After now spending more than two years and taking over 50 flights to play poker around the world, I thought I would share a few travel tips that I’ve picked up along the way.

Travel Tips: Flights

When booking flights use sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner for the information you need, but then go to the individual airline’s site and book with them directly. This way you won’t lose out on any airline rewards, perks, or priorities should your flight be cancelled or rescheduled

Try to be organised. Booking in advance can save a lot of money on airline tickets and also allow you to have a better choice of accommodation at your destination. Where possible, always try to book with companies that have a zero cost cancellation policy (usually up to seven days from the dates you are due to arrive) that way you can pre-book the events you hope to go to but it won’t matter so much if you can’t make it to them. If you do still go, you have saved on the cost of last minute flights and hotels.

I’d advise avoiding booking early flights where possible. If there is a later flight on the same day for just a little extra money, take it. You will be thankful not having to wake up at 05:00 a.m. to catch a flight. Also, try to arrive the night/day before you start playing poker to give yourself chance to unpack, get acclimatised with the property you’re staying at, find the tournament venue and surrounding area. This is especially important if it’s somewhere you have never been before. This also enables you to get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed ready for your tournament.

Travel Tips: Accommodation

In the past, I have found that when I have stayed at the hotel where the event is being held, I could become completely consumed by playing poker and I’ve often found myself trying to figure out when the last time I went outside was!

Personally, I prefer to use Airbnb especially in places where I want to do some sightseeing. The main reasons for this are I like to leave the room I am sleeping in, drink a cup of coffee and sit in another room (whilst still wearing my pyjamas). This also helps me to switch off and sleep at night as I know I am going into the bedroom to sleep, it is not the room I am living in like in a hotel.

Travel Tips: Travel with friends

Another good thing about Airbnb is that I can book a larger apartment with multiple bedrooms and share with friends. Other than this reducing costs massively (not only the cost of the accommodation but also food and travel to/from the venue is split) it’s a lot of fun and good for morale.

Last August, while in Montreal for the partypoker LIVE Canadian Poker Championships, fellow Team partypoker pro Kristen Bicknell and I shared an Airbnb for just over three weeks. Staying with a friend can be a great way to blow off steam whether you’ve had a good or bad day. It’s also good to discuss hand histories while they are fresh in your minds before switching off for the evening. I find it is always a lot more fun grabbing food and drinks after a long day with a friend than ordering room service alone.

Travel Tips: Find one off the felt activity

Try to schedule at least one hour per day to go and do something completely non-poker related, whether it’s some form of working out or relaxation it will help you to stay focused and not burn out at the tables.

Also, if money and time permits, stay an extra day to take in some of the sights. Talk to the locals at the tables and ask what they would recommend you see/do while visiting their city; they will also be able to recommend the best places to eat/drink. There is nothing worse than getting back home and realising all you saw was your room and the casino.

Travel Tips: A few money saving tips

  • Qualify Online: I know a lot of poker players that only travel to places they have won packages for. Not only can you win your entry into the tournament for a fraction of the cost, but also your travel expenses can be covered. On top of that, if you decided to room with another poker player, you could charge them a nightly rate and make a small profit before you even sit down to play.
  • Use Uber: Uber is cheaper than a taxi in most cities. You also don’t need to think about payment or tipping as it is linked to your PayPal account or credit card. You will be collected from your location instead of having to try and flag a taxi down and also track your journey through the app meaning the driver can’t take any unexpected detours that would bump the price up.
  • Purchase a local sim card: Although most mobile phone companies now provide 3G coverage abroad, it can still cost between £1.99 – £4.99 per day. You can usually purchase a local one-off SIM which will last for approximately 30 days for around £20 and although all casinos/hotels will provide a customer WiFi it is not always reliable nor free.

Before I sign this blog entry off, I have to share with you seven things that I NEVER travel without.

  • Laptop: So I never have to miss a Sunday online session at partypoker
  • Portable power bank: For when those 12-hour cash sessions that turn into 20 hours
  • Noise cancelling earphones: Because you never know when you need to completely shut everything out
  • Films: I find they make a journey go quicker, especially now that you can download films from Netflix; there’s no excuse not to have a new film to watch every time I fly
  • Travel Insurance: Simple, getting medical care abroad could cost you thousands. You never know when living the dream could turn into a nightmare
  • Mini first aid kit: Paracetamol and plasters are a necessity
  • Goodies: Those home comforts, for me it’s teabags and Cadbury’s hot chocolate

You can follow Natalia via her Twitter account and can play poker with her at partypoker where she plays under the alias N4talB.

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