Zucker family celebration at Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI. Photo credit: Jodi Berkebile

Zucker family celebration at Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI. Photo credit: Jodi Berkebile

It can be difficult to attend a triathlon as a spectator.  It’s even tougher when you’re traveling with kids to triathlon races.

The day can be REALLY long, especially if it’s a full-distance Ironman.  You get up before dawn.  It’s often cold in the morning, very hot by the afternoon with little shade, or even raining.  You may see your athlete for brief seconds and then not for hours.  And, if you’re not staying close by, you have to entertain yourself during those hours.

But, guess what – I wouldn’t change this lifestyle for anything.  With race season upon us, I thought I’d share some tips for traveling with kids to triathlon races.  I have been through this with mine at all ages, so here are my suggestions:

Choose the Right Triathlon Race Venue

Swim start at Ironman Lake Placid in NY. Photo credit: Sherry Wernicke / Triathlon TravelingMom

Swim start at Ironman Lake Placid in NY.
Photo credit: Sherry Wernicke / Triathlon TravelingMom

You need to work with your athlete on this one, as it should be a joint decision.  They may have certain races THEY want to do, but chances are this will double as your family vacation, so pick carefully.  My mantra is location, location, location.

It’s vital to do your research here.  I feel it’s best to arrange the “vacation” part of the trip AFTER the race.  Before the race, your athlete either has to rest up or will be under a bit of stress, so not a good time to sightsee with the kids.  Things to consider:

  • How far away is the race?  Can you get a direct flight or drive?  Which works best for your family & budget?  One of my kids became very difficult on flights over 3 hours, so we had to plan accordingly.  Local races are much easier, especially if you have more than one child, as you can just load up the car and go.
  • What vacation-type activities does the area offer?  Yellowstone National Park was an easy drive for us from Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
  • How kid-friendly is both the race and the town?  Does it have playgrounds, beaches, pools, planned children’s events?   Mont Tremblant is a great venue for kids, with dedicated playgrounds AND daycare.
Fresh, local produce at our house in Kona, HI. Photo credit: Dana Zucker / Triathlon TravelingMom

Fresh, local produce at our house in Kona, HI.
Photo credit: Dana Zucker / Triathlon TravelingMom

Choosing the Right Place to Stay

  • How far away from the race site will you be staying?  Are the start and finish lines easy to get to?  It’s ideal to be close, so you can go back and forth to the room during the race for showers, naps, and food.
  • You really need 2 bedrooms, so the kids can sleep undisturbed.  Consider renting a house, depending on how long you will be at the location.
  • I cook more than go out, so having a kitchenette is important, as is having a grocery store nearby.  I actually pack as many supplies as I can and then buy the rest.

What to Pack for a Triathlon Race

  • Packing doesn’t change a lot for a race.  You still need most of the same items, whether you are sightseeing or at a triathlon.
  • If flying, you can either bring the bike as part of the luggage – most likely for an extra charge – or use shippers, such as TriBike Transport.  Trust me, your life will be so much easier.  Packing A Tri Bike details these options.

General Tips for Taking Kids to a Triathlon

  • Make sure you reserve early and get a big enough car for the family and all the gear.  If you have the bike with you, you’ll need an SUV.
  • If you have more than one child, travel with help, friends, or family.
  • Make friends with families with similar age kids for company.
  • If you want to see the start of the race, you have to adjust the kids’ schedules to get up early, as the swim starts by 7am.  Make sure you have them fully dressed and have plenty of food with you, as you never know what will be available at the race site.
  • The ages of the children are a big consideration.  Babies are much easier, as they have a schedule and sleep easily in the stroller.  Toddlers are a different story, as they are more active and need more entertaining.  My toddlers would not sleep in the stroller, so we had to go back to the room for nap time.
  • Have school age kids make signs to cheer on your athlete before you leave.
  • My teens started babysitting for our friends during the race to give the moms a break and give them something to do.

I hope this helps you enjoy being a spectator as much as I do.  It’s a healthy lifestyle for the whole family that I treasure.