Road Warrior

At this year's Super Bowl, there's no such thing as cheap seats—or flights

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Nothing comes cheap at the Super Bowl

On Sunday, four National Football League teams will square off to determine which two will end up traveling to Super Bowl 50 on February 7.

Yet no matter which teams end up on the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, if their fans intend to be in the stands—or just hanging out with the other football fans in the vicinity –they'd better be prepared to pony up.

The state of affairs is different from last year, when both flights and accommodations to Glendale, Arizona, two weeks out from the Super Bowl were relatively reasonable. Regardless of whether travelers are fans of the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos, the Carolina Panthers or the Arizona Cardinals, one thing is for sure — time is of the essence.

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"If you're on the fence about going to the Super Bowl –now's the time to book," said David Solomito, North America Brand Director for travel search engine Kayak. "According to last year's data, flight prices increased by more than 35 percent once the two Super Bowl teams were determined. So book now to score the best deal."

Cheap lodgings depend on where you stay

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Heading into this weekend, the national average airfare into the Bay Area for Super Bowl weekend was $313 - $531, according to the number crunchers at Priceline. They also checked fares from cities with teams still in the running, including Phoenix ($236-$429), Denver ($300-$522), Charlotte ($412-$848) and Boston ($417-$759).

Priceline also noted that, of the three local airports — San Francisco International, Oakland International and Mineta San Jose International — San Jose is the least expensive flight option. The airport is just six miles from Levi's Stadium.

One cost saving tip can be summed up this way: Arrive early (or the day before), and leave late.'s data shows the least expensive days to travel to and from the Big Game is Wednesday, February 3, or Saturday, February, 5, with a Monday, February 8, departure. Thursday, February 4 is the most expensive day to travel, with flights averaging $433.

There are about 35,000 hotel rooms in the San Francisco/Santa Clara/Silicon Valley area, far less than the 100,000 rooms that were available in the New York/New Jersey area when the big game took place in 2014.

Going into the weekend, Priceline found 2-star hotels offering rooms at $216 to $599 a night, 3-star hotels asking $329 to $1,199 a night, and just one 4-star hotel with a room to let — at $999 a night.

Despite Silicon Valley's sky-high rent and real estate prices, San Francisco hotel rooms are slightly more wallet-friendly. Priceline found some 2-star hotels with rooms between $65 and $746, 3-star hotels with rate $145-$899 a night and four-star hotels asking between $979 and $1,249 a night.

Airbnb is another option, but the short-term rental giant may not offer much savings. "At $247/night, San Francisco has the highest average Airbnb rate of any U.S city, and this rate will increase to $311 during Super Bowl weekend," notes Rocketrip, a startup that helps companies save money by rewarding employees for shaving travel costs.

Tickets don't come cheap

Meanwhile, travelers should also follow the losers of the AFC and NFC championship games. "Half the teams in the playoffs won't be making it to the Super Bowl, so expect some last minute cancellations and some inventory to open up after this weekend's games," said Expedia data analyst Ian Audette.

Getting there is one thing; actually attending (or affording) a game ticket is quite another.

According to TiqIQ, before this weekend's games the lowest Super Bowl 50 ticket price available was $3,100, although tickets prices on StubHub were starting at $3450, with passes just for parking at Levi's Stadium starting at $68.

Fans who can't score Super Bowl tickets will find plenty of entertainment in San Francisco in the week leading up to the game.

"Super Bowl City," is a free fan center on the Embarcadero that will offer family-friendly activities, entertainment and exhibits from January 30 to February 7. The NFL Experience, at the Moscone Center, will also run from January 30 to February 7 and offer interactive games, opportunities to meet players, photos ops with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and other football experiences. Tickets cost $35 for adults, and $25 for children 12 years old and younger.

If money is no object, you can just skip the hassle of searching for a flight, trying to find a room and asking around to see if someone knows someone who can get you a ticket to the game.

For "just" $550,000, Vivid Seats will sell you an Ultimate VIP Super Bowl package — for 20 people — that includes round-trip tickets on a chartered jet from anywhere in the continental U.S., 10 double-occupancy hotel rooms at a four-star Santa Clara resort for three nights. The trip also includes transportation and admission to the NFL Experience, industry party passes, assorted other perks and, naturally, tickets to the game.

—Harriet Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.