For tickets, this year COTA had a mailing list for notification when tickets would become available. They sent a special link to Ticketmaster a day before they were made available to the general public, and that’s how I got my tickets.
For the early tickets, only 3-day passes were being sold. T12 was the ‘best available’ location when I was purchasing. They were basically the best tickets you could get without buying a Personal Seat License. T15 is the next “upgrade” location, but it requires a PSL. The start-finish straight are the big-buck tickets, and they all required a 10-year PSL (in addition to the ticket cost). So in my view, none of that was worth it. There were a lot of empty seats in the T15 and start/finish grandstands, probably because of this.
The grandstand tickets were $399-$499 for all 3 days. There were also General Admission tickets for less.. not sure what those sold for. If you go that route, there is a big hill at T1 that had a ton of people on it. Definitely bring a folding chair if you go that route.
This year the tickets went on sale in early June. I have no idea when they’ll go on sale next year. I bought plane tickets and reserved a rental car that same day. I think I booked the room that same week, and availability was already tight. There will be no deals on either of those due to the demand, so you have to just suck it up and find the best deal you can. Southwest flies nonstop between SJC and AUS, but their pricing excluded this route from any special offers during that weekend.
There is probably no harm in booking a room and car as soon as they open their booking for next November. If you don’t get tickets, you can always cancel. Our place required payment in full (no refund for cancellation) 30 days prior to arrival. So definitely consider getting Travel Insurance too, just in case things go pear-shaped. We had a near-heart attack with my wife’s work 2 weeks ago that almost prevented us from going.
I flew in to Austin on Thursday and flew home on Monday. The b&b required a 4-night stay (as did everywhere else I looked), so that ended up working out well. You *could* fly back on Sunday evening since the F1 race ended around 3:30 or so and that was the last event of the day. You’d just need to find a place with only a 3-night minimum.
I think for the hotel search, I used the usual suspects (orbitz, travelocity, etc), and also bedandbreakfast.com. I’d also suggest airbnb.com for other options. If you can swing it, you really want to be in Austin as opposed to some of the farther away locations. The extra travel will end up being very tiring. Some people ended up staying in San Antonio and driving up, but that’s a 90 minute drive without traffic, so keep that in mind when you’re making plans.
One other thing as I look at the map.. The track is *big*. Some people behind us decided to walk the whole circumference and it took them about 1:15 at a good pace. The google maps satellite view doesn’t do justice to how hilly the location is either. T20-T1 is all uphill, T1-T2 is all downhill, T3-T6 is all uphill, T9-T11 is all downhill, T11-T16 is fairly flat-ish, and T16-T20 is all uphill (less steep).