Tips on How to Travel to Antarctica

It was a lifelong dream to visit all seven continents. I made that dream come true in January 2016. I spent 11 days sailing around Antarctica with Quark Expeditions. Since I was going so far from home, I added time before and after the trip to explore Argentina and Uruguay.

Tips:  

  • I recommend Quark Expeditions.  Two of my friends, and now myself, have traveled with them on separate occasions. Each person had an amazing experience.  Before the trip, I had a personal travel agent who answered all of my questions via email and phone promptly. The entire crew on the ship was amazing–knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.
  • When choosing a voyage, I recommend looking at the length of the itinerary, the boat’s capacity and the activities available. I think that 11 days is the minimum amount of time that you should have.  Crossing the Drake Passage both ways takes almost four days. You want a small boat because only 100 people are allowed on Antarctica at a time. My boat was the Sea Adventurer, which only has capacity for 113 people. Since people kayaked during the excursions on the ice, we did not have to take turns to go on shore. I definitely wanted to spend one night on Antarctica, so I made sure that the itinerary included the camping option, which was an additional fee.
  • The boat will leave without or your stuff!  Make sure to give yourself enough time to get down to Ushuaia in case you have problems with your flights. On our trip, a woman’s luggage was delayed and she had to scramble to buy warm clothes the day before we left.
  • You will likely get seasick. Most seasickness medication won’t work once the seasickness sets in–you need to take it before you set sail. I got a prescription from my doctor for a scopolamine patch. Please note that this is not available in all countries. The water is calm once you reach Antarctica so I removed the patch and put it back on before we went through the Drake passage again. If you get the patch, be aware that it can fall off easily.  Bring extras and make sure that the fallen patch doesn’t attach itself to other parts of your body.
  • Sending postcards from Port Lockroy in Antarctica is a great souvenir. Make sure you have all of your addresses. I recommend buying postcards in Ushuaia (they’re cheaper and have more options).  Fill out the postcards while on the boat so that it’s easy to get them stamped and mail.  You don’t want spend time in a line at the gift store!
  • You will get wet when you are in the zodiac.  Quark Expeditions gives you a waterproof jacket, but you need to bring your own waterproof gloves, pants and daypack.  I rented these waterproof items through Quark and everything held up just fine. People who bought “waterproof” gloves at home did not do well. It was difficult to dry those gloves out. I recommend going the rental route, but if you want to bring your own, bring a few options that you can cycle through when going on excursions.
  • In the Google file below, I have my full packing list for Antarctica. I wore base layers under my ski pants and my fleece shirts. I had a thin pair of gloves, a big pair of gloves and the waterproof mittens. To take photos, I often had to take my gloves off–make sure not to lose them. I wore two pairs of socks with the silk liner. To complete the outfit, I had my waterproof pants and Quark’s jacket.  Quark provides boots, which were quite comfortable. With all of all of these clothes, I was fine on the ice.
  • If you camp on the ice, the toilet is simply a bucket dug into the ice. I recommend bringing adult diapers if you want to avoid using the bucket. Also, be very careful when getting into your sleeping bag–do not get any snow into the bag otherwise it will be an even more uncomfortable night. Ice is hard!
  • I’m beginning to learn more about photography. I don’t have a lot of the equipment so I called Borrowlenses.com to see what they recommended based on my trip.  I rented a Nikon 70 – 200 mm lens that worked well.  I didn’t bring a lens cloth or a UV filter (rookie mistake), but you may want to consider those items for Antarctic conditions. I stocked up on an extra battery in case the cold shut down one. Because I was backpacking around Argentina and Uruguay, I rented the Lowepro Flipside 400 AW Backpack.  It made traveling with all of my camera equipment and extras very easy.

Must do’s

  • Do the polar plunge!  It’s cold but worth it.
  • If you’re physically capable, climb all the hills.  The views are breathtaking.
  • Camp on the ice.  It’s a magical experience.
  • Spend as much time on the boat’s decks. The scenery is always magnificent.

Do overs: 

  • I have no do overs for Antarctica. It was the best trip of my life.

For inspiration, you can watch all of my videos here.

Itinerary and Packing List:

Download my itinerary and packing list here.

Recommended reading: 

  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
  • Alone in Antarctica: The First Woman To Ski Solo Across the Southern Ice
  • Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole
  • The Storied Ice: Exploration, Discovery, and Adventure in Antarctica’s Peninsula Region

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