Competitions are stressful.
But stress isn't always a bad thing! It can help boost brainpower and improve memory, make you more resilient, and motivate you to succeed. But the stress to perform your heart out is ENOUGH. You don't need the additional stress of getting to the competition. There's good news, though! You can ease the stress of traveling and in some ways, prevent it completely!
Like any goal, the best thing to do is break it into stages: Packing, Planning, Finalizing, and Go-time!
Pack light! By minimizing unnecessary travel clutter, you leave room for souvenirs! Pack your uniform, your poms… all of the essentials for the competition. Maybe pack one or two “civilian” outfits, depending on how long you'll be away. If you're going to be away from home for an extended period of time, coordinate your outfits wisely: pick tops and bottoms that can be interchanged with one another to maximize your suitcase storage space. You still gotta pack your uniform!
Snacks are important, but try not to load up on sodium...as tempting as potato chips may be. You don't want to feel bloated and gross on stage or the sidelines. Not only that, sodium makes you thirsty, and while you do want to stay hydrated, you don't want to ask the driver to stop at every exit for a restroom break.
Don't forget your smart phone and charger. Who would want to leave their right arm at home? Not only will it replace games, books, and other entertainment, freeing up space and keeping the squad sane, it is essential for finding the best route and cheapest gas stations.
Consider getting a gift for your driver, whether they're your coach, parent or an older sibling. Some useful gift ideas include: their favorite snack/candy (provided it's easy to eat on the go, and doesn't make a mess); a playlist for the road; sunglasses or car fresheners!
This stage is critical. Some competitions won't even let you register without having your travel plans locked down! Where do you need to be and when? Plan to be at least 10 minutes early everywhere, except the airport. For that, you want to be at least a full HOUR early.
If the squad isn't traveling together, be sure everyone knows where the rendezvous points are and get everyone's phone numbers ahead of time. Maybe even create a group chat with your squad--or at least one member from each car. While this important information should be texted and/or emailed, it isn't a bad idea to also print it out in case of bad service or dead batteries.
Another piece of information that wouldn't hurt to include: license plate numbers. Hopefully you won't ever need them, but if anything bad were to happen, license plate numbers could be critical in locating your team.
If you've done this particular competition before, don't be afraid to take advantage of previous travel plans and the information you already have at hand. Be aware of your budget and plan accordingly.
Buy the tickets. Print the route. Pack your bags. Fill up the tank. It's nearly go-time...
You've done everything you can, the only thing left to do is stay alert and cross your fingers. Try to keep your stress level down (your careful planning will help here!). Get a good night's sleep the night before so that you're ready for anything. There WILL be hiccups!
But you got this.