If you’ve never done it before, adventure travel can seem a little intimidating at first.
Whether you’re biking, hiking, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, or just watching wildlife on an African safari, different types of adventure travel require different rules, gear, and preparation.
To that end, we asked 22 of the world’s top travel bloggers for their adventure travel tips. Read on to hear what these travel experts had to say on everything from acting responsibly around animals and adventures for couples to safety in national parks and stepping outside your comfort zone.
The #1 thing to keep in mind on a wildlife-focused adventure is to always follow the instructions of your naturalist guide. If they say it isn’t safe to do something, then don’t do it. When you head out on a wildlife adventure, it's important to remember that you’re not in a zoo, you’re in the wild.
You should be mindful of what constitutes responsible behavior in your new environment, keeping in mind that you're there to observe and not interact directly with the wildlife you encounter. In other words, look, but don’t touch, and never feed a wild animal! Also, never turn your back on a wild animal in order to take a selfie. –Mike Jerrard of Waking Up Wild
Adventure travel can be an exhilarating experience. Being able to capture it well is also part of the fun and challenge. To get great photos, you really need to be prepared by getting the right equipment, using the correct camera settings, planning ahead for the best times to visit, and having enough patience to capture that magic moment.
One of my favorite inside tips for action shots is to put your camera setting on burst mode in order to capture as many images as possible. This way, you’ll get a lot of images to choose from, and it’s easy to delete the duds. Be bold and always experiment, looking for unique ways of capturing the images you see. You never know which shot might be the perfect photographic keepsake! –Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery
We have a tried and true formula for choosing responsible tour operators. First, we read all online reviews, both good and bad. Then we examine their corporate branding, paying close attention to how they interact with animals, protect the environment, and treat their employees. Finally, we look for accreditation and reviews from external agencies, such as TripAdvisor or National Geographic.
Our parting tip is don't always choose the lowest bidder. We found safety, customer satisfaction, and ethical travel do not mix well with cutting corners for the sake of saving a few bucks. Still, there are many extraordinary adventures to be found at fair market prices. –Jenn and Ed Coleman of Coleman Concierge
There is no better way to bond with your partner than through adventure. We’ve been adventuring together around the world for 15 years, and the biggest tip we can offer is to make sure you keep an open mind. It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how quickly you can forget when presented with something you’re not interested in (or scared of) doing. It’s all about give and take when you adventure as a couple.
Do the things that you love, but don’t forget to support the things your partner loves, too. Also, trust each other and give new things a try. You never know, you might find out that you actually enjoy doing something you’d never thought about before. Push that comfort zone and hang on for the ride! –Lina & David Stock of Divergent Travelers
We cycle a lot around our bike-friendly hometown of Minneapolis/St Paul. In the past two years, we’ve also done long-distance cycling trips in France and Italy. Our best tip for cyclists is to get comfortable. First, get your bike fitted properly: Having the right saddle at the right height is essential. It’s worth it to pay a small fee to go into a good bike shop and have them help you do this.
Second, wear a good pair of padded shorts and padded gloves. The two parts of your body that come into contact with the bike will thank you. As you cycle a long distance, shift your position on the saddle and on the handlebars to keep your butt and hands from going numb. Finally, always wear a helmet (duh). –Tom Bartel and Kristin Henning of Travel Past 50
Some people say that if you want a life of adventure, do it before you have kids. But the truth is that kids do adventure better than anyone. By the time there were six and seven years old, respectively, my two children had explored a whopping 67 countries. When they were four and five, my children flew in a hot air balloon through Cappadocia in Turkey. At the age of five, my daughter abseiled down an 18-meter cliff in Malta.
At the age of six, my son got face-to-face with 30-foot whale sharks in the middle of the Caribbean. So don’t underestimate your kids. Their sense of adventure is limitless in comparison to adults. Just be sure to monitor the risk, because– if your kids are anything like mine– they’re utterly fearless. –Erin Holmes of Explore With Erin
Scuba diving and snorkeling offer a completely different vantage point of popular adventure hotspots. Coral reefs often lie just offshore, providing a fascinating look into these fragile ecosystems. Swimming amongst the diverse marine life found in notable destinations, such as the Galapagos Islands, is truly a remarkable experience. But many other interesting underwater adventures that can easily get overlooked.
Did you know that landlocked Malawi boasts a lake (Lake Malawi) with the world’s most diverse species of fish? Patagonia is a hiker’s paradise, but the crystal clear lakes of the high Andes are warm enough in summer to allow a refreshing snorkel in a seemingly endless array of sparkling blue hues! So consider packing a mask and snorkel along with your trekking gear. It can be worthwhile to have a look underwater in even the most unconventional places! –John Widmer of Roaming Around the World
Last year, we went on an unforgettable journey to Kyrgyzstan. The country has a strong nomadic tradition, and horses there are a way of life. Trouble is that I’m afraid of riding horses, and the idea of spending days on end in the saddle terrified me. Still, I agreed to a 3-day horse trek to Son Kol, one of the country’s most spectacular locations. Not only was it not nearly as scary as I thought, but I learned to really love horseback riding.
As a result, I felt a deeper connection to the land, the local people, and their culture as we rode through mountains with our guide and helped him care for our horses each night. So my suggestion is that you challenge your fears, especially if this brings you closer to the local culture you're experiencing! –Margherita Ragg of The Crowded Planet
Camping is a great way to visit a new place and have a base from which to experience nature. But popular campgrounds usually fill up fast, especially in the summer months. If you've ever sat in a line of idling cars, waiting to enter a destination like Zion or Yosemite, then you know that not all camping trips truly fulfill our desire to get away from it all.
Find campgrounds near you in advance for more secluded options, or research areas that allow dispersed camping, such as National Forests. If you don't have a reservation, just visit the nearest ranger station and start looking for your spot before dark. Your piece of the big, starry sky is out there if you're willing to do a little research. –Britany Robinson of The Dyrt
Any adventure is going to involve some kind of physical exertion, so consider training yourself for the trip. For activities such as long-distance trekking or climbing, start a walking or running routine at least a month before you leave. But be realistic when choosing your adventure: If you’ve never climbed a mountain before, it’s probably best not to start with Mount Everest.
If your adventure will be at high altitude, give yourself a few days to acclimatize to the thinner oxygen in the air. When we were training for Kilimanjaro, a swimming workout proved more effective prep than running, as a swimmer’s body gets used to operating with little air. –Meg Jerrard of Mapping Megan
Being a more eco-friendly adventurer isn’t as difficult as it may seem. It’s about making lots of little changes that collectively make a big impact. Carry a BPA-free water bottle with you and avoid one-use plastics. Bring a small bag and pick up trash you see on the beach, or when hiking. Buy local, handmade souvenirs rather than those made in China. Honor local customs and traditions, and consider learning a few phrases in the local language.
Our favorite go green tip is to put the “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on the door of our hotel room for the duration of our stay. This prevents them from changing your towels and sheets and saves energy (from vacuuming) and chemicals (from cleaning). –Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel
More and more travelers have an urge to immerse themselves in the local culture when they travel, and there are a few surefire ways of doing that. Food is at the heart of most cultures, so going to local food markets can teach you a lot about the local customs, typical ingredients, and regular people of the area.
Additionally, hopping on public transportation—buses, subways, shuttles— almost always puts you amongst a group of locals. Once you’re there, friendly interactions usually just happen. Finally, it’s important to chill in public spaces, never getting too rushed seeing attractions to take in what’s all around you. –Jonathon Engels of A Life About
Sea kayaking is one of our favorite outdoor adventure activities, and arguably the best way to experience islands or lakes. But it helps to follow a few basic survival tips. Always wear a buoyant life jacket and a quick-drying long sleeve shirt made for aquatic activities.
Make sure you apply sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and have extra water on hand. Learn a few simple kayaking skills, such as orientation, cooperative paddling, and how to right the kayak if it should turn upside down. It’s also good to have a basic understanding of the day’s anticipated weather conditions and take a waterproof radio communication device if kayaking alone. And though it should go without saying, make sure you know how to swim! –Christos Vasilopoulos of A Greek Adventure
The allure of the mountains is undeniable, but if you're not prepared for the altitude things can go downhill quickly. To prepare for high altitude (anything greater than 8000 ft above sea level), perform an intense aerobic activity at least 3-4 times per week. On the mountain, be sure to stay well hydrated, do not ascend more than 9,000 feet in a single day, don't sleep more than 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the altitude where you slept at the previous day, and rest often.
Medications such as acetazolamide and dexamethasone can help reduce the severity of acute mountain sickness (AMS). It's important to recognize the signs of AMS, including headaches, dizziness, rapid pulse, increased heart rate, nausea and, in more severe cases, confusion and decreased coordination. If you feel them coming on, descend at least 1,000 feet until the symptoms clear. –Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist
Planning to go hiking in a National Park? Hiking safety is one of the most overlooked aspects of adventure travel. It’s critical that hikers follow certain rules on all hikes, where a few simple safety tips can literally save your life. Make a hiking plan and stick to it. Make sure you’re carrying proper equipment for changing weather conditions.
Carry a route map, and know how to use a compass. Ensure that you have adequate food and water for your hike (and then some, just in case of emergency). Above all else, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. –Jennifer Melroy of National Park Obsessed
Almost everyone wants to document their travels with photographs. But this can sometimes be difficult with adventure travel, as it's often tough on electronics. There are a number of ways to mitigate risk when selecting equipment and protecting it on the road. First, we pack two different camera options– a rugged, weatherproof DSLR and a compact point-and-shoot that’s easy to protect (such as the Sony RX100).
For protection, we love Domke wraps: Used by professionals for years, their padded wrap fits your lens or camera perfectly. I've had camera gear fail in humid environments, such as the tropical jungle. I learned the hard way to use silica packs or socks full of rice in my camera bag to remove moisture from all my electronics. –Cameron Seagle of The World Pursuit
The Norwegians got it right: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” I worked in the French Alps for five winters leading groups in various ski resorts. I quickly understood that checking the weather before leaving your apartment, dressing in layers, and purchasing only quality clothing and gear was important. I also learned that it was good to have insurance that covers helicopter rescues in the mountains if needed, warm up before getting started, and taking extra snacks and water with you. And of course being slightly mad (i.e. being ready to feel extremely alive when the weather is crazy) is a bonus if you want to have a successful adventure in the great outdoors during wintertime. –Inma Gregorio of A World To Travel
I love solo hiking adventures, but there are different aspects to consider that when you’re hiking with a group. First of all, choose a popular trail. It’s comforting knowing that other hikers aren’t far away if you run into trouble. Secondly, choose a non-technical trail. When you’re alone, you don’t want to risk doing a technically difficult route, where your chances of injury are higher.
Finally, many people are afraid of spending so much time alone. But don’t be. And don’t be afraid to go deep: You may be pleasantly surprised what you learn about yourself. You may also find that you’re better company than you ever could have imagined, and emerge with a renewed sense of self. –Laurel Robbins of Monkeys & Mountains
As the father of two brave little boys who believe deeply in their superhero-like invulnerability, I know this can be hard to believe. But you should always encourage and trust your kids to pursue adventure outside of your collective comfort zone. We’re talking about qualified risks, of course– long hikes, zip lines, whitewater rafting on class II or III rapids, rock climbing with a belay, etc.
Your kids are probably up for doing far more than you realize. And their triumphs will be the source of new depths of character and confidence, stronger family bonds, greater shared family reliance and, of course, unforgettable memories. –Ethan Gelber of The Travel Word
When I travel alone each year in India, I come across lots of solo female adventure travelers of every age. These women are exploring the culture of India by traveling slowly, volunteering, or immersing themselves in a community. Adventure travel is not just about repelling down cliffs and climbing mountains, and it’s not just for the young. Follow your interests, find the way that works for you, and let your adventurous spirit soar.
Follow your heart, and don’t let self-imposed limitations stop you (including what others think). As former Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” –Mariellen Ward of Breathdreamgo
Climbing a via ferrata (Italian for “iron path”) route is a fun and safe way to explore the nature of the mountains, particularly the Alps. These routes have ladder rungs, bolts, wire bridges, and steps built in to make the climb easier, with a steel cable running along the route for safety. You climb it wearing a harness, and two lanyards with carabiners connecting you to the cable.
The routes come in different levels of difficulty: The easy and moderate routes should be possible for almost anyone to climb, even without previous experience. Most reputable companies will provide climbing gear and a skilled guide. If you’re bringing a camera along, make sure it’s connected to you so that it doesn’t drop and create potentially dangerous situations for the climbers coming up behind you. –Janicke Hansen of Let’s Get Lost
As nature lovers, we all cherish those rare moments when we get close to wild animals. I’ll never forget swimming with sea lions in the Galápagos or helping orphaned wallabies in Queensland. But all too often, travelers get carried away with touching them. A bison baby in Yellowstone had to be put down when do-gooders brought it into their vehicle. After being touched, it had no chance of survival, as her mother relies on scent.
Selfies can also result in human deaths, including a man who recently tried to take a selfie with a bear. It’s an honor to be in the presence of these beautiful animals, but it’s smart to keep a safe distance. If you do desire to get up close, consider volunteering at a highly-regarded wildlife sanctuary. –Lavanya Sunkara of Nature Traveler