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In these challenging economic times, when a youth sports coach mentions team travel, a collective groan is often heard from the parents—especially if the tournament or competition requires air travel.
The idea that the only way to improve your team’s skills is by traveling to far-flung locations is a myth. For most youth sports teams, especially those with players under 12, the farthest you really need to go is a couple of hours away from home. Which means you can meet the coach’s goal of upping the competition while still not breaking parents’ budgets.
By targeting tournaments within driving distance, you can save a bundle on air travel and car rental, but here are some other ideas to keep your team travel expenses down, even if you trek more than a car-ride from home:
Save on Team Hotel Accommodations
Even if you are driving to a weekend tournament, you may need to spend at least one—possibly two—nights in a hotel. Those 8:00 AM games with 7:00 AM warm-ups pretty much dictate a hotel stay the night before.
Many tournament coordinators will provide a list of nearby hotels. Make sure you contact the hotel directly, not the chain’s toll-free number. You’ll definitely get a better deal on a block of rooms that way. Also, if you are choosing between two, fairly equally priced hotels and one has a pool but the other doesn’t, you’ll find the pool worth its weight in gold at the end of a long day at the field or facility—for both kids and parents!
For longer tournaments, such as the week-long Cooperstown Dreams Park Youth Baseball tournament, it’s worth looking into renting a large house with a kitchen and inside and outside eating areas. Not only can several families stay in the house—saving money in the long run—but also you can make it a ‘home base’ for the team, making carpooling easier
Plan Team Travel Meals
A simple way to save money on food at nearby tournaments is to arrange a potluck lunch on the first day. Sometime the week before the tournament, just have everyone list what he or she plans to bring on the Refreshments tab of your TeamSnap page. Because you’re driving, everyone can put their goodies in a cooler and keep them fresh all day. It’s fun to have a variety of salads, sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and drinks for everyone to enjoy together.
Plus, once you’re settled at the hotel, you can easily scope out the local grocery stores and plan another potluck the following day. You already have your coolers, just refill them with ice and more food and you’re set!
Don’t forget to have families sign up for paper goods, utensils, card or other portable tables and, most importantly, pop-up canopies or tarps. Whether it’s sunny or raining, you’ll find those canopies indispensable. And make sure someone brings bags for garbage and recycling!
For those longer tournaments I mentioned above, that ‘home base’ house can turn into a great way to save money on team meals. Before you leave on your trip, split the parents into groups and assign them a specific day and meal. Together, they plan the meal and are responsible for all the shopping, cooking, and clean-up of that meal. When you arrive in town, or the day before your assigned meal, simply to go to Costco or the closest grocery store and do your shopping. It’s certainly a lot more relaxing—and cost-effective—than going out for breakfast, lunch and dinner for six days in a row! Plus, it’s healthier too!
Another way to save money is to arrange carpools for your weekend team travel, especially if only one parent from the family is traveling with a player. Fourteen SUVs or minivans burn up a lot of gas, even if you’re just driving 100 miles—and considerably more if you drive that distance four times over two days! You can use TeamSnap to find out who needs a ride, who has extra room in her car, and for how many passengers. Carpooling not only saves gas, it gives the players more time to bond on the ride to the tournament.
These are just a few ideas for saving money on tournament travel. Do you have any other suggestions to share? We’d love to hear them!