10 Steps to Plan an Antarctic Expedition

Here’s help on how to plan the perfect Antarctic expedition!

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Read these 10 Steps to plan the perfect Antarctic Expedition

When planning the ultimate trip to the Seventh Continent, there are many options to weigh and factors to consider for the best Antarctic expedition. We have compiled a list of 10 steps to help you craft your perfect Antarctic adventure cruise.

Step 1: Timeframe – Plan Ahead! 

The travel season in Antarctica is during the Austral Spring and Summer, from the end of October to the beginning of April. Antarctica21 only offers expeditions during the peak season, from the end of November to March. Outside that peak season, conditions in Antarctica are less than optimal.

Because of the planning required to travel to Antarctica, most companies offer trips as far in advance as two years.  You have plenty of time to prepare. Booking last-minute travel to Antarctica can be done but usually leaves you little choice regarding departure dates and cabin availability.

Here, you can read more information about the best time to travel to Antarctica.

Step 2: Decide where to visit & the length of your Antarctic Expedition

There are many different places expedition companies visit in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula is the most commonly visited area in Antarctica, and trips to the Peninsula can run anywhere from one day to fifteen days in length.

Antarctica21 offers three itineraries: six, eight, and ten days long at the time of publication. Longer trips might include visits to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and other rarely visited regions of Antarctica, such as the Ross Sea. We tackled both the time and budget questions you may have about this in this journal entry.

Step 3: Set a Budget

Depending on what area of Antarctica you are visiting, how long your trip is, what is included, and what ship and company you choose, voyages can start around US$3,000 per person and run up to US$30,000+, plus flights to South America.

When you start to plan, make sure you know your costs, what is and isn’t included, and any extras you might want to add, such as adventure activities. When budgeting, reflect on the value of each option, not just the price you are paying.

For example, a $3,000 Antarctic cruise on a 2000-passenger ocean liner may be a great value for a traveler looking for entertainment and midnight buffets. At the same time, it may be a terrible value for an adventure and wildlife lover since no guests will be allowed ashore to witness the beauty of Antarctica firsthand.

Step 4: Should you fly or cruise to Antarctica?

That is the question! As the company that invented the Antarctic fly-cruise option, we are definitely partial to flying to Antarctica. Why? For several reasons, you avoid crossing the Drake Passage, which often causes discomfort for seasickness-prone travelers. You save up to four travel days since flying is much faster than sailing, and you experience Antarctica from a small ship. However, some travelers want to experience the stormy Drake Passage as a rite of passage, or they might not be restricted on time.

To help you decide which is right for you, here is more information about flying to Antarctica:

Step 5: Review your Antarctic Adventure Options

Did you know you can choose different adventure options to maximize your Antarctic experience? Most tour operators will offer guests a few extras to help take their adventure on the Seventh Continent to the next level. For example, we offer our guests the option to go sea kayaking in Antarctica, hike, snowshoe, or participate in our Citizen Science program. You can read more about our adventure options in our Journal.

Step 6: Choosing between companies

This is a tough one – we get asked a lot about what makes Antarctica21 better / different than other polar cruise companies. The difference is what you need to consider because that will ultimately make your voyage truly memorable. Because we get asked that question a lot, we’ve written not one but two articles about it.

Some things to consider when choosing between Antarctic cruise and expedition companies:

  • The company’s experience and history in Antarctica
  • Ship size and features
  • Level of comfort, from luxury to adventure to economical
  • Available activities include sea kayaking, snowshoeing, hiking, etc.
  • Duration of the itineraries
  • Flying over the Drake Passage
  • The staff, like the guest-to-staff ratio and the composition of the Expedition Team

For more information about how to choose between companies, we have two other helpful articles:

Step 7: How to choose the best Ship size?

Yes, ship size matters. Why? Per the Antarctic Treaty, small ships can offer their passengers excursions in Antarctica, while larger ships cannot. So, while ocean liners and ships carrying 500+ passengers might sail past Antarctica, their passengers cannot get off the ship and visit on land.

Ships that carry less than 500 passengers can take their guests ashore but must do so in groups of a maximum of 100 people at a time. Think what that means regarding the guest experience, waiting for your turn to disembark in the constantly changeable Antarctic environment.

We believe ships carrying between 50 and 100 passengers offer the optimum balance between comfort and flexibility to handle the polar environment and an exceptional guest experience. Antarctica21’s ships carry a maximum of around 70 passengers, which means that every single guest has priority at all time.

Here is more information to help you make a decision about Antarctic cruise ships:

Magellan Explorer in Antarctica. Photography by Sandra Walser for Antarctica21.

Magellan Explorer in Antarctica. Photography by Sandra Walser for Antarctica21.

Step 8: What to pack for an Antarctic cruise?

Antarctica is remote and ruled by nature. Packing for a visit should be taken very seriously. Most ships do offer an onboard gift shop where you might be able to purchase a few last-minute items. However, properly packing for your trip is very important; here are some of our packing recommendations and our Essential Antarctica Travel Tips.

Layering warm clothing is key because the weather can change at any moment. Bring a waterproof jacket like the one from our online gear shop, or see our tips on how to choose the right jacket. Waterproof pants are also important to stay warm, and you must also stay dry and protected from the water when you ride in the Zodiac. And you definitely want to remember to pack all medications you may need or take regularly—more on this in our Keeping Well post.

Step 9: What to expect in Antarctica?

You will be visiting one of the most remote places on earth, silent and vast. You can expect to be overwhelmed by the beauty of jagged mountains and colossal icebergs. You can also expect extraordinary wildlife encounters with animals that can only be found in Antarctica. You may also find inspiration in Antarctica, moments that may lead you to look at things (the natural world? or your life?) in new ways.

However, what most people don’t expect and often find in Antarctica is friendship. Trips to Antarctica tend to attract a varied collection of interesting people from all over the world, individuals who have led wonderful lives and have had many different experiences. Speak to your travel companions, and they may end up being one of the most memorable elements of your Antarctic adventure.

Read what one of Antarctica21’s Team Members has to say about what to expect in Antarctica.

Step 10: Be flexible!

The last thing we suggest is to remember always to be flexible when traveling to Antarctica. The weather might or might not cooperate, impacting our plans. Flights might be delayed, or we may have to leave sooner than expected. To enjoy a remote place like Antarctica, you must bring a sense of adventure, and you must be open to change. Go with the flow and enjoy it! You are in the hands of an experienced Expedition Team that will always do their utmost to ensure you get the most out of the experience.

Decoration A21
The Antarctic Flight Guide, Antarctica21

Download the Ultimate Guide

This essential guide includes:

  • Insider information on flights to Antarctica
  • The pros and cons of sailing and flying to Antarctica
  • Weather information and detailed flight statistics
  • Expert tips to consider before booking

Doing research for your trip? You can’t miss this guide!

Ready to Start Planning?

Antarctica is like no other place on Earth and we invite you to explore it with us. Complete this short form to receive a customized quote from our team and start planning your Antarctic air-cruise today!