You’ve chosen your city and you’ve selected the venue for your sports event. Now it’s time to find the right lodging for your athletes. Here are a few tips on how to go about it.
Know the Terminology
Even among properties located in the same area, you’re going to find a wide variety of different hotels with varying levels of services and amenities, and at different price points. Even for two properties within the same chain, there may be some differences. You’ll also hear some terms used. Here is what they mean:
Full-service hotel: A full-service hotel is a property with a number of amenities; these generally include a sit-down restaurant, a bar, catering facilities and meeting space. (It may offer its guests additional conveniences such as room service, dry cleaning, concierge services, a bell staff and so on.)
Limited-service property: A limited-service property will not have a full-service restaurant, nor will it have a lot of meeting space. It may lack some or all of the conveniences mentioned above.
Suites: If a property has the word, “suites,” in its name, it generally means it offers rooms that include a separate living area, often with a sofa or chairs, and perhaps a work desk. As a rule, suites offer more room to spread out than the average hotel room, and may include a sofa bed for an extra guest. This is an arrangement that is very popular with families, who may be traveling with more than one child. As a side note, if you are seeking this type of property to host your team, be sure to ask whether the property you are looking at has all suites, or whether just a certain percentage of the rooms are suites.
In terms of room types, you’ll often hear terms like double/double (meaning two double beds), queen (one queen bed), king (meaning one king bed) and so forth. If you want a certain type of room, such as double/double for your attendees, check in advance to make sure the property has enough in its inventory.
Something else to think about: many hotels no longer offer roll-away cots. If you or your attendees might be planning to use something like that, clarify whether the hotel actually has them. If not, you’ll want to make sure that information is passed along to your guests in advance.
Food and Beverage
Many properties offer breakfast as part of the room rate. This is a very popular option for team travel since it gives people a chance to have breakfast (usually cereal, Danish, juice and perhaps a few hot items) before heading off to the venue for the day. It’s generally very casual and is open during specific hours of the morning.
While many properties offer this amenity, not all of them do, so if you are interested, ask for details in advance. Clarify that this is a casual breakfast that is included in the room rate, and that it is not a sit-down restaurant where each guest will order off a menu and be charged for their meal. (That can add up quickly and can lead to some very unhappy organizers or parents.)
If your team is going to have to leave for the venue earlier than the breakfast opens, you might want to ask the hotel about having a ‘grab and go’ cart that would allow each player to get juice, muffins, bagels and so forth as they head for the bus.
Many properties offer banquet facilities and catering. If your hotel does, ask about using a large room to host a dinner for your athletes after they have finished for the day. The hotel will be glad to work with you to develop a menu that will be far more affordable than taking everyone to a local restaurant. In addition, if you have a large room block at your hotel, it is likely you will be able to get this banquet room free of charge – but only if you ask in advance. (We have seen youth sports groups use our banquet facilities in order to have their awards ceremonies or honors dinners as well.)
Another option your hotel catering staff can provide is box lunches. This is very handy if your teams are going to be at the venue all day. Box lunches can include a choice of sandwiches, wraps, fruit, chips and more, to suit almost every taste.
Many times, tournaments need to provide rooms for coaches, officials or others to meet. If you foresee this need, find out if the property you are considering has meeting rooms and if those are available. You may also be able to use rooms for multiple purposes; your officials’ meeting might be held in the banquet room where the team dinner will be taking place later on.
Hotels at different price points offer a variety of amenities to guests. These might include a pool, fitness facility, game room and more, and depending upon your group, can be very appealing. Make sure you ask what amenities will be available to your group. Some properties have a wide range of amenities and others are closer to the ‘bare bones’ model.
Don’t assume that all hotels have the same room furnishings, either. For example, not every property will offer mini-refrigerators in the room or in-room coffee makers. If you anticipate needing something like this, ask your hotel sales representative.
Parking and Transportation Options
Many times, tournament planners will assume a hotel has a shuttle that provides complimentary service to and from the airport, downtown, the beach, etc. If this is your expectation, find out in advance whether the hotel offers it. If not, you may want to hire a transportation service to be on call for such errands.
If your team will be arriving via a bus or motor coach, check with the hotel and ascertain there is parking available; after all, not every place has an open lot, and not every place can accommodate a full-size bus. If you anticipate that many of your attendees will be traveling by car in family groups, find out whether there is parking and if so, whether it is free to those staying in the hotel. People won’t be pleased if they have to pay daily parking fees so this may be something you need to negotiate with the hotel when it comes time to sit down and work on your hotel contract.
One of the first things guests will ask is whether they can get free Wi-Fi at the property. In general, hotels will offer free high-speed Internet access; there may also be an option for even faster service if a person is willing to pay a fee.
Despite what I just mentioned, however, be sure to ask about Wi-Fi in advance. Not every hotel in every city will have the same rules, and nobody likes finding out about those charges upon check-out.
Something you’ll want to investigate is whether anything else is going on in or near the property you’re considering. For example, is there a convention, church group or other gathering in the hotel at the same time your group will be there? Is there a festival going on near the hotel that will be distracting to your group, or that would create a lot of noise?
At the same time, ask what sorts of things are in the area your group would be interested in. Because our property is near Virginia Beach, for example, we have a ready supply of waves, sun and fun from the end of spring through the fall. Another city might have museums, amusement parks or other diversions kids would like.
In short, when it comes to hotels and lodging, there’s really no such thing as too many questions! Do your homework and you’ll find the property that gives your athletes and their families a great home away from home.