No matter what your adventure, planning is important. However, when you are planning an expedition, it becomes critical! You have an ever changing to-do list, physical training, as well as other logistics to keep in mind.
Here are some tips you need to know to make sure you are checking off all the important preparation tasks for a big trip!
Step 1: (The Obvious) Book your trip!
Once you decide what you would like to do, book your trip before doing ANYTHING else, including booking your flight. Depending on your expedition will depend on availability of dates as well as available guide companies to book through. DO NOT just book the first company you look at. compare prices, compare dates, compare reviews, compare summit success rates, and most importantly, compare safety standards for crew and clientele. Some have the money and are willing to pay for the best of the best, which is great! However, others (including myself) have to think about budget and getting the best possible experience for the best available price.
For me personally, my first priority was climbing local. Not only does it support their local economy to climb local when you can, but you get a much more in-depth cultural experience learning about the country and culture! My second priority was safety, and third was price. These are all things to keep in mind when choosing who to book your expedition with. Below are just a couple of my personal favorites:
- Third Rock Adventures: Local Nepali guide company recommended by Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, Travel Channel, New York Times, and more. Local guides fluent in English, great safety standards, cheaper than western guide companies, and all the money you spend supports the struggling Nepali economy.
- Eco-Africa Climbing: The best local agency in Tanzania. They pride themselves on ethical porter treatment, ensuring they all make a living wage (even before tips). They will teach you Swahili and ensure a safe climb up Kilimanjaro! Safaris are also available.
- Summit Climb: Founded by famous climber and guide Dan Mazur. Variety of charity treks available, experienced guides, most affordable Everest climbing from a western company, wide variety of larger expeditions and climbs, well organized.
Step 2: Book your flight!
Once you book your trip, wait until you make your first payment and receive a confirmation email with all needed info regarding your expedition before booking your flight. Everyone always talks about how there are key windows to book the cheapest flight. This is more true for nationwide flights more-so than international flights. International flights tend to book much more quickly and have their ideal price window between 4-6 months in advance depending on the time of year. The trick is to start monitoring and follow flight prices as soon as you book your trip, and once everything is confirmed, then book your flight. There are now a variety of flight apps to help track prices and some work better than others. Google Flights is always a good start, however I found Hopper and Skyscanner found much cheaper flights.
Step 3: Training Schedule
Planning out a training schedule for workouts is critical. It is important to map out when and how you are going to workout and train. This will be ever changing however. Life happens. You may find you were more out of shape than you thought and it may take longer to re-establish a base line of fitness, or you may get sick and be out of commission for a week or two, or maybe you are just so exhausted from work you aren’t getting to train as much as you would like. Whatever happens, set and establish fitness goals at the beginning and just try to get as close to them as possible. You may get lucky and be able to stay on track, but if not, you have a guideline to help get you there.
Step 4: To-Do lists everywhere!
Start simple, and add things as needed. When you first book your trip there are a few essential things that need to go on your list, but other random things may come up as you get closer. here are some things to make sure get done:
- Order new passport (if needed)
- Purchase Travel Insurance
- Purchase Emergency Evacuation insurance
- Ensure your health insurance is current
- Set a doctor appointment to get a physical, (most guide companies require a doctor to clear you for a major expedition and will require a form to be filled out by your doctor)
- Have your doctor write you a prescription for Diamox (for altitude sickness) and antibiotics (for emergencies)
- Receive any immunizations needed for the country you are traveling to.
- Shop for any needed supplies or equipment
- Call bank before you leave to let them know you will be out of the country
Step 5: Faux Pack
At some point you will need to make sure all your gear fits in your duffel right? This is also a good opportunity to double check your equipment list to make sure you have everything you need. It is recommended to do a packing trial about a month or so before you leave. If you are missing gear, it is good to give yourself the time to shop for it. Another good reason for this is weight limits. Not only do airlines have weight limits for luggage but porters do too. There are laws in place to protect porters safety and health to ensure they are not carrying too much weight. Many well established guide companies respect these laws as well as their porters and are strict about weight limits. This can get tricky when you are hauling a bunch of heavy climbing gear. When you pack, take only what you need. Don’t bring a bunch of extras, and pick one outfit to hike/climb in with various layers, and one outfit to lounge in. There are ways to launder clothes at high altitude if you really need to, but most just deal with the stink!
Step 6: (the most important) Mental Preparation
Mind will win over body every time. If you aren’t confident in yourself or your abilities, don’t expect success when you arrive at your destination. Your mental health is going to be more important than your physical preparedness. Preparing your mind will look different for every person depending on where you are at to begin with. Some seek out therapy to work through fears and doubts, however some can simply meditate on their goals. There are a variety of things you can do to mentally prepare yourself but this one I can’t give advice on specifically because it is something where you will need to just decide what works best for you.
Step 7: Farewell!
This is another thing where you decide what you would like to do! Some want a party, some love to spend a final evening with family and friends, others maybe do something more interpersonal. Whatever you choose, it is important to surround yourself with those who support you! Cheers and Good Luck!