soccer games. It really is one of the best times to go, with games aplenty, seats available on flights, and hotels cheaper than usual.
So here, following up on my previous post from a month ago, is the current itinerary for my trip, which starts December 26 and ends January 15. And I should preface this by saying I am a complete travel addict — and also that going solo makes it a whole lot easier to get tickets.
- December 26: Leave Portland, if the damn ice melts. How ironic that I need to head for the UK for better weather ….
- December 27: Arrive, chill, look at the Christmas lights.
- December 28: Arsenal at Crystal Palace, a London derby
- December 29: Queens Park Rangers at Millwall, technically a London derby (they are only 10 miles apart) but neither club seems to consider the other much of a rival. They are currently 17th and 18th in the Championship, so stakes are … moderate.
- December 30: Day trip to Cambridge (yes, the famous one) to see Cambridge United host Crewe Alexandra in League Two. It’s about two hours each way from where I stay in London.
Speaking of staying in London, which is super expensive, I should point out that among the things that make these trips affordable are:
- I stay with friends in South London
- I generate a fair amount of credit card points and frequent flier miles
- I ain’t afraid of no independent three-star hotel
But if you’re what wondering an English soccer trip costs, here you go.
Meanwhile, back to the trip:
- December 31: Morning train to Leeds, nice hotel on points, explore the town.
- January 1: Leeds United host Nottingham Forest at Elland Road, one of my favorite stadiums and a terrific fan base. Special bonus: I am being hosted by a Leeds fan! Back to London after the game
- January 2: Fulham (my kinda-sorta team) host Ipswich Town, where I am guiding some consulting clients who also bought hospitality packages.
- January 3: Go out with a friend in London, which is perhaps ironic as I have 9 clients and two friends using a package I sell for Chelsea at Arsenal.
- January 4: No games anywhere, relax in London.
- January 5: Morning train to Liverpool for the first really big game of this trip: Liverpool v Everton, Anfield, Friday night, FA Cup Third Round. One of the great rivalries, one of the great stadiums, 8,000 Everton fans expected. They will be just to my left from these hospitality seats, for which I paid $170. Sometimes you have to splurge. Overnight in a little hotel near the station, $80.
- January 6: I really hope to go to Middlesbrough to see them play Sunderland in the FA Cup, a Northeast Derby. But they seem to be limiting tickets to previous registrants on the site, so we’ll see. Otherwise I’ll find something in League One or League Two. Cheap or points hotel wherever.
- January 7: Back to London … unless I get tempted by Arsenal playing at Nottingham Forest in the Cup. But that’s a long train ride after a 4 p.m. game, and I want to see my London friends.
- January 8: Really considering a run to Brighton for their FA Cup tie with Crystal Palace. There’s a hotel near the station for $50, but Palace are only getting 2,000 tickets, since there was trouble for their league game recently. (It’s one of these derbies you don’t know about but which is quite intense.) I might stay in London, because the next day I am off to …
- January 9: Bristol City at Manchester City in the League Cup semifinals. Should be one of the biggest nights in Bristol City’s history, with potentially 6,000 of their folks in attendance. Also, I am testing out a hospitality package that includes access to their 93:20 bar. Hotel somewhere in town with points.
- January 10: Arsenal at Chelsea, also League Cup semis, with 3,500 Arsenal fans going. Hotel near the station in London ($80) because the next day it’s off to …
- January 11: Travel to Sheffield, explore the town. Best Western with points in the city center.
- January 12: Steel City Derby, Part II. The first one was, shall we say, memorable, with a video I took lighting up Twitter and getting me in the paper (seriously). Result: Sheffield United fans working hard on social media to get me a ticket for the return. Friday night at the Lane, again hosted by a local!
- January 13: Train to Middlesbrough (v Fulham) if I didn’t get there last weekend, or to Hull (v Reading) if I did. Hotel somewhere with points or, I am sure, for $70 or less.
- January 14: Back to London. Breathe.
- January 15: One-way from Gatwick (convenient to where I stay in London) to Seattle for $300 on Norwegian Air! Could have been $225 but I wanted to pick my own seat, check a bag, and get two meals. Another $65 for a one-way Seattle to Portland, and I’m done.
- January 16: Back to work, I suppose.
So that would be 19 nights in the country, with potentially 12 games in nine cities during that stretch. Also, if I don’t get to Middlesbrough on the 6th and do a League One game instead, that would be a clean sweep of every major competition in one trip: Premier League, Championship, Leagues One and Two, FA Cup, and League Cup. Hitting for the cycle, as baseball fans would say.
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