By David Dewell

If you have a child involved in travel sports, the term sportcation may make you chuckle just a bit under your breath.  When our daughter got the soccer bug and made the local travel league soccer club, my wife and I were apprehensive at first and then we got excited.  We thought, “What a great idea!”  We would be able to combine required travel and family time.  A perfect fit and genius plan.  Our daughter would get to play the sport she loves and we would get to travel, explore and experience places we haven’t visited.  (Insert chuckle here) Allow me, if you will, a little latitude to expand on this concept.  Also allow me to fast forward three years and a bucket load of experience later.

Although filled with dreams of adventure at the beginning, the truth quickly appeared in the form of “all soccer, all of the time”!  My wife and I thought it would be easy to fit some attraction or some event of some “thing” in between games or team meetings or meals.  We soon came to realize that the games and meeting and meals were spaced just far enough apart to allow for nothing else to happen without planning and purpose.

First, we choose the hotel. Usually we stay as a team and most hotels understand the growing sports travel industry and happily welcome teams plus added family members that tag along. They offer discounted group rates, free hot breakfasts and sometimes provide meeting space for group functions. Their hospitality is always appreciated and often brings us back to their door on next year’s visit.

Once reservations have been secured, we sit down before each assigned weekend and check out “local events and happenings” to see if there might be something we would like to do.  We check out any nearby state parks to maybe get in a short hike on a local trail. We also seek out the “local flavor” in restaurants … somewhere and something we don’t eat at home.  Many cities have “downtown markets” on Saturdays and are a great getaway for a few hours.

You could hook your bikes up to the car and enjoy evening rides with the family while discovering the neighborhood. You might even find a bike rental shop nearby the hotel.  The bike rental business is becoming one of the fastest growing businesses in the U.S.  Some hotels offer even bike, boat or Segway rentals right on-site. Of course, it always helps if the weather and game schedules cooperate.

Just think creative. We have visited beaches, parks, outlet malls, amusement parks, museums and in a few cases friends and family that actually lived where we were heading. So, if you have a child involved in sport travel, take time to explore the city in which you find yourself.  With a little planning and research on the front side, you’ll have more than the game as a souvenir.

Happy traveling and go team!