I just returned from an incredible weekend packed with tennis and I wanted to give you my best tips for traveling for tennis. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
I just got back from Tucson, Arizona where I had a tennis-packed weekend at the 2014 Tennis Congress. The Tennis Congress gives amateur tennis players, like you and me, the chance to play with and learn from some of the absolute top teaching professionals in the world. These are people who work with tennis players on all levels of the professional tour and elite juniors. And they are not just tennis coaches. There are also fitness coaches, nutritionists, and physical therapists of all kinds working with you to improve your game. If you've listened to some of my earlier podcast episodes, then you may remember I also attended the very first Tennis Congress held last year in Atlanta, Georgia. Both of these events were an absolute blast and did so much to advance my own tennis knowledge and experience. And I got to meet some super cool people, both faculty members as well as other attendees.
While I'll have a lot more to say about the Tennis Congress in coming weeks and just what I learned there, I wanted to pass on some travel tips I used during this trip that might come in handy for you the next time you have a getaway that involves tennis. I know that many of us travel for tennis, either to play for fun, to play in a tournament, or to attend a tennis camp or instructional event. In fact, the day after I got back from the Tennis Congress, I got this email from Danielle who is herself on the way to a tournament and was wondering about tennis travel. She said:
Hi Kim. I discovered your website and podcasts this past summer and have devoured every article and podcast. I really enjoy and appreciate your honest, thoughtful and helpful tips! I was on 2 USTA teams this summer (3.0 women 18+ and 40+) and both teams made it to districts. My 40+ team went to sectionals in New England and we are going to CA in 2 wks for Nationals! My question for you is what advice do you have for traveling by air and car with your racquets and other gear? Since you just traveled to the Tennis Congress I'm curious to know what your packing strategy is. Thanks Kim!
First, I want to say – Congratulations Danielle! I am so envious of you getting to go to a National-level USTA tournament. My summer USTA team did not do anywhere near that well. I hope you and your team have a great tournament and I also hope you'll email me after it's all over with an update on how the tournament goes for you.
So, about those travel tips. Well, when you're traveling for tennis, you want to make sure you've prepared as well as you can so that nothing goes wrong to ruin your tennis experience. Especially if you're going to a tournament, you want to make absolutely certain you and your gear are in top tennis condition to play. With that in mind, here are my tips for traveling for tennis:
1. Prep your tennis gear well in advance.
The time to look through all of your tennis gear and make sure it's in good condition is not the night before you're leaving on your trip. Why? Because if you do this, as I did last week, you'll find out that your racquet needs re-stringing but you don't have time to get it re-strung before you go out of town. Don't be like me. Be sure and check your racquets and have them re-strung at least a week in advance. And make sure you have any other gear that helps you feel comfortable on court. I'm talking about shoes, grip wraps, towels, hats, visors, sunglasses, and anything else you like to have handy. You may be traveling somewhere that you won't have access to any of these things so be sure and bring them along if you want to play your best tennis.
2. Decide whether to pack your racquets or carry them on.
I think this is a big issue but most people don't get too worked up about it. The reason I care is because I have researched what the TSA has to say about carrying your tennis racquets on an airplane and, while they don't have anything specific to say about racquets, they do prohibit carrying sports gear that can be used as a bludgeon. I'm think a tennis racquet might qualify as a bludgeon. So I'm always just a little worried when I carry on my tennis racquets that they will be confiscated by security or that I'll be scrambling to try and get them through baggage check in a cardboard box exposing them to who knows what dangers. But the reality is that I've traveled a number of times with my racquets and I've always carried them on and I've never, ever been told I can't carry them on. And this past weekend in Tucson, I know almost all of the people attending the Tennis Congress carried on their racquets and I didn't hear of anyone not being allowed to bring their tennis racquets onto the plane.
So my conclusion is you can carry your racquets on to an airplane. And this is what I do because my tennis racquets are the most expensive piece of gear I own and I don't want them to get damaged.
But do you want to carry on your tennis racquets? Maybe you don't. Maybe you want to pack them in your suitcase so you don't have to fool with them on the plane. I myself never do this because I am really afraid they might get cracked somehow. But there are plenty of people who don't worry about this happening. For example, on the shuttle on the way back to the airport this weekend, I sat next to a young man who is out playing on the tour. I think he said his ranking is like 1,600 but I might have misunderstood that since I don't know how far down the rankings go. But he just graduated from college and he is now starting to play professionally so his ranking would naturally be low. Anyway, I noticed that he checked his bag that had all of his racquets in it and that was even one of those soft side racquet bags that holds 12 or so racquets. So there wasn't really any protection for those racquets at all in that bag but he apparently wasn't worried about them getting damaged. And his racquets are obviously important to him so I guess you could use his confidence as a gauge for how likely to it that your racquets might get cracked if you put them in your suitcase.
If you do pack your racquets in your suitcase, I recommend you stack them together and pad them with all of your clothes so they have some cushioning around them as they go through the luggage system in the airport.
One last thing about protecting your racquets while they're in transit – if you're going to be in a car, be sure you do not store your racquets for any extended period of time in your car, especially if you're experiencing bad weather. The inside of your car can get brutally hot or icy cold depending on the temperature and you don't want your racquets to be negatively affected by temperature swings. So bring your racquets in from the hot or the cold when you arrive at your destination.
3. Clean out and pack your tennis bag.
I have always used my tennis bag as my carry-on bag when I'm traveling for tennis. I like it because it's very roomy and it's a backpack which means the weight of the bag is more evenly distributed across my back and shoulders when I'm carrying it through the airport and the handles are pointing up, as opposed to sideways, so I'm a lot less likely to whack anybody in the head with my racquets when I'm boarding the plane. But, when using your tennis bag as a carry-on, be sure you clean it out. You do not need to carry the 12 team rosters, 3 towels, 8 pens, and 2 notebooks on the plane that you usually carry in your tennis bag. And I myself always have a pair of scissors in my tennis bag so I take those out too, even though I think I would be allowed to take them through security.
4. Take two racquets.
I think this is important although a lot of players at the Tennis Congress didn't seem to think it was. In my opinion, you should always have two tennis racquets with you because you never know if you'll break a string or crack a frame or have some other racquet disaster occur. This is especially important if you're traveling for a tournament. While you might be able to borrow someone else's extra racquet when you're playing for fun, at a tournament, you want to make sure you have the racquet that is exactly right for you.
5. Rest and relax when you return.
I think it's very important that you not schedule a match for the morning of the day that you get back from a tennis trip. This is what I did and, let me tell you, that night after I got home from a full day of travel, I was really dreading that match. My shoulder and neck were hurting from some of the serve work I had done and my calves felt extremely tight and sore, probably from sitting in the airport and then on the plane all day. I was lucky – my match got rained out and it gave me a chance to rest, relax and do some foam-rolling, stretching and light massage.
Well, those are my tennis travel tips. I did a podcast episode a while back on the items I consider essential to pack in my tennis bag when I'm not traveling and you might want to listen to that since it has some good ideas about additional items you could take along with you, especially if you're traveling to a tournament. That was called “What's In My Tennis Bag?” and you can find it at http://tennisfixation.com/quicktips12. I'll link to it in the show notes for this episode which are at http://tennisfixation.com/quicktips57.
I also did a YouTube video back when I was getting ready for the 2013 Tennis Congress called Tennis Travel Essentials. It shows all of the items I took along with me then. You can check that video out in the show notes to this episode as I'll embed the video there. Or you can visit the Tennis Fixation YouTube channel, which is, of course, called Tennis Fixation, and I'll link to that in the show notes also.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
What's In My Tennis Bag? – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 12
Tennis Travel Essentials – Tennis Fixation YouTube video showing what I packed for the 2013 U.S. Tennis Congress:
You can find and subscribe to the Tennis Fixation YouTube channel by clicking here: www.youtube.com/user/TheTennisFixation/.
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Thanks so much for listening and, as always, Happy Tennis!