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How to choose the perfect adventure

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Travel brochures (Photo: IndexOpen)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 13, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, Erica Silverstein, vacation package.

What's one of the worst things that can happen to you on an adventure trip that insurance won't cover? Paying a lot of money for a vacation that you end up hating. While most travelers don't feel the urge to bail on day one, I've heard stories about people who signed up for activities that were too strenuous or who ended up traveling with groups whose priorities differed from their own. The way to make your vacation fulfilling is to choose the trip that matches your goals, needs, and abilities. Selecting the right experience may take some advance planning, but the results are well worth it.

Know thyself

Before you start perusing catalogs and tour websites, you need to sit down and have a talk with yourself. The goal is to determine what you want out of a vacation so you can match your interests and needs with the services provided by a tour operator.

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The first question you have to ask is "What do I really want out of my vacation?" Consider whether your first priority is to go to a specific destination, participate in a certain activity, try new things, or experience a different culture. You should also be realistic about what level of comfort you need, what size group you prefer, and how much money you're willing to shell out for the adventure.

The next step is to be realistic about your abilities. Think about what level of activity you can actually maintain and factor in your fitness level, experience, and any medical conditions that might affect you. For instance, if your home gym is gathering dust and your running shoes are a size too small, you should admit that you probably won't enjoy a trip that involves 10 hours of intensive activity each day.

You should also be honest about your comfort levels in foreign cultures. It's perfectly natural if squeezing through crowded markets or eating unidentifiable animal products makes you squeamish. Just admit that before you sign up for the trip that houses you in huts with native families.

The final thing to think about before you pick up the phone or get online is seasonality. Would you prefer to travel when the weather is best or when crowds are scarce? Can you be flexible with travel dates or are you locked into specific vacation weeks? These decisions may affect the price of your trip, but they'll also affect your enjoyment of the experience.

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