Planning for Outdoor Travel Adventures

Mount Gongga in Sichuan Province, China, Tents with mountains in background

Travel itself involves a lot of planning and research, but planning for outdoor travel is a slightly different animal. However, there are many similarities. You’ll still want to pick the right destination, make an itinerary, pack the right things, do your research, and take precautions. A city vacation will be a lot different than an outdoor vacation. It’s important to make the right plans and bring the right gear; that way you can get the most out of your adventure and be safe while doing it. 

Each outdoor travel adventure will be different depending on a lot of factors, including location, terrain, and your experience level. Outdoor experiences are exhilarating, challenging, and exciting as long as you stay on top of your planning. 

Find the right destination

The options for an outdoor adventure are seemingly limitless. There are various states, regions, countries and types of terrain to choose from. There’s camping in the mountains, exploring by horseback, hiking excursions, climbing vacations, sailing holidays and so many more. You can pick waterfall destinations in the U.S., hiking in Switzerland, or camping in Europe. Each decision will create a different kind of adventure, so choose wisely. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right destination:

  • Cost
  • Experience
  • Time of year
  • Gear requirements
  • Reservations

Pick a location within your budget and within your experience level. Otherwise, plan to hire a guide or gain more experience beforehand. Also keep in mind the experience of whoever you’re traveling with; some areas won’t be suitable for kids, for instance.

Some outdoor areas are closed or unsafe during certain times of the year, so plan your trip around those dates. Think about the gear you’ll need for each experience, and if you can buy or rent what you don’t have. Finally, some outdoor areas require a permit or reservation, and some may long waiting lists. All of these considerations are important to think about when finding the right destination. 

Person holding travel book with backpack and map; planning outdoor travel

Make a travel itinerary

Once you find the right destination, you can begin building your travel itinerary. This will not only include things like departure times, arrival times, flights, lodging, etc., but also activities and meal plans for each day so you can make sure you have everything you need. This is especially helpful if you plan to spend time sleeping in the outdoors, so you don’t forget vital gear.

Remember to include things in your itinerary that will enhance your experience as well. For instance, remind yourself to wake up at sunrise one morning to take a photo of your location in the best light. It might be helpful to scout your location first in order to find a time with the best light and without a lot of other people around. Include maps, photos, and restaurants in your itinerary so you won’t forget where you want to go and how to get there. Your itinerary should help you stick to a schedule and make sure you’re prepared, but it should also include fun elements as well.  

Bring the right gear

The gear you bring will largely depend on the type of outdoor adventure you choose; the key is to triple check to make sure you have everything. Backpacking, camping, rafting, hiking and spelunking all require different types of gear. Being in the outdoors is nothing to take lightly, and one missed piece of gear can be the difference between having an amazing adventure and getting into serious trouble.

Prepare for the elements, bring what is recommended for the area, and check with locals about the gear you might forget. Especially when camping, there are plenty of items that are commonly forgotten such as a knife, firewood and batteries. Being in a remote area without many of these essential items can make your travel destination a lot more difficult and dangerous. 

Research your location

Chances are you did a lot of research before even choosing a location, but once you pick one, get more specific in your research. Ask yourself:

  • What are you looking for in your outdoor adventure? 
  • Are you looking for a remote getaway, or would you rather stay somewhere comfortable and rough it on your daily outings? 
  • Do you have to fly to your location? 
  • Can you rent your gear there? 
  • Can you speak the language? 
  • Are there specific laws and regulations where you’re going? 
  • Is there cell phone service? 
  • Is the location family-friendly? 
  • Can you bring your dog? 

Your research will ensure you have the vacation you want, and that you’ll be prepared once you’re there. You can use helpful websites, or you can call or email certain places yourself with more specific questions. 

Hand holding a compass; planning for outdoor travel

Be aware of the dangers 

When you travel anywhere, there are certain dangers to be aware of. When you’re planning for outdoor travel, the dangers are different but still very present. You may need to worry about poisonous plants, bad weather, wildlife, navigation issues, rough terrain or locations that require a lot of experience to enjoy. For instance, not every rock climber can do every climb. Each terrain is different, and some locations are dangerous without a guide or the right gear.

Some people may consider bringing a weapon if they’re concerned about wild animals, but not all national parks allow you to bring firearms. In other countries, some cultural differences may cause tension in your travels. There are many examples, so it’s important to research the dangers of your specific location and adventures. 

If you’re doing something especially dangerous, you may want to consider logistics like when to take out a life insurance policy, or ensuring you understand how your insurance works in different countries. Research the actual dangers and how to avoid them, as well as the possibility of getting hurt . Some activities and areas are more dangerous than others, and those are important facts to know beforehand. 

Planning for outdoor travel adventure has a special excitement to it. Though the outdoors aren’t for everyone—some would rather travel from resort to resort—some prefer the majesty of the outdoors. Each location around the world offers something a little different and unique. Sleeping under the stars, hiking through wondrous natural landscapes, or kayaking through oceans and lakes all have ways of making us feel connected to the earth around us.

If you are planning on an outdoor travel adventure, make sure you take your planning seriously. It’s exciting to go with the flow, but some aspects of the outdoors require more preparation. Once you know you’re safe and prepared for anything, it’ll be easier to sit back and enjoy the adventure. 

About Jori Hamilton


Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who covers travel, social issues, and technology. You can follow her on twitter @hamiltonjori

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