Sunday, March 17, 2013 | 4:53 p.m.
The clock is ticking; travel madness begins now.
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have booked their ticket to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed in the San Jose, Calif., regional, where they will face the No. 12 seed Cal Golden Bears on Thursday at the HP Pavilion.
Now that the NCAA Selection Committee’s results are in, the scramble for tickets begins. Here are the keys to snagging tickets and getting to San Jose for Thursday’s game:
Key No. 1: Take care of the tickets
The biggest mistake a fan can make during March Madness is to become too lackadaisical and procrastinate on picking up tickets.
There is a short time frame and a limited supply of tickets that the NCAA makes available to each participating school. Waiting too long could allow another fan to steal your spot at the game.
For season ticket holders, ticket requests must be placed before noon Monday, UNLV officials said.
University officials sent an email with instructions on how to submit a request Friday. There will be a nonrefundable processing fee of $15 for each order and a limit of four tickets per person. Tickets will be allocated based on priority points from Rebel Athletic Fund membership, officials said.
Applicants will be notified of the results via email Monday night. Those receiving tickets will be charged the full, nonrefundable price.
The general public can visit UNLVtickets.com on Monday night for tickets based on availability.
A limited number of tickets also will be made available to UNLV students on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Sunday night and ending at noon Monday.
If UNLV beats Cal, fans will automatically receive tickets to the next game. Those tickets will be automatically charged to the purchaser’s credit card.
If UNLV advances to the Sweet 16, the university will release more information on how to buy tickets.
If all else fails, fans also can snag tickets by visiting NCAA.com or third-party ticket distributors such as Stubhub.com.
Key No. 2: Lock down your travel plans
Now that you have tickets to the game, it’s time to focus on your travel plans.
San Jose, Calif., 520 miles away, is the second-closest destination UNLV could have had for its first two games. Fans have the option of flying or making the seven-hour drive to the city.
If you’re driving, make sure you budget money for gas. Travel websites such as gasbuddy.com offer trip calculators that can help you determine how much money you should plan to spend on gas.
For example, the drive in a 2007 Honda Civic, which gets about 36 miles per gallon, would cost roughly $110.58 in gas to make the round trip. The drive in a 2007 Ford Explorer, which gets about 20 miles per gallon, would cost just under $200.
If you’re flying, plan to spend quadruple the cost of driving on tickets to shave three hours off the trip. A round-trip flight – leaving Wednesday and returning Sunday – ranges from $379 to more than $650, according to Travelocity.com and Expedia.com.
Key No. 3: Find the open room
Don’t forget, thousands of other fans from different states will travel to San Jose, as well. Make sure you track down a room before the trip, because finding one once you arrive might be difficult.
Several hotels are situated within two miles of the HP Pavilion, where the tournament games will be played. As of Sunday evening, Hotels.com included the following rates for hotels Wednesday night:
$87 average nightly rate at Super 8 Motel (1.2 miles to the HP Pavilion).
$91 average nightly rate at the Hotel Elan (1.9 miles to HP Pavilion).
$92 average nightly rate at the Silicon Valley Hotel San Jose Airport (2 miles to the HP Pavilion).
$113 average nightly rate at the Valley Inn San Jose (1.7 miles to the HP Pavilion).
$167 average nightly rate at the Holiday Inn San Jose Airport (2 miles to the HP Pavilion).