I wrote this blog originally in the summer of 2016, but as I’m planning for my next BJJ adventure I thought it would be worthwhile updating it with some of my latest tips!
As before I’m not going to be focusing on the how to find somewhere to train abroad. For that Sally Arsenault has done a really useful blog regarding finding an academy on your travels. This blog is going to be covering some of my travel tips for keeping yourself organised with your packing and prepared for competition.
Check your luggage allowance – different airlines have different rules. Make sure you know what you can take on either check in the hold or as your hand luggage. You don’t want to be the person re-arranging your bags at check in! I know it sounds obvious to most people but knowing what you can take in terms of size and weight is also key to my next points. Maximising your hand luggage.
Maximising your hand luggage pt 1 – Invest in a good rucksack/training bag that can fit at least one gi in and can also meet most airline requirements. Having a good bag makes everything easier. This is for two reasons, one is for short haul journeys to competition. For these, I only take carry on luggage. That includes 2 gi’s, Bob and my clothes. The first time I managed it I impressed even myself but it does save crucial money to use towards your next trip! The second reason is that on longer trips I always put my competition gear in my hand luggage. If my luggage gets lost I still will be able to step on the mat! Clothes are replaceable – your competition gear is less so!
Maximising your hand luggage pt 2 – Now depending on your airline, you are often also allowed a small handbag in addition to your rucksack. Now, this is great to keep your iPad, phone, and things you want for the flight. That way you can just put your bag in the nearest overhead locker and settle in your seat quickly with the things you need. Both my husband and I have unisex bags that we use for this as it helps hugely with getting on and off the plane. My current trip bag is this lovely little Patagonia Atom Sling.
Compression / Vacuum Bags – Are my packing essential. I recently reviewed the BJJ Globetrotters Compression bag as it has become one of travelling essentials. Using compression or vacuum bags help protect your gis from any leaks or spills in my bags and helps shrink them, making them easier to pack. Plus if you can’t wash your things post comp it helps contain the smelly lurgieness so your bag stays reasonably fresh! If your budget won’t stretch to the Globetrotter’s bag you can easily be pick up vacuum bags in a store such as Poundland or online.
Toiletries – Keeping clean and having your regular toiletries is important to anyone but especially grapplers. For short haul flights, everything has to be under 100ml anyhow and fit into a see through bag. For these flights, I have a few tricks including stocking up on samples when you see them in magazines or similar. Alternatively, I simply decant my usual toiletries into travel bottles (that usually get thrown away). It’s a little wasteful but it does help save you money and keeps you into those 100ml limits. Primark do a set of 3 fabulous squeezy bottles for just £1! Or if you do have hold luggage just use up your toothpaste, hairspray or similar and just take your usual near empty bottle. Just make sure you wrap it up well cling film or similar to prevent leaks.
Travel scales – I picked this tip off my Judo Coach Sophie Cox. Invest in some travel scales and never worry about making weight / finding accurate scales again. These Tanita scales and not only small and light but can take up to 150Kg so will cope with most grapplers and can be found on Amazon.
Supplements – Plan in advance if you’re going to need any supplements whilst travelling. For short haul flights, I have previously bagged and labelled them and place them in my shaker without a problem. I also use a pill sorter to take a few cod liver oil tablets etc. Although we’re only talking a couple of scoops and a few tablets I have heard of some athletes having problems or having to taste them at security to prove their food! For longer haul, I simply put them in my case but I go to the effort of purchasing smaller bags or samples. But do check the rules of the country you are travelling to and whether you have to declare it. If in doubt declare it as its better to declare something unnecessarily than receive a fine!
Tape and Scissors – I use finger tape everytime I roll. One on the things I’ve checked is the ability to take scissors on board a plane (as per my hand luggage plan). I was surprised but really pleased to find out that I could. As long as your scissors are small (with blades no longer than 6cm) you should have a problem. Just put them with your travel liquids in you see through bags as you go through security just to be on the safe side. The bonus is this size of scissor can be found cheaply in your local Poundland or online such as these travel scissors on Amazon.
Find a Launderette – If you away for more than a few days and are planning to train then don’t be that stinky gi guy! I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a few Airbnb’s that have included a washing machine. But if not before you go google the nearest Launderette (or coin operated Laundromat) so you can wash your kit between sessions. Linked to that if you do have checked in luggage you can save yourself a headache and a possible skin reaction by buying your own detergent before you go. I don’t like the idea of decanting a strange white powder but again Poundland comes to the rescue with a range of small packs of branded detergent.
Use your phone – Your phone can make travelling a lot easier. There are some obvious ones such as Airbnb and Skyscanner which makes travel much easier. However, you can also get free sat nav applications using downloadable google maps or apps like Navmii which helps save you money on your car hire (although we also bought an American sat nav during our trips). Other useful apps include translation apps such as google translate that can also translate using the camera on your phone.
None of these tips are that complicated but they are genuine ones myself and my hubby have picked up over the last year travelling around to competitions. We hope you find them useful and save you at least one of the minor headaches we’ve had working things out for ourselves!