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Travelling Tips & Tricks

Cagt - April 13, 2018

Hey guys, long time no see!

Yesterday, I made a tweet saying I would write a blog on how I travel so often (https://twitter.com/Cagt3000/status/984375866997313538), and now that I got free time, I can get it delivered to you all!

Now, please understand that travelling isn't accessible to everyone of course, and that everyone has different financial limitations, so if you're living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle with very little to spare, this won't magically make you able to travel to every major every weekend. However, this will hopefully open up some doors for a lot of you and travel to a few more majors every year as opposed to just one or two (or none at all depending on your case). I'm not going to tell you how to make more money in order to buy more flights, but rather how to reduce the costs of travelling, which boil down to three points:

1. Registration
2. Housing
3. Flights

I'm saving the biggest one for last, since it's the hardest one to save money on in most cases. The flight section is of course mainly targetted at players flying within the US, but I'll try to include a little bit about non-US players as well.

REGISTRATION

This is probably the easiest and most straightforward way of saving money. If you would like to travel to a tournament, REGISTER AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Let me bring up the Glitch 4 registration page:

Assuming you're just doing Singles, you're paying $30 with early registration, and $50 with late registration. That's already $20 bucks saved right there. And while this may not seem like that big of a difference, think about majors like Shine, Genesis, etc. where the price can differ between $60 and $100 for registration... you'll want to thank your wallet later. So don't be lazy waiting for the last minute: REGISTER EARLY PEOPLE.

HOUSING

This is where the real meat of the savings come in. I personally find it baffling when I find out Smashers pay $150-200 or more total for housing, when they can get it for next to nothing 99% of the time. Understand that there are sacrifices you will have to make when saving money, but if you're willing to do it, you'll feel so much better about it later.

My rule for housing is to NEVER pay over $100 for housing (not per night, total). This seems impossible to get, but is in fact very doable. Lemme explain how to do it in three steps:

STEP 1: Find a hotel NEAR the venue, not AT the venue.

This is probably the biggest hurdle people will have to overcome, but if you take the bullet, your wallet will feel MUCH nicer about it. I won't try to hide the fact that staying at the venue hotel is extremely convenient and allows you to stay at the venue as long as you want. However, 99% of the time the venue's hotel is very expensive per night (anywhere between $150-200 PER NIGHT), and since Smashers typically stay 3-4 nights, this can rack up to $800+ dollars. Yes, finding more people to house with can bring the price down severely (which I will get to in a minute), but staying in another hotel will ALWAYS make it cheaper for you.

My method of looking for hotels is to go on https://www.priceline.com/ and search for hotels in or around the city of the tournament, sorting from lowest to highest price, and looking at available hotels. Of course, you need to be able to distinguish between shitty ass hotels and decent ones, but with a bit of research and common sense, you'll be able to find really solid deals. Typically, I tend to book rooms that cost anywhere between $50 and $80 a night, which ends up costing between $150 and $240 total (without factoring splitting between players yet).

While you won't be at the venue and won't be able to go down to play matches in your PJs, you can still find hotels within a 5-10 minute drive of the tournament, and split the uber cost with 4-5 people, which will make it almost insignificant. Speaking of splitting costs...

STEP 2: Find people to SPLIT the costs with.

Everyone loves travelling in groups with friends or staying with local homies, so when finding housing with people, always do your best to have as many people as possible in your room (providing it has space of course). Typically, I tend to have anywhere between 4-6 people in my room, which is pretty standard to begin with, but if you take into account the reduced cost that I brought up earlier, it will make the costs of the hotel extremely low.

And this goes for Ubers as well - if an uber to the venue would be $20, it is now suddenly $3-5 due to you having multiple people to split it with. And if people want to go home separately, you can always choose the Uber Express Pool options and pair up that way for even cheaper costs. Yes, this will add up over the weekend, but you're still saving a lot of money as opposed to staying at the venue. If you just so happen to have driven to said tournament, you don't even need to worry about Uber costs.

I've found housing for 30+ players for Shine 2017, as well as various other tournaments in New England, so this is something I'm used to doing. Of course, if you have a friend that can house you for free or something you're all set, but this is definitely something people are overlooking.

STEP 3: Cut down the DAYS you're staying at the tournament.

Now this sounds a little counter-intuitive, so let me explain further: let's say a major is 3 days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), and that Singles don't start until Saturday. Typically, people will come in Thursday and leave Monday, forcing them to book 4 nights at hotel.

HOWEVER, if you come in Friday and leave Sunday night, you only have to pay for 2 nights at a hotel, which FURTHER brings down the price you need to pay. This is why it's crucial to look at the tournament schedule (or why TOs need to release the schedule as early as possible), so people can plan their travels ahead of time. Yes, it does suck to have to stay less at the event, but if you're looking to save as much money as possible, this is the best approach to do so. I've had tournaments where I've spent next to nothing for housing, and it felt really nice on my wallet. Many hotels won't even charge you until you check-in, so you can take your time to save up money for other things.

With those out of the way, let's get to the meat and potatoes of this blog.

FLIGHTS

This is by far and wide the most daunting part of travelling, and one that is hard to save money on. Companies pull some shady ass shit over flight prices, so I understand if people are relunctant to fly because of it. But I assure you, there are a few tricks you can use to lower costs as much as possible. Here's a few steps on it:

STEP 1: USE Incognito Mode/other browsers/clear your cookies/browsing history.

Ever looked at flights prices on Google Flights, closed the tab, looked some other places, came back, and found out the prices went up? Yeah, you're not dreaming. Websites track where you go and increase/decrease the prices based on your history and data. It really sucks, but that's the system they have. The best way to avoid getting ripped off like that is to "hide" yourself as much as possible online so the websites can't track your shit and give you the best possible prices. It's tedious, but worth it in the end.

STEP 2: Look around DIFFERENT websites.

There are loads of websites that claim to offer "cheap flights" for people, but there isn't one definitive site that will offer you the best prices possible. Look at every option possible and see what prices they give you. Here're where I usually look for flights:

- Google Fligths
- Priceline
- Kayak
- CheapFlights.com
- Airline's Website

It's funny, but sometimes the airline itself has the best prices possible, as contradicting as that sounds. You just need to do as much research as possible and find what's best for you. What may be a $300 flight on one website can be a $280 one on another!

STEP 3: Pick CONNECTING flights.

This is another hard pill to swallow similar to finding housing near the venue, but one that has saved my ass multiple times before. Connecting flights (in my experience) will almost ALWAYS be cheaper than direct flights. I'm no expert on how airlines work, so I don't know the logic behind it sadly, but I can tell you that it has always saved me money.

Now yes, this will make your travels longer and more tedious, which means more planning ahead. Sometimes we just don't have the time to take connecting flights. Othertimes, direct flights are just cheaper than connecting ones, and if that's the case, HURRAH! You hit the jackpot. Otherwise, buckle up and get ready for a long trip. Your trip there might go from 3 hours to 7 hours, but the price will go from $330 to $210 dollars, and you'll be glad you picked the cheaper option in the end (or course, prices vary depending on where you live/destination/time of year/etc, but that's on you to do your research).

STEP 4: Do NOT stick to one airline - mix it up.

Now this is probably the riskiest part of it, and one that you don't necessarily have to follow, but one I recommend looking into anyways. Some airlines are known to be cheaper than others (Spirit/Southwest), and others tend to be more expensive (Delta/American Airlines). Flight experiences also differ greatly, so you may have a personal grudge against one airline and not fly them ever again. However, I've flown with Spirit multiple times and had no issues whatsoever (same with United). It's all about preference and how much of a risk you're taking. Personally, I think there's a lot of over-exageration on how bad some airlines are, but to each their own.

An alternative to this step that I've seen some players use (especially ANTi) is sticking to one airline and getting a membership card to gain miles and get discounts down the road. That is a way of saving money that is more long-term than short-term, but one that can definitely make flights very cheap (or even free in some instances). I don't have one personally so I can't help you out too much on this, but I definitely recommend looking into it if you're the type of person to do so.

STEP 5: Travel light.

This isn't necessarily a travel hack per se, but one that can save you troubles when travelling. Whenever I attend a major, I always ONLY bring the necessities - clothes, hygiene products, a setup and my controller. Nothing more, nothing less. This means I'll only have a backpack on me, which is extremely easy to carry around and makes it so I don't have to pay any extra fees to the airline for having a big ass suitcase. If you're bringing some big objects or are planning on buying a lot of merch, you may need to get some bigger luggage, but if not, this trick can definitely bring down the costs of your travels.

CONCLUSION

Smashers spend way too much money on travelling, and need to cut down on some aspects in order to appease their wallets. I understand and respect the need to have comfortable travels, but there are some steps you can take that can heavily reduce the price you pay to go to these events.

This is what a Smasher will typically pay:
REGISTRATION: $60
HOUSING: $150
FLIGHTS: $330
TOTAL: $540

This is what I'll typically pay:
REGISTRATION: $50
HOUSING: $60
FLIGHTS: $200
TOTAL: $310

(All these prices are averages and not exact amounts of course - they vary heavily depending on the events)

You'll still get to enjoy the events themselves and compete, but your wallet will be much happier, and you won't be as broke when you come back home after a long weekend! Money's a pain in the ass to deal with, and I can understand if not everyone is able to travel regularly (if at all). But I hope this guide is at least useful to all of you and opens up a few doors to be able to travel to majors more often. On that note, talk to you guys again soon!

- Cagt (@Cagt3000)

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