There is nothing easy about competition season. Training takes a ton of hard work and dedication and then, just to add to the stress, there is often a lot of travel involved. These tips will help you to plan for a healthy and less stressful tournament season.

Plan Around School or Work Breaks

Remember – you are in charge of your schedule. Most people can’t realistically make it to every single tournament or competition on the calendar. Which ones mean the most to you? Beginners may want to stick to smaller competitions closer to home, mostly within driving distance. Intermediate and advanced fencers may have a reason to travel further.

It’s important to consider whether or not your child can or should miss school for added travel days; or if you as an adult should miss work. Making tournament choices around planned school holidays may be the best option for newer, less-experienced competitors. Save the extra days off for when they’re more advanced or have more at stake in terms of rankings.

Should We Fly or Should We Drive?

Cost isn’t the only consideration when it comes to whether or not you should drive or fly. Remember, time is valuable, too. Will it cost you more to spend 10 hours driving to an event, with an extra possible hotel stay, or would it ultimately cost less to drive? Does the fencer in your life love car rides, or will a long drive make them feel sick and gross the day before a tournament? Do you have time to tack an extra day to the front and back of the trip so you can spend time visiting a tourist attraction or two as a family? Consider how you can make the best of your time and your money.

Make Sure Your Gear is Safe

The safety and availability of your gear is something else you need to take into consideration when traveling. Will your weapons be safe and arrive undamaged? What happens if they get lost or transferred incorrectly at the airport? You won’t be able to take them in a carry-on; they will have to be checked.

Do you have room in your car to carefully store your weapons for safe travel? No matter how you travel, remember that fencing gear is fragile. Make sure it is packed in a protective case so it is not damaged during transport.

Tournament season can be an incredibly exciting part of a fencer’s life. Just make sure you’re being realistic about your travel planning to reduce both costs and stress. And — most important — have fun!