Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it. It can be difficult traveling to triathlons. Throw kids in tow into the mix and it makes it even tougher when you’re traveling to the races.
Picking the location, making sure you’ve packed everything EVERYONE needs, traveling with a bike, packing up the car or flying, getting that right-sized rental car, unpacking at the hotel, being left alone with the kids while trihubby is off doing his race activities….Whew…And, what makes traveling to triathlons even more challenging than regular vacations is not only the alone time you will have, but also the fact that your triathlete will be a bit distracted and sometimes this continues even after the race.
Then, I can’t forget to mention race day…It can be REALLY long, especially if it’s a full-distance Ironman. You get up before dawn. It’s often cold in the morning, very hot by the afternoon with little shade, or even raining. You may see your triathlete for brief seconds and then not for hours. And, if you’re not staying close by, you have to entertain yourself and the kids during those hours.
But, guess what – I still wouldn’t change this lifestyle for anything. With race season upon us, I thought I’d share our Top Tips for Traveling to Triathlons With Kids in Tow to help make things a bit easier for you. I have been through this with mine at all ages, so here are my suggestions for things you need to consider:
Ages of the Children
For me, the ages of the children and their “stages” are a big consideration when deciding whether or not to even go to the race. I’ve ended up traveling with the kids at all ages, but you do need to think about this before you decide. I know it can be a great experience for them and wow, they get to see their parent accomplish something phenomenal, but….
There are two factors here to consider: First, how well do your kids travel? One of my kids became very difficult on flights over 3 hours, so we had to plan accordingly; both for the races we chose and our mode of transportation. And second, how will they fare being out on a race course for a potential long day? Babies tend to be much easier, as they have a schedule and will sleep in the stroller or play on a blanket with some toys. Toddlers are a different story, as they are more active, need an outlet for their energy, and need more entertaining. My toddlers would not sleep in the stroller, so we had to go back to the room for nap time.
Middle-aged kids and teens will either be thrilled to see mom/dad race or be bored out of their minds. Only you know your children and can make this decision.
Choosing the Right Triathlon Venue
You need to work with your triathlete on this one, as it should be a joint decision. They may have certain races THEY want to do, but chances are this will double as your family vacation, so pick carefully. My mantra is location, location, location.
And, when it comes to location, it’s vital to do your research here. I feel it’s best to arrange the “vacation” part of the trip AFTER the race. Before the race, your triathlete either has to rest up, has pre-race activities to take care of, or will be under a bit of stress. So, not a good time to sightsee with the kids. Things to consider when picking the venue:
- How far away is the race?
- Can you get a direct flight or drive?
- Does driving or flying work best for your family & budget? Local races can be much easier, especially if you have more than one child, as you can just load up the car and go.
- At a full distance race, unless the course has quite a few loops, you will only see your triathlete infrequently and your child may not understand when they want to see daddy and they don’t.
- What vacation-type activities does the area offer? Yellowstone National Park was an easy drive for us from Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
- How kid-friendly is both the race and the town? Does it have playgrounds, beaches, pools, planned children’s events? Mont Tremblant is a great venue for kids, with dedicated playgrounds AND daycare.
Choosing the Right Accommodations
Factors to consider:
- How far away from the race site will you be staying?
- Are the start and finish lines easy to get to? It’s ideal to be close, so you can go back and forth to the room during the race for showers, naps, and food.
- How many bedrooms do you need? I’m a big advocate for 2 bedrooms, so the kids can sleep undisturbed. Consider renting a house, depending on how long you will be at the location.
- Meals: I cook more than go out, so having a kitchenette is important, as is having a grocery store nearby. I actually pack as many supplies as I can and then buy the rest.
So, what have we found that meets all these factors to consider? Well, you have several choices. You can book vacation rentals in the area or check out booking resort residences through Vacatia. We recently discovered this concept and have to say, why didn’t someone think of this before? Vacatia is actually a resort marketplace for booking resort residences, which are fully managed and professionally serviced timeshares and premier independent resorts. They offer properties around the world at a discount with the advantage of getting the amenities of a hotel with the extra space and kitchen of a vacation rental.
I’m talking maid service, so you don’t have to clean up on vacation and having all the on-resort activities at your disposal. Plus, you get a washer and dryer and we all know how important that is with triathlete’s clothes! We can even book rentals with pretty much as many bedrooms as we need, so my husband can spread out all his gear and the rest of us still have room to move and sleep. It works really well if you are bringing more family members or friends along, so everyone can stay together. You just go online, select a destination, date, and number of guests and all the available properties pop up with photos and all necessary information to make comparisons. You can also chat with an agent if you prefer. It’s definitely worth checking out…
Packing for a Triathlon
Packing doesn’t change a lot for a race; packing is packing. I really don’t do anything special for a triathlon vs a vacation. You need all the same clothes, food, toys, etc. whether you are sightseeing or at a race. If flying, you can either bring the bike as part of the luggage – most likely for an extra charge – or use shippers, such as TriBike Transport or FedEx. Trust me, your life will be so much easier. Packing A Tri Bike details these options.
General Tips Before You Go
- Make sure you reserve your rental car early and get a big enough car for the family and all the gear. If you have the bike with you, you’ll need an SUV.
- If you have more than one child, travel with help, friends, or family. Seriously, this will make your life so much easier.
- Try and make friends with families who have similar age kids for company, if you can.
- Have school age kids make signs to cheer on your athlete to get into the spirit.
- To keep them occupied, my teens have both volunteered at a race and started babysitting for our friends to give the moms a break and give them something to do.
- Get the kids a RoadID bracelet, just in case you would get separated and always travel with that first aid kit. Hey, better to be safe…
I hope this helps you enjoy being a triathlon spectator with your kids as much as I do. I know a TravelingMom’s job is never easy, but picking a triathlon the whole family can enjoy shouldn’t be a chore. It’s a healthy lifestyle for the whole family that I treasure.