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Rose Bowl travel part 1: Budget itinerary for Badgers fans

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Are you on a budget? This reasonable travel plan includes destination dining, free attractions, and a great game day experience.

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Rose Bowl Game - Wisconsin v TCU Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

As we run up to the 106th edition of the Rose Bowl between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Oregon Ducks, fans across the state of Wisconsin are double-checking their budget and if a trip to Pasadena, Cali. is reasonable.

If you or your loved one is on the fence for a trip to The Grandaddy of Them All for budget reasons, I think I have a plan for a reasonable and enjoyable Rose Bowl getaway.

For this budget, we are assuming two adults traveling from Madison, Wis. in a car that gets 20 city miles per gallon (mpg) and 27 highway mpg. Travel has to start Dec. 29 and has to return home on Jan. 3.

The strategy of this vacation is to make the ground travel to Pasadena enjoyable, since a pair of round trip plane tickets bottom out at $1,300 according to Hotwire.

We want to make sure we are comfortable throughout the trip, so I decided to not allow camping as an option, but there are some ways to eliminate hotel fees there by camping at state and national parks. This is a bit risky since we are traveling at the end of December.

Please note that none of this is sponsored, although I sure wish it were.

Day 1 — Sunday, Dec. 29 — BBQ

6:00 a.m. CST, Dec. 29 — Leave Madison, Wis. for Kansas City

We start our journey heading to Kansas City to do a bit of restaurant tourism and enjoy Kansas City’s excellent barbecue scene. We will pack a breakfast that should cost no more than $10.

The drive will be about seven and a half hours, and the gas for this leg costs $39.14.

1:30 p.m. CST, Dec. 29 — arrive at Woodyard’s BBQ in Kansas City for lunch

Woodyard’s, which is open only 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. on Sundays, is a famous Barbecue joint that was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. You can expect to spend about $30 for a solid lunch.

3:00 p.m. CST, Dec. 29 — Leave for Amarillo, Texas.

The goal is now to get to the Grand Canyon to watch for sunrise on the morning of New Year’s eve. We should be able to zoom through this leg of the trip with a short hotel night stay in Amarillo, Texas. Since we had a heavy lunch, a light packed dinner should be easily less than $15. Expect to pay $48.04 in gas to get to Amarillo.

12:50 a.m. CST, Dec. 29 — Arrive in Amarillo, Texas, stay at Comfort Inn and Suites

There will be a time to exhaust ourselves from travel, but I want to wait until all of our festivities are concluded. This stop will allow for 6-7 hours of sleep to keep us invigorated for the weekend. The cost to stay in Amarillo at a halfway decent hotel is $52.80.

Day 2 — Monday, Dec. 30 — Travel day

8:00 a.m. CST, Dec. 30 — Leave for Flagstaff, Ariz.

After grabbing a complimentary breakfast at the hotel in the morning, we are going to drive straight through to Arizona to get as close to the Grand Canyon as possible without paying extreme hotel fees.

We will eat a packed lunch on the way to Flagstaff, Ariz. for no more than $10 and pay about $52.80 in gas.

View of the sunset, near Flagstaff, Ariz Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

5:00 p.m. MST, Dec. 30 — Arrive at Canyon Inn Flagstaff, Ariz.

We’re now a two hour drive from Hopi Point, one of the best places to view the Grand Canyon. We’re going to take advantage of an early bedtime tonight so we can move early next morning to see a sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

The stay in Flagstaff will cost $74.48 for the hotel and $20 for an authentic Mexican restaurant dinner at Las Gorditas.

Day 3 — Tuesday, Dec. 31 — Grand Canyon

4:45 a.m. MST, Dec. 31 — Drive to Hopi Point, Grand Canyon Village, Ariz.

We will again take advantage of hotel complimentary breakfast and drive up well before sunrise to Hopi Point. The two hour drive will ding our wallets $8.53 for gas.

6:45 a.m. MST, Dec. 31 — Arrive at Hopi Point, Grand Canyon Village, Ariz. for sunrise.

From what I read, you want to get to the Grand Canyon at least 30 minutes before sunrise and stay 1-2 hours afterwards. We will need to dress warmly and bring some coffee, tea or hot chocolate to enjoy this relaxing morning. The sun rill rise over Hopi Point at 7:39 a.m. MST on Dec. 31.

Hopi Point Grand Canyon Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

9:40 a.m. MST, Dec. 31 — Drive to Holiday Inn Palmdale-Lancaster in Palmdale, Cali.

Now that the sun is squarely up, it’s time to finally get to California. It will cost us $10 in a packed lunch and $54.12 in gas to make it to Palmdale.

4:10 p.m. PST, Dec. 31 — Arrive in Holiday Inn Palmdale-Lancaster in Palmdale, Cali.

We start the New Years evening by checking into the Holiday Inn Palmdale-Lancaster for a two night stay for a bill of $216. For dinner, we’ll go to PizzaRev and keep our bill under $20.

There is a $15 new years eve party in Palmdale, or you can check out some other events in the area that range from free to $135 dollars. Or, you can be like me and just sleep through it so we are rested for the Rose Bowl.

Day 4 — Wednesday, Jan. 1 — GAMEDAY!

This is the one day where I am not going to cheap out too much. This is why we are here - it needs to be a relatively painless day. We’re not going to attend the Rose Parade, but you can for an extra cost.

124th Rose Parade Presented By Honda Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage

8:00 a.m. PST, Jan. 1 — leave for Pasadena

We start with complimentary breakfast, as usual, at the hotel, and then we head to a shuttle lot in Pasadena that will cost $40 for parking and $9.35 in gas to get there.

We probably do not need to leave this early, but it is critical we do not fall behind schedule here. Worst case scenario, we hang around the parking lot for an hour with a cup of coffee. The Rose Bowl website warns that you should get to the lot by 10 a.m. to avoid parade traffic issues.

10:00 a.m. PST, Jan 1 — take shuttle to Rose Bowl & Badger Huddle

There is one splurge on this itinerary, and that’s the Badger Huddle put on by the Wisconsin Almuni Association. It offers complimentary beer, wine, brats, brisket etc. for a rather steep price of $125 per adult.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

However, the $250 price tag is worth the fellowship with Badgers fans that is lacking in our itinerary.

1:00 p.m. PST, Jan 1 — head into the stadium

Two Rose Bowl tickets on Ticketmaster are $241.45 total after fees. After the Fifth Quarter, we will take a shuttle to the parking lot and drive back to Palmdale, which is an additional $9.35 in gas.

85th Rose Bowl Game Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

7:00 p.m. PST, Jan 1 — Dinner at Irene’s Burger Cafe

After an expensive day, we will close it off with another $20 dinner at Irene’s Burger Cafe which offers a nice variety of options on the menu.

Day 5 — Thursday, Jan. 2 — The beach & journey home

4:00 a.m. PST, Jan. 2 — leave for beach

This is our last chance to make it to the beach! We should be able to get to Will Rogers State Beach, which has plenty of parking options and is known to be less crowded than other beaches for about $8.82 in gas.

Earthquake In Japan Prompts Tsunami Warning For California Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

9:59 a.m. PST, Jan. 2 — travel home to Madison

If we want to arrive home by the end of the day on Jan. 3, we have to leave the beach now. However, we could extend this to a full day at the beach without adding significant costs.

The journey home will take a different route and will need about 30 hours of drive time. With breaks and time changes, we should be home right before the weekend starts.

If we need another night at a hotel, I have built in about $150 of contingency funds to help mitigate this.

The gas for the travel is calculated at $179.36, and five meals on the road should total no more than $75 if we are being frugal.

11:59 p.m. CST, Friday, Jan. 3 — arrive in Madison

And then we sleep for the next 48 hours before our lives in the real world resume.

Final Cost Breakdown

All that for a grand total of $821.83 per person ($1643.66 total) for six days of travel. Not too bad, if I do say so myself! And this even includes a $150 contingency line, so it could. be even lower.

2020 Rose Bowl Budget Itinerary

Expense Cost
Expense Cost
Air Travel $0.00
Ground Travel $449.51
Lodging $343.28
Meals / Badger Huddle $460.00
Entertainment $0.00
Rose Bowl Tickets $241.45
Contingency (10% of costs) $149.42
Grand total $1,643.66