Traveling to AVP tournaments is one of the best parts of being a professional beach volleyball player. Our Tour stops all over the country, visiting America’s most exciting and travel-worthy cities. With our first big stop of 2022 coming up, I began reminiscing about all the AVP Athlete travel dos and don’ts.
Before I go on, fair warning: I was a solid Tier 3 athlete for most of my career. I made the Main Draw through both qualifying and Auto-Entry in about half of the tournaments throughout my four years playing on the AVP. Of course, that means I missed the other half, and pouted my way back home to LA or around town until my flight left. I wasn’t solidly in the Main Draw, but I was never too far out.
When I journeyed to AVPs, I often didn’t know if I’d make it to the money. Traveling to the Qualifier in another state is a mind game. It would be a separate article if the 2022 season remained what I was used to. Do I book a hotel through the whole tournament or bet on getting the Main Draw hotel once I qualify? When do I make my return flight? Is this oft-expensive and elusive dream worth it anymore? Answer: Yes. Always yes.
With that said, 2022 is very different and much improved. When athletes travel to the Pro and Gold Series events, they know they’re in the Main Draw. They’re in the clear for the weekend, so they can focus on the stuff that matters. Traveling to a tournament when you’re already in the Main Draw carries a different mixed bag than if you’re prepping for a Qualifier. Alas… this article shall be henceforth renamed: How to Travel to an AVP Tournament When You’re in the Main Draw.
- Book in advance – especially with flight prices where they’re at now. Pro tip: all the prominent airlines (Delta, American, United) have gotten rid of change fees. You can cancel a flight right up until boarding, just like Southwest Airlines has done all along. When you see a reasonable price, buy that bad boy before it goes up. If it goes down, cancel your existing flight and rebook with the new price! You get a flight credit, not a full refund. But as an AVP athlete, you’ll likely be using that year-long credit within the month.
- Book with your partner or other volley friends. You can share Ubers, have a buddy to watch your suitcase when you go to the bathroom, and bond over inevitable travel mishaps.
- Get on the same page with your partner/travel companion about when you plan to arrive at the airport. I’m Miss Punctual, but I never check bags and have TSA Pre-Check. I know it only takes three minutes to get through LAX security, so don’t expect me to be there two hours before we board. I talked about this in my acclimating to a new partner piece, but it’s worth mentioning again.
- Get into the tourney town early afternoon the day before play begins. You want to shake off the airplane yuck and get your feet in the sand. Many people have heavy legs after flying; getting a quick serve-and-pass practice before the tournament begins is a veteran move.
- For the plane – pack snacks. You don’t want to rely on airport food or plane freebies. No amount of pretzel packets and Biscoff cookies will satisfy real hunger. Plus, this is an athletic business trip, people. Taking care of your body is Priority #1.
- For days of play – pack snacks. I already said it, but this is different. You want to have the food items you’re used to. The Athletes’ Tent has great stuff, so you’re never going to starve. But if you always have an Rx Bar during practice, your body will wonder where that is during a match! Bring your hydration powders, protein shake fixings, and energy chews. Whatever fuels you in practice, bring enough to sustain you through the tournament.
- Drink tons of water. Flights dehydrate; bring a water bottle to fill up at fountains in the airport and hotel. Sometimes the flight attendants are chill and will top off your water bottle with delicious purified H2O. But post-Covid, highly unlikely. Buy a few gallons of water at a local convenience store and keep your bottle filled with those. Easy, cheap, and crucial. Especially in hot places like Austin, Atlanta, and Phoenix.
- Listen to your body. I hate when people generalize nutrition tips. Everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for Phil Dalhausser or Kristen Nuss. I never carb-loaded before tournament day. I just ate a little more of the same stuff I always do. You don’t want to weigh yourself down with an extra helping of potatoes or pasta.
- Pro-tip: Whole Foods hot and salad bar is where it’s at. They have tons of options, both healthy foods and splurges.
- Human tip: If you’re in a place specializing in something (e.g., BBQ in Austin or Gumbo in NOLA), don’t feel like you absolutely can’t eat that. Choose the healthiest option (dry-rubbed chicken or dairy-free Jambalaya) to not derail your entire diet. Just be smart and don’t go ham (even though both will likely feature ham).
- Booking a hotel used to be a whole ordeal, but things have changed. We’re only talking about the Main Draw, and the AVP provides a player hotel from the night before play to the night after you lose. So problem solved there.
- Cohabitating with a potentially near stranger is another ordeal. Again, I spoke at length on that in a previous article, so read up if you’re really curious! Pro-tip: bring earplugs. You never know who snores like a freight train. Even if people tell you they don’t.
- Snacks. I know I already mentioned this, but it cannot go without saying.
- Two bathing suits per day of play. Most people rinse off the sand and change into a fresh, dry bathing suit before their next match. Or you can bring laundry detergent and do a classy sink wash, shower rod drying rack situation. Been there so many times.
- Warm and cool clothing. Doesn’t matter if you’re in Hotlanta; make sure you bring sweatpants and a jacket or sweatshirt. Hotel rooms, airplanes, and restaurants are chilly. Mornings can be cold too, even in the summer months. Plus, you want your body to be warm and limber for play.
- I still have a note on my phone that has everything I need for a travel tournament. Headphones, roller, massage gun, visors/hats, sunglasses, sunscreen. I’ve been in too many situations without headphones or my lucky visor and been livid with my lack of planning. Make a list with the key items and never leave home without checking it. Pro-tip: add your phone and laptop charger to the list.
- Another pro tip: pack a few essential items in your carry-on. If the airline loses your luggage, at least you have what you need to play. While you usually get reimbursed, the day before the Main Draw is not the time to go on a shopping spree. I recommend an entire day’s worth of competition needs – bathing suit, leggings, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses.
- Stretch a ton off the flight. Maybe pull a John McClane and do the bare feet toe scrunches. Don’t want to show up on game day with sore, tight muscles.
- Pack snacks.
- Do the math on car rental vs. rideshare vs. public transit. Sometimes it’s cheaper to have a car for the whole weekend rather than Ubering everywhere. Highly recommend the train and buses in Chicago.
Everyone has different travel tricks and tips. Reach out to us on Instagram if you think you have any worthy additions, and I’ll add them to the list!