Getting to Antarctica was insanely frustrating.
I don't mean physically getting myself to the continent, though getting across the Drake is a challenge in itself. The very act of figuring out how to book a trip to Antarctica as a backpacker was the most stressful aspect of this trip. I started off researching my options online and was quickly in over my head.
Previous backpackers openly mocked those who spent thousands and thousands to get to Antarctica when they simply showed up in Ushuaia, booked a last minute sailing at drop bottom prices, and set sail the next day.
The problem with these blogs and forums was that they all seemed to have sailed five or more years ago. More up-to-date information was confusing, with some travelers to Argentina’s southernmost city reporting no last minute deals to be found any more or ones that didn't vary greatly in cost in what was offered online.
I went back and forth over which way to go about this for weeks.
It was the most frustrating part of my trip planning and I obsessed over it. In the end, I decided to book my trip more than a year in advance for a number of reasons: I like having a plan, I wanted to SUP (stand-up paddleboard- one of the newest things to do in Antarctica) and only one ship offered it, and I wanted to be on a reliable ship.
So how did it work out?
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How to Book a Trip to Antarctica
As a seasoned Antarctica traveler now, here's what I suggest if you want to go frolic with penguins in their natural habitat: Accept that Antarctica is going to be expensive.
I finally settled on a trip that cost me about $6,000 USD. Yikes. Definitely not in my original backpacking budget.
It's a huge chunk of change for less than two weeks of your life. But it is so incredibly worth it. I honestly would've paid double now that I've been. Part of my expense was the Antarctica activities I signed up for (camping in Antarctica and SUP, which sold out months before departure – another reason to book ahead). Booking ahead allowed me to guarantee I was doing the things I really wanted on the continent.
- For unique Antarctica voyages, check out Oceanwide Expeditions.
The days of the last-minute deals are gone. Or rather, extremely hard to find.
We had three hours to kill between arriving in Ushuaia and departing on the ship, so I walked around and checked out all the travel agents for these infamous half price last minute deals and found precisely zero of them.
With Internet deals and the increasing popularity in Antarctica tourism, the necessity of last minute deals to fill ships is quickly disappearing. The previous expedition had been canceled due to a problem with the ship, and another company outright canceled last minute with no explanation to its clients, so all of the ships were filled with passengers from that.
There were no last minute deals to be had. An agent told me they're few and far between and you could be waiting in Ushuaia four weeks to sail. My time is more valuable to me than that.
You can still save money, if you're creative.
My final invoice is not what I paid. In a move new to even me, I cyber stalked the company's Vice President until I found his direct email and asked if he would consider a discount. Surprisingly, he gave me 10% off – all just because I asked. That more than covered both of my adventure activities.
Also, be sure to look for flash sales from Antarctica expedition companies. Every year, one of the major outfitters has a huge Black Friday sale where you can save between 30-50% for your visit to Antarctica. I wasn't willing to bet on last minute for that, so I missed out.
Finally, to take a bit more of the sting out of the final cost, I signed up for two credit cards that offered a purchase eraser feature after I'd hit a certain spend threshold. I ended up using both of the $500 “erasers” to knock out a further thousand dollars from my bill.
I can honestly say that the money was well spent, and while it was almost equivalent to what one friend spent on a down payment for his house, I'm already thinking of how to save up for round two.
Those penguins in Antarctica are calling my name.
Looking to book your next trip? Check out the following services we use and love or click the previous link to read more!
- AirfareWatchdog to find a cheap plane ticket.
- AirTreks to find more obscure routes / RTW flight deals.
- StaTravel to find travel deals for those under 30.
- Booking.com to find a hotel deal.
- World Nomads to insure your trip.
- Viator for a stellar day tour.
- G Adventures for a fully guided tour.
- Or our gear list to update your equipment!