Rose Bowl travel costs are up this year, but that’s not keeping these Utah football fans away

Some fans are paying in the thousands to see Utah play in its second consecutive Rose Bowl.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah fans as the Utah Utes face the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.

Jeff Dart hasn’t missed a Utah Utes football game in the Beehive State since 2002. Home games at Rice-Eccles Stadium — he’s there. Road games against Utah State, BYU and other in-state schools — he’s there.

The lifelong Utes fan also estimates he’s been to 82 true road games, including conference championships and bowl games. So when the opportunity to travel for the Rose Bowl came about last year, his attendance was a no-brainer.

But this year, as the Utes prepare to play Penn State in their second consecutive Rose Bowl, die-hard fans like Dart are finding the cost to head to Pasadena, Calif., a bit steeper.

(Jeff Dart) Longtime Utah Utes fan Jeff Dart, right, and his wife, Anna, pose for a photo at the Rose Bowl last year. Dart will attend this year's Rose Bowl as the Utes football team faces Penn State on Jan. 2, 2023.

“The costs are definitely greater this year than last year,” lifelong Utes fan Josh Ewing said.

Fans who spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune detailed how much this year’s Rose Bowl trip will cost compared to last year. Some said they’ve seen the cost of flights increase this year. Others said they’ve seen hotel prices double. And others said ticket prices for the game itself are up.

Travel costs across the board are up this year compared to the same period last year. Airline fares were up 36% in November 2022 compared to November 2021, per the most recent data from the U.S. Travel Association. Lodging increased 3.3%, while food and beverage went up 8.4%, per the data.

But fans haven’t been deterred by increased travel costs. For them, watching Utah play in the bowl game known as The Granddaddy of Them All is worth the extra cash.

Dart joked that he would do anything short of selling his house and giving up his car to attend this year’s Rose Bowl.

“We’ll make sacrifices, whatever that is,” Dart said. “If we need to eat cheaper for a couple of weeks — I wouldn’t miss this. That’s how awesome I think Rose Bowls are. Whatever it took if at all possible to be there, I would do.”

(Josh Ewing) Josh Ewing, left, his wife, Kallie, right, and children Micaela and Taylor, pose for a photo in front of the Rose Bowl stadium last year.

Loni Gosdis, who attended the University of Utah in the 1980s, attended the Rose Bowl with his teenage son last year. This year, his wife is coming along, too, which adds an extra expense.

Gosdis estimates he’ll spend between $2,500-$3,000 on this trip, but that actually doesn’t amount to much more money compared to last year, he said. A splurge like that, he added, usually goes on the credit card that is saved for emergencies.

“We’re not rich or anything by any means,” Gosdis said. “But these kinds of things, even though they’ve happened — the championship games and the Rose Bowls happen —they’re really once-in-a-lifetime-type opportunities. So it was just kind of an expense that we just couldn’t pass up. So I’m not really concerned with it.”

Fans are also making sure to attend this year’s Rose Bowl because, in a sense, it will be the last one. After this year, the storied Granddaddy of Them All will act as the College Football Playoff semifinal before becoming the quarterfinal a year later due to the CFP expansion.

That’s why Ewing and his family are going to spend the extra money for the trip to Pasadena. He was able to attend last year’s because he had started saving since the days of Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss, when he thought the Utes were a shoe-in for the Rose Bowl. He had to wait a few years, but considered it “a dream come true.”

Ewing anticipates spending another $5,000-$6,000 to attend this year’s Rose Bowl.

(Loni Gosdis) Loni Gosdis and his son, Jett, take a selfie last year at the Rose Bowl.

“It’s hard to get to the Rose Bowl,” Ewing said. “And now with the College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl is going to change forever. So just having that opportunity to go one more time, all right, we have to dip into the savings a little bit, but doggone it, we’re gonna make it happen.”

James Morse, who grew up in Logan loving Utah State athletics, married into a family of rabid Utes fans in 2007. Last year, he bought Rose Bowl tickets as soon as they went on sale in the summer. This year, his wife bought them during the Pac-12 Championship game.

Morse said he anticipates spending $1,500-$2,000 on the Rose Bowl trip. But loving the Utes is just what his family does, taking one road trip every year to support the team.

“I just look at it as an experience,” Morse said.

Andrew Prince didn’t attend last year’s Rose Bowl because he couldn’t get time off work. He remembers researching the cost of last year’s trip, and said this year it will “easily” be “an extra $1,000,” mainly because airfare on their preferred airline costs double compared to last year. He said he and his wife will make the trip, but their three children won’t due to the cost.

For at least one Ute fan, this year’s Rose Bowl will be a relative bargain.

Craig Moir broke his back falling off a ladder while working on his home just two days after he secured his tickets last year. But this year, he’s making sure to be there.

“No ladders are in my plans for the next month,” Moir said with a laugh.