As a travel agent, Jean Tay will happily help Illinois basketball fans find their way to Washington, D.C., for the 2017 men's basketball tournament.
But as an Illini fan, Tay would happily give up the extra business to keep the tournament in Chicago or Indianapolis.
"It's a lot easier to just go for a day. This takes all the flexibility away," said Tay, a Sullivan High grad who works for Island Travel Group in Urbana.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said all the right things during Tuesday's news conference in the nation's capital. What he failed to mention was that it might take a winning lottery ticket for fans in these parts to attend the faraway tournament.
So we turned to Tay, who lives in Philo and feels your pain.
To fly to D.C., what's it going to run me?
Champaign to D.C. airfare is $399 per person for travel this weekend. Baggage fees extra.
Let's say I'm a college kid (no money). What's the cheapest way to get there — other than hitchhiking?
I'd suggest looking to carpool. Sharing driving time as well as gas expenses keeps costs down by not paying for lodging. Pack a cooler with snacks and beverages, and fast food can supplement the rest. Also, a driver over 21 can rent a car for $172 (unlimited mileage) and spend approximately $160 on gas for an economy car.
Is Amtrak an option?
Yes. A roundtrip ticket from Champaign to D.C. is $273 (food and drinks extra). Plan accordingly to leave on Wednesday for a Thursday tournament. (Hopefully, the Illini won't play until Friday morning, though!)
How expensive are hotels in D.C. compared to Chicago and Indy?
A 31/2-star hotel averages $160 in D.C., $155 in Chicago and $144 in Indy. Hotels would be similar to Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy Suites or Doubletree. Depending on events taking place in the area, the demand may be high, and the price of rooms may increase dramatically.
How much would you think I need for a four-night stay in March 2017?
I'd recommend saving a minimum of $1,500 for airfare/lodging (sharing room), food/non-alcoholic beverages and local transportation. Tournament tickets, adult beverages and souvenirs are NOT included.