Your much-anticipated vacation is upon you. This time you opted for something extraordinary for yourself and your family, a more meaningful getaway than sitting by the hotel pool with your paperback while the kids play with their squirt guns. But you didn’t want to give up a hot shower, nor sacrifice your palate in the name of roughing it. These days more travelers are opting for active and entertaining vacations that don’t sacrifice comfort and security. Your kids have the global community at their fingertips like never before, and this adventure trip will be their opportunity and yours for hands-on exposure to exotic wildlife and nature, perhaps ancient civilizations, and distant cultures. Still, you want to come home to luxury at the end of the day: you might call it camping with a wine list.
The appeal of adventure travel lies in the joy of mind-broadening exploration, the coveted once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thoughtfully planned trips coordinated by seasoned guides offer travelers a wide-ranging menu of activities to make the experience pleasurable for everybody. A small-ship cruise aboard an intimate vessel gives you and your family a close look at exotic species in the Amazon Basin. A luxury lodge in Central America serves as home base for studying Mayan ruins, birding, canoeing, or all of the above. (And a spa treatment awaits your tired dogs at day’s end.) When your vacation includes going on safari, or exploring Alaska’s spectacular fjords to observe harbor seals and massive chunks of ice crashing into the ocean, you’ll want to plan your travel wardrobe as thoughtfully as you have your itinerary.
Packing for Adventure: Things to Know Before You Go
Start with the big picture. Educate yourself on your destination, and then figure out what you’ll need to make the most of it. A few general rules:
- Know the climate, check the forecast. And make sure your clothing choices don’t violate cultural norms when you travel abroad.
- Plan in advance what you want to do and pack accordingly.
- You need less than you think. With few exceptions, pack garments in threes: “wear one, wash one, dry one.” There is almost always access to laundry, even if it’s only your hotel room or cabin sink. And always pack a detergent pod in your carry-on so you can launder what you’re wearing if your luggage is lost in transit.
- Choose lightweight, durable, quick-drying, and wrinkle-free garments (see laundry, above);
- Synthetic blends and wool dry faster than cotton and still keep you warm when they’re wet.
- Stick with neutral colors for more wardrobe possibilities.
- Wear several lightweight layers rather than a single bulky sweater to stay warm in a cool-weather destination.
- Consider insect-repelling clothing if your destination will be buggy.
- Bring no more than three pairs of shoes, and never pack a new pair to break in on vacation.
On travel days wear your heaviest shoes and clothes, and pack your lightest: extra weight is easier to wear than it is to carry.
Packing the Essentials: Mixed Itinerary Must-Haves
A thoughtful adventure trip offers choices for the traveler: one expert suggests avoiding unbreakable schedules, and looking instead for an itinerary with plenty of options for unanticipated weather, your budget, and how much energy you have on a given day. Still, there are wardrobe basics you’ll need no matter what. And even if the focus of your trip is rugged exploration, it’s possible or even likely you’ll want something appropriate for dinner out at a nice eatery or in your cruise ship’s dining room. Specific take-alongs will vary widely according to your destination and plans, but here are the basic guidelines for what to pack:
- 2 to 3 short-sleeved shirts; for women, one of them can be a dressy tank top
- 2 long-sleeved shirts; for a cool-weather destination, consider bringing one in a wool blend
- 2 pairs of pants; one should be heavier (denims or cargos, for example), and the other should be dressy enough to wear out—travel capri pants serve this purpose nicely for women
- 1 or 2 pairs of shorts, or consolidate: bring a pair of zip-off or roll-up convertible pants and eliminate a pair of shorts
- For women, 1 travel dress or skirt
- For women, 1 pair of leggings or yoga pants, which can also serve as sleepwear
- Three pairs of socks and underwear; pack an additional two pairs of heavy socks for hiking, and long underwear for cold-weather destinations
- 3 pairs of shoes, chosen according to your plans: 1 pair of rugged and waterproof hiking shoes or close-toed waterproof sandals depending on your destination; a pair of comfortable athletic or walking shoes; and a pair of dressier shoes—nice sandals that go with anything make an excellent choice for women in a warm-weather locale
- A swimsuit and cover-up if your trip calls for them
- A lightweight, hooded wind- and waterproof jacket; some adventures will require more—in Alaska, for example, you’ll likely want top and bottom rain gear and heavier outerwear depending on the season
- Fleece for layering
- A hat: pack a cap and gloves in a synthetic blend or wool for a cold-weather adventure trip; otherwise, choose a packable, wide-brimmed hat and/or a baseball cap
Use common sense and tweak the list to suit your own travel needs. But avoid getting bogged down by things you don’t need or won’t use, tempting though it is to prepare for every conceivable scenario. You’ll want to enjoy the journey unburdened by extra baggage.
Being well prepared takes the worry out of your adventure travel so you can focus on the fun. You’ll enjoy a trip that is eventful, enriching, and memorable, something you and your family will talk about for years to come.