Plan on giving yourself at least one full day in the area of your race, even if you're not traveling too far for it. If you're going to a dramatically different climate or crossing several time zones, arrive a few days earlier to give your body time to adjust.
Start your vacation after the race. That way, you won't have to worry about training, getting sick or anything else that could keep you from the starting line.
The Art of Packing
Start with two small bags, one for your race gear and one for your normal vacation clothes. Use a triathlon gear checklist so you don't forget anything. Pack the energy bars, gels and drinks you've been training with and extra goggles.
If you're driving, taking your bike isn't a big deal. But if you're flying, pack your bike carefully since it could get beat up by the airlines baggage handling system.
Your safest bet is either buying or renting a hard-shelled bike case. Some models have enough extra room so you can pack all your racing gear (wetsuit, helmet, shoes, etc.) in the case.
A less sturdy option is to use cardboard bike boxes, which you can usually get from your local bike shop. If you go this route, it's best to use two boxes. Cut off the end of one box and fit it inside the other for the best protection for your bike.
Either way, youll have to remove the pedals and wheels, and remove or lower the handlebars and seat post. Make sure the derailleur is protected. Airlines are frequently adjusting their fees for flying with a bike, so check with your carrier before going to the airport so you aren't suprised by the fee at check-in.
One final thing you shouldn't forget: ear plugs. You may not think they're necessary, but they'll be invaluable if you discover you need them to shut out noise late at night before your race.
Before the Race
Staying hydrated is crucial. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go and drink constantly.
If you're crossing several time zones, you won't be able to prevent jet lag, but you can do a few things to reduce its effects. Try to get in a good, solid workout shortly before you head to the airport. On the flight, drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Pack your own snacks instead of eating high-sodium airline foods. Move around the cabin and stretch periodically, but sleep as much as you can.
When you arrive at your destination, immediately follow the new time schedule to help your body adjust. Sunlight and light exercise will also help you recover from jet lag more quickly.
Set up your bike as soon as you arrive. Hopefully, everything will be in working order, but if something was damaged on the trip, make it your first priority to find a good bike shop. Ask other athletes or race organizers for recommendations. If all else fails, use the phone book.