Editor’s note: I started getting to know Mark several years ago when he would share pics and emails about his travels each year to college games. Known as the GOL (Gentlemen of Leisure) Mark and his friends carefully select a college game each year to attend and with lots of preplanning and solid connections tend to take each college town by storm. The first and only time I met him we only had 15 minutes to talk before he headed to the President’s mansion at The University of Alabama for a pregame meal. That’s how he rolls.
1 GET YOUR LODGING AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Most college campuses don’t have that many hotels close to the action. Plan 10 to 12 months ahead of time, if possible. Call all the local hotels or rent a house if you have enough people. I have found that the best location is close to campus bars/restaurants.
2 GOOGLE MAPS ARE YOUR FRIEND. If you are the primary planner, you will be on there many times.
3 RENT A CAR USING PRICELINE. I have found Priceline to be the cheapest site to rent cars. Book ahead of time so you have it, and then play the “name your own price” game as the trip gets closer. Be careful if you have an extended trip requiring you to fly in and out of multiple airports. Car rental companies crush you if you want to pick up a car at one airport and drop off at another.
4 TRY TO PICK A NICE WEATHER OR RELATIVELY NICE WEATHER GAME. Try to go to a game in September or October. No downside to nice weather.
5 FLY IN/ARRIVE ON THURSDAY. The extra day is always worth it. You’ll never say, “We should have done one less day.”
6 START TAILGATING ON GAME DAY AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. There is NEVER enough tailgate time. You will run out of time.
7 IF YOU WANT MINIMAL EFFORT TAILGATING ON GAME DAY, search for tailgate groups on Google and send them emails. Most of these groups will be happy to host you. I usually ask if we can chip in monetarily.
8 IF YOU WANT TO DO YOUR OWN TAILGATE, research tailgate areas/tents ahead of time. A lot of campuses have areas where they set up tents and you can reserve a tent area. Have food catered or do it yourself. Research this early so you can get the best location.
9 RESEARCH TO SEE IF THERE ARE ANY MUST SEES ON AND AROUND CAMPUS. You might not make it back to that venue, so make the most of it. There might be other college sports (soccer, volleyball) that are going on during your trip to attend. Also, check if there are any NFL games the following day that are close by and at a venue you have never been to.
10 RESEARCH ANY SPECIAL RESTAURANTS/ BARS YOU MIGHT WANT TO GO TO ON YOUR TRIP. Make reservations ahead of time. Check out their websites. They might have some fun things going on during football weekends.
11 IF YOU PLAN ON HITTING THE BARS, TRY A FOUR-BAR BAR CRAWL. It’s more fun and something to talk about with people you meet.
12 HAVE A GROUP LEADER AND A FLEXIBLE ITINERARY. It can be time consuming to be ready for dinner/bar, not have a clue where to go and start a 30-minute discussion about it. Have a group leader who can delegate responsibilities ahead of time. It’s easier to say here are the two or three restaurants/bars that look the best.
13 HAND-PICK YOUR TRAVELING BUDDIES. Trips don’t have to include a lot of people to be great fun. Make sure everyone has the same goals and expectations. I usually try to cap it at six guys. We rent a big car, and the camaraderie is great. Any more than that and logistics can get tricky (transportation, lodging, reservations, tickets).
14 IF PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO GET ON EACH OTHER’S NERVES, take a break from each other.
15 MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS HAPPY WITH THEIR ROOM ASSIGNMENTS. Generally, two people to a room.
16 APPOINT A GROUP PHOTOGRAPHER TO TAKE PICTURES AND PUT THEM ON DROPBOX OR ANOTHER SHARING SITE. Other pictures taken can be added as well. Consider hiring a local photographer for game day tailgating.
17 DO PLAY “CREDIT CARD ROULETTE” FOR EVERY MEAL. Nothing is more exciting than a free meal or having to pay for the whole group.
18 MAKE A GENERAL RULE THAT IF A FRIEND CAN’T GO FOR SOME REASON, THE TRIP GOES ON.
19 ALWAYS ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM.
20 TAKE A NICE LEISURELY STROLL ON CAMPUS ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON. Make a trip to the bookstore and ALWAYS bring home team garb back to the wife and family. Know everyone’s sizes beforehand.
21 DON’T WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT THE ACCOUNTING UNTIL AFTER THE TRIP. One person can pay for everything or expenses can be split. Keep receipts. After the trip, do a spreadsheet on what everyone owes.
BEST WEBSITES IF YOU WANT TO RENT A HOUSE:
Visit golexperiences.com for more information on Mark Haft’s trips.