Penn State

Travel Choices Are Plentiful for Capitol One Bowl

Pardon me for being a bit slow in sharing my thoughts about the upcoming January 1 matchup with LSU.  Sometimes, other priorities take over.  This weekend was an intense period of grading team projects for one of my marketing classes.  There were lots of marketing plans to read and lots to comment upon.  A deadline looms for me this week:  it’s the last week of classes.  So it’s always good to return my comments on major projects before students scatter for finals week.   Got more to do, but as I always tell myself this time of the year, “this too will pass…”

We did take the time for three things on Sunday.  The first was the Senior Football Banquet sponsored by the State College Quarterback Club.  The second was the bowl announcement show on Sunday night.  The final was making travel arrangements to Orlando immediately after the bowl announcements. 

I’ll talk about travel arrangements first in this post. Later this week look for some thoughts on the senior banquet and the bowl game itself.  Terry and I had been hoping for a BCS bid to the Fiesta in Arizona, but we more or less expected to be in Orlando.  And we’re reasonably happy about that.  Iowa did really deserve a BCS bowl more than Penn State did, because they were ranked higher than us and because they beat us head-to-head.  Besides, it looks like a matchup with LSU will be a very good one for us.  

Whenever Penn State is chosen for a bowl game, we have two basic choices: sign up with a tour group, or travel on our own.  For the possibilities this year, we had decided that for Arizona or Orlando, we would travel on our own.  If we had wound up in the Orange Bowl, we would have traveled with a tour group so we could stay in a hotel on South Beach, secure tickets, and let a tour shuttle us to the stadium.

There are practical reasons for choosing a tour, and much of it has to do with ticket and hotel availability. Tickets are included, you receive bus transfers to the game and other pre-game events, and you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the experience with a bunch of other rabid Penn State fans. The tour groups that we have traveled with do a good job.  It’s a hassle free way to go to a bowl game.  We’ve traveled with both Collegiate Athletic Travel and Centre for Travel, local State College businesses with lots of experience and competent staff. The Penn State Alumni Association bowl tour is also well done.   But if we were planning to go on a bowl tour, we’d just as soon support one of the local businesses in town, if their tour packages look good. 

As mentioned before, we decided to travel on our own for this trip.  When it comes to the Capital One bowl, we expect that there will be no problems acquiring two tickets directly from Penn State.  Our Nittany Lion Club points are high enough to ensure that.  Also, there are plenty of hotels in and around the Orlando area.  We’ve also traveled on our own before in Orlando, and we’ve done it with a tour a couple of times.   Either way works.  It’s a matter of preference.

Our favorite Capital One Bowls (or Citrus Bowls) have been the ones where we have stayed at Disney World.  Why? Disney does the holidays right.  New Year’s Eve fireworks at any of their theme parks are spectacular.  And if you stay at Disney, getting around the Disney complex is very easy through their system of monorails and busses and even boats.  Even on New Year’s Eve after the fireworks it took a mere 20 minutes to get back to our hotel.  We were very impressed with their transportation logistics on one of the most crowded nights of the year. Disney also has a plethora of great restaurant choices for New Year’s Eve, and I have already made reservations for a dining spot that night.  

We went to a Penn State New Year’s Eve party in Orlando once, at the Peabody Hotel.   We found it to be a strange affair.  We sat next to some people who kept asking me about teaching at Smeal College, and I felt like I was working the entire time.  I’d rather be anonymous on New Year’s Eve, and just enjoy myself.  So Disney it will be for us.  It’s much more fun to be a kid again than it is to play the role of college professor when you’re on vacation!

Within fifteen minutes of the bowl announcement, we looked at the choices for hotels at Disney.  Tentatively reserved a vacation package for 12/28-1/3.  Then looked at airlines.  Wow.  There were very expensive and lousy choices of flights from State College or Harrisburg to Orlando.  Then it occurred to me.  We were trying to return home on the Sunday of New Year’s weekend.  I don’t have to be back to classes until 1/11.  Looked at 12/29-1/4 instead.  Much better choices, more reasonable airfares in and out of State College.  The Disney package was also slightly less expensive.  So, we booked airfare and hotel package through Disney.  Then went online to ask for two tickets at the Penn State Athletics ticket site.  Done by 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.

By the way, if you’re interested in both a bowl tour and Disney, there are some options available.  Centre for Travel and Collegiate Athletic Travel for instance, both have tour packages that include a stay at a Disney resort, tickets to the game and bus transfers to the game, and other events/gifts.  You can buy a land package and arrange your own flights, or buy an air package that includes flights.  If you want to stay longer at Disney than the tour, I’m confident that either tour group can make arrangements for you.

The Penn State Alumni Association tour’s deluxe package is based at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, the Big Ten headquarters where the team is staying, while its standard package is at the Rosen Plaza in Orlando.  The Peabody Orlando is a beautiful luxury hotel and features the unique Peabody Ducks, who march through the hotel lobby on a red carpet each afternoon.   It’s worth seeing at least once, there’s a lot of fanfare surrounding these ducks.

Another option, for those of you who would prefer to plan your own travel and find more inexpensive hotel choices in the Orlando area, is to book a game day package through the Penn State Alumni Association website.  This package includes bus transfers to and from the Peabody Orlando to the game, a pre-game BBQ lunch, and a game ticket.  The package is $274 per person. 

Or if you want to park yourself at the game, you have your own tickets, but want to attend the Alumni Association’s pre-game luncheon at the stadium, that’s $65 per person and you can register for that on-line at the Alumni Association’s web-site.

So we will spend six nights at Disney World. A pretty good vacation over the holidays, and we will have enough time to enjoy all of Disney at a slower pace that works for us.  And now that the bowl trip is in place, and the end of football season frees up our weekends, we can move on to other things, like winding up the semester and planning for Christmas holidays… 

For now, it’s back to grading…