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Traveling to a destination race can seem daunting. But with help from a few experts and experienced travelers, we’ve compiled a collection of useful tips and tricks to make your next wheels-up adventure simple and stress-free.
Nutrition To Go
Ironman champion Linsey Corbin considers food from home as a critical travel provision. “Always pack healthy snacks for the flight and some of your favorite pre-race foods, as you never know whether a grocery store will be convenient (or carry what you need) when you arrive,” Corbin says. Her go-to travel snacks include apples, carrots, pretzel sticks, mixed nuts, Emergen-C (vitamin C supplement), tuna, dark chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, her favorite coffee and individual packs of Justin’s Nut Butter.
Training In Transit
Where does training fit into your before, during and after travel plans? “Gauge the stress of your travel against the stress of your workout,” says Jay Dicharry, a physical therapist and director of the REP Biomechanics Lab in Bend, Ore. (Reporegon.com). “Sometimes packing and getting the family together can make you feel like you just ran a marathon, and other times trips are a lot simpler than we make them out to be. If you are feeling fresh, then stay on your training plan, and if you’ve got a hard workout, go for it. But if you are too stressed or fatigued to even think about hitting 8×2-minute intervals, it’s best to push that to another day.” During a taper week, it’s often easiest to plan your travel day as a day off from training entirely.
In flight, compression socks or tights are an endurance athlete’s travel essential, as is regular movement. “Try to walk around every 90 minutes,” Dicharry suggests. “If you’re stuck against the window, try this: Scoot forward and lean so that you’ve got some weight through your lower legs and do ankle pumps for about a minute, several times through the flight. You store a lot of blood volume in your lower legs, and the key to preventing clots is to move it around.”
A long layover can serve as an opportunity for an easy jog, outside or on a treadmill if available at an airport gym (Chicago, Munich, Dubai, Singapore and more locations have them now). Most airports have lockers or “left luggage” counters where you can temporarily stash your carry-on, and if you’re lucky enough to enjoy lounge privileges you might find a shower where you can freshen up afterward.
When it comes to packing, evaluate the basics first, says pro Mary Beth Ellis, who was formerly the marketing manager at Ebags.com How long will you be gone? Is it a weekend race or a two-week training camp culminating in a race? What are the weather conditions—predictable like Kona or variable like Lake Tahoe in September? Will you have access to a washer/dryer? Then, pack only the items that serve a trip-specific purpose.
– Is there a local bike mechanic or shop you trust? If yes, skip the pump and extra bike tools.
– Can you purchase race nutrition locally? Pack only what you need—reserving that space on the return trip for your finisher medal and tee.
– Split transition? If so, bring an extra pair of run shoes to wear race morning after handing in your T2 bag.
– Unless you’re certain of the water temperature reading, pack both a wetsuit and a speedsuit.
– For short trips, bring only race wheels. For longer trips, bring training wheels to lower the risk of flatting on race day.
– Wear comfortable travel clothing and pack a few additional items that can be worn interchangeably.
– Extra shoes require extra space—only pack what you need.
– Use packing cubes.
– Pack socks into your run shoes, and swimsuits and goggles into your bike shoes.
– If you’re staying at a hotel, rely on the complimentary shampoo, soap, conditioner, lotion and shower gel. Pack only carry-on-compatible amounts of your must-have toiletries.
– Pack some items in your bike bag or box, but be wary of the airline’s weight limit.
Our Packing A-List
A few must-pack particulars to increase your travel comfort, with little extra weight.
– A travel-sized dual voltage kettle, (we recommend the Severin WK 3644, weighing a little more than a pound), perfect for boiling water in the wee hours for race morning oatmeal and coffee. Add a single-cup Melitta cone, filters and a supply of your favorite ground coffee beans and you’ll be caffeine-equipped anytime, anywhere in the world.
– An empty water bottle in your carry-on. Forgo pricey airport beverages and instead simply ask for repeat refills to stay hydrated on board.
– Ziploc bags in various sizes. A gallon bag is ideal for packing a damp race kit or swimsuit, a quart bag corrals miscellaneous odds and ends, and a snack-sized bag protects your cell phone from tropical sweat in a jersey pocket.
– Half the training clothes you think you’ll need. Shampoo serves double duty as laundry soap should you need to wash your gear in the hotel sink, and most tech fabrics dry quickly hanging in the shower or on the hotel balcony.
– Colgate Wisp disposable mini toothbrushes. Because everything—especially a long-haul flight—feels better with fresh breath.
Mary Beth Ellis’ Go-To Travel Bags
Tumi Carry-On Rolling Duffle
“I’ve had it since working for eBags back in 2002. It’s so simple but it’s my favorite for short trips and keeps me from overpacking.”
Fitmark Competitor Backpack
“It’s great for traveling and does double duty as my transition bag on race morning.”
TYR Convoy Rolling Luggage Duffle
“For longer trips, it has plenty of room to pack everything I need for extended training as well as race day.”
Jettison The Jetlag
Traveling across time zones can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns, but a few simple tricks can help ease the adjustment.
First, start your trip rested by packing a few days in advance and avoiding a late-night cram session. Set your watch to your destination’s clock immediately upon takeoff to get your mind accustomed to the new time zone. JetZone (a homeopathic anti-jetlag remedy) helps reduce jetlag symptoms, while melatonin (a natural supplement used to aid sleep) or even a simple eye mask and earplugs can significantly improve rest on board. If you arrive during daytime, try to stay awake until early evening (an easy afternoon swim or run can help you feel refreshed), then aim for a solid night’s sleep, as a solid 7–9 hours is the best bet to get back on track. A spritz of lavender essential oil on your pillow is another natural way to encourage relaxation.
Travel insurance is one of those things you think you’ll never need—until it’s too late. Check your existing policies first (medical, auto and homeowner or renter’s insurance), plus any protection benefits provided by the credit card used to pay for the trip; then consider additional coverage. “One of the most important things I tell all our guests when they confirm a trip is to protect their trip with travel insurance,” says Sandy Cunningham, president of Outside GO (Outsidego.com). “I’ve seen so many unprecedented occurrences that prevent people from traveling that it is worth it.” Cunningham has been using Allianz (Allianzusa.com) for years—it offers a wide range of coverage for as little as $40.
Also, store scanned copies of your passport, insurance cards and credit/debit cards in your phone or tablet in case they are lost or stolen.
Kayak.com & Momondo.com
Travel aggregators for airline tickets, hotels and rental cars. The most efficient way to compare costs and availability, with an array of useful filters to customize your search.
The upside to registering for most races months in advance? There’s time to play the airfare watch game. Sign up for fare alerts and buy at the best price.
Choose your seat based on specifics such as legroom, amount of recline, carry-on baggage space, proximity to restrooms and engine noise.
Unique—and generally affordable—vacation accommodations around the world.
Rent a bike from a local triathlete or cyclist at your destination.
If you travel frequently but lack status with any one airline, Priority Pass sells a variety of affordable options for lounge access—especially when weighed against the cost of airport food and beverages and Wi-Fi fees. And the value of VIP-style rest and relaxation during a lengthy layover? Priceless.
Bike Bag Price Tag
The fees listed below are charged on flights to/from the U.S. each way for bike bags/boxes exceeding normal luggage weight and size limits. Always double-check your airline’s policy regarding your specific destination.
$150 within U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands; $200 all other destinations
$150 all destinations except Brazil ($75)
$150 all destinations except Brazil ($75)
Air New Zealand
$150 (Note: You must register your bike with the airline once you’ve booked your ticket.)
$150–$230 (variable according to departure and destination cities)
$225 (subject to both $50 overweight and $175 oversize fees)
No additional fee if within two free bag allowance; otherwise $200
$75 if within two free bag allowance, +$175 if third bag
$100 if within two free bag allowance, +$150 if third bag
Our Bike’s Favorite Way To Travel
Some of us on the Triathlete staff have been known to only choose races where TriBikeTransport goes because we loathe dealing with bike travel. TriBikeTransport makes it incredibly easy to bring your wheels to 90 destinations and seven countries (and growing). You simply drop off your bike at a local retailer before the event, fly there on your own, and once you arrive, it’s waiting for you in transition. After you cross the finish line, drop it back off and they’ll take care of getting it to your home bike shop. TBT fees start around $300 and go up depending on the event and pickup location. Tribiketransport.com