After talking with hundreds of people about adventure vacations, I believe there are basically two types of travelers: those who prepare weeks or even months in advance and those who throw a few things into a suitcase the day before a trip. Personality probably has a lot to do with which type of traveler you are, but everyone can benefit from a little thoughtful preparation before travel. Not only will you enjoy your adventure vacation more, but you will gain more from the entire experience if you spend a little time getting ready to go. Here are a few suggestions...
Prepare Your Body:
Getting physically prepared doesn't mean you have to run a marathon before you're ready to hike and bike on your Austin Lehman adventure. If you sit at a desk most of the day and you don't work out often, you will want to take it up a notch. Go for a walk four or five days a week, or hop on a bike (regular or stationary) every few days. I spoke with a woman last week who walks every day during her lunch break. She's headed to the Canadian Rockies this summer and I'm confident she will be adequately prepared for hiking those awe inspiring mountains.
Prepare Your Mind:
Make it a point to read about the area you will be visiting. The first time I went to Costa Rica I was not prepared for the differences in culture and environment. I hadn't read much and I was overwhelmed with all of the new sights and sounds. Austin Lehman provides a reading list for each of our adventures. If you are traveling with children, show them pictures of the area you'll be visiting. Photos help them to build a mental picture and it allows them to join in your excitement about the adventure. Looking at a map of the area will help you to orient yourself with your surroundings once you’re on your journey.
Immunizations (if traveling outside the US):
It's very important to check with your physician and the Center for Disease Control website before you travel outside of the U.S. Some areas of the world have immunizations that are required, and some immunizations are only necessary in certain seasons. You will want to be aware of which immunizations are recommended and make informed decisions about which ones you want to take and which ones are not necessary. This is a decision that your doctor (or the doctor at your local travel clinic) should be able to help you make.
What to Pack:
Whenever someone asks me what type of clothes they should pack, I always say, "layers". It doesn't matter if you are traveling to Alaska or Nicaragua... layers are important. All of those layers should be breathable, non-cotton materials. Equally important would be a good pair of light-weight hiking shoes. I almost ruined my last backpacking trip with my son because I was trying to eke out a few more miles in my old hiking boots before forking up the dough for new ones. If you purchase new shoes before you travel, make sure to give your feet ample time to break them in. If your feet hurt, your whole body hurts. (Keep an eye out for next week’s blog from EMS’s Jim Darroch on how to choose the right footwear.)
A good rain jacket can be your best friend on any vacation. Unfortunately, Austin-Lehman can't control the weather, so it’s important to be prepared for an occasional wet day. Many outdoor clothing companies make a light-weight, packable rain coat that can also step in as a wind breaker, if needed.
Another important item to bring is a camera. No matter what camera you own, make sure you have the protective gear you need to keep it dry and dirt free. There's nothing more disappointing than missing that perfect shot because your camera lens has taken in moisture. A good case can usually solve this, but even a zip lock bag makes a big difference. Make sure to be smart about when you take out your camera too; don’t use your brand-new $2000 camera in a rain storm if you don’t have the accessories to keep it water free.
If you're traveling to a third-world country, you might want to consider bringing a few items to give away. Many of the people in other countries do not enjoy the standard of living we experience at home. Your travel experience can be greatly enhanced by bringing little gifts to give to children such as pencils, crayons, or small notepads. Pack for a Purpose is a great non-profit organization which can provide items needed in specific locations around the world, and can help you gain an idea of what to bring to other places.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. The more I travel, the more I learn about getting prepared - it can be part of the fun of travel. In case you were wondering, I am the type of traveler who likes to throw things in a suitcase at the last minute. I have to admit, it's not always the best choice but it does add to the adventure.