Cons and out of town tournaments can be exhilarating and fun, but are frequently exhausting as so many people, events, and situations compete for your attention and emotional energy. To maximize focus and reduce fatigue, one area where you can reduce stress is the travel elements themselves, which, if problematic or frustrating, can set a poor tone for hours, even days, after the issue has been resolved. From overpriced hotels to underpacked suitcases, here are four tips to ensure you avoid travel woes that can diminish the enjoyment of MAGFest or the adrenaline rush of a poker tournament before they ever become a problem.
Trains and Planes
It seems obvious, but in our rush to get on the road, catch our flight, or just get to the hotel as soon as possible, we frequently forget to put into motion some very fundamental parts of our voyage, most notably transportation to and from the hotel, which can have a substantial impact on a number of other aspects of the trip. If you’re planning on walking from your hotel to the convention center, for example, then you will want to make sure well in advance that there is no inclement weather in the forecast, especially if you’ll be doing cosplay, transporting instruments, or carrying valuable MTG or Yugioh cards that could be destroyed by rain. If you’re driving from the hotel, or taking public transportation, make sure you’re familiar with the parking and routes, respectively, and know beforehand how much they should cost. Having these types of issues resolved ahead of time can save a great deal of frustration in the long run, especially when thousands of other people are simultaneously attempting to travel to the same location as you.
The Hotel Mini-Game
Although conventions and tournaments sometimes have hotels connected to the event locations themselves, we frequently have to find our own lodging accommodations when traveling for these types of events. It may be tempting to simply use the recommended hotels, or grab a room at the closest or cheapest location, but putting in the extra time before the trip begins can eliminate the frustration of a terrible hotel experience that runs the risk of ruining the event. When traveling to Tennessee for the most recent MTG Grand Prix Memphis, for example, we found that hotels in the city proper were exorbitantly expensive, charged for overnight parking, and had few amenities, while hotels 15 minutes over the border into Alabama offered a great deal more for much less, including free breakfast. Whatever your priorities are, you’ll be surprised what a brief bit of searching can accomplish.
Hasty and disorganized packing can lead to items being left at home or, perhaps even worse, left in the hotel when returning, leading to the added stress of replacing lost items or making due without. If this is a reoccurring problem, there are a number of easy solutions to correct the issue in the future, such as creating a list beforehand of what you’ll be packing, make use of a separate travel bag for toiletries to keep small objects together, and avoid excessive or redundant items to not overload your memory. This is especially helpful when flying to conventions, as the additional luggage can potentially incur extra fees, or even get lost in transit. When sharing a room with friends, try to keep your things close in proximity to your bag or bed, as to keep them grouped and make them less likely to get lost.
Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
It’s not always easy eating right and exercising while traveling for a convention or a tournament, but maintaining good habits can have a material effect on mood and stress while in a high intensity situation. Making a quick trip to the hotel gym or pool in the morning, for example, can have lasting stress reduction benefits for the rest of the day, and, if you have a Fitbit or other wearable fitness tracker, you can maintain your workout data for when you return. Sufficient sleep is also an important part of maintaining overall health and fitness, which can be hard to accomplish at cons that sometimes have panels and events throughout the day and night. Sleep as much as you can, and make use of a travel neck pillow for quick naps during flights, car rides, or in between rounds.
Fundamentally, the philosophy behind these stress reducing strategies for traveling is that a problem is easier to prevent than to resolve, and the energy required up front to avoid issues in the long run will pay dividends by making you feel more focused, relaxed, and carefree. Have a funny story about a stressful moment at a convention? Share in the comments below!