Most athlete’s backpacks and suitcases resemble Mary Poppins magical bag, you never know what you might pull out of them! I looked back at my whereabouts and confirmed that I have slept in 26 different locations in the last six weeks. Between a break back in Canada, and racing Gatineau, the Women’s Tour, Nationals, the Giro and La Course, these last weeks have flown by. Here are a few items that you can find in my bag for surviving flights and thriving in hotel rooms around the world.
Sleep is one of the most important pillars of recovery and performance, so a lot of my packing essentials relate to ensuring a good night of sleep in any location.
- Earplugs – Elacin are a sponsor of the team who make custom earplugs. As a light sleeper and someone who always struggled to get normal earplugs to stay in my ears, these things have seriously changed my life. I cannot recommend them enough if you have issues sleeping with any noise.
- Eye mask – An eye mask is a worthwhile investment, as you can use it to help sleep on a plane, or to block out light in hotel rooms. If you are really on a budget, then a rolled up buff (neck warmer) can also double as an eye mask!
- Pillow – I have started to bring my own pillow to certain races. Some countries and hotels really do not provide adequate pillows for my liking, so it is nice to have something familiar to help get a comfortable sleep, especially during long stage races like the Giro.
I like to do some stretching and activation every morning before training and racing, and it is handy to have a mat to avoid sitting on dirty hotel room floors. There are lots of travel mats available if you do a quick search. I think mine is actually a mat cover for hot yoga, but it does the trick, and is machine washable when I get home! If you don’t fear judgement, then this is also handy for making the most of airport layovers.
I always travel with my own coffee kit. You can count on some countries like Italy to have amazing coffee, but I cannot say the same for everywhere in the world. I like to have something familiar in the morning wherever I wake up, so I travel with an Aeropress, favourite beans and a reusable mug to ensure every morning is amazing :-).
As an athlete, I am constantly thinking of nutrition and hydration. The air circulation in planes and hotel rooms can be very dehydrating. Always carry a waterbottle to remind yourself to drink. Just remember to empty it before security at airports, and then just fill it up on the other side while traveling. This strategy also cuts down on your overall plastic consumption, doing a small favour for the environment.
If leaving from home, then I have some more freedom to buy and prepare healthy foods to travel with. This can save money, and decrease the chances of impulse purchases when hunger strikes. Some Euro airports are amazing and actually have grocery stores offering fresh food at a reasonable price (Albert Heijn in Amsterdam Schiphol is my favourite!), but this is not the norm. One tip I picked up is to order the vegetarian or vegan option on intercontinental flights (you can do this at booking, or call the airline). The meal is usually way healthier compared to the standard fare, and you normally get your food first. If only this was just served as the standard meal!
Our team always travels with a ‘breakfast box’ full of goodies, so we always know what is available in any country for our pre-race meal. But if traveling to races alone, I usually have some oats and peanut butter packed in my suitcase in case what the hotel offers for breakfast isn’t great. I would recommend doing the same to always stick with your routines.
A smart packing tip is to put your cycling shoes, a spare kit, and a change of clothes in your carry-on if traveling by plane. I have been in a lot of travel situations with lost equipment, or delayed and cancelled flights. Cycling shoes are probably the most difficult thing to borrow from somebody else, as the fit is so individual, so these are important to have with you. A spare set of clothes is also amazing if you happen to be stranded somewhere overnight without your luggage.
I hope these tips help you prepare for your own adventures on the road! Share your own top tips and travel essentials with me on social media, Instagram @leahkirchmann or Twitter @L_Kirch.