Planning and executing a trip for a sports team is far from easy. As the travel secretary for my rugby club, my National Champion rugby club that is, I had to put together travel plans for 35 people to travel from Wichita, Kansas, to San Francisco, California, on a little less that two weeks notice. With money this would be easy, but on a budget you have to get very creative. Here are 6 easy cost cutting tips for travelling sports teams you should know:
Book in advance
The easiest way to save money on your team’s travel expenses is to book as far in advance as possible. This will obviously get you the best rates on flights, but it will also allow you to be clever with how your book cars and hotels. If you have a booking in place that allows a free cancellation, which is the case with most car companies and plenty of hotel booking websites, then you can constantly keep an eye on various websites in order to secure a better deal. There are even websites that will send you an alert if a room or vehicle in the area you are travelling to drop below a certain price, so be sure to sign up for these services if they are available.
Explore group rates
Hotels love it when they can sell out a whole block of rooms in one go. Most events will have dedicated hotel partners that will allow you to get in on the group rate and secure a location close to where you are playing. In my experience though these often tend to be at slightly higher end hotel chains that are still more expensive than a deal you could get at a different hotel. One of the best sites to use for group rate travel is hotelplanner.com. You simply plug in your desired location, number of rooms and price range and watch as the bids roll in for your service. In a market place where normally the hotels set the prices it is interesting to be in charge of the process for once.
Sign up for rewards programs
All the major airlines, hotels and even hotel booking clients have reward programs that are worth taking advantage of when you are planning group travel for sports teams. This can very quickly add up to free car rental days, free hotel room nights and even free flights (especially if you are using discount airlines). The rewards may not be worth anything on the first trip you plan, but if you are working with a sports team that travels often then not signing up is basically like giving away money.
Check for hidden fees
There has been plenty of news made about hidden fees in air travel over the last few years. One tip for travelling sports teams is to do everything possible to avoid fees when flying to tournaments and events. For a sports team the easiest fee to get caught with is baggage. The legacy carriers now charge at least $25 for the first checked bag and $30 for the second, with many carriers charging double that. On a team with potentially at least a dozen players those fees add up in a hurry. Southwest Airlines is the savior here as they still offer bags flying for free. A simple fee check can thus save you easily $500 on a trip.
Investigate different airports
When we flew from Wichita to San Francisco it became obvious quickly that flying directly between the two cities was going to be a problem. Flights to the west coast from Kansas are expensive at the best of times, and with such a small window to find flights, and a small window from players to travel due to work commitments, round trip tickets were looking like being in the region of $700 for some of the team. Instead of taking this huge financial hit we drove down to Dallas (five hour drive) and flew in to San Jose (one hour drive). Doing this in three cars with 11 of team saved the club over $3,500.
Hotels with free breakfasts
The final tip is an easy one. Hotel breakfasts are expensive. In certain hotels they can run to easily $15-$20 per person. It seems like the more expensive the hotel, the less you get for your money. Locating a hotel that has free breakfasts, and ideally free internet also, will save you plenty of money, especially if you are staying for multiple nights (and therefore multiple mornings).
So there you go. Six easy tips that will save any travelling team money. As with anything in life the more you do this the easier it becomes to find ways to save money. The last thing you need to be worrying about on travelling sports team is how you are going to stretch the dollar to make the experience enjoyable and give your squad a chance to win. By doing these money saving tips in the build up, you might even have enough left in the kitty for the championship celebration.