Scrambling to travel to the Final Four? Prepare to spend a pretty penny


If you’re scrambling to get to San Antonio for the NCAA Final Four this weekend, don’t expect it to be cheap, especially if you plan on flying.

Local travel agents say that for the few flights to San Antonio that are left, prices have doubled compared with the same time last year.

Trips that involve leaving for San Antonio on Thursday afternoon and returning on Tuesday start at nearly $1,000 for the flight alone. And travel agents say it won’t get any cheaper the closer it gets to Saturday’s semifinal game pitting the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers against Michigan.

Depart Friday and you’re looking at shelling out at least $1,400 for a flight.

Ninety percent of San Antonio’s downtown hotel rooms, just steps away from the Alamodome where the NCAA games will be played, are already booked. More distant hotel rooms are available but are filling up quickly, according to David Gonzalez, director of communications at Visit San Antonio, the city’s tourism bureau.

According to San Antonio’s tourism website, visitsantonio.com, hotel rooms start at an average of $86 per night roughly 17 miles away from the stadium.

The limited availability of flights and hotel rooms is not only the fault of Loyola’s Ramblers.

“It’s Easter weekend, and many of these flights were booked long ago,” said Giselle Laborde, owner of Mena Tours & Travel in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.

Not to mention it’s Holy Week, a time of celebration for many Mexican tourists who visit San Antonio to shop and celebrate.

Laborde said she has a client who was so desperate to get to Saturday’s Loyola game that he chartered a jet. She’s not clear on where he’s going to stay.

Travel agents said it might be easier to make the nearly 19-hour drive and sleep in a van.

Each team in the Final Four has fan bases all over the country, said Lynn Farrell, president of Windy City Travel. Farrell said she had a surge in clients looking to snag flights and hotels, and not everyone’s been lucky. But for travelers willing to pay, there are rooms to be had, she said.

Final Four weekends typically see the prices on available hotel rooms climb 100 to 200 percent, according to Carter Wilson, vice president of consulting and analytics for travel consultancy STR, based in Hendersonville, Tenn.

The Super Bowl, according to Wilson, is even more intense, with hotel room prices climbing 300 to 700 percent or more per night.

Wilson noted that many cities are already busy this time of year because of spring break, Passoverand Easter travel.

“It’s expensive. Space is tight,” Wilson said. “They are getting a pretty penny for hotel rooms.”

crshropshire@chicagotribune.com

Twitter@corilyns



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