Planning your trip to the Olympics 101

I can’t believe it’s time to start talking about planning trips to the 2012 Summer Olympics. Wasn’t it just 2010 and we were talking about Vancouver and what type of winter boots to pack when I go watch bobsleigh? Now, suddenly we are one year away from the London Olympics! 365 days!!! Ok people, remain calm, I repeat remain calm.

I have assisted over 700 travelers in the past 5 Olympics in planning their trip to the Olympics Games. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I will say I feel I have heard from nearly every type of Olympic sports fan possible – from the Biathlon fan from Istanbul to the Fencing fan from Finland. The one thing I am certain of: that no matter the destination or distance, Olympics sports fans are willing to cross oceans and trek up mountains every 2 years to see the sports they are passionate for.

"Holding the flame" at the Beijing Olympics

But what about those planning their first trip to the Games? I wanted to share a few of my personal tips to those Olympic Rookie Tripster’s ready to head to London to experience their own Olympic Travel Glory.

  1. Pick a (reasonable) travel time frame:The London Olympics goes for 19 days. Having attended the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for that many days I can tell you that you will reach a sort of ‘Olympic Fan Burnout’ somewhere half way through. Yes, I’ve heard from the diehard fan that wants to plan a trip for 20 nights hotel stay so he can go see 65 events, but let’s get serious here people. Not even Bob Costas goes to that many events! So what is the perfect amount of days to stay? That’s really up to you, but I would recommend a minimum of 6 nights, maximum of 9 nights. After that even the most seasoned traveler will grow tired of being in crowds and will be running out of clean laundry.

    Fans from around the world travel to the Games

  2. Plan on attending one sporting event a day ONLY:  I remember a client of mine in Vancouver refused to take my advice on this and ended up planning 3 events on one day. He ended up having to leave early at the first event to make it to the second on time only to miss the third entirely because he got stuck in traffic. Enough said? My advice is to pace yourself. Security and traffic will take you twice as long as you think it should during the Olympics. Get there early and mingle with the fans without the pressure of having to jet off to another event. (The obvious exception to this rule is if the events are located in very close proximity to each other i.e. Athletics and Swimming, both located in London’s Olympic Park.)
  3. Try to attend one event that you never would dream of seeing:I decided to go see volleyball when I was in Beijing. I don’t like volleyball, I have never had an interest in volleyball, but I went anyway. And it turned out to be the biggest blast and one of my most memorable fan experiences. I thought the fans were going to explode chanting and carrying on. I loved it. Some of my other clients went to see Shooting and Rowing. Even if your country isn’t represented at the event, (even if it’s Uzbekistan versus Uruguay) the atmosphere, the athletes, and the fans at an Olympic event is like nothing else. Try something different and experience what the Olympics are all about.

    Pin trading is popular at every Olympic Games

  4. Spend at least one or two of your days free of events and trade some pins: The best memories I have of my past two Olympics in Beijing and Vancouver were not spent at the events. They were of trading pins with other fans and attending one of the free Olympic themed events that the host cities were running. It’s nice to take a day and explore the host city, mingle with fans, and trade pins with people from around the world.


Anbritt Stengele is a travel writer and co-author of the award-winning book 'Sports Traveler Chicago' as well as the founder of Sports Traveler, a sports tourism company based in Chicago.

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