On the road
If there is one thing I don’t look forward to when going to a tournament, it is the travel. At times, I feel like my profession is not racquetball, but traveling. Airplanes, rental cars, hotels, new
places, new people. It all sounds glamorous, and it can be, but it can also be exhausting, frustrating, expensive and unhealthy if you do not take the right steps.
The art of traveling for a living has been a learning process for me. It started in 2009 when I took the job as official referee for the International Racquetball Tour. I was given a budget per tournament for my travel, so it was up to me to book my flights and get myself from A to B. The first year proved difficult as I would find myself unorganized and sometimes frantic in my attempts to reach the tournaments on time. I would do anything to save money. I would sleep in airports, take buses, find rides and shelter with friends. I would book my flight at an airport two hours away and take the bus just to save $40 dollars. It is not something I do now, but back then I had to be tight with my funds.
10 Tips from the Pro:
1) Never buy anything by yourself, always split with at least one other
If you find yourself in need of a place to stay at a tournament it is likely that you are not the only one. Find a person or two before the tournament and make arrangements to bunk up and share costs. Keep in mind: the hotel is often the most expensive part of the trip. A rental car is another good item to split. If you factor in the hassle of not having a car, plus taxi costs, you will find that splitting a rental car two or three ways is a lot more convenient and less expensive.
2) Check the weather of your destination
The weather will often determine what you should bring on your trip. It is important to bring the right clothes like jackets for cold weather or shorts for warm weather. There’s nothing like being in New York in January without a jacket or Florida in March without any sandals.
3) Pack Light
Remember that you are on your way to a tournament and you want to conserve your energy. The lighter your luggage the better. To achieve this, remember that every little thing counts. Things like travel toothpaste instead of a large tube, leaving your shampoo and body-wash
at home, or carrying a small bottle of water help. Lighten your bags as much as possible.
Do not pack your entire closet. Before packing something, ask yourself, “will I really need this?”. If you are unsure then you should leave it because odds are you won’t need it. A good example of this is books. I will often pack a few books thinking I might glance at them on the plane, then I get home and realize I didn’t touch them once. They are bulky and turn into dead weight when unused.
The other advantage of packing light is to avoid checking luggage. Since the airlines started charging for luggage it has made me rethink the way I pack and travel. I used to pack whatever I wanted into my massive suitcase and spend the $25 each way ($50 round trip) to carry my
entire bedroom around with me. I added up the cost of luggage at the end of the year, and after flying 20+ times in 2010 my expenses were over $1,000. Are you kidding me?! That is a vacation to Hawaii! So I started packing a little smarter. The airlines allow you one carry-on and
one personal item. So really, they allow you two carry-ons. Use that to your advantage and save some money.
4) Pack plenty of socks and underwear
Socks and underwear are light, small, and very crucial at times. In my opinion, you can never pack enough. Need I say more?
5) Organize and familiarize yourself with your destination
Make sure you have all the information you need before you hit the road. In my earlier years of travel I would often find myself calling people for help because I didn’t have the name of the club or hotel, or didn’t know which direction to go on the train. They are simple things that I should have written down. Have the address and contact information of the club and hotel, the names and phone numbers of the tournament directors, study a map of the area. It takes a little time
and saves a lot of stress and hassle.
6) Know the logistics
How am I getting from the airport to the hotel? How far is it? How much
is a taxi? What are my other options? What are my cheapest options?
7) Contact Locals
If you have friends, family or acquaintances in the area of your destination, make sure to contact them and let them know you’re coming. Among other things, local contacts are especially beneficial in case of an emergency.
8) Bring snacks
Eating right is perhaps the hardest part of travelling. It is not typical to find healthy food while on the road. I often find myself settling for foods I would normally not eat. This does not sit well
when aiming to be in proper physical form for a tournament. And not only is the food often unhealthy, it is usually quite expensive.
Airport food prices are higher than normal, just like baseball games and movie theaters. To help save a few dollars I like to pack my own healthy snacks on the plane. Things like trail-mix, dried fruit and granola bars. Healthy snacks like these will keep your metabolism going when you’re hungry on a long flight, or when you arrive too late for food outlets to be open. Having fuel ready at all times can be crucial when a proper meal is hard to come by.
9) Stay hydrated and healthy
Drink plenty of water and take your vitamins to help your immune system while travelling. The majority of the time that I get sick can be traced back to a specific day of travel. So take care of yourself by giving your immune system a fighting chance.
10) Keep your valuables in a safe place
Do not spread your valuables throughout your luggage. Keep them in a safe place and on you at all times. Do not pack anything valuable into your checked luggage as bags can go missing from time to time.
Every once in a while the traveling can become a drag, like those months with back-to-back-to-back tournaments, when you’re on the road 90% of the time, stopping at home only to cook a meal and do some laundry, then leaving the next day for your new destination. The rare feeling of laying in your bed the night before your third tournament in a row, saying to yourself, “do I really have to leave again?! I just got home!”. Missing your friends, family, and dog. This lifestyle can be draining and frustrating, which is why you should do your best to make your travel as hassle free as possible. If you do that, you have more time to enjoy the experiences, because that is what it’s all about. The people you meet, places you see, new and old. You learn a lot when you are on the road, about yourself and other people. It has been the most interesting of all. Being on the road has taught me how different people are, yet how similar we all are. From the East to the West, North to South and everywhere in between, it is human nature to live a happy life, no matter who you are or what you do. It is the one thing we all have in common and it is a beautiful thing to witness. It’s the overall good in people, driving them to be the best they can be. It has been an honor and privilege to go the places I go and meet the people I meet. If there is one thing I will remember about this particular time in my life, it will not be the racquetball, or the money, or the training. It will be the truly entertaining times with my friends in the different locations throughout the world. My racquetball family. Ijust want you all to know that.
Safe travels, everyone! See you on the road!
Here are a couple great blogs to check out for more travel tips:
1) “100 Travel Hacks To Simplify Your Trips”
2) Video: “Travel With No Baggage”