With racing and summer vacations comes travel. Whether you’re going by plane, train, or automobile, you’re likely to end up in a new location during this season. You might be going to train some more or maybe you’re just hoping to check out some of trails near the cottage. You might arrive near a race course a week or two prior to get familiar with the terrain. Whatever the plan, you need to pack yourself (and your gear) up so you can be ready.
If you’re travelling to a race this summer season, use some of these tips to make the trip more economical and get you to the start line with all of your equipment and necessities intact.
1. Pack Light
What can you leave behind? It will depend a bit on how long you plan to be away for, but you might be packing more than you need to. This can cost you in the long run. You may need to pay extra baggage fees. Extra weight can also weigh down your vehicle, making your car less fuel efficient as you road trip from race location to race location. (And, with the price of gas, that’s something no one wants!)
Ask yourself if you really need everything you’ve tossed in your luggage. It might be nice to bring your disc wheel with you, but will you actually use it? If you’re only going to be there a few days, check the weather forecast. If it’s been hot and is going to stay hot, you may not need your wetsuit.
Think also about things you can pick up at the grocery store or around the race site. While you won’t want to buy a brand new kit every time you go to a race, think about picking up small items like gels at the site. Just be warned: it can sometimes be more expensive to buy things on-site versus elsewhere.
2. Use Your Bike Box as Luggage
If you use a bike box, you probably use it for your bike and maybe your wheels. That’s about all that goes in there, partially because you don’t want to run the risk of any harm coming to your bike.Think about using the extra space in the box if there is any. If you use a hard-top box, it’s likely you’ll have some extra space. If you’re going to spend $50 or $75 or $100 (or more) to get the box on a plane, you might as well use that space efficiently! Think about placing extra clothes and other soft items with the bike. Just be sure to clean it up and wrap any oily or greasy parts prior to packing them with your favorite T-shirt.
3. Ditch the Practice Gear
If you’re going for an extended stay, you’ll likely want to bring your practice gear with you. If you’re only going to be at the race site for a couple of days before or after, it’s likely okay to leave your practice gear at home and bring your race equipment alone.
A good example is your race wheels versus practice wheels. (You should be running a different, fresher set of wheels for the race.) While you don’t want to put too many practice miles on your race wheels, a couple of short sessions prior to the race likely isn’t going to hurt, unless they’re very old and will need to be replaced immediately after this race.Helmets and shoes are other items where it might be wise to bring just what you’ll need for the race.
4. Give Yourself Time to Adjust to the Area
If you’re travelling quite far to get to a race, you’ll want to give yourself time to adjust to the new locale. If you’re travelling somewhere in South or Central America, you’ll want time to adjust to the warm temperatures. If you’ll be travelling somewhere mountainous, where the air is thinner (think Denver), it’s a good idea to give yourself time to adjust. And finally, you’ll need to calculate how much time you’ll need to adjust to time zone differences.
For me, I find travelling west is much easier than travelling east. Staying on Eastern Standard Time is sometimes the best thing to do. This can make six AM PST feel more like 9 AM EST—which is a much more reasonable time to be running a race, if you ask me.
5. Pack at Least One Set of Clothes and Your Necessities in Your Carry-On
If you’re going to be travelling by plane, there’s always a risk your luggage will get lost. Some airlines are worse than others, and some trips are notorious for it. You should never assume your luggage will be safe, however.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’re travelling with at least one change of clothes and any necessities in your carry-on. Pajamas, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, glasses, and contact cases are all items you’ll want to have on hand shortly after you get in. No one wants to spend hours travelling, fret about their lost luggage, then realize they can’t change into a fresh set of clothes or need to run around to find a toothbrush. (If you’re at a hotel, you might get lucky, but not all hotels offer toiletries to patrons.)
6. Have a Back-Up Bike Plan
Your bike might also get lost or be damaged during transit. If you’ve ever seen how baggage handlers at the airport work, you know they can be quite rough. (This is why I still use one of the hard-top bike boxes.) There is absolutely nothing more heartbreaking than arriving at your race destination only to find you’ll need to sit this one out because your bike is lost or broken.
Create a back-up bike-plan before you travel. If you own a second bike, you may want to ship it to your hotel or rental, although this can be expensive. Another option is to check in with a friend, relative, or local triathlete in the area to see if you could borrow or rent a bike. A local bike shop may be able to hook you up with a loaner prior to the race.
While you’ll always hope you’ll never need to put the plan into action, having one can save you boatloads of stress when and if it does happen to you.
7. Book Early
The sweet spot for flights used to be about 90 days before the departure date, but services like Google and Expedia are shifting this. Now it’s about 65 days (or a little over two months) before you fly. Some places say Tuesdays are the days you’ll find the best fare, while others recommend other days of the week. Similar rules apply to hotels and housing rentals. Booking early will give you peace of mind. Booking last minute could drive up the prices or leave you high and dry when it comes to actually getting to your race or finding a place to stay. No one wants to be on stand-by when they’re trying to get to a race.
Follow these tips, and you’ll have an easier time getting to your next race this summer.