Planning a Trip to Antarctica?
Antarctica was my 7th continent, and I researched up a storm about it. Are there flights to Antarctica? What’s the best time to go to Antarctica? Is a last-minute Antarctica cruise deal still possible? And even, can I go to Antarctica at all?
I wanted to go ahead and put my research out there to save you time if you’re also considering getting to Antarctica yourself! Keep reading to see what I’ve learned, and what company I’ve settled on and why! Bonus: A discount!
Best Way to See Antarctica
Some people don’t even know it’s possible that you could take a cruise ship down there, but it is possible! It’s not the normal cruise ship like a Carnival or Royal Caribbean, but a scrappy ship that can break through ice safely. Trust me, you want that. They referred to it as an expedition, not a cruise!
There is an increasing number of companies that offer an Antarctica tour package, but there are some things you need to keep in mind when making your decision: Passengers, inclusions, and seasickness. I had to sort through a lot of sites, and these were my main takeaways.
Legally, only 100 people can step foot on Antarctica at a time. So when you’re researching which boat to take, keep the passenger amount in mind. I saw some with over 800 passengers! You’d hardly get any “on continent” time with that many people! The G Expedition Ship had the fewest number of passengers at 134. They make sure everyone has something to do by splitting you into groups and offering boat tours as well, so everyone gets to experience Antarctica as much as possible!
When I was researching, I found an amazing deal for less than $3,000 that started in Santiago and ended in Buenos Aires. But you know what it didn’t include? Stepping on Antarctica.
It just floated by… No thanks. If I’m taking the time and money to go down, I wanna be ON Antarctica.
Camping is another exciting thing that you can do! Some companies go ahead and include it in the price, and some don’t. The tour I chose didn’t include it, but I think that’s because not everyone would want to do it. I’m sure you don’t want to pay for something you don’t use! It was optional, which I happily added on. If it’s not for you, that’s something to keep in mind because that’s a savings!
Kayaking is another activity that may or may not be included. Again, it wasn’t included in my tour, but I went ahead and added it because, again, I’m not spending the time and money to get down there and NOT do everything I can!
Some tour companies actually provide jackets that you can either borrow or have. Antarctica is cold, FYI. Not as cold in its summer as it is in the winter, but you’re going to want a jacket! That sounds expensive and who even knows if it will be the right kind! I’m glad to know one will be provided to me free of charge, and you get to keep it!
Another article of clothing that is important to keep in mind is a nice pair of boots! I’m from Atlanta, so I don’t have a lot of experience with ice. The company I picked includes boots, but you don’t get to keep them. Which is fine honestly, because I’m not sure when I’d ever wear them again lol.
Some companies have specialists who lead “lectures” on the boat, some didn’t, and some didn’t mention it at all. You’ll spend a few days on the boat going to and from Antarctica, so I think having a professional telling me about what I’m about to or what I just experienced, would be incredible. If that’s something you’re into, also make sure your company has that too.
Every tour I looked into included food and a bed, so no worries there. The biggest price differences among companies were because of beds. The cheapest I found was with 4 beds, and then for each fewer bed in the room, the price goes up. If you want some privacy, you’ll have to pay for it! The rooms are separated by gender, and it seems like the male rooms are less likely to fill up. Lucky!
Getting to Antarctica usually involves boats, but I know some people have to be wondering “Are there flights to Antarctica?” In short, yes. Generally, those trips are more expensive, but the major piece of information that dissuaded me from taking a flight was that those trips then generally go to the islands that surround Antarctica and not actually the true continent. And the common theme here is… why would I pay thousands of dollars to get *close* to the final, amazing continent? No way. I want the peninsula at least, not out-lying islands!
I have heard that the Drake Passage can be quite the experience in tummicular fortitude, and it’s best to make sure you’re prepared with some anti-nausea measures.
Best Time to Go to Antarctica?
I’m going to go ahead and link to a professional that knows Antarctica enough to talk about this since I haven’t been yet, so go here to get the full rundown from where that chart came from.
So what it really comes down to, is what’s the most important thing to you? Since I’m a teacher, I’m kinda trapped by the days that I have off since we can’t really take days off like usual, so that left me with Thanksgiving break. Looks like I can expect the largest icebergs and breeding elephant seals!
Update: I have now been, and I went at the end of Nov and early Dec. We had incredible weather, and we were even able to eat outside (see more about what it was like on my Antarctica cruise review). We didn’t see any penguin chicks, but we did see eggs and the penguins preparing to nest. We also saw quite a few whales, and of course the elephant seals.;
Sadly, I really wanted to see baby penguins and whales, but my time off wouldn’t allow it. I had a client booked for March, but she found out she wasn’t able to go camping in March, so she actually swapped to Nov with me! If you have the flexibility in your schedule, look at the times and see which one has the most of what you want to see! Of course, bearing in mind that camping isn’t an option in March.
What to See in Antarctica
Speaking of what to see… what is there? Basically, there are the wild and beautiful icebergs! I think that’s what most people think of when they think of the icy continent, but there’s actually a lot of bustling wildlife too! In the water, you can see blue whales and orcas! On land or sea, you’ll see seals and emperor penguins (and babies!). And in the air, you can see the mighty albatross! They’re known for their large wingspans, vast flying distances, and being metaphors in poems!
When to Book: Last Minute Antarctica Cruise?
I’ve long operated under the assumption that the best time to book was as a last-minute Antarctica cruise deal. I heard tales of risky travelers making their way down to Ushuaia and hoping for a bunk that hasn’t been filled for a radically reduced cost.
While that may have been true, more and more people are making the journey to the *real* land down under, so there are fewer bunk spaces. This was also not a risk that I could take because of my job. However, if you’re backpacking through South America, and you have a lot of time on your hands. It’s worth a shot! I’ll update when I return from my trip if I saw/heard any last minute Antarctica cruise deals.
But if you have a set work schedule, like me, then you might want to book ahead. Booking as far in advance as possible is the best idea because similar to Southwest Airlines, they release a few cheap spots, and the prices just go up from there.
I’d been researching cruises for almost 6 months, and all I had to show for it was frustrations.
- Went to islands off the coast of the peninsula, not the actual continent
- No landings at all; just floated by
- No kayaking or camping offered
- ONE spot for crazy cheap, and then when I asked about it, the price doubled
So Which Antarctica Tour Package Did I Choose?
Finally, I found G Adventures which is who I’ve signed up to go with. Their site is very transparent with dates and spots available. I checked often, and as soon as they released a new set of dates, I booked! I actually booked January of 2018 for a November 2019 trip. I have never booked a trip so far in advance before! I got mine for $6,300, but I did see it as low as $5,999 in March (which seems to be the cheaper month).
Why I Chose G Adventures
- Lowest confirmed price
- Could kayak and camp
- Only $1000 deposit and then pay as you go
- Jacket and boots included (keep jacket!)
- Loved G Adventures when I went to Jordan
- Small group
- Low passenger count
- Fit my schedule
- No Solo Supplement!
- Much cheaper than I’ve heard advertised other people going with (GLT went for $7-8000)
I hope you end up getting to Antarctica if that’s your dream! And I hope you found this helpful. If you would like discounts on camping or kayaking, please contact me! Not sure if an agent is right for you?
How to Pay for an Antarctica Trip
This will definitely be my most expensive undertaking (check out my Antarctica budget). When I was in Argentina, I met a woman on the way to her trip, and she told me that she’d dropped $12,000 for it. That’s *insane* to me. So, of course, I was on the hunt to do it better. I found my tour for $6,300, and I added on camping and kayaking which was getting it to about $7,650. Not much flexibility in there for flights!
Money Tip 1:
Since I had almost 2 years to save (thanks to the deposit!), I’m on a teacher’s salary, AND I want to keep traveling in the meantime… I had to come up with a plan. FOCUS GROUPS! I’m trying to totally fund my trip with focus groups, and after about a year, I’ve already made $3,000. I might not make it for the WHOLE trip (meaning the add-ons), but I think I can def get the main portion taken care of! Read to find out how to find some in your area or online!
Money Tip 2:
Flights down to Ushuaia were going to be very expensive, so since I had such a heads up, I opted to sign up for the Delta Amex Credit Card to get the sign-up bonus! It depends where you’re flying from, but for me, it’ll be about 80,000 miles to get a RT flight!
Money Tip 3:
This is my normal advice that I give all my friends. I created a budget spreadsheet, and I track all of my monthly expenses. Literally, every penny I spend goes into that spreadsheet. It’s really helpful for me to see where my money goes. I started noticing that I sure was buying a lot of soda at work!! Those kinds of revelations allow you to see where you can and should cut back.
Money Tip 4:
I use my credit cards for EVERYTHING, and I pay them off at the end of the month. It’s a great way to earn more miles and rewards! I personally have the Delta AMEX (to get the miles for this trip!) and have recently also added the Chase Sapphire Reserve card! Here’s an article about the best travel reward credit cards if you don’t already have one! Find one that’s right for you!