In a case of be careful what you wish for, we were thrilled last weekend when the Princess and her U14 ice hockey team qualified to compete in the USA Hockey Tier II Girl’s National Championship Tournament being held in Dallas at the end of March 2012. The team has worked hard all season and the 15 girls and their parents are so excited and looking forward to some top National level competition in the Lone Star State.
So, while the good news is that we are going to Nationals, the bad news is that we are going to Nationals on 2 weeks notice. Mary T knew this team had a chance to qualify and had blocked off her work calendar months ago just in case. Beyond that however, everything has to be arranged on the fly and, as many parents who have kids competing at a high level of youth sports already know, major tournaments are NEVER designed with the idea of affordability or academics in mind.
In our case, the Princess will be missing the better part of 4 days from her freshman year of high school – during the last week of the quarter when many tests and projects are due. We never book family vacations when school is in session, but, for this once in a lifetime opportunity we’re going against our better judgment and hoping she won’t fall too far behind.
Trying to keep travel costs down is also a challenge on short notice since the best airfares and frequent flyer seats were sold long ago. Within hours after qualifying we were scouring the internet looking for discount hotels with room for a team’s worth of teenagers and parents. We briefly wondered whether a private jet charter would be cheaper than the available published fares. We debated whether airport parking was a more affordable option than taking a car service since we’ll be gone for five days.
In the end, the team was able to work with the tournament hosts to find a semi-affordable hotel about 15 miles from the rink. The team got a group airfare rate of $611 per round trip ticket, which we know would have been a whole lot lower if it had been booked a couple of months ago. Fortunately, we managed to save a few bucks for our family by grabbing a couple of frequent flyer seats on a direct flight down and cashing in some credit card frequent spender points for the return. Even then, we still had to pay fees to “expedite” award tickets because we booked with less than 3 weeks notice! We were happy to find a good discount for the rental car. Now we are looking for activities to keep the girls busy off the ice. Luckily they have morning games, which means early bedtime curfews. Nonetheless, they are sure to want to spend money checking out as many malls, restaurants, rodeos, and other fun Texas activities as possible during their off ice time.
When all is said and done, most families making this trip from the Northeast will end up spending $2000 or more per family. That is a pretty big bite out of a lot of family’s vacation budgets. We hope the team goes deep into the tournament and that the girls make memories to last a lifetime – we just wish these youth sports folks could figure out a way to make their major tournaments a little bit more school and budget friendly.
A word to the wise, if your teen or tween is on a track to qualify for a national level tournament, start saving your pennies and frequently flyer points now!