Roller derby travel tips with Shaolynn Scarlett.
As a seasoned veteran with London Brawling, I’ve been on many roller derby trips, having been on every one since we first qualified for Regionals back in the day. Mistakes? We’ve made a few. So here are some of our top tips for surviving a foreign roller derby trip (notwithstanding any erupting volcanoes…)
1) The early bird probably won’t catch jet lag.
Think about travelling early if there’s a huge time shift, to allow you to acclimatise before your games. Jet lag sucks. Some people take melatonin to help adjust the body clock, and an eye mask and earplugs are also easy to pack to help you get your 40 winks.
It really helps some people to look at the venue before travelling and visualise themselves in it. Sounds weird, but it can help you feel less overwhelmed when you arrive, if you’ve already imagined yourself skating and kicking ass in the venue.
3) Have a list and check it twice.
Think about everything you might need, and pack it all (if you have the baggage allowance). It’s not worth the stress of a last minute dash to find wheels/blender/teddy bear, so control everything you can (the “bubble” as Stef Mainey calls it when she’s wielding a giant knife and a chopping board). Saying that though, there are some things that might be easier to get out there (eg Epsom salts are cheap in US pharmacies, you can nab Ziplock bags from the airport to store snacks) so do a bit of research to see what you can buy and what you should take.
4) I got one hand in my luggage.
Take your skates and uniform in your hand luggage but leave your tools in the suitcase. Just in case they lose your luggage, it’s best to keep the essentials on you at all times. But keep the tools packed, as they are apparently more dangerous than skates according to the aircraft folk.
5) Leadership people – communicate early.
Trying to manage a roller derby team abroad is like herding excitable smelly kittens. So it’s helpful to tell people what is happening, what they can expect, and delegate jobs before you go (eg merch sales), so the team knows where they have to be and what they have to do. Setting up a shared Googledoc will help lots!
6) Check your flight/travel details.
You think this might be an obvious one, but plenty of people have missed their flight, so check! The other extreme is to turn up 6 hours early, but you don’t have to do that, unless you really like Boots like jensykes.
Some countries don’t think it’s enough for you to pay hundreds of pounds on flight costs, they want to charge you more to get extra permission or something. Make sure you have your ESTA, or check if there’s an equivalent authorisation you need to get before you travel.
8) Bring tea.
Warning to UK travellers – Tea in the US tastes of weak urine. I AM NOT JOKING. If tea is your elixir then don’t leave the country without a batch of PG Tips. And then either go buy a kettle from a shop, or factor in an extra half hour to boil water in the weird coffee percolator thing. If there are any other home comforts that will make you feel more relaxed and settled in – pyjamas, Great British Bake Off, hot water bottle – bring them with you or plan how you will get them there. It really helps to feel more relaxed before you play your matches. Juke Boxx suggested buying a candle to make your bathroom smell better after pooping – you heard it here first.
9) Where’s my nearest Whole Foods?
Food is serious business in Brawling. It’s mandatory to have at least one trip to Whole Foods to delight in the selection of nut butters and kalemole. And there has to be at least one person that finds a hipster coffee joint to satisfy our almond milk cortado needs. Hipster needs aside, it’s essential to know where you’re getting your food, and try to find some fresher, healthier options. Otherwise you might be stuck eating microwaved burgers or a bag of sweets laced with high fructose corn syrup. Ooh – and don’t forget that they add tax at the till in the US!
10) Get around, round.
Do your research to make sure you can get to where you need to easily, whether that’s clubbing together to hire a car, or having lots of change on you for public transport. Download the apps you need before you go (eg Lyft, Waze, Citymapper), get a holder if you’re using a phone as sat nav in your car, and make sure you know someone who has access to data on their phone. Don’t get off a bus at the wrong stop and have to walk through a residential neighbourhood for an hour with a massive broken suitcase in crazy heat (damn you Frightning Bolt).
11) Plan for fun.
Most North American hotels have a spa/pool so bring a swimsuit (although I guess you could just jump in, eh Juicy Lucy?). Bring a speaker to play some bangin tunes with the squad. Figure out if where you’re going sells alcohol on a Sunday – you might want to buy a few bottles in advance so you can get your drank on straight after your last game.
12) Watching games.
If you buy the WFTDA feed, start it before you head to the venue to play, but pause it. Then after the game you can come back to your hotel and watch the game you JUST played before its even archived Bring along an hdmi cable if you want to watch it on the hotel tv!
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start if you’re new to this whole travelling thing. Have you got any more top tips? Let us know on Facebook, I’d love to hear your stories!