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Budgeting for Your Destination Marathon

Posted on 15 January 2014

As running races continue to grow with more events, unique venues (many distances including 5K Charity runs, 10K national events to the ever popular ½ marathon, marathon) many athletes travel to capture the unique feeling of a destination race.   With all the various running clubs such as Marathon Maniacs and 50 States marathons, global marathons promoting destinations of “must do events” many athletes face the budget questions.  How expensive will it be and some athletes just ignore it and address it when they get home with little cash. Over the years I have met with so many individuals who just embrace the fun of competing in events only to examine their financial situation at the end of the year and wonder how much did they actually spend on all these races.   Of course there are many who budget everything but its rare and in many cases the excitement of travel and running in a unique destination just postpone the inevitable cash flow crunch unless they have planned their budget or coordinated with specific charities to reduce overall expenses.

When planning for you next destination half or full marathon, consider the following expenses for your planning and build a simple spreadsheet.   It’s amazing how it can all add up for a couple days traveling to a race.  Personally I have participated in events across the globe and it’s imperative to have a handle on expenses.   These are few items to consider when building your destination marathon budget  (race registration fees must be added as well):

Travel – This is normally one of the most expensive items in planning the trip.  Let’s assume flights are mandatory based on location and time.   Be sure to add all these to your budget spreadsheet.

  1. Flight tickets (book on Tues. evening or Wed. morning for lower fair options).  Also, set up alerts on one of he various travel sites to keep an eye on flight prices and specials weekly to your destination.
  2. Baggage fares – this is sometimes a surprise when arriving at the airport and you have multiple bags.   Baggage fees seem to change by the day.  Recently, United just increased bag fee to $100 for a second bag check if traveling internationally.
  3. Upgrade fees for long flights for extended legroom.   These fees range from $40 – $150 depending on your flight location and timing (this is not business class or first class).
  4. If your taking a bike – the fees can range from $100 – $150 and every customer service representative will give you a different answer with respect to the price while speaking over the phone.
  5. Fees to use miles for many carriers.   Even though you might have miles for a free flight, many of the carriers now charge a base fee to use free rewards points.   These fees can change depending upon the date of travel and blackout dates.

Hotels – Fairly common sense but price ranges will vary from cheap hostels to 5 star hotels.

  1. Check to see what the daily hotel parking rate is for your stay (ahead of time).  This can range from free to over $30 per day depending on the specific city.
  2. Many are now charging for Internet services to use the Wi-Fi.  Even though not a big expense, it all adds up.
  3. Is breakfast included – look at both options and deals while searching online.  Sometimes it’s cheaper to purchase the breakfast option ahead of time vs. when you check in.
  4. Always call the hotel directly and ask them for the lowest price they have for a room.   You will be surprised how different they can range for the Internet prices.
  5. Does the hotel have a refrigerator (stove, etc.) can save on meal expense occasionally.  Compare the price of the room with the added features of stove, refrigerator and grocery bill vs. smaller room and a restaurant.

Rental car/Transportation

  1. Shop sites like Hotwire to find the lowest cost car rentals.
  2. If your not renting a car, expect a few cab fares potentially to travel to and from the airport, etc.
  3. Parking at the race venue or in the city of the event (day prior to the race)
  4. If driving to the event, examine the gasoline costs

Food – Another daily expense that ad’s up assuming you consume 3 meals a day!

  1. Consider a daily budget
  2. To save money – look at low cost options for breakfast – grocery store.
  3. Food budget for items you need during the race.

Race Expo  – Plan a maximum budget

  1. This is a big expense area with the excitement of the expo, buying the extra gels, cool new clothing (of course not to use on race day!), discount specials, etc.   For many athletes it becomes a shopping spree.

Post race dinner/drinks – Always a time to celebrate no question, see what’s going to be included in post race party if applicable.

These are the major expense items not including any shopping that can quickly add to the budget as well.    The experience of a destination marathon is something to consider adding to your goals list.   Its’ so important to plan your budget and timeline so you have an “actual” handle on what the costs will entail for the event.  The lifetime memories of destination marathons offer unique perspectives of the specific city, culture and the people.    Start planning now for the next race travel location and destination marathon!

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