If you're thinking about making a last-minute trek to attend the Vancouver 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games in the next few weeks, you could still be in luck for tickets and accommodations.
Local tourism officials in Vancouver say there are still plenty of accommodation options available, and tickets to many of the events can still be purchased.
Tourism Vancouver's head of visitor services and communications, Walt Judas, expects visitors from the Pacific Northwest and even further afield will make spontaneous decisions over the next week or so to attend the Games, which start Friday, February 12.
"It's not unusual for people within close proximity of a city hosting the Olympics to get caught up in the excitement and decide to pay a visit," said Judas. "We're expecting folks from Washington and Oregon to drive up for the celebration."
U.S. citizens are reminded that they now need a passport to re-enter the country. And for those that haven't already acquired a passport, there are now numerous companies in place that can expedite that process (for a fee) and obtain a passport for a client within a few days.
Travel time between Seattle and Vancouver is approximately three hours by car. Portland residents can make the trip in about six hours.
Hotel Association of Vancouver chair, Jean-Luc Barone (GM, Westin Bayshore) says there are still rooms available within the downtown core, but they are in relatively short supply.
"More rooms are available in outlying areas such as the Fraser Valley and other parts of Metro Vancouver," said Barone. "Occupancy levels will fluctuate on a daily basis throughout the Games, though, due in part to blocks of rooms being made available through major tour operators."
Tourism Vancouver's Judas, who has attended previous Olympic Games in Torino and Beijing, also offered some advice on timing and booking options.
"We know that the busiest times for the Games will be at the start and finish, so the best opportunity for last minute travelers to find accommodation and tickets will be during the days in between." The Games run from February 12th to 28th at locations in and around Vancouver and Whistler.
Judas also says the best way to access those rooms is by contacting the tour operators directly. "We're advising people to consult the list of major tour operators listed on the Tourism Vancouver website (TourismVancouver.com) and to email them rather than the hotels themselves," said Judas.
Additionally, other accommodation is available throughout Metro Vancouver, ranging from private homes and bed and breakfasts to RV parks.
Visitors can also purchase tickets for select events - including both Winter Games events and cultural Olympiad entertainment - through Tickets.com located at the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre ("Tickets Tonight") at 200 Burrard in downtown Vancouver (phone 604-684-2787 or go to TicketsTonight.ca).