Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Traveling for soccer requires a mobilization of resources that stay pretty much the same whether you're going ten miles for a league game or hundreds of miles for a tournament. I divide these resources into the bare essentials and my essentials. Traveling by car makes the transport of all these essentials easier than going by air, so I have some hints for the later. But first – the list.
I keep a ""soccer box"" in my car stocked with the following items: paper towels, toilet paper, wet ones, bug spray, sunscreen, quart size plastic bags, plastic shopping bags, 33 gallon plastic garbage bags, hats, visors, gloves, travel-size umbrellas, rain ponchos, extra socks, safety pins, duct tape, travel sewing kit, band-aids, anti-bacterial cream, and scissors. A few of these smaller items I grab out of the box and stick in a bag to take with me directly to the field since they might be more useful there than in my trunk. The plastic bags are invaluable for keeping your car clean and not smelling like wet grass and sweat. I cover the floor of my car with the large garbage bags like cheap floor carpets. I can fold up any mess, shake it out on the ground, and then reuse the bags. Believe me having a roll of toilet paper at these large tournaments has been a blessing. I hate, hate, hate portable toilets, but you can't avoid them when you're playing in a corn field fifty miles from a sewage line. There's only one thing worse than a portable toilet and that's a portable toilet without toilet paper. The wet ones may be your only sanitizing possibility after visiting these traveling thrones.
Besides the ""box"" I have several other items in my car. These include full-size umbrellas, portable chairs, a shoe drier, binoculars, maps (despite GPS these can be useful), light and dark t-shirts (you never know who will forget a uniform), and lots and lots of water. These are all easy to have along with you if traveling by car, but once you have to fly, the rules change. Now since airlines charge for the oxygen you breathe and expect you to bring your own flotation device, it's not the same game for soccer travelers. Here's where bare and my essentials come into play.
Bare essentials are uniforms, cleats, shin guards, keeper gloves and necessary forms. Players and spectators on a very sunny day or at dusk when the mosquitoes arise will argue that sunscreen and bug spray are bare essentials. However, when I travel I say that if I have my tickets, my ID, a credit card and some cash, I'm good to go. I can find everything else once I land. I'm resourceful if nothing else. I can easily make my own soccer box for my rental car. Toilet paper's a snap…I just take the extra roll from the hotel and return it if I don't use it. I also ask housekeeping for a roll of paper towels. TSA's restriction on liquids means that I leave the bug spray and sunscreen at home. Instead I depend on a big box store to supply me with my essentials.
I make a run often before unpacking. I collect the bug spray, sunscreen, anti-bacterial cream, tape and scissors, since they may qualify as a weapon when flying. As many of you know, I love a good portable chair. I have a favorite that I like to use, but I can't take it on air trips any longer. So I just nab a cheap one from the store. The cheap ones usually advertise some local team, so that's why on recent trips I have been a supporter of the Dallas Cowboys, the L.A. Angels, and the Orlando Magic. After the last game I make a gift of the chair to someone at the park.
(Pardon the interruption…the U.S. just scored against Algeria in the 92nd minute insuring us to move into the round of 16)
Many of the other items I can tuck into the corners of my luggage such as rain ponchos, plastic bags, sewing kit, visors, safety pins, extra socks, and travel umbrellas. In fact I used to keep a separate ""airplane soccer box"" but I never put it back together after the flooding in my house. Still, it's not a bad idea to have a few sandwich bags filled with these items set aside in a drawer that you can quickly gather and toss into the bags as you pack them. You can even throw the rain ponchos in the soccer bag, since they can provide some much appreciated cover while on the bench. I used to keep in the soccer bags one of those ""solar"" blankets made out of mylar that you can get at a sporting goods store. But they both disappeared after games and I never replaced them. But they can be great wind and rain guards for team members on the bench during a stormy game.
The final tip I'll offer is to go to these coupon web sites and look up some of the restaurants you might visit on your way to the tournaments and while you're at your destination. Some coupons even have 2 for 1 offers which can make trips much more affordable. Check out what restaurants, entertainment options, malls, etc. can be found at your destination. Most mapping websites such as Google Maps have the ability to indicate these options on their maps. That way you'll know ahead of time where you can nab that early morning mocha or bowl a few lines. You'll also know what coupons to be on the lookout for.
For this trip we're driving, so I have the advantage of being able to take everything along that I want including my favorite chair. I'll toss in my list of nearby attractions, fold my coupons into my wallet, turn on my satellite radio to listen in on World Cup games, and take off for Dayton. I'll let you know how the drive went.