One of my favorite things about being a triathlete is traveling for a race. Today, there are so many incredible places to visit so it's extra special when you combine a love for traveling with a love of racing.
Traveling to another country is not a simple process. Now add in the gear for swimming, biking and running and travel can become a very overwhelming (and expensive) experience.
Over the years, Karel and I have enjoyed many incredible race-cations - Austria, Prague, Canada, Lake Placid and Kona to name a few. Here are a few tips to help you feel more prepared for your upcoming international event.
- Review your passport to make sure that it won't expire when you are away. Review country requirements for travel.
- Review all airline policies for your bike (and bags) before booking your plane ticket, call the airline in advance to notify them that you will be traveling with a bike and when you arrive to the airport, have printed-out information about bike fees/sizing, etc. Arrive to the airport with extra time (at least two hours).
- Traveling with your bike is not cheap or easy so be sure you educate yourself on how to best travel with your bike to your final destination. Compare prices (and ease-of-travel) with Tri Bike Transport (if available).
- Consider how you will get to your final destination from the airport with your bike, bags and yourself and others. Rental car, bus, van, etc. Reserve modes of transportation in advance whenever possible.
- Always confirm your reservations and arrangements at least two weeks before your travel to make sure there are no mistakes made in your travel itinerary.
- Consider cost vs. ease-of-travel. Sometimes it costs a bit more for an easier travel experience. Do not expect stress free but many times you can plan for a smoother trip by paying for convenience. Budget in advance for your trip so you don't book things last-minute.
- Review your lodging arrangements. Can you eat healthy while dining out or do you have to be creative in your hotel room?
- Always allow extra time. If you think you only need 3 days to get yourself adjusted to a new time zone, give yourself 4. I also recommend to enjoy your race-cation after the race (instead of touring before the race). Give yourself a few days to explore with your family/friends after the race.
- Consider races that are family/friends-friendly so your team is not bored, with nothing to do in an isolated area, in the days leading up to the race. Having a team travel with you can be a very enjoyable experience. You can also use the extra help (ex. driving around/dropping off, cooking food, running errands, etc.) in an unfamiliar environment.
- If you (or family/friends) have dietary/health issues, be sure to be prepared by notifying airlines, lodging, etc. and reviewing/planning as much as you can, in advance. Have all medications with you.
- Notify your bank (credit card) before you travel so that the 'foreign' charges do not cause your credit card to be frozen. Also, be sure to have a written paper of all emergency numbers to carry with you in case of an emergency. Keep a family member back at home in the loop of where you are each day.
- Make a list of what you need to bring with you as some items may not be available at your final destination (ex. nutrition, gear, etc.). Never make assumptions when you travel. Always be prepared by doing your research.
- Don't carry all of your cash with you/in one place. Divide up your cash (but still keep on you at all times) in different places in the case you accidentally lose your wallet.
- Consider the best places to exchange currency, instead of relying on the airport kiosk.
- Don't forget chargers and gadgets. Make sure you are prepared for different power plugs and sockets. Don't forget a universal travel adapter.
- Bring your most important gear items with you on the plane, instead of in your suitcase. It's recommended to have at least one set of extra clothing with you in case your luggage gets lost, as well as swim or run gear so that you can still workout when you arrive if your bike/luggage doesn't arrive with you.
- Pack sport nutrition products in your suitcase and label everything. Double bag your products in case of a spill.
- When packing, make sure to allow extra room for gifts/swag for your return trip. When considering what to bring vs. what to buy when you arrive to your final destination, factor in the exchange rate if you plan to buy something when you arrive.
- Have phone numbers available with you in the case your luggage/bike gets lost or you need to reach your accommodations.
- Stay hydrated during your travels, with water and electrolytes.
- Bring snacks with you during travel, and a few bars (ex. Amrita protein bars - discount Trimarni) for emergency/snack situations.
- Research the typical cuisine at your final destination and nearby grocery stores.
- Be mindful of food and water safety while traveling. Consider how food is prepared when you are eating out in a new country as well as any hidden ingredients that may not be well-tolerated in your nervous/traveling belly. Wait until post race to explore a new cuisine. Depending on the water safety at your final destination, plan to have bottled water with you at all times.
- Eat mini meals every 2 hours to adjust to a new time zone instead of sticking to your normal meal schedule (or grazing throughout the entire day of travel). Do not overdo it on caffeine to stay awake during traveling. When you arrive to your final destination, try to quickly get on the new time zone. Be aware that everyone adjusts differently. Avoid mid-day naps when you arrive. It's better to go to bed early than to struggle to fall asleep.
- Try to follow a similar eating pattern (but in a new time-zone) to your regular routine in your home environment.
- Check the airline/country requirements of what you can/can't bring on to the plane (food). Always have food on you in the case of an emergency (even if you need to purchase at the airport). Never assume your travel will go smoothly without delays.
- Be firm on your dietary needs and requirements and be confident with your food selections. If a food/meal concerns you, do not eat it. I am all for enjoying a new culture but not at the expense of a body that is not well-fueled or sick on race day.
MAKE IT FEEL LIKE HOME
- Bring your recovery routine to the new country. Foam rollers, trigger point therapy sets, compression socks, epson salt, etc. to help you stay relaxed.
- Trust your training and your race plan. Don't second guess yourself just because you are in a new environment.
- Review weather well in advance and be prepared for anything.
- If you have a favorite sheet or a sound machine, bring it with you. Familiar is comforting.
- Bring ear plugs and an eye mask to help with restful sleeping.
- Get good sleep to help you feel relaxed and to keep the immune system functioning well.
- Review all course maps, the race week event schedule and any other race details that will give you a more enjoyable and calm race experience.
- Search out safe training environments or train with others so that you do not compromise your health/safety before your race. Use a race forum/social media page to ask questions about the best places to train in the days before the race. Look for a pool option if open water swimming is not available before your race.
- Be sure to thank your team, even if they are not with you in your final destination. Facetime/Skype, call, email - be sure to communicate with those who support you and believe in you. Don't forget to bring home lots of souvenirs for your team.
- Thank your body. You are not able to do what you love to do without your body. Even if things don't seem to go as planned (they probably won't), this doesn't mean that you are doomed for a bad race.
- Have fun! Life is all about experiences and making memories and how cool that you get to race and travel at the same time!