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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Penniless Parent Sports Fan's Guide to Houston

Hope you enjoy this guest post by an budget conscious avid sports fan!

Being a sports fan and a penniless parent at the same time is tricky. You want to give your children a memory that can last a lifetime, but tickets to professional sports games can blow your budget. In order to make such a trip possible, you need to find the cheapest rooms in the area. Here's a sports fan's guide to frugal travel in Houston.

Catching an NFL Game
Photo by W. Ross Wells via Trover.com
The Houston Texans may not be the Dallas Cowboys, but this AFC South team features some of the best players in the league. Your children will want to see them in person at some point. The only comparable thing to a child's first NFL game is their first trip to Disney.
Alas, the NFL isn't cheap. Expect to pay at least $275 for a set of three tickets, which may be most of your traveling budget. Determining how far you're willing to travel from your hotel to watch the game is the best way to finalize your expense estimates.
NRG Stadium, home of the second most famous NFL team in Texas, is located on Reliant Parkway. It is just off of Interstate 610 and not far past state highway 90. Any property near either of these roads will provide relatively convenient stadium access, although you should allow for heavy game-day traffic. So, you can save a lot of money by arranging your own travel.
Assuming you bring your own car or rent one, consider Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks. It is 10 miles away, but almost the entire drive occurs on four-lane roads or higher. You can save a lot of money by staying here since rack rate is extremely low compared to a close location such as the Houston Marriott at the Texas Medical Center. Rooms cost an average of $40 a night more there, but the convenience to the stadium is nice if you can afford it. Splurging reduces the amount of money you save spend on food, game-day keepsakes, and incidentals, though.
If you want to split the difference by staying close without spending a great deal of money, choose the Courtyard by Marriott Houston Medical Center. Its rates are about $15 a night higher than the Crowne Plaza, but it is located only a mile away from the stadium. You'll save on travel expenses, particularly parking, since you can just walk to the stadium from here. This is not a viable option for parents whose children require strollers, though. Nobody wants to push a stroller for a mile in game-day traffic.
Understand that if you are researching nightly accommodations for Super Bowl LI, you should contact your hotel directly after booking your room. Most Houston properties have special requirements for this event. A minimum length of stay is the most likely one.
Note that NRG Stadium also frequently hosts rodeo events as well. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is even a co-tenant of the property. If you are traveling for this event, the same rules apply, but you should also research the stadium's rules with regards to children's interactions with livestock.

Catch a Ballgame by the Train Station
Minute Maid Park is famous for its tribute to its former tenant, Union Station. There are train tracks above the outfield bleacher seats, creating a unique ambiance for a ballpark. The Astros are famous for the performance of several Texas athletes such as Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, but they currently possess one of the youngest and most talented rosters in baseball. It's a great reason to take the kids to a game. Years from now, your children will be able to tell their friends they saw some of these players way back when.
The problem with staying near the stadium is that it's located in downtown Houston, where even hotel prices for an independent property such as The Magnolia Hotel Houston cost $175 a night or more. Rooms can run as high as $600 at the more luxurious resorts. For people who are budget conscious, finding a decent place to stay for an affordable price can be extremely tricky.
There are reasonable room rates to be found, though. The DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Downtown is $70 cheaper despite having similar proximity to the ballpark. If you expand your driving distance, the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks is roughly six miles away, and it will save you roughly $100 a night from the Magnolia Hotel.

Watch One of the NBA's Most Exciting Teams
A former NBA champion, the Houston Rockets have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years due to the acquisition of a few prized players. Your child will want to enjoy the game, and you should consider buying a Yao Ming jersey for them even though he's been retired for years. His international legacy supersedes the sport. Plus, kids always love a friendly giant.
Traveling to the stadium can be difficult. The Toyota Center is located at 1510 Polk Street, which means it is several blocks off Interstate 40, making it the hardest route to navigate of the three professional sports stadiums.  There are a few properties close to the arena such as the Crowne Plaza Houston Downtown, but they come with sticker shock of $180 or more a night.
Fortunately, there is a hidden gem in the area. Club Quarters in Houston is less than a mile away yet it costs only $94 a night, roughly half of what similarly located properties charge. Stay here and enjoy convenience access to Rockets games without breaking the bank. Note that you will have to drive through a heavily congested area for a few blocks if you plan to drive rather than walk. Reaching the arena can be chaotic even for Houston residents. Tourists who don't plan well wind up telling a lot of horror stories involving ill-conceived U-turns and crying children.

All of these Houston hotels merit consideration if you are a sports fan visiting Houston. As a frugal parent, however, you should consider the cheaper options first. Spend the extra money on souvenirs for your kids. Those are the keepsakes they will treasure long after they enter adulthood.

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