travelling as a triathlete expert guide to racing abroad

From sunburn and jet lag to ear infections from the open water swim, travelling as a triathlete isn't always glamorous. We're here with our top tips to stay comfortable and make the most of your trip when travelling abroad for a race.

Packing

Packing for a triathlon race abroad will be different to packing for a regular trip. Triathlon requires a lot of kit and gear so you'll want to pack carefully and cleverly so that you can stay within your luggage weight restriction and not damage any of your precious cargo. 

Triathlon coach Mark Griffin says, "Take old clothes and shoes for the big overseas trips and leave them behind before you come home. This will make room in your luggage for any event kit you buy and anything else like trophies or souvenirs."

Team GB triathlete Louise Douglass says, "Pack your triathlon essentials – helmet, goggles, trisuit – in your hand luggage if possible so that you're covered if your case gets lost. Also, make sure you remember to pack your bike-building tools!"

How to pack a wetsuit

Your triathlon wetsuit was no doubt an expensive investment so you don't want it to get damaged in transit. Here is best practice for packing a wetsuit into a suitcase:

  • Turn the wetsuit inside out.
  • Place a thick towel down on the floor and put the wetsuit on top of it.
  • Cross the arms of the suit together and fold the suit in half so the head is on top of the feet.
  • Starting at the top, carefully roll the suit up.
  • Place carefully in suitcase.

triathlon flat lay packing holiday vacation

Transporting Your Bike

As with your wetsuit, your triathlon bike was likely a very expensive purchase and so making sure it makes it to your race unscathed is very important. You have four main options for transporting your bike overseas:

  1. Take it apart and pack it in your luggage
  2. Check it in at the airport in a hard bike box
  3. Check it in at the airport in a soft bike bag
  4. Use a bike courier service to send the bike

Check with the airline/operator that you're using about their fees for bike boxes. Most charge a flat rate regardless of weight so if that's the case, cram as much in there as you can as this keeps the weight out of your standard luggage and keeps the costs down.

Ironman triathlete Luke Lambert says, "As soon as you arrive at your hotel, build your bike and go for a ride to make sure everything works and nothing has been damaged in transit. Give yourself an extra day in your itinerary in case there’s a mechanical issue - sometimes foreign bike shops can be difficult to deal with!"

triathlete travel bike box Sundried triathlon abroad

Team GB Age Group triathlete Holly Dixon travelling from the UK to Spain for the ITU Multisport World Championships 2019.

Tips for flying

If you're travelling on a flight for many hours, you don't want to end up with travel-induced injuries or issues in your legs. It's definitely worth paying for extra legroom so that you can stretch your legs and don't end up with cramps from being stuffed into a tiny seat. Walk around on the plane to keep your circulation healthy and you can even do lunges or squats to keep your legs feeling loose and limber.

Seasoned triathlete Alice Tourell North says, "For long-haul flights, dose up on multivitamins the week before to avoid catching any viruses from the conditioned air. Also, stay hydrated at all times and compression socks or tights can never hurt."

Team GB triathlete Paul Suett says, "On the flight, keep hydrated and when you're checked into the hotel have a good stretch and go for a little run to get the body working again."

airplane airport flying travel

Jet Lag

One of the worst things about travelling halfway across the world is suffering from jet lag. A good rule to go by is that it will take one day of recovery or adjustment for every time zone you travel through.

For example, travelling from the UK to the east coast of the USA is a 5-hour time difference so plan to arrive at least 5 days before the race so that you can get over your jet lag.

If you're travelling to the west coast of the USA, this increases to 8 hours so you'd need over a week to readjust and recover. It may seem like a lot and an expensive extension to your stay, but it'll  be well worth it so that you can perform at your best during the race. 

time jet lag travel sleep

Food and drink

The last thing you want is to end up feeling ill or nauseous just before you race and not being able to perform at your best. It's advisable not to eat anything served on the plane as aeroplane food is dosed up with sodium and other chemicals to preserve it and so that you can taste it at high altitudes. If it's a long flight, take your own food and non-perishable snacks with you so that you know exactly what's going into your body and that it won't disagree with your digestive system.

Most athletes who have competed abroad also know that all races won't have the fuel and hydration that you're used to at their aid stations. If you've been training with specific gels or foods and drinks, it's definitely best to take your own so that you're not caught short or end up with gastric issues due to eating or drinking something your body doesn't like.

Play it safe at the hotel and don't eat anything you wouldn't usually eat, at least before the race. Afterwards, you can go nuts and treat yourself!

food travel healthy racing triathlon

Unforeseen illnesses/injuries

Finally, you may need to prepare for any eventualities that you haven't planned for such as a big bike crash or an ear infection from the open water swim. Make sure you take out travel insurance so that you're covered for any medical eventualities that might occur and pack some bandages or plasters/band-aids in case you pick up some scrapes or cuts and scratches.