I love soccer traveling tournaments. I loved them as a player. I loved them as a coach. And I love them as a parent. There is no better way for players to get closer to their teammates, and for parents to get to know each other. But, if you’re not prepared, a traveling tournament can be a disaster. I’ve put together a packing list to help you out!
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- Soccer Ball
- Shin Guards
- Soccer Cleats
- Water Bottle
- Cold Weather Gear
- Hair Ties
- Soccer Bag
- Cooling Towel
- Stadium Blanket
Kit (uniform — check out my post on Soccer Lingo). Make sure it’s clean before the trip.
- Jerseys — you will likely have two of them (home and away colors). Make sure you bring both.
- Shorts — again, you might have two of them (home and away colors). If you do, make sure you bring both.
- Socks — once again, you might have two pairs (home and away colors). Bring both. If you have extra pairs, bring those as well. I would recommend getting two pairs of each color at the beginning of the year. It’s great to have a fresh, comfortable pair of socks for each tournament game, and there might not be time to launder a pair in between when you’re travelling. It’s a small price for a big benefit.
Soccer Ball. Every player will need his/her own soccer ball. While there will likely not be formal practices over the tournament weekend, there will be several warmup sessions that will require everyone to have a ball.
Shin Guards. Every player will need shin guards. If a player does not have them, they will likely not be allowed to play, and you’ll be forced to try to find the nearest sporting goods store to buy a replacement set. Depending on the location of your tournament, that could be difficult. Additionally, a brand new pair of shin guards can be problematic. Like shoes, shin guards get broken in. A brand new pair may be stiff and uncomfortable resulting in distraction.
Soccer Cleats. I would suggest checking your cleats at least a week before the traveling tournament. First, check the size. If your player needs a bigger size, don’t wait until right before the tournament to get a new pair. Give your player at least a week to break them in. Second, check the condition of the cleats. If they’re getting a little worn or they’re starting to come apart, pick up a new pair – again, at least a week prior to the tournament. Some of my players have experienced traveling tournament “blow outs” which we had to hold together with medical tape! One additional word about cleats – check the weather and the playing surface for your tournament destination. A good pair of firm ground cleats is pretty versatile. But, soft ground cleats won’t work for artificial turf or natural grass in the middle of a drought.
Water Bottle. There could be multiple games in one day, so hydration is especially important in a tournament setting. The bottle doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but good insulation and lots of ice (on hot weekends) are key.
Cold Weather Gear (depending on timing and location). Late fall and early spring tournaments will likely be cold in most parts of the country. Team warmups or sweatshirts and sweatpants will be important for the pregame warmup sessions. Compression shirts and pants are also must haves as they can be worn under the kit during games. Hats and gloves are often helpful as well. Comfort is very important for focus. If a player is too cold, he/she will likely not be able to concentrate. As a coach, I always packed an extra sweatshirt or two just in case. They were put to good use by underprepared players on more than one occasion!
Hair Ties. If your player has long hair, make sure he/she has hair ties. Not just one, but several for backup. Hair ties are incredibly important, but can be easy to forget when packing for a traveling tournament.
Sunscreen. Your player is likely to be outside in the sun quite a bit during a traveling tournament. Sunscreen will help. I would recommend sports/athletic sunscreen that doesn’t run off with sweat. If it’s a hot weekend, your player is probably going to sweat quite a bit! You’ll also need this for yourself, so make sure you have enough.
Soccer Bag. There will most likely be large crowds at traveling tournaments. That certainly contributes to the fun atmosphere, but also causes crazy parking situations. Be ready for a long hike from your car to the tournament complex. A nice soccer bag will help with the journey! A soccer specific bag isn’t mandatory, but you should make sure whatever bag is used is large enough to carry a ball, extra clothing, a pair of cleats and maybe some between game snacks.
Slides. While cleats are important to wear during warmups and games, they’re not much fun to walk around in between games. That’s where slides come in. Slides are perfect because they can be worn with socks. That’s important because you can get your shin guards and socks all ready to go and then slip on your slides for comfort. As I mentioned, the walk between your car and the playing field can be substantial, so slides are especially important for traveling tournaments.
Cooling Towel. These are great for those scorching hot weekends. Some experts believe that staying cool may be more important than staying hydrated. Cooling towels work well between games or while your player is waiting on the bench.
Stadium Blanket. For cold tournaments, the players are going to want something to keep them warm on the bench, and a good stadium blanket will do the trick. They’re equally as handy for warm tournaments as they can be spread on the ground for a comfy place to sit and watch other games or enjoy a nice picnic.
Swimsuit. Don’t forget this one! You will likely be staying at a hotel that has a swimming pool. As much as you may want your player to stay out of the pool and focus on the tournament (maybe that’s just me!), he or she is going to want to swim. Embrace it. It’s part of the experience. In the end, your player will likely remember the pool more than the actual tournament!
- Golf Umbrella
- Weather Pod
- Sports Canopy
- Sports Wagon
- Small Air Pump
- Power Bank
- Charging Station
- Laundry Detergent
- Loose Change
- Shoe Dryer
- Pillow From Home
- Travel Guide
- Goodie Bags
- Door Posters
- First Aid Kit
- Hand Sanitizer
- Disinfectant Wipes
- Sense of Adventure
Chair. You will need a folding / portable sports chair for the sidelines at the tournament. Some tournaments will have bleachers, but most will not. Make sure the chair is comfortable as you will spend a lot of time in it at a traveling tournament.
Blankets. Similar to the player equipment, if it’s a cold tournament, you’re going to want a blanket for warmth. And, if it’s a hot tournament, a blanket can be used for sitting in the grass.
Golf Umbrella. If it’s sunny, a golf umbrella provides a good amount of shade. If it’s raining, a golf umbrella will keep you dry. Do NOT try to use a typical mini umbrella that you may have in your car. Those smaller umbrellas are meant to get you from your car to a building in a relatively short trip. They are too small to provide coverage for an extended period in the elements. And, they are not strong enough to withstand even a slight breeze. A quality golf umbrella is a much better choice.
Weather Pod. I would only recommend this if the forecast for the weekend is extremely cold or wintery. Weather pods can be a hassle — especially if you have to lug it around for a traveling tournament. That said, it can be an absolute oasis if old man winter bares his teeth.
Sports Canopy. Depending on the game schedule, you might end up camped out at the complex. A sports canopy will help keep you comfortable and provide a home base for your team. It can also help keep your players from getting zapped by the sun.
Sports Wagon. You’re going to want one of these. With the potential long walk between your car and the game, it’ll save you multiple trips and make life much easier.
Small Air Pump. Keep a small air pump for your child’s ball to maintain proper inflation. The coach won’t always have one!
Camera. You may already have a camera on your phone, but make sure you have something to preserve all of the fun memories from the tournament weekend — both on the field and off!
Cooler. A cooler is absolutely essential to keep water bottles and other items cold. First, your hotel room might not have a refrigerator. Second, it’s nice to pack some extra food in if you get stuck at the soccer park with no time between games. Make sure your cooler can fit in your wagon!
Swimsuit. Unless your player is old enough to manage the pool on his/her own, you’ll want to pack one of these yourself.
Power Bank. Being at the soccer park all day can drain a phone. Take a power bank in case you need an extra boost. It would be a shame to miss the perfect photo of your player scoring the winning goal!
Charging Station. It seems like everyone has a phone these days. Bring a power strip or charging station to ensure everyone can charge his/her device in the hotel room.
Laundry Detergent. You’re probably going to want to wash your player’s kit at least once over the weekend. Be prepared to do that.
Loose Change. This goes with the laundry detergent. You’re going to need change for the washing machines.
Shoe Dryer. If it’s going to be a wet weekend, bring a shoe dryer for your players shoes. Putting on wet shoes is not fun, and a shoe dryer can fix that issue.
Pillow From Home. Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot sleep on a hotel pillow. Bringing one from home doesn’t take up too much room and ensures I’ll get at least some sleep while travelling. It’s worth it.
Travel Guide. Part of the fun of a traveling tournament is exploring your host city when you’re not at games. A travel guide will help you pick interesting restaurants and activities that your player will love.
Goodie Bags. Goodie bags for the players are a fun way to get a traveling weekend started. I’ve seen them as simple as decorated paper bags filled with Gatorade and Granola Bars to as extravagant as drawstring backpacks filled with rain gear for a rainy weekend. Kids will love them either way! Be sure to coordinate with the parent group at least a couple of weeks before the tournament to determine food allergies and the like.
Door Posters. Your team will likely have a block of rooms at the tournament hotel, but posters for the doors can identify exactly who is where. Again, I’ve seen this done a number of ways. Sometimes, a parent prepares all of the posters so they all look uniform. An alternative is to provide poster board for the players a couple of weeks before the tournament and let them decorate their own.
First Aid Kit. You never know what scrapes and bruises might be picked up during a travelling tournament. It’s best to be prepared with a small first aid kit. Make sure to include pain medication, just in case.
Snacks. Kids always need snacks! Snacks for the car ride, snacks between games, snacks before bed, etc. Try to make healthy choices with fresh fruits and vegetables, and granola bars for energy.
Hand Sanitizer. This is absolutely essential these days. Hand washing can be difficult when you’re out at the fields, but sanitizing is extremely important.
Disinfectant Wipes. We use these for wiping down surfaces in our hotel room and, most of all, cleaning the remote control. Definitely good to have a supply of these on hand.
Sense of Adventure. I cannot stress this enough: the primary point of a travelling tournament is not to win the tournament. It’s to bring the players together and have some fun in an adventurous and exciting environment. That may change a bit as the players get older, but embrace the craziness that comes with what amounts to an active group vacation. The right attitude is the key to enjoying the weekend!