Use Sport Events to Create Amazing Travel Experiences

As a big sports fan, I’ve been fortunate to be able to add sport events to many of my travel experiences.  For me these events allow me to dive a little deeper into the culture of an area, and add another layer on top of any trip to make my visit even more memorable.

Sports tourism is on the rise within the travel industry, already accounting for over $7 billion annually!  It’s defined as travel that includes either watching or participating in sport events.

If you’re like me, you’ve got more than a few sports-related experiences on your bucket list!

I’ve broken down the types of sport events you can add to your travel into 3 main categories:

1. Sport-Specific Day-Trips
2. Adding Sport Events to Your Travel Plans
3. Planning Travel Around Sport Events

Sport-Specific Day-Trips

In my opinion this is the simplest form of sports tourism.

All that’s required is gathering a few friends, or joining a bus-tour that takes you to a sport event you want to see.  Staying overnight is purely optional, though often recommended.

Growing up in Southern Ontario, we’d often take trips over to Buffalo to watch the Sabres and Bills, or to Toronto to watch the Maple Leafs and Blue Jays.  On a few occasions we even scored tickets to watch the Canada Cup (did i just date myself?), or join a bus trip to Hamilton for a CFL (Canadian Football League) game.

On one occasion, I joined a group of university friends to head to a Sabres game in Buffalo.  When we got there I saw my dad had done the same thing with some of his work buddies.  The crazy part was that neither of us knew the other was going …. and we ended up sitting in the same row at the game!

Sport-specific day-trips don’t require a lot of planning, but provide a big return on the enjoyment they provide …. especially if your team wins!

Adding Sport Events to Your Travel Plans

Sports are a common thread that encircles the world.  No matter where you travel there are plenty of opportunities to take part in local or global sports customs.

Whenever I’m planning a vacation I make a point to see if there are any sport events that can be added to my itinerary.  I’ve had a lot of success recently travelling to the United States to aid in a couple of my bucket list goals of seeing a game in every MLB and NHL arena:

1. During a shopping trip in Pittsburgh, PA, we scored a deal for Penguins NHL tickets online.  What made this game even more special was that it was the final season for The Igloo (Civic Arena), and I had grown up a big Penguins fan!

2. While in town for a work conference in Cleveland, Ohio, a friend and I grabbed tickets to the Browns NFL game the day before the event got underway.

3. As part of a west-coast trip from Los Angeles to San Diego with my wife, we made a point of attending a Padres MLB game at their beautiful stadium.

sport events
sport events
sport events

Planning Travel Around Sport Events

The third way to use sport events to create amazing travel experiences is the most obvious … find an sport event you want to attend or participate in, then create a trip around it!

From skiing to surfing to cycling and more, there’s definitely no shortage of sports we can participate in around the world.  One of the first such trips I took was a boys week where we flew out to Western Canada to ski the Rocky Mountains.  Being from Ontario, the experience was nothing short of spectacular!

sport events
sport events

My other examples are very similar to the above section where we added sport events to our existing travel plans.  The difference here is that instead of picking whatever event was happening during our trip, here we find a specific game, player to watch, or potential historical moment in sports, then plan a trip around that experience.

So far I’ve managed to create 3 such trips:

sport events
sport events

1. St Louis, MO – In December, 2007 I took a trip to St Louis to watch a Rams NFL game.  The reason?  Because I was a big Brett Favre fan and he was likely to break the all-time record for passing yardage.  I called my sister, who was conveniently living in St Louis with her husband, and we all bought tickets and attended the historic game.

An interesting side-note to the story is that the NFL game was an afternoon game, so we indulged out internal sports-fan and also went to the evening Blues NHL game that day!

sport events
sport events

2. New York City, NY – In August, 2008 we planned a baseball trip to New York City.  This was the final season for both Shea and Yankee Stadiums, home to the Mets and Yankees, respectively.  We simply couldn’t pass up the chance to experience a game at each of these storied buildings.

The most interesting thing about these games was how different the crowds and over atmosphere were from one stadium to the next.  The most glaring being that respect for the game was one of the top priorities at Yankee Stadium, and there was no tolerance of anything seen to be gimmicky, or taking away from the action on the field.

sport events
sport events

 3. Las Vegas, NV – As frequent visitors, it doesn’t take much to get us to plan a trip to Las Vegas.  When I received a notice that I could see one of my favourite hockey players (Joe Sakic) play at the famous MGM Grand Arena, there was no stopping us!

In September, 2008 we used this NHL pre-season game as the jumping off point to see yet another side of Las Vegas, and we were far from being disappointed.

My Sport Events Bucket List

These were just a few examples of how you can use sport events to create or enhance your travel plans to make any trip even more amazing … assuming you’re a sports fan, of course!

Personally, I have a section of my bucket list dedicated to sport which includes:

– Watch Manchester United play at Old Trafford, England
– See a football match at Maracanã Stadium, Brazil
– Play golf at St. Andrews, Scotland
– Watch track & field at the Olympic Games

Do you try to make sport part of your travel?  I’d love to know what you’ve experienced, or what’s on your sport bucket list in the comments below!

sport events

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Here is a list of the resources mentioned in this post:

Bruce’s Bucket List – Here’s where I keep track of what’s on my list, and what I’ve already completed.  It includes a dedicated sports section at the bottom of the page.

Start Travelling NOW! – Find out how I’m helping people dust off their bucket lists and start achieving them faster and cheaper than they ever thought possible!