Keeping Your Costs Down When Traveling for Youth Sports


Popular youth sports blogger StatsDad estimates that in 2011 he spent $11,704 on youth sports! You may not feel like $150 is all that much to sign your child up for a basketball season, but when you add in a basketball tournament that costs $1,600 suddenly it’s a very different game. Most parents don’t realize how much it really costs because it’s spread out over multiple things, but when you add traveling costs on top of equipment, lessons, special coaches, and more it’s no surprise that youth sports can cost a family thousands of dollars a season.

Here are four ways you can keep costs down as much as possible when traveling for youth sports. It may not seem like much, but every dollar counts when you’re spending thousands just to play!

Skip the restaurant and have a picnic instead.

Do you know how restaurants price their menu? A general food cost rule of thumb is take describe the imagewhatever it costs them to pay for the raw ingredients and then triple it to pay for labor and overheard. A decent, healthy (ish) meal is going to cost at least $8-$12 dollars per person, and if you’re eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner food costs for you and your child are going to add up pretty quick! Instead of eating out, why not take a trip to the grocery store and at least pack your lunches for the weekend. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, baby carrots, and some whole grain crackers are going to make for a much better lunch than what you’ll find at most snack bars anyway. And it’s also going to cost you a lot less than $10 per player!

Most hotel rooms come with a mini-fridge, so you can buy some milk for your breakfast cereal (if the hotel doesn’t have a continental breakfast), or even lunch meats and cheeses and not worry about it spoiling.

Signup for a frequent flyer account with your favorite airline.

Easily, one of the biggest expenses of  being on a travel sports teams is the airplane ticket from city to city. If your child is on a high-powered team they might be flying cross-country every other weekend to compete! You, the other parents, and the coach should all consider picking one airline that flies to the cities you’ll be playing in this season (check the schedule) and have everyone sign up for a frequent flyer account with that airline. You might be able to earn a free ticket by the end of the season (or at least in time for next season) so you save a few hundred dollars that way.  

You could also do the same thing with a popular hotel chain and quickly earn a free night or two throughout the season.

Plan ahead and look for coupons.

Coaches typically know ahead of time what away tournaments they want to go to. Once that schedule is in your hands start digging around online for coupons or deals to local restaurants, hotels, car rental agencies, and so forth. If you’re savvy enough you might be able to avoid paying full price for anything the whole time you’re away!

Double up with other team parents.

While many parents wish they could go to every game, home or away, the simple truth is you can’t always go! You do have a life, after all, and probably other kids that you need to support in their endeavors. At the beginning of the season sit down with the other sports parents on the team and figure out who you can carpool with (save on gas!), who can go on which away tournament, and so forth. It doesn’t make sense to have 15 parents drive 15 kids to the same place, right? And even when travelling far away a few parent chaperones are usually enough to help the coach manage everything.