The pinnacle of travel: Attending major sports events

Today’s guest post comes from not far away from me at all; Paul Bezemer has been the good boyfriend and agreed to share some wisdom in travelling to major sports events. Paul’s been to the last two World Cups and the last three European Championships. This year will see him follow his beloved Holland at the European Championships in Ukraine and at the Olympics in London (with me, yay)!

So. Caitlyn has been haunting me, asking if I could write a guest blog. Of course I have to act like it’s a lot of effort, but I’ve been very excited about writing it. It’s been a while since I last updated my own blog; ‘Vijf maanden in Melbourne’ (‘Five Months in Melbourne’), basically because I’m not living in Melbourne anymore. However, I do think I can write something about travelling, sports and the Olympics.

Travelling, or just organising your next trip, is a sport in itself. It’s all about finding the cheapest flights and the best located accommodation, and it all has to fit in your budget. Everyone knows the frustration of trying to find a good deal during school holidays which never seems to exist. But trust me, it can be a lot harder.

Travelling to major sporting events is a totally different ball game. Whether it’s a quick fly-by to an international match, a short trip to a nearby tournament or planning a holiday to the other side of the world for a world championship, very soon you’ll realise there’s a big problem: competition.

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In Cape Town for the 2010 World Cup

Big sports events are like shit: they attract a lot of flies. Sports fans from all over the place want to be at the same place, at the same time, for the same events. It means a run on tickets, flights and hotel beds.  This is the biggest problem: those bloody organised travellers who pay way too much for travel agents who pre-book hotel rooms years in advance because they know they’ll sell it on with a lot of profit. However, there is always a way to beat these all-inclusive travel deals.

It all starts with match tickets. If you don’t have tickets to the big thing, you might as well forget about going at all. Getting match tickets doesn’t always mean you have to be a life-long member of some club and pay loads of membership fees. It means you have to be on the tips of your toes. So you need to plan ahead, know well in advance when ticket sales start, how you can apply and shove everything aside once the sales start.

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World Cup 2006 voucher, tickets and confirmation. Grab what you can get your hands on!

With that determination, I’ve seen World Cup football, watched Usain Bolt run his 9.58 world record and witnessed Collingwood win a Grand Final. Here’s some of my tips:

  • Sign up for all major credit cards (Visa, American Express and Mastercard). Some events only allow tickets to be purchased with their ‘partner’; for example, only Visa is allowed for the Olympics.
  • Become a yearly member for a team (even halfway through a season); this usually allows you greater access to ticket pools.
  • Look for different sponsors, organisations or even countries that also sell tickets where demand might not be as high. After being unsuccessful in the normal ballot, our tickets to the Olympic athletics were bought through Icelandair.
  • Watch for tickets on eBay which go off in the middle of the night; ticket prices may be much lower than expected.

Second is the travel, how to get there. It is important to book early and know how to search for flights. It’s a skill you develop over the years. You have to rely on instinct but more importantly, know good deals. You can only find good deals by endless comparing and that means putting time in it. But it’s always rewarded: you might have a weird long stopover in a destination not on the way, but you’ll get there. I’ll be spending a day in Moscow on the way to Kharkiv for the European Championships as Aeroflot’s prices were hard to beat. Just remember:

  • Don’t book too early; this is when people freak out and worry that they’ll miss out completely, and some airlines haven’t decided to fly these routes yet. Aim for about six months in advance, after the inital rush but before the mad scramble.
  • Consider the train, the bus or your car to get you to the more obscure places.
  • Use a few different websites; www.skyscanner.com and www.wego.com are generally better than country-specific cheap deal sites as they compare all cheap websites and don’t have booking fees.

Lastly, you arrange your accommodation. Of course, it’s completely irrelevant, because you can always spend the night at an airport, train station or bench in the park. I can say I’ve done them all and the airport is the most comfortable one, but everything better than that is just added luxury.

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For most big events, there’s special accommodation getting you through the night. This is the fan camp at the World Cup in Stuttgart, Germany.

  • Look at different types of accommodation – student dorms that are empty in the summer as well as campsites and apartments, rather than just hotels.
  • Use your friend networks; you never know, you may have a friend of a friend who is happy to lend you a couch to sleep on.

Even saying all this, my golden rules didn’t apply for this year’s European Championships. Holland is playing in the group stage in Kharkiv, a city that has never seen a single tourist before, so here accommodation is more important than a cheap way to get in. However, these rules certainly applied for the Olympic Games.

The pinnacle of travel for 2012 will be the Olympic Games in London. The hunt for tickets started one and a half years before the Opening Ceremony, the train tickets were booked and paid for over a year before the start, and the bed? We just hope an offer of an couch still stands. So, with less than four months to go, we feel like we’ve beaten the competition already. Everything has been organised and paid for long before those ‘flies’  realise that something massive is happening in London in August.

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Checking out the 2012 Olympic Stadium, one year in advance!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. I'm going to Brazil for the World Cup! - Olympic Wanderings - March 9, 2014

    […] Paul’s a World Cup veteran. He’s been to two of them – in South Africa and Germany – as well as three European Championships – in Ukraine, Switzerland/Austria and Portugal. For the past decade, he’s planned his big trips around these tournaments. He’d been talking about going to Brazil for a while, but I hadn’t committed myself to joining him. I didn’t know what I was going to be doing in June – at that stage I was jobless – and I wasn’t so keen to follow the Dutch team around one of the biggest countries in the world. […]

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