When many people think “vacation,” they think of lounging on a white sand beach in the shade of a palm tree, sipping on a fruity cocktail. However, for a growing number of travelers, vacation has come to mean strapping on their hiking boots, grabbing a backpack, and heading out into the wild.
According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the “adventure travel” segment of the industry has grown significantly in the last decade. They report that between 2006 and 2013 alone, the adventure travel segment, which they define as combining physical activity with cultural immersion and time spent in nature, grew by 65 percent. It seems that more and more travelers have a desire to do more and see more, and choosing nature vacations over more relaxing options.
Opting for a more adventurous trip does require a bit more planning than your typical vacation. It’s not quite as simple as throwing a few swimsuits into a bag and taking off. Without the right preparation, at the very least you won’t have a good time — and at the worst, end up sick or injured. If you’re going on one of these trips, keep the following tips in mind.
1. Condition Your Body
If the most exercise you get on a typical day is walking from the parking lot to your office, hiking through the jungles of Costa Rica or exploring the Grand Canyon is probably going to be a challenge for you. A few months before your trip, start conditioning yourself to build more stamina and get in better shape. You don’t have to run a marathon or win a fitness contest, but you should be able to walk several miles without running out of steam. Start with walking around your neighborhood, and work up to more strenuous activities. Not only will you be in better shape to handle the rigors of your trip, but you’ll be doing your body good in the process — and you might even drop a few pounds.
2. Get Your Gear Ready
Depending on where you are traveling and which guide service or tour operator you’re using, you may not need to bring anything more than yourself on your adventure. However, you will be responsible for your own attire, so do your homework to determine what you will need. At the least, you’ll need good, sturdy footwear (break it in before your trip, or suffer the consequences of sore feet and blisters), lightweight, packable outerwear, and comfortable, destination-appropriate clothing. Most adventure excursions recommend dressing in layers, so invest in pieces that you can wear together to stay warm and dry when you need to, but that won’t be too heavy when removed.
3. Prepare to Stay Healthy
When you’re adventuring through new terrain, you are likely to encounter diseases and other risks that aren’t common in the U.S. Before you leave, check with the U.S. Department of State and your health care provider to determine whether you need specific vaccinations before you travel. You may be required to have certain immunizations to enter some countries, while others are only recommended. Discuss your plans with your provider, and develop a plan together to ensure you stay healthy. Keep in mind that some immunizations take time to be effective, so plan accordingly.
4. Educate Yourself
Everyone has romantic ideas about what they will encounter when they visit a new place. Thanks to Hollywood, travel blogs, and glowing reports from travel guides, you might think you what to expect, but many travelers are surprised when they actually visit a country. Americans tend to have certain expectations, and may not fully comprehend what they are getting themselves into, so before you leave, do your homework and dig deep into your destination. Look beyond the travel guides to get the real story from other travelers, via blogs or social media. Check out the local newspapers online, and seek out information about the culture and lifestyle of the people where you are traveling. Consider learning a few common phrases. Above all, open your mind and accept that things are different where you are traveling, and you might be a bit (or a lot) uncomfortable at times. If you keep an open mind, though, you will get much more from the experience, and return eager for your next adventure vacation.