David King 2015-11-24 04:15:13
Let’s not sugarcoat it: The educational value and memory creation from international travel is out there, but only if your group has a history of discipline and structure with its scheduling. If getting to national-scale tournaments has been a burden, if fundraising and reeling in deposits from your parents has been a migraine producer, I’d give it a second thought when it comes to crossing international borders. But if your group yearns to take a path less traveled, take heart in knowing there are guideposts along the way. Our TC Stars program sent two fastpitch teams and one baseball team to Europe for 17 days this past summer, which marked our eighth trip out of the United States (five times to Canada and one trip each to Mexico, Australia and New Zealand). The scope of the Europe journey was significant. The trip included playing games in Amsterdam, traveling via riverboat down the historic Rhine River for nine days, playing games in Germany, taking a bus trip over the Alps, then traveling and playing games through Italy, including Tuscany and Rome. Here’s what we’ve learned about putting an expedition together. We planted the seed for that trip in 2012, three full years before setting sail, and traveling did not disappoint at any level. Counting family members, there were 120 people, breaking down to about $6,500 per player. The TC Stars as a whole planned ahead and raised $2,000 for each player, leaving individuals to raise $4,500 apiece. Forty players hit that number. Why is team adventure travel so valuable? Simply put, it’s about the kind of people you meet this way, at their local settings versus the normal tourist circuit. You get to meet the “you” of another country. And we continue to find the amazingly similar thoughts by coaches and players as well as the delightfully different ones. It is the ultimate form of discovering another culture. Your strategy should be to “barnstorm through the countries and play the locals.” Ideally, they will join you for dinner after the games or practices and show you the highlights of their hometown. Those interactions make up a dream trip, where the locals love it as much as you. This is a good time to discuss the role of tour companies. Don’t give them your whole day; block out the no-touch times or you will get a 24- hour agenda. Take away the task of finding lunch but have them place you in areas where small groups can get a variety of lunch choices and experiences. Every other night for dinner, break into groups of six to 10 with a leader/buyer of the meal (with a set budget, cash, or credit card) and set out for food. Take back one day a week with absolutely no schedule, which can be a figure-it-out or rest day. Give the tour company the pivotal missions of lodging, transportation, and tickets to the classic tourist sites. Make sure the tour company understands your objective: play ball, good meals, some free time, sightseeing, and the elbow-room to hang out with local teams. We’re looking at our next trip, a 19-day trek to Hawaii and Japan in 2020 that puts us in front of the 2020 Summer Olympics. More than 50 months in advance, we’ve done the following: Research as many contacts as we can find. We are telling the story to others about where and why (seeing a new culture and checking out the Olympics) because we’ve learned help comes from a lot of directions. Create a skeleton of a schedule (travel day, Hawaii fun and some games, travel to Sapporo, Japan, with sightseeing and games, trip to Tokyo for more of the same, Olympics and then home, with some days off in the mix). Two people will wrestle the schedule to clarity, then take an Inspection Trip in 2019. Funding and budgets. Figure $350-$450 a day per person will get you about anywhere in the Americas, Europe, and Australia, including air, lodging, meals, sites and buses. Prepare a kick-off meeting that tells the story with maps and a touring company pro by your side. Get the accounting right: load those spreadsheets, schedule fund-raisers and get a payment plan in motion. 10 Sports Travel Rules of Thumb A motivated person can comfortably raise about $2,000 a year per person in the family. Big families require big efforts. If you leave America, only 50 percent of your team can or will participate. So have a broader audience of players and families in mind when you start. It is always about the ball and never about the ball. This means the sport ties it all together to make the time meaningful at meals, on buses, at sites, and hanging out in hotels. It is why people will see Europe when they never would have otherwise. Groups are smelly. Not really, but living in a traveling troupe of sports gypsies and their families is a different experience. There are good smells and bad smells. Two people (the “Question and Answer” folks) must be informed gurus. They should make an inspection trip a year out from the real thing; this is fundamental to your success! The number and types of questions that are inevitable would wear down the best customer support hotline. Get connected to the travel professionals in this space. For air travel, don’t rely on you and your mother on the Southwest Airlines website. Research the trusted tour operators so you can enjoy the “big sites,” those hard-to-access areas and hotels, comfortable buses, and so forth. If groups exceed 20, use the pros to arrange certain meals at restaurants. Give unscheduled personal time every day. We tried to set aside a minimum of four hours every day, and it can be in the middle of a city or on a peaceful mountain trail. This is a great window for checking out lunch options. Another solid idea is to make one day essentially unstructured for every five or six days of travel. You are there for a short spell, and everyone should be able to find time to explore. And remember, travel is hard work. Alcohol is available in a lot of cultures at younger ages, so have your rules ready to deal with this looming fact of life there. Set reasonable but firm deadlines for payments, including drop dates, refunds, etc. When you can, hub out of one hotel for a five-to-seven-day stretch and travel in a circle. And lastly – get a bushel of phone chargers. You’ll be taking pictures and video from initial takeoff to that final landing back home.
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