Planning Your Dream Sports Vacation

April 11, 2018

How many times have you started a sentence with, "One day I want to..."? 

For me, this is at least a weekly occurrence. Often I found myself finishing that sentence with, "...play golf in Ireland and Scotland." 

My friends and I have spent several Sunday afternoons sitting around the TV watching the PGA Tour and talking about that 'one day.' Thankfully, in a few weeks this dream will become a reality as I travel to Ireland to play golf with two of my best friends.   

Planning a trip like this may seem daunting, expensive, or difficult. All of these things can certainly be true, but I'm here to ease some of those stress points and help you make your dream sports vacation a reality. 

I'm going to walk you through the basic steps of planning your dream sports vacation and explain how I planned mine. 

With these steps, you're dream sports vacation may be more attainable than you thought. 

1- Get the "W"

Decide Where you want to go, What you want to do,  Who you want to experience it all with, and When the best time to visit is. Simple! You've been thinking about this for years, now go let the Who(s) know what you are thinking, send them this blog, and plant that seed. Once that's done, figure out what you want to do and the time of year that makes the most sense.  

Golf_Trip_Pinehurst.jpg
My experience: My college friends, Kevin and Logan (the clowns in the photo with me), and I have been talking about playing links golf across the pond since our days on campus. All that was left to answer was, "Where?" We narrowed it down to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. Ultimately we chose Ireland because we wanted to experience more than just golf and we felt that Galway and Dublin would give us the best chance to experience city life, country side, beautiful coastline, and culture. We chose mid-Spring since peak golf prices kick in during late-Spring and the weather is typically in the 50s/low 60s - perfect links golf weather if you ask me.

2- Set a budget

Do some simple budgeting of what the face value is on everything that will be required for your trip by doing basic Google searches. Start with transportation and then focus on lodging, food, and activity prices. Knowing your budget will allow you to plan smarter and more freely. You may be thinking, "My budget won't even cover the flights." My response, "Keep reading!"

My experience: Kevin, Logan, and I discussed a realistic budget that we wanted to stay within and we helped use that to prioritize what was more important (lodging, golf courses, food, travel, etc). Our budget came from these categories: Flights, rental car, housing, golf fees, food, misc. entertainment. 

3- Start finding deals

There are thousands of deal finding tools on the internet. Use them! Here are my favorites: (PS: I don't get any kickbacks for these recommendations)

Flight booking: Sign up for a travel credit card and spend the minimum in the first 3 months to earn bonuses up to 75,000+ miles. Find the card and sign up bonus that is right for you. Boom! There is your free flight, or even flights depending on your destination. All you need to do is pay the small fees and taxes on the flights are you're off and running. 

Flight websites: Kayak, Google FlightsThrifty Traveler, Scott's Cheap Flights, and The Points Guy. Sign up for email deals directly through major airlines as well, they have some hidden gems.

Housing websites: Airbnb, Kayak, VRBO, Hotwire

Ground transportation: Costco Travel and Kayak for rental cars when driving longer distances. Lyft and public transportation for big cities. 

Event/Game tickets: Read this article I wrote

My experience: In my mind, this is where the real fun begins. For this trip I got the Delta Gold SkyMiles credit card when they were running a promotion for a 75,000 miles sign up bonus (normally 50,000 miles). The round trip ticket from MSP>DUB was 60,000 plus $50.46 in taxes.
For housing, we went with a couple of Airbnb apartments. This allowed us to find a place with three beds, a kitchen, wifi, and a washer/dryer to allow us to travel lighter for $45-$50/night per person. Location and parking were two main factors we looked at and ultimately ended up booking apartments in downtown Galway and downtown Dublin that are walking distance to restaurants and entertainment. 
The rental car was a little bit more tricky since we will be lugging around three golf bags, three suitcases, and three backpacks in a country that drives mostly smaller, manual cars on the left side of the road. As a scrub who has only ever owned an automatic car and driven on the right side of the road, this will be an adventure. I ended up booking directly through Avis as they were able to assist with my need for an automatic car at a good price, but for domestic trips I book through Costco Travel. 
Side note on international driving: It's best to get an International Driving Permit (valid for one year) if you plan to drive abroad. It's simple, just head over to AAA and get one for $20. 

4- Get creative

Still feel like it will cost too much or you don't have the time to do it? Get creative. Here are some things you can do to cut costs while still vacationing: House sit, work in trade (ex: sell photographs/video footage of a golf course in trade for a greens fee), or volunteer/work for free entry to a game/event. You'll be surprised at the things you can come up with.

My experience: I volunteered for US Soccer and MLS during my college years and had field and press box access during games. Teams will often take free help, just call or email the marketing or operations staff and see if you can strike up an agreement. Heck, people do this for golf tournaments all the time. Often times you just need to spend eight hours volunteering and you will get general admission for the entire week. Ryder Cup fans, here is your chance to do just that for the 2020 Ryder Cup.

5- More than sports

Take advantage of everything that your destination has to offer. Don't just go to the Final Four for the basketball. Take advantage of each host cities' unique culture and cuisine. Use Yelp, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, or other travel blogs to maximize your time and experience.  

My experience: For our time in Ireland, we are planning a trip to the Cliffs of Moher and the Guinness Storehouse tour among many other things. I'm sure that as we drive between Dublin and Galway we will stop in a few small towns to sample their local flavor as well. Although golf was the driving factor to plan this trip, it's so much more than that.

Want help planning your dream sports vacation? Contact me today to get started.

Curious about what courses we are playing? Here you go...

Lahinch Golf Club