What's your gut reaction when you picture yourself sleeping in a tent in a wilderness area and you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Are you willing to spend 24-hours traveling to visit Vietnam or China and deal with 'day is night/night is day' reaction your body will have dealing with the 11- or 12-hour time difference? Adventurous expedition cruises take you to remote places around the earth, but think twice about the Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands if you tend to get seasick.
If you're afraid of heights will you be able to climb to the top of a temple in Angkor, Cambodia, or just stand at the bottom feeling down while watching your friends climb upwards? Think carefully about the types of experiences you expect to have on the trip before booking.
2. Don't choose the extreme adventure your buddy loves, when you're not in shape to take the trip.
Traveling with friends is almost always more fun. However, if you are going on an active vacation, such as hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro or biking the Tour de France route, make sure everyone in the group is roughly equal in skills and stamina. If not, choose a trip that allows for different levels of activity. For example, think about how hard to you want to pedal. Here are several companies offering dream bike trips.
3. Don't book an adventure travel vacation online without talking to a company representative.
You find lots of top adventure travel companies offering exciting vacations. However, don't rely totally on the trip descriptions online. After choosing a trip or two, email or call the company and talk to someone who has been to that country or taken that active trip and can give you more details.
Ask, for example, if the group always stays together or if there are significant blocks of time where you can explore on your own. Are the guides for a hiking or bicycling trip local and how long have they been with the company. Ask if you always have to dine with the group? The extra details may make - or break - your desire to book that particular trip.
4. Don't forget to read the fine print carefully.
Sure you've been told this before, but it's particularly important when booking an adventure travel trip. Does the company guarantee the trip will leave, even if only a few people sign up? How many meals does the trip actually cover? Is there a "recommended" amount of money that the company suggests travelers bring for meals not covered? What is the cancellation policy? What are the guarantees that the hotels will be the quality promised (whether luxury or 3-star)?
5. Don't forget to buy travel insurance with a medical policy.
Adventure travel vacations can be costly, so you'll want to buy travel insurance. If you've chosen an active vacation, make sure you have adequate medical and evacuation coverage. Check with your own medical insurer first, but many (including Medicare) won't cover accidents outside the United States.
Depending upon where in the world you are going, you might want to beef up the amount allotted for evacuation in case of a medical emergency. I've heard some horror stories of the cost from remote areas of the world to reach a proper hospital, let alone a flight back to the United States. Here are several insurance companies with policies that cover active sports.
6. Don't forget to copy your documents.
Be sure to leave copies of all your essential documents with someone at home. Today, there are also Web sites where you can leave a record. You can always email critical documents to yourself, but keep in mind that pulling them up in a public WIFI location might lead to identity theft. My husband and I always trade copies of important documents, so if one set gets lost or stolen we have a backup with us.
7. Don't forget a second camera.
Always bring a second camera because you never know when one will malfunction - or be taken by a light-fingered thief. I know the latter from personal experience. (Fortunately, I had backed up all of my images every night during the trip, so I only lost the shots I took that day - and my primary camera.)
Today's smart phones have wonderful cameras, so many people are now using them as a backup. When my camera battery died long before expected when I was at an ancient ruin in the Middle East - with no handy kiosk within miles to buy new batteries - I simply used the iPhone. Another time, I was at a beach in Colombia and didn't think I needed a camera. My iPhone took sweet shots of the beach and windsurfers.
8. Don't forget to check the weather where you are going.
You don't want take the time to find a store or marketplace, where you can buy an extra top if it gets colder than the weather Web site indicated, or buy a light top because your clothing is too heavy. Of course, out in the wilderness or hiking on a mountain or in the desert you'll have to borrow from a fellow traveler or suffer.