Our trip to Antarctica was 11 months in the making. Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing as much as I can about my husband’s bucket list, birthday trip to Antarctica.
We aren’t a traveling couple per se, but we both like to enjoy what life has to offer. After our first two international trips together, we decided that we should visit all 7 continents together. It sounded simple enough, in theory, since there’s only 7 continents. The first four continents were easy because we met up with people from those continents. We never set a time limit for when we’d complete the challenge, but in my heart I knew I wanted to travel while we were still young. I decided to do Antarctica before Australia because the Antarctica trip season is perfectly situated around Arlinton’s birthday. Going to Antarctica also allowed us to check South America off our list as well. Most of all, I’ve been craving a new adventure. I wanted to go someplace where no one I knew has gone before. I felt it would be the ultimate romantic adventure; braving the elements with my man while celebrating his life.
How do you get there?
There are various ways to get to Antarctica. The trip can take anywhere from 8 to 30 days depending on your departure location and itinerary. The 2 main sites of departure are South America or New Zealand/Australia. The shortest trips include a plane ride from South America to Antarctica. I chose this option. It’s more expensive, but we simply couldn’t justify weeks away from the kids. By flying, we avoided cruising through the Drake Passage. There are birds and wildlife that can only be seen on that voyage. There are also 25 foot waves that wash over the ship. We are told that you feel as if you are going to die the first hour of the Drake Passage and prayed that you did die for the second hour and remaining 1.5 days of the voyage. I’m glad we took the L on that one. The more lengthy trips are from New Zealand/ Australia. Those average about 25 days with many days at sea. Once you get to Antarctica, there are very limited places to lodge. Thus a trip to Antarctica is typically a cruise adventure.
No matter how you decide to get there, you should be prepared to start planning for this trip at least a year in advance. There were limited choices for cabins even 11 months out. I’d also caution that it’s important to get plane tickets early. You’ll get tons of fight change emails, but you’ll be on a fight. Don’t wait to book the flight and get your desired class upfront. I felt I spent enough on the trip and would upgrade my flight later. Less than a month later, that wasn’t an option. All the upgraded seats were bought, held by the airline, or not available for upgrade. US based airlines usually partner with a sister airlines for these fight. Those airlines operate differently and make the upgrade process less intuitive. If you have any inclination that you want a premium seat, cough up the money early. Also, if you are accustomed to US based companies and can get the flights through them, opt to book directly with the sister company instead.
How did you pick your trip provider?
Admittedly, I didn’t do much research for this trip as I could have. It ended up being an out of this world experience, but that was all God. When I look back I laugh at how little I explored other options. My main reason for picking the company that I chose was the ability to fly to Antarctica. When you do your research, you will recognize that not all trips to Antarctica are the same. Some cruise lines offer itineraries to Antarctica, but they also don’t offer options to get off the boat. It’s also important know what’s included and what’s extra for the trip. Our trip included hotel stays on both ends of the trip to buffer issues. The trip also included 2 excursions daily. It was an expedition! However, it didn’t include extra activities like snowshoeing, kayaking,and hiking. Nevertheless, these options were available. Summer excursions also included waterproof gear. Ours included boots, but some companies and packages included waterproof coats and pants.
What happened over the 11 months before the trip?
Antarctica 21/ Swoop was on top of this things and offered education through videos, written pamphlets, and webinars. You want to make sure that your travel coordinator is on top of things and available for if things don’t go according to plan. About 3 months before the trip, they wanted us to complete required readings and videos. I was floored when one of the videos discussed how to deal with combative animals and being aware that falling through the ice was a possibility. What did I get us into?… Shortly after my shock, I got an email from them reminding me to use the travel consultant as much as I needed. Over the last month, I stayed in regular contact with her and reviewed the materials that we were provided as well as recapped a live webinar that they offered to help us prepare. Swoop’s team was excellent in diffusing my anxieties without taking away from the unparalleled experience that we had in Antarctica. You want to make sure that your travel coordinator is on top of things and available for if things don’t go according to plan.
How did you pack?
Antarctica 21/ Swoop provided us with videos and reading materials about what to pack. The challenge was to keep the large luggage to under 33 pounds and the personal bag to under 11 pounds. I literally packed and unpacked about 3-4 times before I got me and Arlinton’s bags together. I used packing cubes for mine and opted out on his bag per his request. The composition of my carry on bag was 4-5 clothes sets for around the ship, 4-5 base layer sets, 4-6 pairs of heavy wool socks, 3 exercise outfits, parka, fleece lined pant, waterproof pant, swimsuit and 8 underwear. This every up bring just enough clothes. My personal bag contained toiletries, a wet bag, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip protection, camera, laptop, binoculars, manual breast pump, and kindle. I would also pack a really lightweight duffle bag, so that you have space for souvenirs for the trip home. I opted to keep my head warm and minimize my hair’s contact with the elements, so I brought multiple wigs. ( Spoiler alert: pack a swimming cap if you plan to do the polar plunge. I was silly and wore my wig… It was a hot mess.)We also brought hand and toe warmers, but ended up using these minimally. It’s important to remember that it’s summer there. Antarctica was cold, but warmer than NYC at the time of our trip. It was also warm in Chile, so having lightweight clothing that you can layer is key.
I started this post the night before the flight and I am so excited. I am so thankful to be able to show my appreciation to my husband in this way. Antarctica is a different animal. I’m notorious for planning and doing all the things, but I’ve had to fall back for this vacation. I was literally told that each trip is different and they can’t say where or every we’ll do when we arrive. Talk about radical acceptance. My hopes for this journey is that it will be rejuvenating and relaxing. I don’t have any chill in me, but I’m willing to make a change. I also am ready to take in the majesty and awesomeness of nature. There’s nothing that brings you closer to God than seeing his handiwork.
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