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Airline miles not only keep us connected to family, but they give us access to travel and experiences we otherwise never could afford or access. Usually that those experiences come in the form of travel, but occasionally there are other very good uses of miles or points that we jump on. In the past we have had luxury box seats at Wrigley Field for my husband’s birthday and a weekend in Vegas courtesy of SPG points and the SPG Moments Program.
This time we used 10,000 United miles for the two of us to have a Houston Texans Field Day Experience. For football fans like ourselves, this was like a little kid’s dream come to life!
We arrived at the Houston Texans’ training bubble a little early and we were so excited to get to actually go inside “the bubble”. It was a little like Charlie going into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Were it not for a sign reassuring us we were in the right place, we would have totally felt weird and hesitant about walking into an NFL practice arena.
At check-in there were forms to fill out and swag bags to receive. These duffel swag bags had Texans’ water containers and a little football inside. The little football made much more sense later on when it came time to collect autographs from a few players.
After you were officially checked in and given a wrist band, you were basically given free run of the practice arena to work on throwing, passing, punting, and more. This was pretty cool all by itself, but we used this time to practice some so we wouldn’t totally embarrass ourselves during the upcoming timed drills! If you have never tried it, let me tell you that kicking field goals is hard!
After about an hour or so, two Texan players arrived to give autographs to the 30-40 people in attendance and they stayed and help out with the drills.
There was some mandatory group stretching, and then things got really fun. Our drills were timed and scored and included events such as throwing contests, field goal kicks, a timed 40 yard dash, punting, and this crazy obstacle course complete with getting to “hit” a Houston Texans’ tackled named Jeff Adams.
From start to finish we spent at least 90 minutes in the practice bubble, and some of us were legitimately sweaty after throwing around the ball and participating in the drills after that amount of time. They had us divided into several different teams, with the team that did the best on the challenges winning a prize at the end of the day (t-shirts). Our team did not win the shirts, but we had a ton of fun cheering each other on!
Following the practice, we loaded up on “golf cart trams” and were drive from the practice facility to the NRG Stadium. This was another Willy Wonka moment as we entered the stadium and didn’t go to some seats on the upper deck, but instead we went into the tunnel behind the stadium. You know, the tunnel that the players run in and out of on game days.
In that tunnel are the Texans’ locker room, work-out room, meeting rooms, cafeteria, and more. We didn’t get to go in the locker room, but we did get to go in all of those other rooms.
In the meeting room we got to hear from another Texans player, Justin Tuggle, as he talked about his path to the NFL and what day-to-day life is like in the league. This is his second year in the NFL and with the Texans, and you could tell he loved the game and was so grateful to have the opportunity to play in the NFL. He wasn’t drafted initially, but instead really fought to earn his spot and was just so nice, humble, and a joy to meet.
The evening wrapped up with dinner in the Texans’ cafeteria. That was pretty cool, but I’m all but certain the food is at least a notch better when players are actually being fed! We saw smoothie stations, salad bars, sandwich aisles, and more for the players that were not operational during our chili cheese hot dogs and rubbery chicken meal. We were pretty hungry by this point in the evening, so we were thankful to just have food, but this was the only part of the experience that probably could have been done a little bit better. Then again, this was a co-branded United event, so maybe they wanted a subtle nod to airplane food…
All in all, getting to go behind the scenes at the stadium, meet several different Texan players, and run drills in the actual practice bubble, was really cool, and well worth the 10,000 miles that it cost for the two of us to have a very memorable date night. While you will most often get the best return for your miles via actual travel, always keep your eyes open for other unique opportunities that may bring just as much value to your family, just in a different way.