For a handful of FIT clients, their trip will be their first international race and while marathon training and racing is a huge commitment on its own, traveling to an international race adds another layer (or two or three!) to the adventure.
With decades of experience traveling internationally, for marathons and pleasure, we consider ourselves experts when it comes to packing and travel tips for runners. FIT founder Kelly McLay has traveled to 50+ international races—from London to Berlin to Ireland and lots of places in between! We’ve compiled our lists and put together our top 10 travel tips for runners.
1. Wear your race day sneakers on the plane and pack your running outfit in your carry-on.
The most important things you need for your marathon abroad are the items you’ll wear on race day and international stores do not always carry the brands and sizes you wear. Always bring your marathon day essentials with you on the plane. Remember: Nothing new on race day — let’s save the chafing!
2) Try wearing compression socks or tights on the plane.
This will help with any swelling you may experience. You can also wear them after your marathon to speed up recovery, especially if you’ll be sightseeing and on your feet the days following the race. Compression socks can be uncomfortable to keep on for longer flights as they can feel too tight, but they’re beneficial to blood circulation. Kelly suggests keeping them on as long as you can handle them — anything is better than nothing.
3) Bring powder liquid mixes.
Since it’s not guaranteed that the race will have your choice of electrolytes before or on the racecourse, remember to pack your own. The FIT team loves Nuun tablets and Ultima packets. These options offer individual powder form supplements, since liquids are hard to bring on board planes. Easy to pack, great electrolytes!
Also, remember to try and sample the race drink (the drink that will be provided on the course) during your training runs if you can get some samples.
4) Stay hydrated.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated while traveling, especially if you’re running a marathon within the next few days! It’s particularly easy to get dehydrated on a plane because the air you breathe in the plane cabin actually comes from outside. And the air at that altitude has very little moisture. Dehydration can lead to a feeling of fatigue, which is bad news for marathoners. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and drink up!
5) Pre-check baggage weight restrictions.
We found out the hard way that international carriers are not as lenient as US carriers when it comes to baggage weight restrictions. So, double (triple!) check weight restrictions for both checked bags and carry-ons. You might also consider buying a luggage scale or borrowing one from a friend.
6) Notify your bank and credit card providers of your international travel.
Some banks and credit card providers will freeze your account if a transaction occurs that’s outside your typical spending patterns. Give your bank a heads up that you’ll be traveling out of the country to avoid any headaches. You can even set up a travel alert through most bank and credit card apps!
7) Set up an international phone package or get a SIM card.
When traveling internationally, remember to activate an international phone package through your cellular service or get a SIM card when you arrive at your destination. Some phone carriers have plans with unlimited calls and data. Pick the plan that works for you, and don’t get caught with a big phone bill when you get back from your trip.
8) Triple check your passport and vaccine and visa requirements for your destination.
Always make sure your passport is up to date and remember that it’s often required that it has at least six months before it expires. Also, make a copy (or two) of your passport and keep it in a separate place (like in your checked bag). That way, if you lose your passport, you have the copy as a backup. Be sure to know exactly what you need to enter the country you’re traveling to. Some countries require very specific vaccine records for entrance.
9) We always recommend buying travel insurance.
You never know what could come up and travel insurance can be a huge help in many cases. For example, if a runner has to cancel their trip, travel insurance can help protect their investment. Read more about FIT’s preferred travel insurance provider here.
10) Avoiding jet lag and adjusting to new time zones…just do your best!
Some travelers adjust easily to switching time zones and others get totally wiped out. To help the process, try setting your watch to your new time zone as soon as you board your flight. This will help trick your mind into adjusting to your new time zone sooner.
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