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One of the perks of doing trail races is traveling. But traveling can be a tricky matter especially when it’s an A race or a family vacation! Yes, it’s true. Some people make family vacations out of their race schedule, although this is very dependent on the family so make sure to always be open and communicate with your loved ones about your intentions.

Let’s focus on the key points in traveling starting with the basics.

Where do you want to go?

Is there a bucket list race you’re dying to do, but you can’t figure out the logistics? Some may use travel agents for this specific purpose, but it can be done alone. You likely need to sign up for your race first (and we’re not assuming it’s a race, but maybe a run or hike you want to do in a very specific location! but for simplicity purposes, we’ll keep it at that). Some races fill up in a matter of minutes, or are a lottery. Look into the details on the event website before making any travel plans and be prepared to get signed up. Keep in mind this could be a year in advance.

Given you have your ducks in a row for that end of it, the next step is figuring out local airports. (We’re also assuming you have your budget set up and in place for this as well.) The easiest way to get to far away places is to fly. Some people don’t mind cross country drives, especially if that means they will have their own car (a level of added comfort in your plans), but usually people keep it to below a day’s worth of driving or less for this option.

Along with the local airport, which could be small or large, make sure you can get quick access to a rental car place. It’s a good idea to research if Uber/Lyft (#notsponsored) are readily available too in case something happens. In general, smaller airports (in or out) will cost you more, but generally will get you closer to where you want to go.

Renting a car is also a good option, although sometimes costly, depending on how you think about it. If you were to use your own vehicle, take into consideration the gas mileage, how many times you’ll fill up, the wear and tear on your car (oil changes/age of car/tire use), could your car get damaged? Given all that, a lot of people opt to get a rental to avoid the reasons above. You also don’t have to worry about how dirty you will make the car because you aren’t the one who will have to clean it out later. Not every race is going to be on a clean course!

Trails are not always in the most urban areas (probably a good thing!), so make sure you know where you are staying is 1) within driving distance of your airport taking note how long it takes to get to and from (add an extra 20 minutes at least when in a new location not knowing traffic), and 2) driving distance to the place you are staying.

So let’s break it down.

  • Driving from airport to the place you are staying
  • Driving from the place you are staying to the race START/parking (sometimes differs from packet pickup and/or finish)
  • Add about 20 minutes of drive time to driving estimates to ensure timeliness when you travel somewhere new

Another good question is there parking on site. Please check out the event website to see when and where you need to be parked before a race. Sometimes the race will close local roads a certain time leading up to the race start (this is also good to know for people you want to come see you run), know this time frame, and this also goes for leaving the race as well. Is there parking at the place you are staying? Does it cost anything? Does it cost anything to enter whatever park the race might be at? Parking garages? Fees? These are things to think about.

Where do I stay?!

Next, where are you staying? Some find it easier doing races further away in areas where their family lives and has the opportunity to stay with them, a very good option indeed! Some people prefer to do an AirBNB, a place you can look up on the AirBNB site and get all the details on a place that could be cheaper and more homey than a hotel…plus the option to possibly cook instead of eating out. This is something to consider especially if your stomach is more on the sensitive side.

If AirBNB isn’t your style, and you just want something standard, something you know and are confident with, there is the good old fashion hotel option. This is a good option to absolutely know where you will be, and what it will be like, although it may cost you more. Hotels could also be further away from the race site, so keep that in mind. If a race lists their location, LOOK UP THE ACTUAL STARTING ADDRESS in relation to the place you are staying. DO NOT assume that “Location X” is where the race start is. You can google hotels/AirBNBs in a location and it be on the opposite side where the race start is, which could mean 10 minutes, or in the case for somewhere like Chicago, 2.5 hours. Check for housing NEAR the race address.

Lastly, you can always camp! While traveling, especially without your own car and/or flying, this option can seem more impossible of a task to plan for. Check camping sites and what they provide, or don’t provide, and fees. Some races will give camp sites as an option which will have you almost right on top of the race start. Keep in mind that if you choose this option, then you might be woken up by other campers buzzing with pre-race jitters, or getting up earlier than you want because of the same things.

Places to stay? Pro/Con

  • Hotels – Very standard/most expensive choice most likely
  • AirBNB – Cheaper and could have kitchens/varies a lot in location and availability; not standard
  • Camping – Cheapest;close proximity to race start/weather; no control over environment; extra luggage

All these logistics may seem overwhelming, but taking it one chunk at a time can lead to a lot less stress overall. Experience a new part of our vast world through racing and trail running/hiking is almost limitless and very rewarding (addicting, but you’ll see). If you tagging up with a friend, it makes things even easier usually as you can split up the tasks to do and having someone with you along the way in case something goes awry is never a bad thing (hey they don’t have to run, they can Sherpa!).

This is the first part of a two part article on tip for traveling, so stay tuned to the Becoming Ultra sites for the second part in this. If you have any questions regarding this article, feel free to hit us up at contact@becomingultra.com, the facebook page, or on Instagram.

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Stephanie Dannenberg

Steph has been running really far in really hot, cold, dry, and rainy places. She is the newest coach for Becoming Ultra and contributes on the podcast regularly!