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Last Minute Travel: Super Bowl 50 Edition

Though not yet recognized as such by the U.S. government, Super Bowl Sunday is for all intents and purposes an American holiday. Arguably, it’s the most American holiday, combining the outsized spectacle of a Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza and the unabashed commercialism of Christmas with a Thanksgiving-esque mix of friends, family, football, and copious amounts of food.

Like any true holiday, the Super Bowl has a pronounced effect on travel prices, albeit one that’s highly localized. Fans have already begun descending on the Bay Area for this year’s game, to be contested on Sunday, February 8th in Santa Clara, California between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.

Last week, CNBC used data provided by Rocketrip to answer the question, “how much will it cost to go to the Super Bowl?” With kickoff less than 72 hours away, we’ve run the numbers again to see how much you’d have to spend on a last minute trip to the big game.

Tickets

Let’s start with the good news: ticket prices on the secondary market have actually fallen as game day draws near. According to data from TiqIQ, Super Bowl 50 tickets are cheaper than they’ve been at any time since the matchup was set on January 24th, and for the first time it’s possible to purchase a ticket for less than $3,000.

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Data provided by TiqIQ.

The cheapest ticket will get you in the stadium, but hardly close to the action. Fans susceptible to nosebleeds might want to consider options in the lower bowl. Prime seats on the fifty yard line cost upwards of $11,000 (or $183 per minute of game time). Compared to that, the average ticket price of $4,754 is a relative bargain.

Hotels

Hotel prices have followed a trajectory somewhat similar to that of game tickets. Though rooms in San Francisco will be significantly more expensive than usual during Super Bowl weekend, some hotel rates have fallen at the last minute.

On January 5, with Super Bowl weekend exactly a month away and the NFL playoffs yet to begin, nightly hotel rates were already well above San Francisco’s year-round average, which according to figures compiled by Bloomberg is the highest of any city in the world.

Rocketrip data shows how during a major event in a popular destination, hotel prices can go from bad to worse. Our real-time budgeting algorithm uses market data and customizable company-specific parameters to calculate how much a trip is expected to cost at the time of booking. Based on several sets of sample budgets generated a month in advance, the estimated cost of available three and four star hotels in San Francisco was between 50% and 75% more expensive during Super Bowl weekend than the city's long term average. Extremely limited hotel availability suggests many visitors made their travel arrangements far in advance of the Super Bowl.

But what about fans who are still looking for accommodations? Somewhat surprisingly, those who have waited until the last minute to book still have a range of hotel options, and if they’re flexible with regard to brand and location, they might even be able to find a (relatively) good deal.

As of the afternoon of Friday, February 5th, a quick scan of Expedia shows over 160 three and four star hotels in greater San Francisco with rooms available for same day check-in. Though rates aren’t cheap, in some cases they’re lower than what was available earlier in the week. The Parc 55 Hilton, for instance, has rooms available for $599 per night, which is $130 less than what they would have cost if booked on Monday, February 1.

Plentiful Airbnb listings in the Bay Area have placed moderate downward pressure on hotel prices during Super Bowl weekend. TechCrunch notes that even during this time of peak demand, there are far more Airbnb listings in the Bay Area than reservations, and that “never before have we seen such an elastic supply” of rental accommodations.

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Data provided by TechCrunch.

Flights

It may be possible to find a last minute deal on a place to stay in San Francisco, but it’ll be harder to find an affordable flight to get you there. According to data from Priceline, within a week of game day, flights from Denver (home of the Broncos) to San Francisco ranged from $600 to $1,128. Flights from Charlotte (home of the Carolina Panthers) ranged from $724 to $1,432.

While there are multiple non-stop flights into San Francisco from Charlotte and Denver on the Saturday and Sunday of Super Bowl weekend, the options for getting back on Monday are limited. As of Friday afternoon, every remaining bookable return flight from SFO to DEN and CLT either leaves at the crack of dawn or late at night, has an extended layover, or costs more than $1,000. Schlepping home on a bottom-of-the-barrel flight could either be a small price to pay for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing your team win the Super Bowl, or salt in the wounds after watching them lose: it just depends on who you're rooting for.

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