Antarctica Preparation and Planning

September 25, 2012 21 Comments »

expedition Trips

A little ‘light’ reading for Antarctica!

Paperwork is everywhere stacked upon the table, I’m sorting through websites and blogs to learn about Argentina, airfares, hotels, excursions, visas, and trying to locate places on maps. On top of it I’m on hold with the my insurance company to ensure I have the proper travel coverage. I hate hold music. My dad is looking at me asking questions and going over everything with a fine toothcomb and I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions racing against the clock. Yes – I’m in trip planning mode.

I’m not sure what has happened to me in the last 6 years, but I’ve gone from uber planner to no planning when it comes to my solo travels. Apparently my planning genes shriveled up and died once they got away from the florescent lights of the cubicle. However there are a few instances where planning is still necessary in my travel life – like when I’m traveling with other people, and when you are going to the ends of the earth.

Since my father and I are traveling together this December to Antarctica and Argentina, it has put me back into planning mode again, but luckily I have a team of people helping me at Expedition Trips to get me through all of the paperwork, plans, itineraries, and checklists. In addition to ensuring that we are all prepared for our Antarctica cruise on the Expedition I am working with Shelley, my program manager at Expedition Trips, to figure out a good itinerary for our time in Buenos Aires too. After much debate, my father and I have also decided to go to go to view Iguazu Falls during our short time in Argentina! So – our 3 week itinerary will include exploring Buenos Aires, Iquazu Falls in Argentina, and then flying to Ushuaia to cruise to Antarctica and back – this is going to be jam packed full of new, exciting experiences for both of us! But it also takes a fair amount of coordination on my part – hence – the research, planning, and piles of paperwork I’m mired in currently!

Luckily I’m actually in South Dakota visiting my parents this month so I’m able to do this planning with my dad in person. I figure this is also good prep for me in the sense of just getting used to my dad’s style and mode of operation again too. I don’t want to paint this picture that my relationship with my dad is always easy and rosy…because in reality it’s not. We are just like any other father/daughter relationship –and I have grown up inheriting my father’s stubborn and independent ways – so when we are both together…sometimes the shit hits the fan as we both try to get our way – that’s reality. We butt heads on things, we go at different paces, we have different goals and needs – so even the planning process is a way for us to prep for travel together again. It’s been 3 years since we’ve traveled together – so this planning for Antarctica has prepped us for each other again too!

What do you need to do to prepare to go to Antarctica?

antarctica prep checklist

Making a list and checking it twice

Most Antarctic cruises begin from Ushuaia – the southern most tip of Argentina. So obviously you have to get there – and that’s one heck of a long plane ride with multiple transfers. I have organized our flights in two segments – from South Dakota to Buenos Aires, ad then from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia through a combination of my own online booking and from utilizing the Expedition Trip staff to help me book the Ushuaia leg. To get into Argentina – we don’t need a visa – but we do need to pay a ‘entry fee’ of $140 directly at the airport. The fee is good for 10 years and multiple entries. It’s great that we don’t have to deal with any extra paperwork – however $140 is no cheap fee.

A clean bill of health
Since we will be out on a ship far away from modern facilities, there’s a bit of paperwork that needs to be done so that G Adventures can have our medical history. This is basically to alert the ship staff of the passengers’ medical history so that they can be well prepared to care for anyone in case of an emergency. This was pretty simple paperwork – and luckily my father or me didn’t have to get any further physician’s approval to take the trip.

Emergency Medical/Evacuation Insurance
Of course since you are in the remote corners of the earth, G Adventures has to know that if there is an emergency that their passengers are covered from an insurance perspective. They require proof of a minimum of $200,000 of Emergency Medical/Evacuation Insurance. This is pretty much the norm on these types of remote trips. Getting proof of that coverage was easy for me to do – I just called my insurance provider and made sure I was covered and then had them send me the paperwork that provided my proof of coverage. However – when trying to do this for my father, who is 76, proved to be much more cumbersome. Have you ever tried to call Medicare and get answers…ugh…not fun. And lets face it – they don’t have a lot of 76 year olds taking trips to the ends of the earth – so apparently they don’t get many questions about emergency medical evacuation from foreign countries, At least that’s what I deduced based on the 2 different customer service reps I dealt with and their utter confusion about the questions and their inability to provide me any straight answers.

Layers, layers, layers! Expedition Trips supplied us with a pretty thorough packing list that included clothing and other travel gear. Once again this trip is a difficult trip to pack for because we’ll be in a couple of different climates (Buenos Aires summer and Antarctica err…summer). This means winter coats and shorts – and comfortable clothes for the ship.

Luckily our boat provides the necessary boots for the cruise and our daily excursions onto land – so that’s one less thing we need. But my father and I had to go through the suggested packing list determine what gear we already had and what gear we still needed to borrow/buy. I was surprised to find out that Antarctica isn’t as cold as I thought it would be – Shelley told me that the average temps would be around 20 to 40 F – which quite frankly is warmer than where my father lives in South Dakota in December! However – we would still need some winter coats and warm layers as well as waterproof pants and gear. Oh yes – and we even plan on bringing swim suits – in case we feel like taking a polar plunge. (my dad isn’t quite on board with the plunge idea yet…but I’m pretty sure I can convince him!)

Photo Equipment
Since one of my main focuses is to do photography in Antarctica – I need to start thinking ahead on what equipment I will need. I have been relying on some recommendations from other travel blogger friends/photographers who have made the trip to Antarctica already. I found Gary and Dave’s advice to be invaluable – they are both great photographers. After getting their advice, I realize that now it’s time to start investing in some updated equipment to make sure I make the most out of this opportunity. Over the next month I’ll be researching long lenses, waterproof bags, and a tripod to start. Plus, I’ll be bringing a GoPro video camera to take with me on the daily excursions and kayaking.

Some Planning in Action

Even though it seems like a lot to plan – it’s been a fun process with my dad. Being together for the planning builds the excitement even more. My dad already finished a few books from the recommended reading list that Expedition Trips sent us – so at least one of us are prepared!

We leave on December 3rd – so we have plenty of time yet to pick up our missing gear and read more books – and figure out our remaining logistical questions. Thank to our planning team at Expedition trips – they’ve been invaluable!  I’ll be honest though – I’ll be happy when this planning stuff is over and we can just go!

Want a little Antarctica inspiration?  Check out our #OttAntarctica Pinterest board!

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