Tips for Traveling to the Olympics

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Traveling has always been a wanderlust of mine. There’s just something about the thrill of changing the monotony of everyday life and taking a break from routine. One trip stands out particularly for me: when S and I decided to head to Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics. It became one of the best trips of my life, not only because Brazil is a beautiful country with a rich culture, but also because it was our first trip as a married couple. What contributed most to the success of our journey was planning ahead and making sure we knew what we were getting into - and not listening to everyone else’s discouraging thoughts. If you can recall, the Rio Olympics was plagued with negative media, from favella rioting, to the Zika epidemic, and the lack of funding for venues and transportation. Negativities aside, we committed to Rio, and although there were times where we questioned our choice, in the end we were grateful to have been able to go and experience the experience of lifetime.

The planning process took about a year and a half, so if you’re also thinking about heading to the Olympics, start early and plan ahead!  Here, I discuss how to get to the Olympics, what it takes to plan, how to get tickets, and what to expect.


Anticipate about 1-2 years to plan ahead of time.

You have to get on the waitlist early for the Olympics, and there’s a lottery system to be able to buy tickets. Cosport is usually the company that sells tickets. Note: you cannot buy Olympics tickets anywhere else and if you do find a website or someone who claims they have tickets outside of Cosport, it’s likely not the real deal. I would also book your hotel or AirBnB about 4-5 months ahead of time (sometimes earlier if it’s a popular city, like Tokyo in 2020). It’s nice to have discussions early on than to have everything set up only to be homeless for your trip!

Plan your trip like any other trip...but expect to pay a little more.

Once you’ve committed to the idea of going to the Olympics, also commit to the idea that you’ll likely pay a little higher price for flights and hotels or AirBnB’s than if you went to the same country in a different time of year. Many countries view the Olympics as an economy booster, and they invest millions of dollars ahead of time to build the infrastructure needed to host such a large sporting event. So you best bet they want to get their money back in ticket sales and tourism! Full transparency here - S and I spent about $5,000 for a week for the Summer Olympics. It wasn’t that bad, and we ended up staying at an AirBnB half the week and a hotel the other half. It was the flight that was the most expensive part of our trip, and for that I wish we had used travel points!

Cash is king.

In many parts of the world, cash is still king. Yes, there are major companies and stores that take credit card (also take a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees), but cash will get you around quicker. Bring it, and be prepared to use it. The good thing is that the value of the American dollar is more than the value of most other countries’ currencies, so you’ll get more bang for your buck. Always check the exchange rate several days before you leave; it fluctuates with the market. Read my post on money tips for traveling internationally so you don’t have to spend extra unnecessary dollars.

Expect the unexpected.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve planned to do one thing, but ended up doing something else because of whatever reason (weather, couldn’t find transportation, waking up too late, not wanting to stay out too late - the list goes on). For example, we had wanted to head to Sugar Loaf mountain one time, but Rio can get cloudy during the summer so the day we had planned to go (after about an hour of planning transportation and what we would bring), the sun decided to hide behind several clouds without even a chance of peeking through - and we ended up scratching that idea and spending the day exploring the beaches instead. It’s important to keep in mind that traveling is about letting loose and finding freedom and letting go of structure and routine. It’s a chance for you to grow as an individual and for your to seek new opportunities - that’s why it’s so important for you to expect the unexpected, which helps you learn to adapt and be fluid in different experiences - a skill that can help you for years to come!

Putting it all together:

  • HAVE FUN! It's a once in a lifetime experience, so don't spend the entire time penny pinching. Plan a budget ahead of time, but keep it flexible. It's energy sucking to be thinking about money all the freakin' time while you're there, so plan ahead accordingly and you'll have tons of fun experiencing the sport and competition. 
  • Use travel points when you can. One of the major mistakes that S and I wish we had done earlier was to use travel points. It just never occurred to us until after the fact and, if it had, we would have used it towards our flight and saved LOTS of money. 


Tickets - Cosport - they also sell tickets for FIFA World Cup and the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics

Shelter - AirBnB

Travel warnings - CDC, Bureau of Consular Affairs (gives you the embassy location as well)

And because I always love an excuse to share our travel journeys together - here are some pictures!

Even if you're not there for the Olympics, Rio is a fun place! S and I had a blast visiting Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and even braved mass transit. Check out Our Road to Rio for places we've visited while we were in Rio.



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