- Travel isn't as glamorous as you'd think for professional athletes
- Many pack most of their own gear, just like the rest of us
- Team USA water polo captain packs light, doesn't check bags
Traveling to Rio de Janeiro for a two-day tournament last year, professional golfer Amanda Blumenherst couldn't catch a break.
The Arizona-based golfer's flight to Dallas was detoured to San Antonio because of bad weather. Blumenherst, who joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 2010, slept in San Antonio and flew on to Dallas the next day. That day, a seven-hour delay for her flight to Rio turned into a cancellation and another night in a hotel.
Two hours into the Rio flight the following day, "there was a medical emergency and we had to turn around," she said in an e-mail. "The plane was too heavy from the fuel that wasn't used and 'broke' the wheels, canceling that flight."
When the next flight finally reached Brazil, it had to land in another city and wait for bad weather to clear in Rio. Blumenherst's flight did finally arrive -- just 72 hours after starting the trip. And that's just one tournament in her 30-week-a-year travel schedule.
The professional athlete's life seems so glamorous and full of jet-set travel. And for professional athletes whose teams rent chartered planes, book fine hotels and take care of transporting their luggage, it may be.
Not so much for the rest of the professionals who play sports for a living. Some travel relentlessly hoping to break through to achieve even more. Others are happy for another season in a country far from home, playing the sport they love.
These road warriors have their travel routines figured out and know what they need to make it through another trip.
Light luggage for water polo
Professional water polo player Tony Azevedo, who serves as captain of the men's U.S. National Water Polo Team and has competed in four Olympics, travels more than 90 days a year.
Azevedo plays for a Croatian team during the professional water polo season (from August through May), flying commercial all over Europe. During the summer, he trains with Team USA and travels around the world for tournaments.
"The only equipment we need to take are caps, and the team usually takes these (or gives them to the youngest team members to transport)," he wrote in an e-mail from the road. "We are all in charge of bringing our own robes, sandals, suits and any other gear we need."
"I wear my Intelliskin shirt and pants to help with posture and circulation, and then any team gear that I have chosen for the trip (as captain)," writes Azevedo, who doesn't check his baggage. He also makes sure to bring his fully loaded iPad, headphones and a neck pillow.
A little extra for a professional basketball player -- and mom
Professional WNBA basketball player Candace Parker, who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks during the summer, doesn't have to pack any basketball uniforms or equipment. That's handled by the team. But she does have to pack a little bit extra. The WNBA requires that the players dress "business casual" after the game. And her daughter, 3, also comes on trips and requires her sippy cups and a bag of toys.
When Parker plays in the United States, which is usually May until October, she travels for about half of the five-month season. The other half of the year she plays professionally in Europe.
On either side of the Atlantic, her most crucial items are her iPad and the sippy cup and coloring gear for her daughter. In the U.S., she also knows she can pick up any toiletries she might have forgotten to pack. But in Europe, she's more careful about packing cosmetics and other items she might not find in the smaller cities on her away schedule.
"I pack a lot, and my husband (former Brooklyn Nets player Shelden Williams, who now plays for French team Elan Chalon) tells me that I overpack," she says. "He tends to travel lighter, but he forgets things."
A runner with a laundry regimen
Runner's World editor Bart Yasso has learned the art of minimalist packing, traveling for running events more than 40 weekends out of each year. If he has to bring nice clothes, he'll wear those on the plane. (He also wants to look nice if he gets upgraded.) And he prefers to pack lightly and use a backpack, so he can literally run to make any tight connections.
If he's going to run four times on a trip, Yasso will pack one pair of broken-in running shoes and three running kits. He can't sleep on planes, so he'll work if there's a Wi-Fi connection, watch movies and eat a light meal.
Key to his travel enjoyment is adjusting immediately to the local time.
"When I get in, I eat the meal that makes the most sense, adjust and get on that time line immediately," he says. "I don't want to know what time it is back home. You want to live in the time zone you're in. Get the most sleep you can (at night) to feel the best you can."
Preferring not to have a stinky bag of sweaty clothes when he gets home, he always washes his running gear in his hotel sink before repacking his gear.
A golfer with particular tastes
Professional golfer Blumenherst doesn't have to pack golf balls, gloves, hats and golf shoes. Nike, her sponsor, delivers that gear to each tournament in advance.
"I have to pack everything else: golf clothes, pro-am party dresses, workout gear, clubs, practice tools, etc.," she wrote in an e-mail. Her gear adds up: One golf club travel bag, one large suitcase, one carry on and a duffel bag.
For good luck, she brings a bag of hair ribbons to match her outfits each day. "They have to match."
Another key ingredient in her routine is reduced-fat peanut butter, which is hard to find outside the United States. "I do not leave for a tournament without a jar." With her peanut butter, plus bread and bananas she buys on the road, she's set with her go-to food of choice.
Once aboard, "I try to sleep as much as possible, drink a lot of water and stretch on the plane," she said. "This helps time pass and also helps me adjust to the time, making jet lag much better."