1. Conduct research about your intended destination.
Knowing what to expect from your destination simplifies trip planning and allows you to maximize your time on the ground. The research will not only help you choose the best places and activities, but it will also show you what to pack, what health and safety precautions to take, and what cultural (and sometimes political) issues to be aware of.
2. Recognize when it is appropriate to travel and when it is necessary to book.
Climate, crowding, and seasonal pricing all play a role in determining when to visit. In particular, for adventure travel, inclement weather or weather for which you are unprepared can ruin the experience. Mountain riding in the Southwest desert when temperatures exceed 100 degrees, rafting when rivers are dangerously high, and hiking over snow-covered mountain passes are all awful ideas. While it is impossible to predict specific weather conditions in advance, you can learn about climatic trends while conducting destination research. Seasonal popularity and cost should also be addressed if you wish to avoid crowds and high prices during the peak season.
Apart from the prospect of receiving a discount for early booking, arranging your vacation in advance is critical if you wish to visit a popular destination during a busy season. Permits to trek Peru’s Inca Trail, for example, may need to be reserved three months in advance during peak season. Dates at popular national park lodges frequently sell out a year in advance, and the average wait time for a permit to raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is ten years.
3. Go with a well-known outfitter.
When choosing an adventure outfitter, reputation and safety record should take precedence over price. So, aside from the ever-popular strategy of Googling “location + adventure travel,” how can you identify a reputable tour operator or guide service? Look for industry organizations that maintain lists of outfitters by location or activity, such as the American Mountain Guides Association, which maintains a list of certified guides, Siber advises. Also, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the International Ecotourism Society, and America Outdoors are all similar groups.
4. Select the tour that offers the best value for money.
Once you’ve identified a few viable travel possibilities, compare them side by side to determine which provider can offer you the best value for your money. “Review the fine print regarding costs (what is included and what is not”),” Le Bon advises. To create an accurate comparison, you must first determine exactly what you are receiving for the price you spend. A low quoted price can be deceiving if additional charges such as taxes and fees, gratuities, and local guide fees are not included. Consider the quality of the lodgings and other inclusions as well. For instance, you should budget more for a cycling trip through Provence that includes hotel stays rather than campgrounds.
5. Recognize your limitations.
Consider joining up for a Kilimanjaro climb without first preparing for the altitude, or signing up for an Alaskan kayaking vacation despite a history of seasickness. Not only do you risk shame and losing your money by bailing, but you also risk endangering yourself and your companions.
The majority of adventure outfitters categorize their trips by difficulty level, and many include training manuals or fitness suggestions. In either case, be aware of the risks and be honest with yourself about how well you are in shape and how much time you have to work out before your trip.
6. Consider purchasing travel insurance.
While many travelers believe that common sense is the best and only kind of travel insurance, others believe the expenses of missing a vacation or becoming hurt or attacked while traveling are too high to leave home without protection. Indeed, many adventure tour operators will refuse to transport you unless you have insurance.