Travel Tips for Youth Sports Organizations – Part 2 of 3

How do you decide where your team is going to stay and whom is in charge? Without clarity, you may end up paying way too much for a bad hotel. Or worse, you may not even have a hotel to stay in, leaving your team on the street.
 
But, with consideration and work, the hotel (or other accommodation) can be a highlight of your trip. And it will save your team hundreds of dollars.
 
The following checklist and 10 tips will help your team find the perfect place to stay while you travel. And the two bonus tips will make sure that any bumps in the road will smooth out and set you up for success in the future.

Where are you staying?

As mentioned in Part 1 of our travel tips, first decide is who is responsible for where players are staying. Is it the team or will the players will be on their own at the event? Make sure this decision is clear to everyone.
 
If you do not plan this out, your team is going to spend way too much money, have a very bad experience and come off looking completely amateur.

The team is taking care of this

If you are making the arrangements for the players you will need to consider the following:
 
  • What type of options are available? Hotels, apartments, condos, rental houses, etc.
  • What is your budget per night per room or per player?
  • How many total players and coaches are you taking care of?
  • How many people are you putting in a room?
  • How many total rooms will you need?
  • Where is the tournament or event located?
  • Are there any extra perks where you are staying?

Tips on making these decisions

  •  Start early! We always start booking hotels about 6 months in advance. Be aware if your tournament or city is popular. If so, the hotels will sell out and the rates will start to spike the closer you get to the event date.
  • Use a resource like priceline.com or hotelplanner.com (if you need 10 or more rooms) to get started.
  • If you are in a “stay and play” event, be sure research each hotel early. A lot of events sell out their hotels early, leaving little room for you make the best choice.
  • When budgeting for hotel rooms, keep in mind the “hidden” costs that can add up. These include steep hotel taxes (sometimes up to 19%) and nightly resort fees that can be $8-$12 per night per room. Some properties also charge for parking. WiFi is typically free and available at every hotel. But some apartments, condos and houses may not have this available. 
  • When considering a location, be sure to read reviews about the property where you are staying. The 1 and 5 star reviews may be misleading but the 2-4 star reviews will give you an honest preview of the property.
  • Take the hotel’s address and put in to Google maps. Then zoom in to the point where you can see the businesses around the hotel. Are there restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters or other resources for your players? Do you see any red flags or issues? Are you close to the event location?
  • Again with Google maps, use the property location and event location to see the route you will drive. Then view the map during the time you may have your competition. Are all the roads bright red indicating traffic problems? Keep this in mind when booking.
  • Does the hotel provide a continental breakfast, full breakfast or nothing at all? This can save your players $10 a day or more if they do.
  • If you are in a hotel, do they offer suites for a small increase in price? A $100 room that houses four players is not as good as $125 room that will house six players. Take advantage if available.
  • Talk to your people in your network that either live in the city you are going to or have played there before. Get their take on the area, hotel, pricing, etc. to get a feel for if you are in the right place.

Build a relationship – it will pay off!

One of the best things you can do is get to know the property manager and / or sales manager. There are two main reasons to do this. In case issues pop up while you are there and so you can get a better deal the following year.
Thanks to a good relationship, problems were avoided
Inevitably, when you have young players, something may happen. There may be a noise complaint or something may get broken. There are hundreds of possibilities. Most of the time, the issues aren’t a big deal. But because kids are involved, the management or other guests will make a bigger deal out of it. Now it becomes a problem that you must address. If you have introduced yourself to the manager on site, they will be more likely to hear your side of the story. Often they will ignore smaller issues because they want to keep their big groups happy. This also helps in other situations like when your shower doesn’t have hot water or you get put in a smoking room.
 
For example, we had a summer in Las Vegas where our rooms weren’t available when we got there. The hotel overbooked and our rooms were gone. We had stayed there before and had a good relationship. Magically the management provided us upgrades to suites that first night. As a program we looked like heroes to our players and parents. Our bus driver still talks about it today!
 
Getting to know the sales manager is also a real advantage for the following year. If you have booked your rooms through a third-party sales group, the hotel will pay them a commission. This cuts in to their profit. However, you can cut out the middle man next year and go straight to the sales manager. Now you are in a position to negotiate with them direct. This can lead to a better rate because they won’t have to pay commissions.
 
Magically we were upgraded to suites that first night.

Players are on their own

As with everything else, if the players are on their own, be sure they know when they need to be to the event. They need the same information that you need. Find a good way to communicate this information. It will include when they need to be there, where the event is at and how long the event may go.
 
It is also a good idea to know where your players are staying, even if they are on their own. This information can come in handy in several ways.

Getting it right

With a little digging, you will find the right property for your team at the right price and in the right place. Start early, ask some questions and take your traveling to the next level!

What are you doing?

Do you have any hotel or accommodation tips or tricks that might help others? We’d love to hear them and you will probably be helping other readers out as well. Please share them in the comments.