Everyone in Canada is attracted to old countries. The wide range of great places to visit and discover in Europe are almost too numerous to count. And because our national sport is played by nearly half of the active population, it is pretty clear that one day most people will be attracted to play on foreign ice while visiting all the historic places in the area.
But sometimes people get too excited about their upcoming trip and too often they plan the tour without thinking about all the problems that may arise before, during and after the tour. There are different types of trips that suit different types of teams (vintage cars, girls, minors, etc …). A sports tour is more complicated than a normal trip and there is no easy way to take care of all the details. Therefore, the following 7 tips should be considered as the basic advice to follow when planning this type of tour and it does not matter if you are a player, coach or manager; everyone should follow a guideline because group travel is not the same as going on holiday alone.
1- The decision, the team, and the commitment:
Of course, the first thing you have to do before you proceed is to have a team ready to work and follow you to make it happen. If your group is not involved in all aspects of the preparations, you cannot have them participate in all upcoming activities.
It is important for every member of the group (player, parents, and coaches) to realize that they all have something to do and that it is not possible to complete the project without their help. Once you are sure of their commitment, make sure YOU are ready for the biggest task, namely to make the movements, because someone has to do it eventually.
2- The desk
Many people think they are smart enough to plan the tour themselves and it is, of course, possible to do it. With the power of the internet and all resources online, someone with a lot of free time and determination can “patch” a decent schedule. But the fact is that there are so many unknown aspects and so many things to think about, that the trip will usually be a disappointing experience.
People need to understand that there are just too many things to settle for one person without experience or contact on location. The most difficult part is to plan the games or the tournament with all aspects around it: transportation, accommodation, insurance, local guide, language barrier, quality, distances, visits, support, etc …
There are many companies that organize sports trips and some are of course good. The problem is that most of them are only a travel agency that puts on a mask and claims to be a specialist when someone tells them about sports. The truth is that you need a desk that DOES HOCKEY TOURS ONLY. Why? Simply because every member of the company is specialized and passionate about the same thing as you and also because they probably have a lot of experience in both designed competencies (Hockey and Europe).
To really know what can happen during a stay in a certain country, you need someone who has been there and is aware of all aspects of the place. This same person has probably had the same experience as the person you want to reach, so he knows exactly what to do to ensure that the journey is as good as possible.
There are a number of good companies in the area, but they are quite expensive because they have so many employees on their payroll.
3. Budget, destination, and duration
Probably the most difficult part of the procedure. Following the expertise of your agency, your team must agree on a destination, a duration and of course a realistic budget. The most frequent major error of travellers plans to see too much! “Yeah and why not?” you say. “Europe is small, so we can go everywhere in no time.” While this is true, the hard and cold fact is that you will have a painful trip if you decide to move around too much.
Travelling by bus (even senior coaches) more than 2 hours a day can get very boring for everyone and mood can quickly drop. The other thing to consider is the kind of way to go. Even on the highway, buses are often limited to 90 km / h and as you most likely have mountain roads to travel along the way, you will then travel at an average of 40 to 50 km / h. So a 100 km route that seems to be quite short on a map may actually take 2 hours.
The length is also crucial for this type of travel. Remember that you must allow 2 full days for the round trip by plane. With time changes and flight duration, a 10-day trip is actually an 8-day site visit. This is why a week’s trip is not recommended because you will run without seeing much and will come back more tired than before departure. Depending on your budget, keep the visit between 10 and 15 days.
Remember that not all countries play hockey all year round and that you will not stay too long in hotels, so do not target 5-star or even 4-star resorts. Either way, most 3-star hotels in Europe are excellent and affordable. Of course, it is cheaper to stay a little outside a city’s “hot spot” and that does not matter much because the bus and metro systems are much more developed and affordable than here.
Most of the time, your team will have to think about raising funds for at least half the total price. Although it is not a favourite part of the preparation, it is still a necessary step since no one wants to reduce the quality of a single visit. This is why you need to find original and fun ways to get everyone involved.
Sponsorship is the easiest way, but you have to knock on many doors to find substantial money. It is more realistic to find traditional means which I will not begin to list. Give yourself time because you need a lot of ideas to find the best activities.
5- Final preparations
An important part of the final preparation is to schedule regular meetings with everyone to make sure they don’t forget anything. Unexpected things can and will happen during a visit and it is best to be fully prepared for any surprises that may arise on the spot. The biggest problem is probably insurance.
In fact, although it is very important that this detail is settled first, it is also quite easy to find good insurance. There are many options that are in most cases very affordable and comprehensive. Since some people are already covered by their work or their own insurance, it is better to make sure that people have their own protections and of course bring documents on board.
You must insist on having all kinds of required and useful documents in a file kept by the agency consultant or by trusted people if you travel without a guide (not recommended). These must include allergy advice, medical advice, insurance cover, passport photocopies, detailed contact numbers for each passenger, all contact information for different destinations, copies of airline tickets. the plane, etc.
A detailed itinerary must also be provided for each member of the group and all useful resources must be provided just to ensure that they can move around in the event of loss or problems. Of course, all of these details are supposed to be taken care of by the agency if you have chosen to use one. The team should have “rules” or guidelines to follow because they must remember that they will not be home and that they must stay together most of the time. Depending on the number of travellers and parents accompanying the team, it should be decided before the trip who is responsible for each traveller who will be a minor at the time of the trip. Minors who do NOT travel with their parents must follow certain rules to avoid any problem at customs or on-site.
Also, make sure that everyone has local money on them at check out, but not too much because no one wants to have a large amount of money stolen if it should happen. Everyone should be aware of the current ratio of the Canadian dollar to the euro (or if they are going to a country with an independent currency). Visit oanda.com for a real-time converter.
6 – On the spot
Again, if you have a guide travelling with the team, it should be fairly easy to go around without encountering too many problems. If problems arise, the guide is there to arrange everything and arrange all aspects of the trip to accommodate the groups. But also bear in mind that it is IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone at the same time, so the group must be aware that some compromises will be made along the way. Usually, those are small details, but they are also some rare moments when the team has to make a difficult decision. Fortunately, chances are that the guide will find the best solution with his own experience.
A typical day on a tour usually follows the same path: visits or guided tours in the morning, free time and suggested visits in the afternoon, games in the evening and free time in the evening. On travel days between two locations, the guide has probably planned stops along the way with interesting visits while splitting the road time. Again, you shouldn’t spend too much time on the road.
Visits included in the itinerary must always be covered by the agency, as well as any meals that we should include. Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the hotel choice must be largely based on the quality of the food offered. A breakfast buffet is always a winner because you can find something for everyone. For the other person’s meal, your guide has probably planned some typical food for one of them and leaves the other to you. In this way, you can experience the diversity of the culinary culture and also eat what you would rather fully refresh every day.
Security should be a very important part of the planning and as I said before, no one should have too much money on it. Also, make sure that the money is well hidden and cannot be spotted on you easily. This is especially true for handbags because they are fairly easy to steal and some thieves in Europe specialize in things like that, anywhere. In fact, you don’t need to carry a conventional wallet or handbags and use a number of safety devices, such as hidden pockets and belts.
Another important detail for safety is knowing the local basic laws and traditions. Some countries do not accept things that seem reasonably good here. Always make sure that there are some adults with children and do not trust that your child will only behave like an adult, that is NOT him. That is why the parents must treat the locals as respectfully as they want them to be with their children. This will certainly not ruin the trip, because there is plenty of ways to enjoy the tour without messing around.
It is advisable to design one traveller to take as many photos and videos as possible because it is appreciated and useful if someone loses his equipment. Most people will also want to make a souvenir CD or DVD when they return home.
Finally, ALWAYS listen to your guide and / or local guides who accompany you during the tour. They will not say anything if that is not useful, so pay attention to what they say and do not hesitate to ask questions.
7- The aftermath
You will probably have many memories to take home with you and you will become nostalgic about the time you are in the old lands. So it would be a good idea to have a party a few weeks later with the entire group where you can exchange thoughts and photos about the trip. A report meeting should also be done to close with the finances and things to correct if you are planning another trip.
Finally, every hockey player aged 7 to 77 has thought of a memorable experience by playing hockey in Europe. Even if it seems fairly easy to organize, the truth is that it is much more complicated than planned if you are not dealing with some real specialists. Take the time to choose the destinations and all the options that your group needs before continuing. All details must be prepared and everyone must be ready to deal with all unexpected problems.
There is no perfect trip, but you can get the best out of it by following this guide to organize a hockey tour you will never forget!