Bengals Business Manager Bill Connelly has planned countless trips during his 41 seasons with the team.
Connelly is responsible for all of the travel logistics for the Bengals, including arranging transportation, hotels, meeting spaces and meals. With at least 10 trips a year, including preseason and regular season games, Connelly has it down to a science.
"The football team, coaching staff and football operations group knows what we do week in and week out when we're on the road," said Connelly. "The city may be different, but the way that we run the trip is pretty much identical."
That changes on Thursday when the team heads to London for the first time. The team will fly on a larger aircraft than it uses for domestic flights to accommodate the additional 40 people making the trip. Passengers will need a boarding pass for their assigned seats, something that is not required on the team's regular flights. There will also be increased TSA security measures and customs for this trip.
Planning for London got into full swing a year ago when several members of the organization attended the Bills vs. Jaguars game at Wembley Stadium. That was one of three trips Connelly made to London as he prepared every detail of the team's itinerary.
"One of my trips was to scout out hotels. We looked at six hotels in the course of two days," Connelly said. "When we made the decision to go on Thursday night, arrive on Friday, it was pretty much a slam dunk that we wanted to stay as close to the stadium as we could."
The team typically travels to the stadium by bus using a police escort, but there are no police escorts in the UK.
Connelly joked, "The only person who gets an escort is the Queen and she's booked and will not join us on our buses. I did check."
Another difference with international travel is the time it takes to get supplies overseas. The Bengals shipped three pallets of supplies by boat in August, including t-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, hats, towels, shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen, video projectors, power cords, batteries and office supplies.
While the Bengals may not have shipped ketchup and toilet paper like some teams have done in the past, they did have a few essentials on their list.
"They only have three flavors of Gatorade in the UK. Here is the US, we have a variety of flavors, so we shipped a couple of cases of Gatorade over," said Connelly. "They use a different size paper than we use here, so we shipped over paper."
The Bengals benefited by learning tips from other teams who have played in the International Series.
"It's a first for us, but it's not a first for the National Football League," said Connelly. "We're not inventing anything new or unusual. It is a business trip."
Connelly, who started with the Bengals as a part-time assistant trainer in 1976, will retire at the end of the season.
"I look at it as a fun trip in my last season with the Bengals," Connelly said. "There's a lot to it. There really is a lot more work than I expected there to be when we signed on to do this, but it's a rewarding experience. The people in London are very accommodating. The NFL means a lot to them."