Whether for mountain biking or bungee jumping, safaris or surfing, millions of U.S. citizens travel abroad each year and engage in adventure travel.
Whether you reside overseas or are just visiting, it is important that you know what to expect in advance and understand the risks inherent with adventure travel in a foreign country.
Before You Go
Know the location of the closest U.S. embassy or consulate for your destination.
Research Your Destination
Visit the U.S. Department of State’s official travel website, travel.state.gov, where you will find country information for every country of the world and contact information for the closest U.S. embassy and/or consulate. Our country information pages contain information on adventure travel in the locations you are traveling. You will also find information about visa requirements, safety and security conditions, crime, health and medical considerations, local laws, areas to avoid, and more.
Research Your Activity
Local laws and regulations vary greatly regarding adventure travel. Take time to research local conditions and safety requirements. Observe and obey all posted regulations and instructions.
Research the organization offering the activity. Individual entities or groups often determine their own security procedures, which may not be regulated by the local government and ask participants to sign a form to release the outfitter of any responsibility in the event of an accident. Find out what is and is not safe from a variety of sources, such as your hotel or host, local authorities, tourism officials and online travel forums. Familiarize yourself with how local weather conditions such as extreme heat, cold, high wind, heavy rain or ice might affect the safety of a given activity and check forecasts yourself before participating.
Health and Safety
Deaths and injuries related to adventure travel have occurred around the world. Verify that appropriate protective gear, equipment, and training are available. Many accidents have occurred due to participants’ pre-existing health conditions. You may wish to make sure that you are healthy enough to engage in planned activities by consulting with your doctor. The quality and availability of medical care can vary by location. First responders and other medical professionals may be unable to gain access to remote locations, and medical evacuation can sometimes be necessary. We encourage travelers to purchase medical evacuation insurance. If you experience a health or safety emergency while overseas, our embassies and consulates may be able to assist.
Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service for U.S. citizens traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
The Different Types of Adventure Travel
Lois Friedland is a co-author of “Frommer’s 500 Adrenaline Adventures,” and a freelance travel writer who has visited 55 countries.
Adventure travel is one of the fastest segments of the travel market, drawing in more and more people on a yearly basis. But what exactly is adventure travel and what can you expect out of an adventure trip? That is completely up to you, because “adventure” has a different meaning for every individual traveler.
That said, in its purest form, this type of travel generally offers some classic experiences and activities that truly help to define its style. If you’re planning on taking your first adventure travel trip, here are some of the activities you can expect to be a part of the itinerary.
Traveling on foot through remote locations has always been at the core of adventure travel. Whether that means backpacking along the Appalachian Trail, trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, or simply heading out for a backcountry adventure on a local trail, this is a great way to explore any destination. Travelers have always enjoyed walking tours and pretty much no matter where you want to go, you’ll likely find some options for hiking and trekking there. Often these trips involve camping overnight along the way too, adding yet another adventurous element to the equation.
Cycling trips are another popular method of transportation and category for adventure travel. Rather than exploring a destination on foot, travelers climb aboard a bike instead. This allows them to cover more ground at a faster pace, while still feeling connected with the landscape, culture, and people there. Mountain biking offers a similar experience, but allows access to more remote, off the beaten path, destinations, while introducing a more challenging aspect to the riding as well.
Travelers will find options to ride just about anywhere these days, ranging from French wine country to the entire length of Africa.
Canoeing and kayaking trips are another popular way to experience a destination, granting travelers access to lakes, rivers, and even oceans. This type of travel can be as serene as paddling the Greek Isles or as wild as taking on some of the top whitewater destinations on the planet. One word of caution however, travelers should have some experience paddling before embarking on these types of journeys as they can be strenuous and dangerous depending on the nature of the water involved. Flat water is generally safe, but whitewater can be treacherous. Both can be fun if you are well prepared.
While not often viewed as a form of adventure travel, mountaineering and climbing expeditions still fall under the same very broad umbrella. These types of trips typically require more skill and experience than simply trekking in the mountains and tend to be more technical too. That means requiring the use of ropes, ice axes, crampons, and other specialized equipment to reach the top of a mountain. A climb to the top of Kilimanjaro is mostly non-technical, and falls under the trekking category, while an expedition to Mt. Everest is squarely in the more challenging mountaineering realm. Altitude can often play a bigger role in this type of adventure too, which can literally take place on every continent.
Take caution however; you should only embark on a mountaineering trip if you have the necessary skills and experience to do so and are traveling with a certified mountain guide.
Adventure Travel: 15 Must-Know Packing Tips
Perfect packing is possible, and we made a list for it. Check these off before gearing up for a faraway trip this year.
Here at GearJunkie, travel is an integral part of what we do. We culled these 15 packing tips from our experiences on the road, including mistakes we made over the years traveling to the Rocky Mountains or as far as Kathmandu.
15 Packing Tips for Travelers
1. Make a Master List
A few days before a trip, begin a list on paper or your phone. Write down items that are needed and obscure: passport, maps, sunglasses, hat, lip balm, water bottle, a book for the plane, etc. Keep the running list close at hand and add to it as things pop into your head. Keep it saved on your phone (or written on paper) for your next trip, and you’ll be ahead of the game.
2. Personal Documents & ID
Print out all important documents for a trip, including hotel reservations, rental car info, directions, and any contacts. (Don’t rely solely on digital copies on a phone.) Make a photocopy of your passport and store it in a different part of your luggage than your real passport; in a worst-case scenario, you’ll have a backup.
3. Wallet/Purse Dump & Scan
Before you leave, take all credit and ID cards from your wallet or purse, lay them on a table, and take a photo. Shoot the front and back of all the cards and IDs. You’ll then have a backup digital record in case your wallet goes missing on the road.
4. Pack Less
Overpacking clothes is a top violation of adventure travel. Before you start shoving everything into your bag, ask, “Do I really need three pairs of jeans?” Many travelers wear the same clothes multiple days in a row (we sure do), which significantly cuts down on pack/luggage weight and the hassle of managing a wardrobe on your trip.
5. Multi-Day Apparel
Avoid cotton, since it’s mostly wearable one or two days before needing a wash. We often bring shirts made of merino wool, as they’re wearable multiple days in a row and work across a range of temps. Another option is clothing treated with Polygeine, which doesn’t need to be washed as often.
6. Adventure Gear
A night hike, river tubing, or secret singletrack – you never know what adventure may arise while traveling. Don’t miss out because you don’t have the gear. Below are gear staples for us on any adventure:
- Rain jacket
- Water bottle
- Dry bag (waterproof)
- Bandana or Buff headwear
7. Backpack or Luggage?
Rolling luggage is de rigueur for air travelers. But if you’re hopping off an airplane to walk, bike, trek, or explore, then wheeled luggage quickly becomes a hassle. Use backpacks instead, including made-for-travel packs like the Eagle Creek Global Companion (photo above).
8. Breakables in Carry-On
Computers, cameras, and any breakables should not be packed in luggage going into the belly of the plane. Keep those items in the above-seat bin on a plane or in a pack stuffed under the seat so you can protect them on the go.
9. Check the Weather
Rainy days can ruin trips. Make the most out of each day by packing the right clothing, rain jackets included. Especially in the desert or high country, check the forecast to make sure you are covered.
10. Airplane Apparel
Long flights are requisite for many trips. Think ahead and dress for the occasion. Wear comfortable clothing and include layers to strip off or add, as the temperature in many planes is unpredictable from hot to cold. Also consider a hat, earplugs, eye mask, and a neck pillow on flights longer than a couple hours, where you can sleep.
11. Pack a Snack
Bringing food from home lets you avoid paying ridiculously high prices at the airport for processed junk. Be the envy of the aircraft with fresh food from home. When everyone else eats airline peanuts, pull out a fresh box of blueberries.
12. Buy a Phone
Most data plans don’t work or charge expensively when traveling internationally. Instead, buy a pre-paid SIM card or cheap phone at your destination. With a phone, you can worry less about losing your travel partner, use GPS, post photos and travel updates, and call for Uber or Lyft rides in cities.
13. Leave Room for Souvenirs
Will you have time to visit a gift shop or local market? If you’re a gift-giver, pack an empty, lightweight bag or pack within your luggage. Use this extra pack or bag if you can’t fit everything on the way home.
Odor from dirty clothes and shoes can seep into your clean clothes and have you spending time at a laundromat instead of adventuring. Use a product like a Shoe Sac, or even a plastic bag, to keep the clean separate from the dirty. Storing them in a separate bag or compartment of your pack is a simple hack to mitigate the funk.
Some travel-specific gear comes with an integrated rain jacket pocket or shoe container. Eagle Creek’s Global Companion 40 has two zippered storage pockets to separate the dirty from the clean.
15. Tiny Toiletries
Travel-size toiletries are sold at most drugstores or groceries. Stock up on 3-ounce (or smaller) shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and other needed personal items. The made-for-travel sizes will pass through airline security and offer enough quantity to service a traveler for a week or more on the road.
–This article is sponsored by Eagle Creek. Check out the brand’s travel pack – the Global Companion 40L – to help perfect your packing.