When we were getting ready to travel to Antarctica we had a lot of people ask us why?! Why Antarctica? Our main reason was knocking off another continent. But after coming back our answer has changed drastically. Yes, part of it is still we knocked another continent off our list, but the part that has changed is....Its hands down the most beautiful, spectacular, out-of-this-world place we have ever been to. There are views for days, the wildlife is actually super cool and it's an amazing feeling being in a place so cut off from the rest of the world! If Antarctica wasn't on your list before you should be adding it right now.
How can you travel to Antarctica?!
In order to travel to Antarctica you must do so with an expedition team. There are multiple companies out there and after a lot of research we decided to book with Quark Expeditions. There team is very knowledgeable, professional and they also offer discounted pricing if you book close to your expedition date. We liked their discounted pricing because an expedition to Antarctica is definitely not cheap, from the plane tickets, to the expedition, to all the gear you need. Quark Expeditions likes to discount their expeditions the closer you get to the departure date. We booked 2 months before going and it was 40% off. There were a few people on our ship who had booked the week prior and got it for a fraction of the price we paid! So it just depends on how spontaneous you want to be. We found booking 2 months out still gave us plenty of time to prepare and we also still got the expedition cruise we wanted.
What Expedition did we do
We opted for the 11 day cross the Antarctic circle fly cruise. This basically means we flew over the Drake passage (flight provided by Quark Expeditions). Flying over the drake passage we felt was the right decision for us because it not only added 4 days on to your time in Antarctica (2 days to cross going down and 2 days to cross coming back) we also missed out on some awesome seasickness which we did not mind at all to miss. 11 days also felt like a perfect amount of time down there. Any less and we would have felt that we missed out on something. Anymore cabin fever would have set in full effect. Also crossing the Antarctic circle is not something many people can say they have done. With about 40,000 people traveling to Antarctica in a year about half of those will actaully cross the circle.
What to pack
Packing for this voyage can be a bit tricky. Since we were flying over we had a weight limit of 17kg checked bag and 5kg carry-on. This really limited us to what we could bring. At first when packing we kinda were freaking out that we wouldn't have enough stuff, however, by the end we realized we may have actaully brought too much stuff. Quark Expeditions provided a parka for you and boots so that saves a lot of space. Here is what each of us packed.
3 base layer tops (merino wool)
3 base layer bottoms (merino wool)
2 mid-layer top ( 1 fleece and 1 ultra light down jacket)
1 mid-layer bottom (fleece)
1 pair waterproof pants
2 pairs of silk socks
3 pairs of wool socks
2 pairs of waterproof gloves
2 pairs of light weight gloves
1 neck warmer
Bathing suit (polar plunge!!)
On board clothing
1 pair jeans
2-3 pairs yoga pants
1 pair non slip shoe (running shoe)
3 comfortable tops
Dry bag (we went with a dry backpack so we could put our camera backpack inside of it and it was super easy to use and carry on exertions SeaLine Dry Backpack )
Sea sickness meds! (You need all the sea sickness meds and take them the whole time!! The sea is rough down there and if you have never been seasick before guaranteed you will get seasick)
Power adaptor (Euro)
4 memory cards (at least 64GB trust me you will use them all)
3 batteries (Since it is so cold your batteries will drain very fast, we used the hand warmers to keep spare batteries warm while not using them)
GoPro hero 4
GoPro chest strap
GoPro selfie stick
Point and shoot waterproof camera
Lots of plastic bags
Silica gel packs (this helps prevent your camera from fogging up from all the moister. From going back and forth between a warm and cold environment)
How to get there
Getting to Antarctica requires you to travel to either Punta Arenas Chile, Ushuaia Argentina or Buenos Aires Argentina. This you must pay for and book yourself. Once you meet up with the expedition team and the rest of the ships passengers, Quark Expeditions takes care of the rest from there. 1 night hotel in the meeting location is also payed for as part of your package on either end of the trip.
Get it. There are so many things that can wrong from delayed/missed flights getting to the meeting point. Which means you miss the whole trip! This almost happened to us! We got delayed in Miami for 12 hours, which meant we missed our connecting flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas. We ended up arriving in Punta Arenas at 3am the day of departure instead of the day prior at 2pm. Departure time was 6am! So we got there with 3 hours to spare! Also weather can be really bad in Antarctica so you can get delayed coming back. Which also happened to us! We got stuck in Antarctica for 1 day due to bad weather and missed our flight leaving Punta Arenas which messed up all our other travel plans! It created a snowball effect. If it wasn't for travel insurance we would have been paying a lot of money out of pocket!!
The magical land of Antarctica
With all the planning and packing and traveling you have to do one might ask "is it really worth it?" Yes, yes, yes, 100% over and over yes!!! No picture, story, movie or blog post will ever do it justice. You must see and experience this magical winter wonderland first hand.