One thing’s for certain when you’re traveling out of town for a triathlon: you’re bound to spend more money than you wish you had.
I am always looking for the best ways to travel and race on a budget without sacrificing the comfort of being relaxed and ready to give my best performance.
Here are four different ways I’ve found to save money will traveling to races, but still keep all the essentials intact.
1. Avoiding Bike Fees
One of the most annoying things about going to a race is getting hit with all these hidden fees. You end up paying a lot more to go race than you initially expected. If you’re like me you race Ironman which means you’re already paying at least $300 a race plus your travel fees.
On my recent trip to Maryland I was flying with American Airlines. Somewhere in the back of my mind I must’ve known that the fees for American were more than other airlines I’d flown recently like Southwest and Spirit. Both of those airlines offer a $75 fee both ways making it $150 to take your bike wherever you go. However, American among other airlines charge $150 each way, ouch.
There are a few different companies that have come up with some interesting ways to avoid bike fees.
One of these companies is ORUcase. They offer this ingenious bike case that breaks your bike into two separate pieces. The wheels and bike frame fit into two different packages. This allows you to check these bags as normal bags instead of as a bike.
Some may consider this a little bit unscrupulous, so take it with a grain of salt.
Frankly it’s a pretty good deal considering the case called the airport ninja is offered for $400. This pretty on par with a lot of your case manufacturers so it is on anything unusual talk about $400 for by case. The downside is that the airport ninja is made specifically for your bike frame in size so it may not fit your bike if you switch to a new frame at a later date.
That leaves me looking for a little more homemade alternative to the airport ninja: finding luggage that fits a bike case and wheels separately. Of course the downside to this one is going to have to make sure that it’s packaged properly. Foam, bubble wrap, padding, and whatever else you can find to make sure your bike will arrive safely.
The upside for being your own MacGyver is that you to avoid potentially $300 in fees for every triathlon you do out of town. Especially when you consider flying with Southwest who has two checked bags for free with every flight.
Here’s a breakdown of airline bike fees as of June 2016.
Fees are ONE WAY. So if you plan on coming back with your bike, double them.
- Delta $150
- American Airlines $150
- United $150
- Southwest $75
- Spirit $75
- Jet Blue $50
- Air Canada $50
Even if you don’t decide to MacGyver your own bike box you can compare airline ticket prices combined with the amount you’ll pay for your bike to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
2. Lowering Your Hotel Bill
One of the things that easily adds to your travel bill is hotel fees. If you’re like me you often stay in budget motels or a budget hotel trying to save as much you can. The problem with this is that you end up in a most likely uncomfortable bed with few amenities and paperthin walls where noisy neighbors are going to keep you up all night before the race. I can’t tell you how may times I’ve been trying to sleep the night before a race when kids are running up and down the hall with basketballs and their parents do absolutely nothing.
This isn’t really a secret as it’s becoming a widely known company, but Airbnb seems to be ignored by the triathlon community at large.
If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it is a company that allows people to rent out their homes or investment properties for short-term stays. By virtue of economics this means that almost always you’re going to find a cheaper rate staying in someone’s home than you are going to be staying in a hotel.
The bed-and-breakfast concept has been around for a long time so this in itself isn’t anything new. However, where the possibilities get interesting here is we can rent out someone’s entire house meaning they aren’t actually going to be staying there. Yes this is going to be more expensive per night than if you are renting a single room in someone’s home. However, if you’re like most triathletes I know you have other triathlete friends.
When you rent out a house that has multiple beds in multiple rooms and plan a trip where people you know are going to the same race then you can split the cost of the house between everyone. Staying there for much cheaper than if you are renting only a single room.
This is something that I and my friends commonly do to keep our costs down. We’re a group of younger guys just starting out in the sport and in our careers so we don’t have large budgets to travel, but we still want to race. As an example earlier in March we went to Clermont, Florida to race. We found a townhome to stay in 15 minutes from the race venue then split up between the four of us it was $25 a night. I don’t know about you, but I know I can’t find accommodations that have a kitchen, garage, and privacy from those noisy children for $25 a night anywhere else.
If you’ve never used Airbnb before you can use this referral link from me to get $25 off your first booking. For full disclosure I do also get a $25 credit when you make your first booking, but it’s a win-win in my opinion.
3. Cook Your Own Meals
Remember in the last section when I said we want to rent out someone’s home on Airbnb? Well this is where you have the opportunity to use their kitchen.
Being able to cook at home, at least someone else’s home, enables you to have full control over what you’re eating. You get to eliminate the high-fat food at fast food restaurants or sitdown restaurants. If you’ve ever eaten a really fatty meal right before race I’m sure you understand how devastating this can potentially be.
Of course this is also a cheaper option than eating out for every meal while you’re traveling. Ignoring that it’s cheaper to cook than it is to eat out you also get the option to have leftovers. Normally the leftovers aren’t anything to be excited about, but this gives you a chance to eat exactly when you want to instead of having to wait for a meal when cooking it or going someplace to eat.
4. Pack light
One of the most daunting tasks about traveling for race is the need to bring along all the extraneous gear. Personally I long for the memories of when I was only traveling for running races in school. 1. Uniform, check. 2. Running shoes, check. Ready to race.
Now it’s a laundry list of things to bring along: race shoes, wetsuit, goggles, race suit, bike, tubes, etc. The list never seems to end. The one thing you can actually skimp on is clothes.
Whether you have access to a washing machine or not you only need one set of workout clothes when you’re traveling. After your workout for the day all you need to do is get in the shower with your workout clothes on and scrub them down. Isn’t going to be like washing them in the washing machine at home, however it will make them clean enough to deal with for your short trip and eliminate a lot of extra weight in your package.
Paring down your travel bag to the absolute essentials is key to not losing your mind while traveling for a race.
When you pack light if you have a large enough bag you can fit all of your race day gear and workout clothes in the same bag. This becomes your carry-on which is free on almost any airline.
Eliminating checked bag fees is probably the easiest way to cut down on travel expenses. If you aren’t following the suggestions for your own bike box from number one eliminating excess luggage will both keep more money in your wallet and lower your stress while traveling.
If you have money-saving travel tips you’d like to share leave them in the comments below.
About the Author
Jesse Funk is an entrepreneur and full-time triathlete. His love of endurance sports led him to begin building a lifestyle that would allow training 7-days a week. During another winter of indoor swimming he began to develop red irritated skin around his eyes. After some less than perfect solutions he went on a search to find something that did work and wouldn’t irritate his skin. Solpri is what came out of that search. You can read more about his triathlon adventures on his personal blog jessefunk.com or reach him by e-mail at funkj (at) solpri.com