One of the coolest things in the judge program is the ability to travel the world, meet old friends, get to know new ones, and be in touch with the game globally. In this article you will find a few hints & helpful tips for new world travelers.
Passports & Visas
Obtaining and using a passport or visa is a legal issue that will vary from country to country, so consult a travel professional when making arrangements. This is not a definitive guide for fulfilling passport and visa requirements while traveling.
Always check the requirements for your route ahead of time. Governments usually maintain websites of travel requirements so check your country’s website and all countries you’ll be traveling through. If you can’t find the information, check your destination country and connection countries.
One thing that can take travelers by surprise is the requirement for passports and visas even in layover countries. For example, if your route has a connection in the US, you may be required to have a visa. This can cause considerable problems if not anticipated.
You can pay for a travel agency to handle plans or you can complete the paperwork yourself. If you are unsure on how to complete the documentation, you can ask other judges with more travel experience. If they can’t help, you can default back to paying a fee for the travel agency.
It’s a very bad idea to walk out of the tournament venue on Friday at midnight in search of a place for the night.
Always plan ahead, figure out what your budget is for lodging, and find acceptable options. There are a lot of alternatives to requesting room sponsorship. Consider contacting a local judge for help finding a place to stay. One of the benefits of being part of the huge judge family is you have friends all over the world you haven’t even met!
Sometimes a local judge has a spare couch you can crash on, or knows a player who does. You won’t know until you ask, which is made easy through JudgeApps or through the Judge Manager for the event. They may or may not be able to help you, but it’s worth contacting them.
Hostels are often a really good idea if you are travelling on your own and have not been able to find a good hotel room you can split with others. Most US hotels will have “Double” rooms, which actually fit 4 people if you are willing to share a double bed with someone else. Splitting these rooms 4 or more ways often results in an affordable cost per person. Nice hostels are an even more affordable rate.
If your budget is really tight, there are websites where people who have a spare couch or bed will post online they can receive couchsurfers and on which dates. I personally recommend couchsurfing.com. I’ve never had a bad experience couchsurfing, but it is a bit like backpacking and it’s definitely not a hotel. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re on a really tight budget it’s definitely worth a look.
This will be the most expensive part of the trip, but with proper planning you will see there’s no need to spend more than necessary.
First thing you should do is search an array of options. Good places to start are normally Kayak, Expedia, or matrix.itasoftware.com. If possible, use flexible dates ± 3 days on Kayak to find the cheapest combination of days to fly, as well as the nearby airports option or searching for flights to a city rather than to an individual airport. (e.g. searching for NYC instead of JFK or LGA or EWR). Check whether your destination airport is the cheapest option. Maybe there’s another one within driving distance. Taking a bus overnight to the event site may be cheaper than flying directly.
Did you know certain days of the week are actually better to search for flights? Tuesday and Wednesday are when airline companies begin to lower their fares. Friday and the rest of the weekend are generally bad days to purchase, as companies raise their prices.Note that budget airlines may not appear online.
If you are making connecting flights, make sure your arrival and departure flights are both in the same airport. If you are booking on separate reservations, beware a delay in the first flight that makes you miss the connection is your responsibility, not the airline’s.
Even if you do not you plan on travelling to many international events, you should always set up an account for the airline’s loyalty program. Your status and benefits in that program can improve over time if you fly repeatedly.
If you’re planning on attending two consecutive events, it’s often good to fly to a hub airport, and book your remaining portions from there. For example, I booked a roundtrip flight from Costa Rica to Fort Lauderdale, and then a roundtrip flight from Fort Lauderdale to Houston, and then a roundtrip flight to Las Vegas. In the end I caught the flight back to Costa Rica, spent a lot less money than SJO-HOU-LAS-SJO would have cost, earned a lot more miles.
Sign up for every promotional and special offer mailing list from the major airlines that fly through your home airport. Maybe you won’t use them, but it’s just an extra 15 seconds of reading to see if there’s something useful and deleting it.
Standby flights can be risky if you’re traveling the day of the event. However, they’re a great option for after the event if you’re flexible with your return time.
Jet lag and You
Jet lag is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body’s biological clock resulting from short-term long-distance transmeridian (east–west or west–east) travel on high-speed aircraft. The condition is not linked to the length of flight, but to the trans-meridian (west–east) distance traveled. Regardless of distance, north-south flights do not cause jet lag.
The symptoms of jet lag can vary depending on the amount of time zone alteration, time of day, and the individual. Sleep disturbance include poor sleep upon arrival, trouble falling asleep (if flying east), early awakening (if flying west), and interrupted sleep with trouble remaining asleep. Cognitive effects include diminished mental performance and poor concentration.
Resting a day or two at your destination can help your body adjust to the local time zone. Planning some extra days before your event will not only give you the opportunity to do some sightseeing and spend quality time with the local judge community, it will also help your overall performance.
Flying into a major hub and taking an overnight bus can save a day’s lodging and allow for more time seeing a country outside of the venue. Sleeping on a bus may not always be the most comfortable, but it can save you considerable amounts of money in travel and lodging expenses.
Most high speed train services use a pricing model similar to airlines, which means planning your trains 3 months in advance can save you as much as 80% of what it would cost you the day of travel. Plan ahead, and watch out for price drops over a period of time before buying. Europe or Japan are some common places to find high speed train services. Be vigilant for changes in train availability depending on things like construction and employee strikes.
As with the other details mentioned above, planning ahead is always going to benefit you. Check with local judges if it’s cheaper to change money at your destination instead of your hometown.
Keep in mind, it’s generally a good idea to avoid exchange houses at airports. They will charge significantly more than other places for the convenience. Keep an eye open to regulations regarding currency exchange limits, or the amount of money you can bring to or from some countries.
The most convenient option is usually a Credit Card. Notify your company of the places you’ll be travelling in advance or they may consider it stolen. Credit Card companies have great exchange rates and offer protection from fraudulent purchases if stolen.
Returning Home with Compensation
After a long weekend on the floor you will be receiving some well-deserved compensation product. This can raise issues of exceeding weight in your luggage, cost you extra fees from airlines, and cause problems with your customs office.
Solutions include selling or trading boxes to vendors or judges on-site (with TO permission) or shipping it back. There’s plenty of ways to work things out, so plan ahead the method that fits you best and avoid issues at the end of an awesome weekend.
We hope this simple guide was able to help demystify travelling to events abroad and motivate some of you to go on a judging adventure!