Traveling to high-altitude regions is a popular activity for adventurous travelers. Whether you are planning a trip to Colorado, hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, or skiing in Utah, it’s important to know what it takes to prepare your body for the different climates, the type of gear to carry, and what precautions to take before, during and after your trip.
This is how to effectively prepare for a high-altitude vacation:
- Check the relevant travel advisories.
- Find out which high-altitude destinations are appropriate.
- Consult your doctor before the trip.
- Start physical exercises early.
- Get a medical kit together.
- Get the right hiking equipment.
- Take antibiotics before you travel.
- Check out weather forecasts before you go.
- Book your flight or train trip early.
- Bring a backpack.
- Wear nylon socks and comfortable shoes for your trip.
- Buy Travel Insurance.
Arguably, your preparation level can be a crucial determinant of whether you will enjoy your high-altitude vacation. Read on for detailed explanations of each mentioned step and safety tips when going on this journey.
1. Check the Relevant Travel Advisories
When planning a high-altitude vacation, the first thing to do is check the travel advisories for your destination. These advisories will tell you about the dangerous locations you shouldn’t visit, such as areas with endemic diseases, and other things you need to know when traveling.
During the pandemic, you’ll also want to check which areas are experiencing higher caseloads, so that you don’t unwittingly go into an area where you could catch the virus.
2. Find Out Which High-Altitude Destinations are Appropriate
People visit high-altitude destinations for different reasons and have varying degrees of experience when it comes to exploring the area.
If you plan on going on a high-altitude vacation and have no experience at all, experts suggest you first go somewhere with a lower altitude than your destination but slightly higher than your usual residence.
And if you are planning on climbing above 14,000 ft (4,300 m), consider taking an acclimatization trek before your actual climb. This will give your body time to adjust to the lower oxygen content in the air, thereby keeping your body from getting sick or injured in case of any emergencies.
3. Consult Your Doctor Before the Trip
Before traveling to any location above 14,000 ft (4,300 m), ask for a medical checkup from your doctor. If you don’t have any illnesses or conditions that may compromise your safety and the overall well-being of your vacation, your doctor will give you a clean bill of health.
Also, when traveling during a pandemic, you’ll want to make sure that you’re vaccinated against any virus or bacterial infection that you can catch on the trip.
4. Start Physical Exercises Early
If you plan to travel to high-altitude destinations, you can physically prepare by doing physical exercises like running, walking long distances, and swimming. Additional exercises like biking and weight training sessions also prepare the body for the physical challenge ahead.
For the best results, it would help to trek at slightly higher altitudes than where you stay before going on your vacation.
These physical activities help acclimatize the body gradually. Failure to do that may cause serious health issues, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medication.
5. Get a Medical Kit Together
Before embarking on your trip, make sure that you have enough medical kits with you, such as:
- Pain killers
- Anti-inflammatory drugs for swelling or inflammation of the joints and tissues on longer hiking trips.
- Burn ointments if you tend to suffer from sunburns easily.
- Bandages for minor cuts.
- Gauze pads
- Antiseptic wipes, and other medicines like pills for nausea during flights or train rides.
If you are traveling with kids who feel sick frequently, get some prescriptions before the trip.
6. Get the Right Hiking Equipment
Proper hiking equipment is just as important before you travel to high-altitude destinations as it is to bring your medical kit. An integral part of a hiker’s gear is water bottles filled with clean drinking water that you can use along the way for refills.
If your destination has more than one day’s worth of climbing, don’t forget to apply anti-chafing balm to problem areas like the underarms and inner thighs, as this will prevent blisters in these sensitive spots.
7. Take Antibiotics Before You Travel
If you are traveling to high-altitude destinations, it will help to take antibiotics before and during your trip to prevent illnesses like acute mountain sickness and pneumonia. If not, these could lead to complications when traveling in the mountains.
Taking antibiotics will also help prevent altitude sickness during the trip, even if it’s a milder form, so don’t forget to take them with you on your trek.
Caveat: Ensure you consult a doctor before taking any of these antibiotics, as they will recommend the appropriate medication and doses.
8. Check Out Weather Forecasts Before You Go
Check out weather forecasts before you go on your high-altitude vacation. Knowing what kind of weather to expect will allow you to be better prepared for the trip.
You can also check online sources like Weather Underground and AccuWeather, which provide accurate information about the current and upcoming weather conditions in different places, including those higher than 8,000 ft (2,400 m).
9. Book Your Flight or Train Trip Early
The earlier you book your flight or train tickets, the less expensive they would cost you, especially if you’re planning early for your winter holidays.
Also, during peak travel times, such as the Christmas season, booking flights/train tickets weeks in advance is highly recommended to avoid any sudden changes in fares from airlines or train companies, or if the reservation is full.
10. Bring a Backpack
Remember to bring a backpack with you while on vacation.
Use it to pack your items such as the clothes you’ll need, medicines, and other things you will need during the trip, like toiletries. Pack all clothing in lightweight bags, so they don’t add an extra load to carry.
It’s crucial to remember that the more weight you carry when climbing mountains or trekking long distances, the more tired you’ll feel.
Therefore, it’s best to keep everything light by packing them accordingly.
Each person should wear their own backpack and carry their own stuff. If you have kids with you, give them the option to pack their things, making them feel more responsible and independent.
11. Wear Nylon Socks and Comfortable Shoes for Your Trip
Wear nylon socks with your footwear, as it will help prevent blisters, the most common injury hikers suffer from while on the trail. Also, wear the right shoes that are comfortable, lightweight, and durable enough to protect your feet as well as provide gripping power when climbing hills or even mountains.
Here’s a Youtube video you’d find helpful before going on a high-altitude backpacking trip:
Safety Tips When Going on Vacation in High-Altitude Areas
High-altitude destinations are not only places of breathtaking beauty but also places where you have to be prepared for any situation.
In that regard, let’s now talk about some helpful safety tips when going on vacation in these areas.
Keep an Eye on Your Team Members
Always keep an eye on your team members if you are going with a group for the trip. It’s vital that everyone knows what they should do in case of emergencies when out hiking or trekking.
One thing to learn is how to communicate when separated from team members. You might note that some places have limited phone reception, and even worse, there may not be any at all. Because of that, it would be best to have whistles and flashlights with you.
If you’re traveling solo, let your family and friends know about your travel plans just in case something happens while you’re away.
Don’t forget to follow up with them during the trip too.
Bring Hydration Packs
Make sure to bring hydration packs with you so you can stay hydrated and healthy. In this case, I recommend this strong, durable, 3-liter (0.79 gals) CamelBak Ambush Hydration Pack from Amazon.com.
Keep in mind that an adult should drink about 0.26 gallons ( 1 liter) of water for each hour while on the trail.
Nonetheless, bring more water than what’s recommended because dehydration is a common occurrence when trekking for days in high-altitude areas, especially if it’s unbearably hot outside.
While on the trail, be alert and aware of your surroundings so you won’t get lost or face any danger if you accidentally wander off from your team members.
It’s highly recommended that each person in the group carries a GPS device for tracking purposes. This would come in handy in case one gets lost.
Be Prepared for Anything
Always bring with you items that will help you stay warm, safe, and healthy while hiking/trekking in high-altitude areas.
Besides the gear I mentioned earlier, don’t forget to pack the following:
- Raincoats or ponchos
- Flashlights with spare batteries
- Pocket knives
- Maps and guides
- Bug repellent
- Extra clothing
Always have a backup plan in case things get worse while on the trail or if you’re going with a group of people who are not that familiar with each other. Carry spare headlamps to make sure everyone in your team will be able to see at night.
If you have a cell phone with you, download and print off information about trails before setting off on your trip, which could also help keep track of your location while hiking.
Leave an Emergency Contact Information at Home
If traveling with a friend, leave the contact information of your vacation companion at home.
If you get lost in a wilderness area or hurt yourself while hiking, you’ll need to have someone nearby who knows where you are and what condition you’re in. They can then contact your family back home in case of any emergency.
Hike During the Day and Avoid Going Out at Night
Arguably, hiking during the day will be better than going out at night because some trails are not very well-lit or may even lack lighting. Always pack spare batteries with your flashlight just in case they run out of power while trekking late into the night.
Portable solar panels may also come in handy if you’re into camping. Try to bring at least two to charge cell phones, cameras, and GPS devices.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Don’t forget to be mindful of your surroundings while out on a hike or trek. It’s best never to travel alone, especially if you’re hiking/trekking in the wilderness.
Ensure all members of your group know each other and are familiar with the trail you’re about to take before leaving. This ensures you can watch out for each other and minimize accidents along the way.
Seek Professional Advice Before You Travel to High-Altitude Areas
If you’re planning to go on a high-altitude vacation, make sure to consult with a professional beforehand as not all high-elevation places are suitable for everyone. For instance, if you have breathing problems or heart conditions, and asthma, traveling to the Rockies may be risky for you because some trails there are very steep.
Besides, some people shouldn’t climb above 14,000 ft (4300 m) without oxygen tanks because it can cause health problems like altitude sickness when your body has difficulty adapting to lower levels of oxygen at higher altitudes.
Also, remember that many national parks don’t allow pets, so if you’re bringing a furry friend along, think again.
12. Buy Travel Insurance
When traveling anywhere with the potential for a medical emergency, it is always recommended that you purchase travel insurance. A quality insurance policy can help you get the medical care you need, including emergency evacuation and care.
Not only can it cover the exorbitant costs of healthcare in a foreign city, but can also help get the right medical care for your needs. It has literally saved lives.
To learn more about travel insurance and how to choose the right policy for your needs, see our latest article here.
You may be surprised to learn that going on a high-altitude vacation isn’t as easy as it seems, as preparing for such an excursion requires careful planning. If you’re like many people who want to go on a safari or hike the mountains of Machu Picchu, it’s crucial to remember that it’s not just the altitude you need to consider.
Many other factors, like weather and physical fitness levels, can make your trip more challenging than anticipated. If you follow these 11 steps, then your high-altitude vacation will be an unforgettable experience.
- Travel State: Travel Advisories
- ScienceDirect: Acclimatization
- PubMed: Medication and Dosage Considerations in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of High-Altitude Illness
- AccuWeather: Local, National, and Global Daily Weather Forecast
- Weather Underground: Local Weather Forecast, News, and Conditions
- University of Utah: You Might Not Be Drinking Enough Water When You Hike
- How Travel Insurance Saved My Life