Once martial arts competitors and coaches decide to follow one of the large karate circuits like NASKA or NBL, it will soon be realized that participation in this sport can be very expensive. Many years ago, I attended a seminar conducted by Charlie Lee and he said that the only main difference between many national and local competitors is that the national ones have the funds to travel. I’ve been on both the NBL and NASKA circuits. I’ve also dabbled in international overseas competition as well so I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to help save some overall costs involved in competition.
Most karate tournaments offer some savings through pre-registrations. With many promoters adding online registration capabilities recently, pre-registering is a snap. Of course, there’s the risk of losing your entire fee if for some reason you don’t show up at the event. Even if you have made commitments to attend certain tournaments, other circumstances can prevent you from going. For example, I have missed tournaments due to flight cancellations because of bad weather. It is also possible for flights to be delayed or missed due to reasons beyond your control. Of course, unforeseen emergencies at home can always cause trip cancellations. So even though one can save some good money over the course of a year by pre-registering for all events, it is a risk to take.
Most tournament promoters also work out a special room rates at designated tournament hotels. These special rates usually range from about $100 to $125 which are quite good considering that most event hotels are top major chains like Hyatt, Sheraton, Hilton, etc. However, I have found that if one is willing to do some research, even more significant savings are possible with accommodations. I almost never stay at event hotels anymore. Instead, I will do research to find out hotels that are close by. The maps facility at the Yahoo site is wonderful for this. Just go to Yahoo and click on ‘maps’. Then enter the address and city of the tournament hotel. Do a search of other hotels close by and the site will show you where they are on a map as well as how far they are from the event hotel. I also use travel websites like Travelocity and Expedia to verify other nearby hotels. Many hotels are often much less expensive especially the ones that are one level lower in quality. In addition to the travel websites, I would also check room rates directly with Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Econolodge, Quality Inn), Holiday Inn, Days Inn and Motel 6 via their websites. The rooms at these chains are not as luxurious as those at major hotels but they are clean and comfortable. They are not the bottom of the barrel like some independent motels are. Rates can be 50% lower than even the tournament rates at the event hotels. My average rate for rooms has been about $50 and that often includes free breakfasts which event hotels seldom offer.
Many lower priced hotels are within walking distances of the tournaments. Even if a hotel is not within walking distance, a small cab fare is usually worth the room savings. I’ve even stayed at airport location hotels and then utilized the free hotel shuttles of both the place I was staying at as well as the event hotel to get around. Of course, all this is not as convenient as staying at the event hotel but if you are willing to plan ahead a bit, good savings are possible. Of course for events where I’m extending my stay for vacation purposes, a rental car will allow me to stay wherever I want.
Another way to chop off half of your hotel expenses is to leave right after your competition is over. You will miss the evening shows but if you don’t mind that, then you will have to stay overnight for only a single night rather than two. Over the course of a year, single night trips can result in significant savings.
Driving would be the most economical way to travel to tournaments but if the locations are too far, then flying would be the most realistic way to get there. One could also explore trains too. As for flights, one could wait for seat sales to purchase tickets. Another strategy is to fly in or out of different airports that are nearby the event city. There could be significant savings in prices for flights if you are willing to use alternative airports. Some cities have more than one major airport in the region. Alternative airports can reduce travel costs for competitors who have to cross the US-Canadian border as well. Canadians driving to US airports right across the border could save up to 50% sometimes for flights. Travelers should join all frequent flyer programs but try to stay with one or two main airlines if possible. Points do add up which can result in future free flights. Of course, points from hotel stays, car rentals and credit card use also help.
As mentioned previously, I try to use free hotel shuttles whenever I can. If my hotel doesn’t have a free shuttle and it is close to the event hotel, sometimes I would take the event hotel’s free shuttle and then walk to my hotel. I often use the event hotel’s shuttle to catch a ride back to the airport too. Just hang out at the event hotel lobbies so that you look like a guest and nobody should question your use of the shuttle.
Many cities where large tournaments are held have very efficient and safe transit systems right from the airport. For example, instead of paying for cabs or airport shuttles that charge, taking the local bus or subway train for about $1.50 will get me to the tournament just as easy.
So as you can see, there are different ways to take a bite off the overall expenses of karate tournament travel. You just have to do your research for every trip. As for meals, you could always stuff yourself silly for a very reasonable price at those Chinese buffets found almost everywhere.