How to Plan & Prepare for a Trip to Antarctica

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antarctica prep checklist

So what do you need when planning a trip to Antarctica?

Most Antarctic cruises begin from Ushuaia – the southern most tip of Argentina. So obviously you have to get there – and that’s one heck of a long plane ride with multiple transfers.

I have organized our flights in two segments – from South Dakota to Buenos Aires, ad then from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia through a combination of my own online booking.

To get into Argentina – we don’t need a visa – but we do need to pay a ‘entry fee’ of $140 directly at the airport. The fee is good for 10 years and multiple entries. It’s great that we don’t have to deal with any extra paperwork – however $140 is no cheap fee.

A clean bill of health
Since we will be out on a ship far away from modern facilities, there’s a bit of paperwork that needs to be done so to confirm our medical history.

This is basically to alert the ship staff of the passengers’ medical history so that they can be well prepared to care for anyone in case of an emergency. This was pretty simple paperwork – and luckily my father or me didn’t have to get any further physician’s approval to take the trip.

Emergency Medical/Evacuation Insurance
You also require proof of a minimum of $200,000 of Emergency Medical/Evacuation Insurance. This is pretty much the norm on these types of remote trips. Getting proof of that coverage was easy for me to do – I just called my insurance provider and made sure I was covered and then had them send me the paperwork that provided my proof of coverage.

However – when trying to do this for my father, who is 76, proved to be much more cumbersome. Have you ever tried to call Medicare and get answers…ugh…not fun. And lets face it – they don’t have a lot of 76 year olds taking trips to the ends of the earth – so apparently they don’t get many questions about emergency medical evacuation from foreign countries, At least that’s what I deduced based on the 2 different customer service reps I dealt with and their utter confusion about the questions and their inability to provide me any straight answers.

Layers, layers, layers! I have a pretty thorough packing list that included clothing and other travel gear. Once again this trip is a difficult trip to pack for because we’ll be in a couple of different climates (Buenos Aires summer and Antarctica err…summer). This means winter coats and shorts – and comfortable clothes for the ship.

Luckily our boat provides the necessary boots for the cruise and our daily excursions onto land – so that’s one less thing we need. But my father and I had to go through the suggested packing list determine what gear we already had and what gear we still needed to borrow/buy.

I was surprised to find out that Antarctica isn’t as cold as I thought it would be – Shelley told me that the average temps would be around 20 to 40 F – which quite frankly is warmer than where my father lives in South Dakota in December! However – we would still need some winter coats and warm layers as well as waterproof pants and gear. Oh yes – and we even plan on bringing swim suits – in case we feel like taking a polar plunge. (my dad isn’t quite on board with the plunge idea yet…but I’m pretty sure I can convince him!)

Photo Equipment
Since one of my main focuses is to do photography in Antarctica – I need to start thinking ahead on what equipment I will need. I have been relying on some recommendations from other travel blogger friends/photographers who have made the trip to Antarctica already. Over the next month I’ll be researching long lenses, waterproof bags, and a tripod to start. Plus, I’ll be bringing a GoPro video camera to take with me on the daily excursions and kayaking.

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