Smart ways to travel to tournaments on a budget

Tired of staring into an empty wallet after each tournament unable to suppress the tears from rolling down your face? Desperately looking for ways to make the bill a little smaller? Fret not, here’s some ways that have helped me limit costs for travelling and covering housing at Smash tournaments (the venue fee won’t change, sorry).

Housing

Before anything else, ask local Smashers if they can house you. Even if you don’t know them you’ll still have a passion in common and you could actually meet some great people. If community housing isn’t possible during your travel, here are some alternatives.

Hostel – €10,- to €30,- per night

Hostels are a great way to sleep somewhere at a low price. They’re everywhere in Europe. There are different room types, but most often, you’ll stay in a bunk bed dormitory. Hostels usually offer free WiFi and sometimes offer free breakfast as well. To find hostels, I recommend visiting HostelWorld. In France, the FUAJ website will be your best friend!

This is an excellent solution if you’re going on your own or as a group of 4 people at most.

ProsCons
A friendly atmosphere
Free WiFi
Often central or have good public transportation nearby
Noise & lights: bring a sleep mask and ear plugs
Prices go up in the summer

AirBnB – €10,- to €50,- per night

You probably know AirBnB. It’s a platform where people lease a part or all of their house to other people for a given period. Search is very simple and you can filter the search according to housing type, price, etc.

You can talk directly with the owner and see comments from other people who’ve stayed there before. This type of housing is really useful if you’re going to tournaments abroad – for example, my boyfriend had gotten a great room in Sweden for Dreamhack Winter. Just be sure to check everything in the description (location, public transportation access, whether the owner will be there, etc.), to avoid any surprises.

If you’re going on a tournament as a group, this solution is the best! But note that the larger the group gets, the earlier you’ll have to book the apartment. 

ProsCons
Easy to use
Lots of choice
Often as comfortable as a hotel
You can meet cool people
Can be expensive
Needs organisation

Couchsurfing – Free

On Couchsurfing or BeWelcome, the idea is very simple. 

Someone lets you use a bit of their house (whether it be a room, a couch or just the floor). Of course, that has good and bad sides. It’s basically like being housed by a a Smasher that you don’t know… only this time they likely don’t play Smash as well. Take caution here – you don’t know who’s going to house you and might end up in awkward situations, for example if they have ulterior motives to house you…

On the Couchsurfing website, if you’re not validated (which means you’ve paid a membership), you won’t be trusted and might not find someone to house you. On BeWelcome, you just have the basic service: matching a host and a traveller. Just like Couchsurfing, the website can give you great or bad experiences, and if it’s the latter, don’t expect good customer service.

This solution is the cheapest, but it has downsides. I’ve never done it myself, but have only heard good things from my friends. Be careful and communicate as much as possible with the hosts to avoid bad surprises.

ProsCons
Usually free
You get to meet new people
Not always comfortable
Hosts can discriminate against requestors
Sometimes paid

Transportation

Blablacar

Don’t like trains, don’t like buses? Carpooling is your friend. Whether you’re a driver or a passenger, Blablacar is really useful. I’ve used it for the past 5 years and have never ran into a single issue. For the girls who don’t want to take the risk of getting stranded on a highway rest area with “no petrol”, you’ve got an option for women-only travel. The only issue is that booking fees can get steep on some routes. That’s just how it goes.

ProsCons
Easy to use
Covers pretty much all of Europe
Has a women-only option
Mandatory sign up
Booking fees
Last-minute cancellations

Long-distance buses

Bus companies are the cheapest option in Europe – sometimes, you wonder if they even pay for gas at that price. I’ve tried Ouibus and had a great experience. Arrive 30 minutes before departure, your ticket is checked before boarding and there you go! Seats are comfortable and there’s basic WiFi. There aren’t many destinations, but they still cover all major cities in Europe. If you have time, they’re a good option. Just keep in mind that the cheaper the ticket, the less comfortable the trip!

I’ll insist one more time on how important it is to arrive on time: these trips are often overbooked, so if you’re late, your seat will be given to someone else.

ProsCons
Free WiFi
Easy to book
More and more destinations
Not always the best times
Can’t cancel a booking
No guarantee on travel time

Low-cost flights

More and more companies offer low-cost flights! If the tournament is far away, you might want to take the plane. You will need maximum organisation skills – low-cost flights often leave from smaller airports, far from the big cities.
Companies include Ryanair, Easyjet, AirFrance Hop!, etc.

For a better travel experience:

  • Use incognito browsing because prices can change wildy on consecutive visits
  • Mind the distance between the airport and your housing: sometimes, the commute from the airport makes you lose all the money you’ve saved. Make sure low-cost travel is actually low-cost.
  • Use flight aggregators like skyscanner.net, kayak.fr, momondo.fr
  • Book an early-morning flight (never an evening flight!) and book it at least two weeks in advance
ProsCons
The fastest low-cost option
Lots of possible destinations
Airports in the middle of nowhere
Usually not very comfortable

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is not dead! You can try it out and go to a tournament by cruising the side of the roads! To get started, make a nice sign with your destination and follow a few rules:

  • Stay positive: you might wait for a while until someone takes you in their car. It’s okay, don’t hate on people!
  • Get some good sleep and eat enough before you leave. You don’t know how long the hike is going to take.
  • Adapt: negotiate, don’t impose your will on the driver, or you’ll end up on the side of the road again. And if things go wrong, get out of the car and find another driver!
  • Google Maps is your friend: Before and during the trip, find strategic places where you can get a ride or ask your driver to let you off. If you add the information on your sign, you’re in for a better trip too.
ProsCons
A unique experience!
Pretty much free
Meet new people
Be very patient
Unpredictable travel times
Not the safest option

French bonus: Ouigo

The national train company has launched low-cost trains called Ouigo, a cheap, fast and comfortable option. Just like bus travel, Ouigo asks you to be there half an hour in advance and tickets are checked before boarding. Agents aren’t very polite or organised, but the trains are on time. This service only goes through the main French cities, and in a few of them, like Paris or Lille, they go to a secondary, station in the outskirts.

ProsCons
Comfortable, just like a train
On time
Customer service isn’t great
Few destinations
Some stations far from the city center

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