Travel Tips for Youth Sports Organizations – Part 1 of 3

When putting together your team’s travel plan for a tournament or event, there are three questions you must answer: how are you getting there, where are you staying and how will you get around when you get there.
 
If you do not plan this out, you (and your players) are going to spend way too much money, provide a very bad experience and come off looking completely amateur.
 
At Select, we’ve shown that by exploring options we save money, have a stress free experience and show our families that we are 100% committed to providing the best possible service we can. We transformed from wasting player’s money to maximizing their investment. Plus, with continued research on things like hotel locations and perks or a satellite rental car approach, we are making things more convenient for everyone.
 
By following these tips you will have a much better experience setting up travel for your team.

How are you getting there?

Assuming you know where your tournament or event is at, you will have to decide how you are getting there. Before you decide this, you must decide who is in charge.
 
Is the team admin (probably you) making the arrangements? Or are the players in charge of getting themselves there on their own? Whatever the decision, you must make sure everyone understands.

The team makes arrangements

Traveling as a team can be a lot of fun and can build team chemistry. If the team is traveling together, you are in charge of setting and communicating the plan to everyone. Here are the things to consider before deciding how you will travel.

Considerations

  • When does the event start? What is the earliest possible time you would need to be there?
  • When does the event end? Does everyone end at the same time or is it a “win or go home” style of event?
  • How far away is the event?
  • How many people will you be responsible for? Just players? Players and coaches? Players, coaches and parents?
  • Do you already have a travel budget?

Once you have these details, now you can start looking at modes of transportation. Here are some of the ways we have traveled in the past.

Modes of transportation

  • Group flights
  • Rental cars / vans
  • Charter bus
Group Flights
Pros – If the event is relatively far away, flying can be the fastest and safest way to get there. If you book flights early enough, it can also be affordable.
 
Cons – If you have a large group, getting everyone on the same flight can be a challenge. You are locked in to set departure times. If you purchase flights that leave late but don’t make it far in the tournament you will be waiting around. Getting through security can be inconvenient. If your trip lasts several days to a week, luggage can be an issue.
Group flights can save time, but the inconvenience may not be worth the trade off.
Rental Cars
Pros – You have the freedom to leave when you want. You will have the vehicles available to use when you get to your destination. Rental cars can be a comfortable travel option.
 
Cons – You are required to do the driving yourself. Depending on the number of people you are taking, you may need more than one vehicle and more than one driver. While you get to leave the event when you want, if the event goes late it can lead to tired and unsafe driving. You will want to figure out your insurance situation before you leave.
Charter Buses
Pros – The company we use provides buses that can hold up to six of our teams. This makes it affordable and builds team chemistry. Buses allow you to depart whenever you choose. With a professional driver, you have someone that is dedicated to getting your teams safely to your destination while you are able to do other things (like work on email, meet with your players or sleep if it is a late night).
 
Cons – To be affordable, you must know the minimum amount of people that will be riding or you will be wasting money. The travel is slower than using rental cars (and sometimes flights) and when you get to your destination, you only have one vehicle for all your teams.
 
We have gone from asking players to spend money on services they did not need to maximizing their investment.

Players are on their own

If your players are expected to make their own arrangements, it eliminates this responsibility from your program. It can also save the players money (though that depends on their situation).
 
However, this can create confusion for parents, if the travel arrangements are not communicated. It can also create anxiety for parents of younger players. This may compel a parent to feel the need to travel with the children. This can be much more expensive, as they are now paying for a player AND a parent.
 
If your players are on their own, here are important recommendations to keep everyone on the same page.
 
  • Be clear that players are expected to travel on their own. Double state this if necessary. “Players will need to make their own arrangements to get to the tournament location. This program will not be making any arrangements for the players.”
  • Be clear about when and where they are expected to be for the event. This may be as simple as stating “All players must arrive at the team hotel by 2:00 PM on Friday”.
  • Be ready to answer common questions from parents if the player is traveling alone. Examples include:
    • Will someone be able to help them get to and from the airport
    • Are there other players that live near me that we can carpool with?
    • Do I need to travel with my child?
  • Consider letting the players in the program know your travel plans as an example of how to get to and from the event. We post our coaches’ flight information on our webpage. This gives them an idea of when we will be leaving and arriving.

What Select Does

We have found that a combination of these transportation modes work best for us. In the spring, we give players their travel requirements and let them choose the best way to travel. This is the best option considering school absences.
 
In the summer we travel on buses. This is more practical since our players are at the same location for mini-camp before we leave.

Resources for group travel

Flights – we’ve used Southwest Airlines in the past and they seem to be fine.
 
Rental Cars – You can search around Orbitz and Priceline for different deals. We go through Enterprise as they are organized and don’t put on pressure for upgrades, insurance, etc.
 
Charter Buses – The last few years we have used a company called Caldwell Transportation Company. This is determined by your local area. How do you find respected companies? Talk to a local college that uses bus transportation (Division II schools and down). They are probably working with someone in the area. High school athletic directors and coaches will also have an idea of where to look.
 
Individual Flights – If you are only booking a few flights, start with Orbitz or Priceline to find flights. When you find a flight you like, go directly to that airline to book that flight. The price is usually the same and making a change is much easier with the airline compared to going a third party seller.
Next up in Part 2, we take a look at how to select the best hotel for your program, things to consider and how to make sure you get the best rate every year.

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