If you’re the parent of a budding athlete, you know that spring and summer are  the seasons for sports travel. Whether your child is competing in kids’ sports such as soccer, hockey, basketball or track, Canadian parents are travelling with their kids to fields and arenas across Canada and the border to compete.

According to a study by Canadian Youth Sports Report, 84% of Canadian youth between the ages of 3 and17 participate in sports, and 60% do it on an organized basis. It’s heartening to see that in an age of video games and internet Canadian youth are still involved in physical activities.

But this also means that parents need to gear up every year to make sure their kids can travel for tournaments, both within Canada and abroad. Just like any trip, travelling for spring and summer tournaments takes some planning.

Here are five tips on how to survive tournament trips and make each one a memorable one:

Pack gear for sports and entertainment

Whether you’re headed to a neighbouring city or across the province, treat tournament travel as mini road trips and become a pro at packing for the road. Travelling with children means you need to pack for each trip, keeping the distance and family members in mind. Besides favourite binkies, blankies, snacks and drinks, prep your car with activities, games, songs and portable DVD players and tablets to keep your kids occupied and your hands free on the road.

family packing for a tournament road trip
A packing list for a family road trip should include ways to avoid backseat boredom.

If you’re going to be travelling frequently, invest in a car organizer to keep everything within arm’s reach and also include some new games/apps to keep your kids engaged. Check the best road trip apps by parenting blog, Momtastic.

Chauffeuring someone else’s kids to a tournament? Don’t forget to carry a parental consent form, especially if you’re planning to cross the border.

Research the tournament neighbourhoods

If you’re travelling to the city/province for the first time, get familiar with the tournament’s location and book your accommodation accordingly. Access to utilities such as restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations will be crucial, especially with tight timelines and children or family in tow.

Tip: Look up the venue in Google maps and click the nearby icon to get Google to list all restaurants, hotels and bars or pubs in the vicinity.

Keep the fun high and expenses low

Canadian parents spend an average of $1,000 per child on kid’s sports every year. Depending on your child’s chosen sport, the cost of equipment, registration fees, coaching fees and travel can really add up. Keep these budget travel tips in mind on your next tournament family trip to help you shave a few bucks from your sports travel expenses:

  • Book hotel accommodation as a group of families so that everyone can take advantage of discounts or group rates.
  • Check for hotels that are official sponsors for the kids’ sport or tournament and take advantage of special pricing and perks.
  • Arrange for carpools so you can take turns for multiple trips across the season.
  • Save on eating out by opting for hotels with kitchens or AirBnBs. This way, families can get together and plan potlucks together.

Be prepared for sports injuries

According to the Canadian Youth Sports Report, 1.2 million youth experience a sports-related injury annually. Most sports, including soccer, hockey, football, gymnastics and even dance contribute to minor injuries like ankle sprains to major ones like broken bones/fractures and concussions.

prepare for sports injuries in kids & youth
On average, one-in-five-youth experience sports-related injuries every year

Sports-related injuries are even tougher when you’re away from home. Canadian sports parents need to remember that your provincial health care plan only covers you partially outside of your home province. Remember to purchase adequate travel insurance coverage for the tournament season and look out for more economical options such as family travel insurance plans. Be extra prepared by noting local emergency contact numbers.

For minor injuries, keep a sports first aid kit handy in the car. This should contain things like sprain sprays, bandages and cold packs.

Combine sports with leisure travel

It goes without saying that the money spent on kids’ sports often comes at the expense of family trips and vacations. So tournament-related road trips or long haul trips are great excuses for a family getaway and explore what the city/destination has to offer.

Once your tournament travel plan is finalized, check within Google’s own travel planner for local points of interest and things to do. Simply type in the city or province in Google followed by the word ‘destinations’. This will prompt the search engine to pull up its trip planner to show you suggested itineraries, tourist spots and even flight information.

If you’re going by road in your own vehicle, remember to prep your car and carry an emergency kit as well as a spare tire. If you’ll be renting a car, these 5 car rental & insurance tips will help you stay covered and know what to do in case of any accidents or car damage during the trip.

How do you swim moms and soccer dads make tournament travel more fun for the family? Let us know in the comments.

Happy tournament travelling,

Shweta