Dear Mountain Mama, 

I’m over winter. One day the temperatures plunge to below zero and the next day is gray and rainy. I want to escape somewhere sunny and 70 degrees. A lot of my friends are headed to the southern hemisphere for some warmer outdoor play. I’d like to plan a trip of my own, but I’ve never traveled abroad. Any international travel tips?

Yours,

Dreaming of Warmer Weather

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Dear Dreaming of Warmer Weather,

The shorter days and colder temperatures can take the wind out of your sails. Booking a plane ticket to somewhere warm can break up the winter into manageable chunks of time. For a lifetime of memories, follow these three tips:

1. Research as much as possible before leaving. Daydream about destinations and try to find a place that offers your favorite outdoor recreational opportunities. If you’re a climber, pack your rope and fly to Thailand, where you can climb in the morning, snorkel in the afternoon, and eat delicious foods in the evening. If kayaking floats your boat, check out heli-kayaking in New Zealand. A helicopter will pick up you and your boat at the take-out and shuttle you into remote wilderness.

Find out if your preferred destination requires a visa in addition to a passport. Apply for your travel documents well in advance to prevent a last minute border-crossing crisis.

The internet also makes easy work of determining what outdoor gear you need to bring. Traveling with a kayak can be expensive and a pain to transport. If you’re going to a paddling destination that rents boats, consider reserving your favorite model. Check to see what, if any, supplies are impossible to buy once you arrive, and prioritize those items on your packing list.

2. Once you board the plane, let go of any expectations. The more rigid travelers are about checking off their to-do list, the less open they are to whatever experiences arise. Don’t force anything, and let the journey unfold.

For example, one of my good friends traveled to Australia, hoping to learn how to scuba dive. The strong winds made underwater visibility poor. Instead of diving in lackluster conditions, she found a captain who needed an extra hand and spent three weeks sailing for free – the perfect use of all that wind.

3.  Accept food that locals offer you. Leave your self-imposed dietary restrictions at home. Saying no to a homemade meal because you are following a gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, or low calorie diet is considered rude in many countries. Food is an invitation to connect with people on a basic and universal level. Breaking bread together symbolizes good-will.

Safe Travels!

Mountain Mama