-- Frequent business traveler Sergio Frank dodges the monotony of spending more than 250 nights a year in hotel rooms by going to baseball games.
"Getting out to a local event breaks up the boredom of traveling alone every week on the road," says Frank of Algonquin, Ill., who works in the integrated technologies industry.
Business travelers such as Frank have more options than ever for getting tickets to games, concerts and other events. The Internet offers countless alternatives to box offices and hotel concierges for even last-minute tickets and events presumably sold out.
"It's a great marketplace for consumers," says Gary Adler, an attorney for the National Association of Ticket Brokers. "There's so much competition among ticket sellers and so much information available for buyers."
Beyond box offices and other primary sellers such as Ticketmaster and Live Nation, buyers can visit websites where tickets are resold, including popular sites such as StubHub, Craigslist and eBay, or from numerous online brokers.
A tidy profit
Revenue from tickets resold online exceeds $4 billion annually, says Christian Anderson of FanSnap.com, a website that last week listed 19.5 million tickets for more than 71,000 events.
Many states once had anti-scalping laws, but 39 states today have no restrictions on ticket resale prices, according to eBay. Some states impose price restrictions on certain events, but an increasing number have found enforcement difficult.
The National Association of Ticket Brokers represents 220 companies that resell tickets and abide by a code of ethics, including paying customers double the transaction price, under certain circumstances, for undelivered tickets.
The association has a website, www.natb.org, that steers ticket buyers to its 220 members. But there are many more brokers, and today, "anyone with a ticket is a ticket broker," Adler says.
Buyers who don't have time to compare prices and seat locations at various websites can go to FanSnap.com.
Its website, www.fansnap.com, lists prices of more than 50 ticket resellers, including StubHub, and links to the websites of box offices, Ticketmaster and other primary sellers.
Travelers shouldn't be deterred when told an event is sold out, FanSnap's Anderson says.
"Sure, the box office will sell out for hot events," he says, "but today, there is a mature marketplace where fans can virtually always find tickets — sometimes below face value."
Buying tickets at the last minute doesn't necessarily mean paying more or getting a bad seat. Sellers often slash prices right before an event, and box offices may get choice seats returned to them, Anderson says.
Despite the many outlets, there always are hotel concierges.
Frank, for instance, paid a hotel concierge $140 in July for two Red Sox tickets with a face value of $40 each. He says he was satisfied and values concierges' service.
"They are always upfront and provide me with a cost and, to the best of their knowledge, a seat location," Frank says. "As long as I feel I am not getting gouged, I'll pay the extra cost for the convenience and the opportunity to go to the event."
Tips for good seats in five cities
It can pay to have inside information about a venue before buying tickets. Ticket sellers in five cities offer tips:
•Boston. For great sight lines for Red Sox baseball games at Fenway Park, buy Pavilion Club or Pavilion Box seats. The seats are roomy and protected from rain. Beware of poor views from grandstand seats, particularly near the right-field line. Standing-room-only tickets are the most economical choice and allow you to wander around and admire the old park's charm.
The best seats for Boston Bruins hockey games at TD Garden are about 10 rows off the ice in the loge sections. If on a tight budget, balcony seats are a value. The best balcony seats are in sections 315-318, 301-302 and 330.
At Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., the best seats for New England Patriots football games are in the lower level at the 50-yard line, but almost any seat is good. If you opt for less-expensive, upper-level seats, try to get a seat in the first seven rows. They're separated somewhat from the rest of the section. To avoid spending hours getting out of the parking lot, procure a VIP parking pass.
For concerts at the TD Garden, floor seats in the first 10 rows are spectacular. But they aren't the only seats with great views. You can usually save a little by getting tickets for loge sections close to the stage (sections 14 or 22).
•Chicago. Vastly improved since 2003 renovations, Soldier Field offers a variety of great views for Chicago Bears football games. Among the best seats are sections 232-242 on the media deck on the west side of the stadium. The seats in these sections are high enough to get a broad view of the action but low enough to feel like you're a part of it. For cold-weather games, buy United Club seats in sections 205-213 and 305-313 on the east side. Seats in these sections allow access to a club where you can warm up and watch the action safe from the cold weather. If you plan to drive to the game, parking is scarce, so get a parking pass in advance.
For Chicago Blackhawks hockey games at the United Center, the best seats in the lower level are in the center sections (101, 111, 112, 122), eight to 12 rows up from the plexiglass. The club (200) level is great, too, because it provides waiter service and an overall view of the action. Even the upper (300) level is good, with sports bars in each corner.
Of all the city's live music venues, it's tough to top the ambience and acoustics of the historic Chicago Theatre. With majestic architecture and a legendary, vertical marquee, it's a required stop for any out-of-town concertgoer. There's not really a bad seat, but avoid the back rows, R-U, on the main floor because views can be partially obstructed. Loge and the first few rows of balcony seats can be good choices, because the balcony hangs over the main floor.
Every seat in the Bank of America Theater is a good one for Jersey Boys, but the best experiences can be found in rows E-K in the center orchestra section. If you're too close to the stage, you'll be too low, may not be able to see the whole stage and will probably leave the theater with a sore neck. Rows E-K are also great in the left and right orchestra sections if you're in the first six seats from the center aisle. If you're looking for a good deal, try the right or left center mezzanine seats.
•Los Angeles. The best views for baseball games at Dodger Stadium are in the loge level between sections 101 and 130. Top Deck seats (upper level between the bases) and Pavilion seats (behind the fences) are bargains.
Anaheim's Angel Stadium was improved last year and offers fantastic views of baseball games from nearly every seat. The best choices are near the infield on any level or the Right Field Pavilion. Diamond Club sections 114-122 offer waiter service and an exclusive bar with a great restaurant. The Field MVP seats in sections 110-113 and 123-126 are located.
For Anaheim Ducks hockey games at the Honda Center, sit in the Club (300) Level, where you are elevated enough to see the action. For those looking to be part of the action, sit a couple of rows from the plexiglass in the 200 level.
Staples Center has great amenities and a great view from nearly every seat for Los Angeles concerts. If you choose a seat on the floor, sit within 10 rows of the stage to avoid people in front blocking your view. The Premier Level near the stage — sections 3, 4, 15 or 16 — is highly recommended. It provides a comfortable padded seat, waiter service and access to a restaurant and a bar.
A short trip from downtown Los Angeles, Orange County receives an ocean breeze, and its Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine is a perfect place to see an outdoor concert. The best seats are Section 2 in the orchestra and Section 6 in loge.
•New York. If you can get tickets in the Legends area at Yankee Stadium, go. The cushioned seats with teak arms are large and comfortable, and you have access to the Legends Suite, where carving, ice cream and dessert stations are included in the ticket price. Avoid the last few rows of seats in the field and main levels, which are under an overhang.
The sight lines are good at the new MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets. But the upper-level seats are pretty far from the field. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, try the pricey Coaches Club, which offers a sideline seat, a two-level restaurant, access to post-game player interviews and a deck on the field, 5 yards behind the home team's bench.
If you plan to see the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark at Foxwoods Theatre, get seats close to the stage. The musical features stunts you could miss if your seats are beyond row V. For Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre, avoid the last few rows if you want to see the chandelier drop.
You can't go wrong on concert tickets at the Beacon Theatre. It's newly redesigned, and the experience is great wherever you sit.
If you're choosing between a concert at Madison Square Garden or other big arenas in the area such as the Nassau Coliseum or the Izod Center, choose Madison Square Garden.
•Oakland/San Francisco. At Oakland Raiders football games at O.co Coliseum, the best secret is tailgating on the club level, which opens three hours before kick-off. The club has a huge bar and a restaurant, and other games are shown on big TVs. A club ticket is needed to gain access. Bay Area Rapid Transit trains stop at the coliseum.
At AT&T Park, home of the world champion San Francisco Giants, has some of the best food, drinks and views of any ballpark. The field club tickets are the best because they're close to the action and provide access to a lounge.
If you are on a tighter budget, grab tickets in the front row of the arcade, which offers an amazing view, a great vibe and knowledgeable fans adjacent to you. An added bonus is easy access to bowls of Cha Cha — marinated grilled chicken over black beans and rice — from Orlando's Caribbean BBQ.
•Washington. For Washington Redskins football games at FedEx Field, avoid the high rows of the 200 level, where you may not be able to see some areas of the field.
For Washington Capitals hockey games, lower-level seats are nice but pricey and can sometimes be obstructed by the players and plexiglass. If you want to attend a concert at the Verizon Center, look for a seat in section 113 or 120. These sections are often much cheaper than those close to the stage. When looking at a seating chart, it appears that sections 113 and 120 provide a side view, but the normal stage setup gives you one of the best views. Avoid the arena's upper level, because the view is distant, and the sound is often too loud.
Ford's Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated, is a very historic place to see special events such as A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic that runs Nov. 18-Dec. 31.