Matt Long a RoamRight Blog Author

Antarctica: What To Expect Before You Go

Follow these tips to prepare for a trip to Antacartica.

A trip to the 7th continent, one of the last bastions for true expeditionary travel, is on the bucket list for millions of people around the world. But what do you do once the plane tickets are booked and you’re on your way down to the great icy continent? It’s definitely not your average trip and there are a few things you should keep in mind before following in the footsteps of Shackleton.

Getting There

There are a few different options for Antarctica cruises, typically most people leave from Ushuaia, Argentina and cross the nausea-inducing Drake Passage to Antarctica. I however opted for the gentler and less time consuming fly cruise. Instead of spending four days crossing back and forth across the Drake, I flew to Antarctica directly from Punta Arenas, Chile. A two hour flight was all it took and I was onboard my ship before I knew it. This is a fantastic option for those who are light on time or who have concerns about getting seasick.

What To Wear

One of my biggest mistakes was the clothing I brought with me because as I learned packing for Antarctica isn’t as easy as one might think. When we think of Antarctica we think a cold, inhospitable vast region. And that’s true, in the winter. That’s also why cruises don’t take place in the winter, the conditions are far too rough. The summer months though are completely different and my massive parka was nothing more than a waste of space.

The weather, while not warm per se, also wasn’t the frigid nightmare I had anticipated. In Fahrenheit, the temperatures hovered in the 30s and 40s, necessitating a jacket for sure, but not one in which a small family of garden gnomes could live comfortably. Instead of the expensive and very nice parka I towed down through four flights, I instead wore a light windbreaker I thankfully packed and which I picked up for free somewhere. Moral of the story, you aren’t Ernest Shackleton. You aren’t going to spend a week trekking through the wilds of Antarctica in the middle of the Austral Winter. You will be on a comfortable boat, taking part in excursions and coming back every night to enjoy hot chocolate and a comfortable bed. So dress appropriately.

The Ship

Once boarding the cruise ship, I was shown almost immediately to my cabin, a modest if not comfortable room. My cabin was set up as a single, but a hidden bunk revealed that it could easily accommodate two people. These ships experience very rough seas at times so everything that can be bolted down is literally bolted to the floor. That also means that the accommodations are pretty spartan. There was a bed, desk, chair and built-in wardrobe and that’s it. It’s Antarctica, so TVs and phones are pointless. The bathroom was small but perfectly functional. People spend a lot of time and money on these trips though so the rooms are comfortable, don’t get me wrong and there are many different cabin configurations available including more standard looking hotel-style cabins with double and even queen size beds. But you honestly don’t spend a whole lot of time in the cabins, aside from sleeping and changing for the next excursion.

What To Do

The focal point of these trips is of course what you see and do. Every day the ship visits a new spot along the Antarctic peninsula, the specific locations vary based on weather and ice conditions. The night before staff announces where they’re going and what to expect. Some of the excursions included an afternoon on Deception Island, many hikes with penguins and even a visit to an Antarctic research base that hadn’t seen visitors in months. The hikes were accessible to just about every skill level, although a couple of them were definitely more strenuous than the others. But that’s why we were there, to get out and explore and to see for ourselves what makes this part of the world so very spectacular.

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you venture on the trip on a lifetime. What other questions do you have about the travel experience in Antarctica?

About the Author

Matt Long

Matt Long, a RoamRight Blog Author A luxury adventure traveler at heart, Matt Long shares his experiences with thousands of readers every day through his travel blog, LandLopers.com. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Matt is a Washington, DC based travel writer/photographer and has been featured on many other web sites and publications including BBC Travel, CNN GO, Huffington Post, AFAR Magazine and National Geographic Intelligent Travel. His work is also syndicated on the Flipboard and Pulse apps. Follow Matt on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Google Plus.

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