If you are a USF women's basketball player or coach stop reading right now. You have to focus on beating Louisville on Monday night. I'm not kidding, get out of here. Good bye ......
Now for the rest of us, can we talk about Albany? It's host of the NCAA Regional your favorite team will be playing in with a win on Monday. USF wants you there cheering on our Bulls. You want to go to Albany to cheer on our Bulls. Let me help you make it happen.
There are a few things you can safely do right now I am going to present three categories: do it now, consider doing it now, and wait until Monday night after we beat Louisville.
Do it now!
If you have Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points and plan to use them for a free flight to Albany (they have two non-stops from Tampa a day), you should book your plane tickets right now. They won't get any cheaper in terms of points, and Rapid Reward bookings are 100% cancelable with no penalty. And if the cost (in points) drops, you can even rebook and get the difference credited back to your account.
You are going to need a hotel room, so if you can find the room you want and it allows penalty free cancelation by a deadline that happens after Tuesday, you might as well book one. Just be very careful to double check the terms and conditions to make sure what you are booking is cancelable, then don't forget to cancel if you end up not needing the room.
Consider doing it now?
Rental cars can be booked on sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz with no cancelation penalty. If you have your flight booked, then by all means, book a car too. The problem with booking a car before your flights is uncertainty of knowing the pick up and drop off times. It's your call, but I personally wouldn't reserve a rental car until I had my flights booked.
You may want to book a paid ticket on an airline like Southwest that allows penalty free cancelation, with the caveat that when you cancel you don't get your money back but a credit on the airline that is valid for one year. If you fly enough, and know that you will have no problem using your credit, you might as well get a plane ticket booked.
One more thing to remember: you always have 24 hours to cancel a revenue plane ticket, so you safely book on Monday morning. Just make sure you remember to cancel your ticket by the 24 hour mark if you can't use it.
As a side note, this will put you into the super fan category: where you can tell all your friends, "I knew we would beat Louisville, I was so sure I went ahead and booked plane tickets for the next round before the Louisville game was ever played."
Wait until Monday night after we beat Louisville!!!
When the Bulls win, go ahead and book non-cancelable hotel rooms and plane tickets (or let the plane tickets you have move into the non-refundable category by allowing the 24 hour cancelation clock to expire.)
Random Travel Tips:
-British Airways miles are useful because they do not add a surcharge for booking last moment, unlike Delta, American, USAirways and United. If you don't have British Airways miles you can transfer American Express Reward Points into them. British Airways partners with American and USAirways, so you won't have to connect at London Heathrow to get to Albany, either.
-If you don't want to rent a car, it looks like Uber is now available in Albany.
-Day trips from Albany can certainly include Boston, New York City, Springfield, MA (home of the Basketball Hall of Fame) or Cooperstown, NY (home of the Baseball Hall of Fame).
-Consider alternate airports, I would certainly be glad to drive a couple hours to save $200 on plane tickets. Look at a map and think about your outer limit for driving and search other airports. I'd consider the following: Newark, Hartford, Boston, LaGuardia, Syracuse. Also think about alternate airports for the start of our journey. I personally would consider: Orlando and Sarasota.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section and I will be glad to help.