Taking the stress our of sports travel
Posted on March 20 2014
Triathlon Travel Tips from Coeur Sports
First, the good news. The polar vortex is starting to release its icy grip on the U.S. and spring/aka..the endurance sports season is upon us. Runners, Cyclists, and Triathletes everywhere have started to put away their balaclavas and their gloves as they plan their races, rides and runs for the spring.
Now, the yin to the yang. The down to the up. There’s a good chance that you might have to travel to get to one of your events. Not just drive across town. We’re talking (in the immortal words of Eric "Otter" Stratton & John "Bluto" Blutarsky) Road Trip! Or airplane trip as the case may be. Now, in one sense, travel can be awesome. New cities = new experiences, new memories and fun. In another sense, it can be…how shall we say it? A bit of a drag.
Airline consolidation means you stand a chance of getting nickel and dimed. Oh…did you actually want to use the restroom onboard? Well…that’ll be an extra $25 each way. Don’t get upset. We made an announcement at the gate to “go” before you got on the plane!
Hotel are fighting to raise prices and don’t even get us started about the cost to ship your steed over to your race.
But fear not. Your friends at Coeur are here to try and make the process a bit less painful. Here are a few of our favorite tips on dealing with travel.
Packing your bike for airline travel
For many of us, we care as much (if not more) about our bikes than our cars. The thought of packing it lovingly in a box just to have it searched by TSA (Hey! Hands off my down tube) and tossed around like…I don’t know…luggage by baggage handlers makes us nauseous.
So make sure you pack it up right. Think about placing a piece of wood between the front forks after you have removed your wheel. This will help prevent your forks from cracking if, for some reason, pressure is exerted from the side. If you don’t feel like getting the woodworking tools out, you can check and see if your bike shop sells plastic fork spacers.
Second, think about getting some Styrofoam pipe insulation to wrap around your tubes. As you can tell by the name, this material is designed to go around pipes and already has a cut down the center to make it easy to apply.
Finally, if you lock your bike box, use a TSA approved and recognized lock (check the TSA site for details). There are certain locks that can be opened with a master key. Since bikes seem to get checked frequently by the TSA, you don’t want to risk having them break your lock to get in. Clearly, the unsavory types can find a way to get their hands on the master keys but a lock should deter the “opportunistic” criminal.
Shipping your bike
Now if you want to avoid the hassle of packing up and flying with your bike, you can consider Tribike Transport (www.tribiketransport.com).
Certain bike shops serve as pick up points for Tribike and all you have to do is walk in and drop your ride off. You don’t have to worry about disassembling or reassembling anything and the economics are starting to get compelling. Given the cost of buying bike boxes and the fees that airlines can charge for bicycles it can make financial sense to ship via Tribike. For example, the cost for the service from Los Angeles to Kentucky for IMLV is about $325.
Now, if you are going to bring your bike on the plane with you, we encourage you to check out the airline fees. They are listed on each airlines website and they seem to change fairly frequently. There are pages of restrictions and exceptions but here’s a high level look at what you might end up paying:
American: $150 each way
Delta: $150 each way
Hawaiian: $100 each way
United: $100 each way
Southwest: $75 each way
Add the bike charge to the ticket cost to get the total cost of the trip and compare that across airlines.
General Travel Tips
We’ve said it in the past, but we’re lucky at Coeur to have a diverse skill set at our disposal. Included in our group of owners and employees are a former Travel Consultant, a former Hotel Sales Director and a former airline executive. Clearly, the number of times “former” appears in front of the titles gives you some sense as to the glamorous nature of the travel industry.
In any event, we asked these individuals for their favorite travels tips and here’s what we came up with:
- Booking a Hotel: Most hotels have deals with online agencies such as Orbitz that state that they (the hotel) will not advertise a lower price anywhere else. The key word here is advertise. They can sell the room for less but they can’t advertise it for less. Enter Hotwire.com. This site can get you discounts that are 20% to 30% below what you might find on traditional travel sites. The catch is that you won’t know the name of the hotel until after you have paid. Hotwire allows you to select hotels based on a general location, amenities, star ratings and a price but not hotel name. Fortunately, there are sites that you can use in conjunction with Hotwire like Betterbidding.com to get a pretty good idea of which hotels are showing up on your search. Just find a hotel on hotwire then go to the forum section of Betterbidding.com and see if you can find a match. For example, you could post a comment saying you see a four star, LaJolla hotel in Hotwire for $80. In fairly short order, someone will tell you the most likely name of the property. From our experience, we’ve been able to figure out the exact hotel about 60% or 70% of the time.
- Booking a Flight: Air travel has become fairly commoditized over the years but the pricing is still incredibly dynamic. Fares change daily and they frequently seem to defy logic. Since there are dozens of travel sites and blogs related to air travel, we’ll just provide this one tip. Consider using a good old fashioned travel agent. Turns out that all seats are not displayed on the travel sites. Your friendly neighborhood travel agent may have access to seats that are not seen on most computers.
The sh&t hits the fan
Ok…let’s say you’re on the way to your “A” event and the worst happens. Your connecting flight gets cancelled and you’re stuck in a city that is not your origin or destination. What do you do? First, make a beeline to the agent working the flight. Just like at your race, speed is the key here. Airlines try to automatically book people on the next flight but given how full planes are, there may not be enough seats for everyone. The quicker you can get in touch with a live person the better. If the line is already 30 people deep at the gate (i.e. it’s going to take a while), pick up your phone and dial Reservations. The Res agent should have access to the same flights and may be able to grab a seat for you. Another option (again if the line is too long at the gate) is to consider going out of security to the ticket counter. They should have more agents and can get to you faster.
No matter what you do, don’t blow up at the agents (it usually hurts more than it helps). Rather, explain why it is so important that you get to your destination and ask about your options. If they say you have to remain overnight, ask if they have “Interline” agreements with other airlines. Most of the older airlines (i.e. Delta, American, United) have deals in place where they can book their passengers on each other in times of irregular operations.
Ok..those were just a few tips to try and take some of the pain (financial and otherwise) out of travel. We hope they were helpful and we'd love to here yours.
After all, in life, it is about the trip but in travel…it is about getting to the destination.