Researching and planning my next destination
Diving down with sharks in the Caribbean
Strolling around mountains anywhere in the world
Mastering the art of "just chilling" in foreign places
Doing my best to see what it's like to "live like a local" when exploring new places
Racing against time with my body screaming "no" when my heart says "GO"
ANTARCTICA ~ also known as the white continent, and for many, it’s known as the 7th Continent ~ to me, is the most magical place on our planet I have traveled.
If you’ve just booked your excursion to Antarctica, then you likely have a million questions swimming around in your head about things like ~ how cold it will be, what do I wear, what do I need for on the ship ~ I was feeling the same, mass confusion. I came up with this Antarctica – Top 10 items needed for your trip list to make is a bit easier.
I live in Texas, so we rarely see temperatures below freezing, and I’m not ashamed to say I had no idea what all the terms like base layer and mid-layer meant. My first resource was the “what to pack” section of the Oceanwide website, but that left me with even more questions I previously didn’t even know to ask. This is why I decided to create a list of the items I found most essential and useful on my trip to Antarctica.
Let’s start with while you’re on the ship. I put so much energy into researching what to take for the land excursions I didn’t put too much thought into what I would do with all the time spent on the ship, and believe me, it’s a lot.
Spending a lot of time on the ship means lots of time you’ll be lounging around in your cabin, in an area designated for hanging out on comfy furniture, in a lecture room learning about all types of Antarctic wildlife, so you will want to be COMFORTABLE.
Most of us wore pajama pants/yoga pants/athletic pants with a comfortable tee shirt or hoodie. Most of the time, I could be found in my penguin pajama pants and a super soft tee, and many of the passengers went all out getting into the penguin spirit of Antarctica by wearing a penguin onesie. Click here for a penguin onesie; they are adorable for pics too!
A day on the ship in Antarctica wearing an Arc’teryx Hooded jacket, yoga pants from Target, C.C. beanie hat, a borrowed pair of cool Ray-Ban sunglasses, Ugg house slippers.
Trust me, you’ll want a FAN! Depending on your cabin’s location, you may be shocked to find the ship very warm. It was a complaint I heard from many passengers over and over ~ they were so hot in their cabins that many would leave their doors propped open or go on the decks to get a quick cool down. I purchased this fan from Amazon, and it was a lifesaver! I am serious when I say I could have sold it for $100!
As I previously mentioned, you will likely spend a lot of time in your cabin, and snacks shouldn’t be underrated. Before boarding, my cabin mates and I made a grocery run in Ushuaia to buy lots of candy, chips, and alcohol (our ship allowed you to bring your own, although there was a bar). I never said I ate healthy and one of my favorite snacks we didn’t buy enough of was these chocolate covered round wafers filled with peanut butter called Bon O Bon. Click here to grab a bag on Amazon!
If you’re like my husband and me, you prefer more than one pillow. I know some Europeans don’t use any pads, but it just feels so much cozier when I have 2 or 3 pillows to bury myself in while I sleep. Don’t worry about bringing them from home if you don’t want to keep up with your good ones. We each grabbed an extra pillow or two and pillowcases while purchasing groceries at Yefacel Mega Store. They were inexpensive and well worth it! When we disembarked, we left them behind since the staff said they would reuse them for themselves.
Trust me on this… most everyone will be at the nice dinners or the bar in their pj’s or loungewear with house slippers. I made the mistake of taking my favorite ones that are slip-on, although I read not to. Ugh, it’s tough when it’s 45’ swells, and the ship is rocking to walk up and down the stairs in slip-on shoes! If and when I go again, these are the shoes I will wear the whole time I am on the ship or something very similar.
Check with your ship to see if they have the connectors to connect your television to your laptop or tablet. It seems silly to think that you would care about movies while on the ship, considering you are going to ANTARCTICA but again, trust me. If your ship is like ours, they will have 3 channels with the same movies on repeat. Would you be shocked if I said one of the movies would be “Perfect Storm”? Don’t be! We said 1,000 times we wished we brought a Lightning Digital AV adapter. I am not going to link one here because technology is always changing. Honestly, I don’t want to steer you to the wrong product but google how to connect your specific mobile phone, laptop, or tablet to a television so you will have one if you find your ship offers limited cabin entertainment. Also, I would contact the company you’re going to Antarctica with and see what types of hookups their televisions offer.
Now let’s hop off the ship onto the whitest continent… ANTARCTICA!
As I mentioned, I am from Texas, so layers to me meant a hoodie and my heavier coat. I thought the thicker, the better, and I was WRONG. I watched so many YouTube videos on how to layer and read multiple blog posts to figure out what to pack and how to dress. I worried I would topple over, walking onto land looking like the Michelin Man. Thankfully, I was warm as toast!
I could do an entire blog post on how to dress while in Antarctica, and maybe that will be next. Still, the condensed version is this: for me personally, what worked was ~ I started with a silky top and bottom that was thin, breathable, and protected my skin from the itchy wool as a base layer. I took something similar to this click here. Then the mid-layers. I wore two layers for this, and one was my secret weapon! First, mid-layer was my thin Merino Smartwool 250 top and bottoms. Click here for a link to the bottoms I took and here for the top. The next mid-layer on the bottom is what I refer to as my secret weapon to staying warm! While browsing at TJ Maxx, I found a pair of athletic pants by Under Armour that is thin, tapered, and have a cargo type pocket on the thighs. These fit nicely over my Smartwool layer, and I placed one HotHands hand warmer in each pocket, and it kept my legs nice and toasty, which seems to have radiated throughout my body because the only time I didn’t wear them, I was freezing. I didn’t use the HotHands in my shoes, but many people did.
I was shocked at how many people made the trek to Antarctica with only a smartphone for photos. With the advancements of smartphones, we often see some incredible images taken on them. I have tons of priceless video from the trip I took on my smartphone (click here to see my Instagram highlights for lots of videos). However, phones still can’t replace the more professional-looking photos of the penguins taken with a DSLR camera and a long lens. I didn’t take anything real expensive; I took a Canon Rebel with an 18-55mm lens and a 75-300 lens. The longer lens was fantastic for capturing the close up, detailed shots of the penguins. Click here for the Amazon link to the same camera and lenses I took.
This is something else I was so happy I took, and I saw many others with something similar. Making the trek across the Drakes Passage and first stepping onto the white continent, Antarctica, is a once in a lifetime kind of adventure and something you’ll never forget… For many of us on the ship, this was our 7th continent! We wanted something special to use in photos to celebrate this amazing achievement. I had a flag custom made (pictured above) at a local graphics shop. It was not necessarily cheap, but honestly, $150 was worth it! Plus, a trip to Antarctica isn’t affordable, so I planned for this cost as well.
Plan to do the POLAR PLUNGE, so don’t forget your SWIMSUIT!! I’ll do a separate blog post on taking the polar plunge at the bottom of the earth but trust me; you don’t want to skip it!! Just envision yourself surrounded by adorable penguins swimming and waddling amongst the ice floats and glaciers as you strip off your layers and plunge into the Antarctic Ocean.
I hope these ten items to pack for Antarctica help you feel a little more prepared for your great adventure! Enjoy your journey!
For more photos, tidbits, and videos, check out my Instagram and stories highlights at the top of my page.
Touring Churnobyl was not ever planned. While planning a trip to Turkey, I decided to travel solo to a different country before heading home. I went to Google Flights, searched one-way flights from Istanbul to any major city in Europe. I chose the least expensive one that didn’t have flight times in the middle of the night. That is when traveling to Kyiv, Ukraine, became part of my plans. When I mentioned to several people I was going to Ukraine, they all said, “you’re going to tour Chernobyl while you are there, aren’t you?”. I may have been one of the few not watching the HBO series Chernobyl. To be honestly hadn’t crossed my mind to take the tour.
Since I was solo with no set schedule, I thought ~ what the hell, I’ll check it out!
For those of you that don’t know, Chernobyl is a city located in the northern part of Ukraine close to the border of Belarus. In April of 1986, this was the location of the world’s worst nuclear power plant disaster. What was supposed to be a test of one of the reactors turned into a huge explosion/fire. This led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people from radiation exposure.
The area is still contaminated with radiation and is considered somewhat dangerous. To this day, they sterilize the dogs in the area, and they discourage anyone from living in the area. The “somewhat” dangerous part led me to trust it was safe enough to take a guided tour to Chernobyl.
Once I got settled in my Airbnb in Kyiv, I went online, googled Chernobyl tours. I found that many had no availability for my dates. Finally, I found one company that had an opening! I asked hardly any questions (really is not like me), I gave them my credit card, (which just so happened not to approve this charge for 2 days, which should have been my first red flag).
After I booked my tour, and had two days to explore. The next day I explored Kyiv and not once thought to do a little more research about going to Chernobyl.
– The Day of the tour
The tour company requested I arrive at a designated meeting place for the tour at 7 am. The bus was scheduled to leave at 7:30 am. I arrived right on time, climbed in the first row on the bus, and waited. About 12 more other people showed up, but we were still waiting for a few more to join. About 8:00 am, the other four arrived visibly hungover /still drunk, and stunk like a bar and stale cigarettes. They were reprimanded for being so late that the bus was on our way!
That set the stage for the day. The tour guide went over the rules for the tour. On the two-hour bus ride, we had a presentation by our group leader and video presentations. I learned some things and didn’t learn some that I wish I’d known before booking the tour!
Speaking of rules ~ The guides suggested we wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, closed-toed shoes and aren’t allowed to eat anything outside while in Chernobyl. I did not realize there were no breathing masks or protective gear offered for the tour. So, in short, you can’t even eat a cookie outside due to your risk of radiation landing on it, yet we’re ok to breathe the air? I am not a scientist or doctor, but I am damn sure smart enough to know that if it’s in the air landing on my cookie, I will most definitely be ingesting it through my nose.
At this point, there was no turning around. I just hoped everyone else on the multiple bus tours made sure it was safe before touring. I trusted I was going to be alright.
If you google “is it safe to tour Chernobyl,” it says, “yes! The areas you will visit are in restricted zones that don’t contain radiation levels high enough to impact human health”. I consider myself somewhat skeptical of what I read on the internet . I considered the fact that the Ukraine’s government is the employer of the employees at Chernobyl. Are they going to tell the truth considering the amount of money they bring in from the tours? In my opinion, they probably are not entirely forthcoming, but that’s just my skeptical opinion.
I did not realize that I would be eating lunch in a very sterile, hospital feeling cafeteria. The tours include making a lunch stop at the onsite cafeteria. There is a parking lot full of buses; you walk down a path to a government looking building where you climb to the second floor of what felt like a grade school building. You line up with a tray to have a variety of foods dished on a plate, a juice handed to you then you sit at tables of four.
I should have taken my snacks in my backpack in hindsight, but it’s all about embracing the experience, right?. I won’t say the meal with bad; it was relatively tasty but given I ended up in the hospital just 24 hours later, I wondered if it played a role.
Check out my blog about the hospital trip in Ukraine.
The next thing I didn’t realize or didn’t think about ~
As a busy solo traveler on a tour touring Chernobyl or being any solo traveler, you will encounter many other groups with a large number of tourists. If you’re traveling solo, make sure to keep an eye on your group.
I noticed 3 guys in my group had black backpacks (3 of the hungover guys, I will add), so I would often glance to make sure I was with my group while I was busy snapping photos. At one point, I realized I was following the incorrect backpacks, so I had no idea which direction my group had gone ~; again, my mistake!
I traced my steps back to where we had come from, to find the parking lot of buses. I checked a few of them, and realized none of them were my group. My advice, be sure and save the contact number of anyone with the tour company. You may need to call when you have no idea where your group is. If I hadn’t had that, I might still be aimlessly wandering around Chernobyl and making friends with those sterile dogs.
Maybe I did suspect this one. You will be wading through broken glass, using some broken, unstable steps to reach most of the building. The risk of tripping and/or falling is somewhat high. I witnessed 3 people trip and myself, so this is another reason to wear a mask for the dust that will get in your face if you do fall. I am glad it was not cleaned up and that I could witness it in the dilapidated state it remains. This adds to the eerie feeling of touring Chernobyl. I will say again, wearing a mask would’ve felt appropriate. Just be aware to watch your step, because you will undoubtedly be in awe of the eerie visions. It’s easy to miss a haphazard broken step.
One last thing while touring Chernobyl. I wan not aware you shouldn’t wear or take anything that can’t be tossed into the washing machine as soon as you get back “home”. I am sure it said somewhere in the fine print, and it wasn’t an issue for me. Just in case you are traveling as most people are that tour Chernobyl, make sure you don’t wear/take anything not easily washable. I went in October, and the weather was cool enough to wear a jacket or long sleeves outdoors then take off layers in the van. I heard by others that went in the summer months; it can get really hot during the tour, but long sleeves and long pants are still required. Given that, I’d probably skip the tour in the hottest months.
Overall, my thought on touring Chernobyl is that it’s a very interesting, eerie tour. It is a good place to go at least once, but if I were to do it again, I would book a private tour of no more than 4 tourists and take a breathing mask.
If you would like to read more about my trip to Chernobyl and how I ended up calling an ambulance to take me to the hospital in Kyiv the next day, click here to see my Instagram post.