Traveling to a race in a different country is a great opportunity.
I've done a fair amount of travel as a coach for race support, as an athlete and for pleasure. Over the course of time, I've learned a few simple tricks that can make long-distance travel easier.
In column How to Stay Race Ready When Crossing Time Zones, I've addressed some of the physical aspects of travel and how you can minimize the effects of your journey on your race and overall well-being.
ET Phone Home
Think about how, or if, you will communicate with family and friends at home while you are traveling. Many countries have calling cards that you can purchase at a kiosk when you arrive. You can typically use the cards from any pay phone or hotel phone. You can call directly from the hotel without a calling card, but know that the long distance charges are significantly more without the card.
Another option is to rent an international cell phone. Some carriers also have international calling packages where you can get a special card installed in some cell phone models before you leave. Be very careful to know the charges associated with these phones. Some will charge fees for the time the phone is on and searching for a connection. Others will charge only for call or internet usage time.
Another communication option is to pack a laptop and use a service called Skype. I've used this particular service for several years now. With an internet connection you can instant message, use a computer headset to call a phone, or talk computer-to-computer with voice, sound and video. All of the services, with the exception of calling computer-to-phone are free on Skype. The charges for the computer-to-phone service is very reasonable.
Even though the Skype service is free, if you call from a hotel room there are usually connection fees. Inquire about the details of these fees upfront. Some hotel plans allow you to purchase hours that are not consecutive, while other plans require that all time is used in one continuous block. Be very cautious about plans that do not show you your current usage and just charge you when you check out of the hotel. Your internet bill can quickly run into the hundreds of dollars.
Call Me, Call Me, Anytime
If you need to communicate with your traveling companions with once you arrive at your destination, consider renting phones at the airport of your final destination. The rental fees are usually reasonable for unlimited calling in the local area.
Drop an E-mail
In most countries it is pretty easy to communicate via e-mail, particularly in larger cities. Many major cities have internet cafes with free or minimal charge internet. Some allow you to use their computers and others require that you have your own computer.
Stay Plugged In
If you will need to charge your computer, phone batteries or any other electrical items when you're abroad, know that the wall outlets for power in the U.S.A. do not match those in most other countries. Before you travel, check into the adaptors you'll need. You can find these at most travel stores and even some sporting good stores.
It's all About the Socks
A few years ago I wrote about my gigantic travel adventure, where I was traveling from Kona, Hawaii, to Vouligmeni, Greece, over the course of about 40 hours. When I arrived in Vouligmeni, the swelling in my lower legs was terrible.
The issue of travel and lower-leg swelling can be a problem whether you are competing or not. The column linked in the previous sentence suggests that you invest in a good pair of compression stockings to eliminate any problems with leg swelling. I swear by these socks and I don't fly over two hours without wearing compression stockings.