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The Saver’s Guide to Destination Races

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The Saver’s Guide to Destination Races

MapMyRun and Ally have teamed up because they both recognize the connection between finances and physical fitness and the important roles they each have on personal well-being.

Bucket list races are a great way to stay motivated and keep training at the top of your priority list, but let’s be honest: A destination race is rarely an inexpensive venture. However, it doesn’t have to be a financial black hole. With some simple prerace planning, you can save a ton and get to your destination with a sense of calm. Here are some ideas on how to arrive at an out-of-town event ready to race, without the worry of a maxed-out credit card.

BUDGET FOR YOUR GEAR

Before you even book your flight, keep an eye on what you’re spending on gear. Whether you’re buying new running shoes and shorts or you’re going for a brand-new triathlon bike, make a budget before you shop. When you know how much the race is going to cost — including the race registration, flights, hotel and food — you’ll have a better idea of what you can spend on gear.

You don’t want to buy a secondhand bike that’s on the verge of breaking down, but you might realize that the top-of-the-line model is going to take a huge chunk of your travel budget (and you’ll have to hitchhike to the race). Look at spots where you can scrimp, such as tops (T-shirts for running and cheaper cycling jerseys), and skip that new workout outfit each month.


At Ally, we don’t just care about your finances — we care about you. That’s why we’ve dug deeper into what it means to be financially fit. Just like physical fitness, there are different ways to be financially fit. Your training program depends on what you want to accomplish, and you should approach your financial routine the same way. Learn more at Ally.com.


SAVE ON REGISTRATION

If you know a destination race is on your radar for the year, register as soon as possible since most events offer early bird pricing that’s significantly cheaper than last-minute registration prices. If you’re looking to be really frugal (and your partner is on board), consider an extremely polite, well-worded email to the race director offering your significant other as a volunteer in exchange for discounted or free registration. You can also ask if there are any “guide” options if you’re OK with completing the race noncompetitively. It doesn’t always work, but it never hurts to ask.

Lastly, never book travel before you have a confirmed registration. Races do sell out, and it’s a huge waste of money to book your flight and hotel, only to realize that you can’t even get into the event.

BOOK YOUR FLIGHT LIKE A BOSS

Never leave flight booking until the last minute, and keep an eye open for deals. Before booking, choose a points or rewards system that makes sense for you (most airlines and credit card companies offer perks), and use it consistently so you’re racking up points toward your next race.

For triathletes, the biggest struggle is flying with a bike. First, look at the bike policies of various airlines. Transporting a bike can easily cost you up to $500 on some airlines, so look for ones with clear bike policies or flat rates. When packing, make sure your bike bag is under 50 pounds so you only have to pay an oversize charge or a bike fee, not an oversize and overweight charge. If possible, try to avoid checking a second bag, and use some clothing as padding for your bike to save space. (And always carry on your helmet to avoid a cracking mishap during transit. You don’t want to have to rush to the nearest bike store to drop $200 on a new one before the race.)

DRIVE ON THE CHEAP

If the race is close enough, consider driving instead of flying. See if you can find a friend to split the drive with, or haul someone’s bike to the race for a small fee — most people would rather send a bike with a reliable source than pay to fly it.

If it’s a multiday trip, bring camping equipment: You can get pretty comfy with just an air mattress and earplugs. Plus, it can be way more fun to camp near a race venue instead of hoteling it outside of town.

SAVE ON YOUR HOTEL/HOUSING

Before you start searching online for a hotel, consider asking for host housing — some races are happy to connect you with an open room or couch, especially if you’re coming a long way to be part of the event. Alternatively, consider Airbnb or VRBO – a full house could potentially be cheaper than a hotel. Plus, having access to a kitchen can help keep your food budget under control. If you’re traveling to race with friends or family, it’s almost always cheaper to rent a house together.

If a hotel is your best option, look for deals early (especially for races that sell out), and think about points and bonus offers like Hotels.com, where you get one free night with every 10th night you book through the website.

EAT ON THE CHEAP

Eating out can be a huge budget killer. If you have the space when packing for the trip, bring cooking equipment. Consider creating a food box with a hot plate, electric kettle, cutting board, knife, utensils and food-storage containers. Buy the groceries you’ll need ahead of time instead of going out for every meal, whether you’re camping or staying in a hotel. You can make a large chicken salad for less than $20 with a head of lettuce, some veggies and a roast chicken. Think cheap, but healthy.



DON’T SKIMP ON THE IMPORTANT THINGS

The top tip for an obsessive budgeter is to know where to spend money on race day. A pair of running shoes or a pair of bike shorts — critical pieces of gear for your race — are not the places to save a few bucks. Skipping a much-needed bike tune-up beforehand may result in a DNF when you’re stranded on the roadside with a broken derailleur.

When it comes to fuel, spend money on products you’re familiar with: If you always use a certain brand of gels, don’t rely on the freebies in your race registration pack. Race day is not the time to experiment! You’re spending a lot to be at the event, so don’t self-sabotage a great result.

Written by Molly Hurford, a writer who spends most of her time living out of suitcases and chasing the best races, rides, runs, swims and whatever other outdoor adventures she can find. Follow her travels and adventures on Twitter and Instagram.


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  • Kathleen Hays

    Thanks for the tips! I have been thinking about doing a destination race, but thought it would be too expensive.