How to prepare for an active vacation | AMA Travel

How to prepare for an active vacation (especially if you’re not active)

March 9, 2018

You’ve decided to do it – a month from now, you’ll be taking the trip you’ve always dreamed of: hopping a flight to Peru to hike the Inca Trail! You haven’t hiked much, but is there a better way to start?

You arrive with a day before you start the hike. It’s a little hotter than expected. And the air’s a little thin. Were your shoes always this flat? And why are there roots EVERYWHERE on the trail?

When you get home, your friends ask for pictures of Machu Picchu, but all you have to show them is shots of the sky you accidentally took after fainting and sliding back down the mountain.


Even if you like to hike regularly, a day-long trip to the Rocky Mountains can be quite different than a four-day hike in a different country, or even a guided vacation or cruise excursion. A sprain, muscle tear, dehydration, and elevation sickness can really take the magic out of the moment you’ve spent so much time (and money) to get excited about.

So if you have an active vacation coming up, here’s how you can prepare for your big adventure.



Before you get going

If you have any ongoing medical conditions, see your doctor – even before you buy the ticket. This especially goes for anyone on medication, has been sedentary for a very long time, or is over the age of 55.

Since everyone has a different body with different needs and history, only your doctor can give you the best advice for how much time you’ll need to properly prepare. And that way, you make the most of your vacation instead of suffering through it.


Six months out

Start going for a regular walk, bike ride or swim every other day. Anything that gets your heart going. When you start, you don’t need to push yourself; just go long enough that you can feel your cheeks get rosey.


Monitor how long your active for, and try to go a little longer each time. If you feel lightheaded or your joints start to hurt, stop immediately. Pushing past this point may cause you to lose several weeks of preparation due to severe body exhaustion. Better to go slow and steady.


Four months out

If you’re going somewhere that will have uneven terrain, start practicing hiking. If you’re in Edmonton, you have the advantage of being close to the River Valley, and Calgarians can enjoy all of the excellent Bow Valley trails. Of course, any trails out in the mountains will help, but what you’re looking for is something with a lot of ups and downs. The same can be said if you’re going on a long bicycle tour.

If you know you’re going to be wearing a backpack on your vacation, like a long hike, then wear a backpack with what you expect you’d be carrying in it so you aren’t surprised by some extra weight when you’re actually on your vacation.


Also, if you know you’ll be walking for long periods, this is the perfect chance to start practicing with Nordic walking poles. These are recommended for people of all ages, since they help tone your arms and take some of the stress off your knees and back. Also, they’ll help with any steepness you may encounter.




Looking for adventure? Check out our page on Adventure Vacations, from taking a self-directed tour of Ireland, searching for the Big Five game animals in South Africa, sailing around Croatia, and more!



Two months out

Now it’s time to make things just a little bit trickier: if possible, add stairs to your routine. As with the walking, take it slow to start and add more as you continue.

Also, it’s important to do some research, specifically, whether you will be at a higher elevation, and if there’s going to be a major difference in temperature – specifically, will it be much hotter than where you live.

This is because you can experience two issues from these changes: heat exhaustion and altitude sickness.

However, there are things you can do to deal with these issues in the moment:


  • Heat exhaustion – these tips are likely to be obvious, but drink plenty of fluids, wear a fabric that completely covers your legs and arms but still breathes, stay in the shade as much as you can, and if you start feeling dizzy, stop all activity and rest.

  • Altitude sickness – This can occur anywhere above 1,500 meters, and will present symptoms such as fatigue, swelling, nausea, headache, and more severe issues. This occurs because the air is thinner at higher elevations, making it so your body doesn’t have as much oxygen at its disposal as it’s used to.


  • While the best way to avoid altitude sickness is to acclimate to your surroundings before undertaking strenuous activities, this can take three to six weeks. However, there are options such as bringing along headache medications, avoiding alcohol while you are in the higher elevation, and sleeping in an altitude tent which will simulate the environment of higher elevations. However, it should be noted that some people are hardly affected by altitude sickness at all.

    If you do experience altitude sickness while at your destination, the only true cure is to descend to lower elevations. Stop what you’re doing and take a rest, as this can lead to exacerbating your symptoms.

    This is also a good time to start thinking about purchasing travel medical insurance should something happen on your trip. Our travel experts can build the perfect package to make sure you’re covered for any eventuality, and even if you need to cancel your trip before you leave.


    One month out

    Buy a good pair of walking shoes or hiking boots and start breaking them in. What’s the proper way to break in a shoe?


  • The first time you wear a shoe it starts to imprint to your foot, so after you take them home, tie them snuggly, make sure the tongue is laying flat and everything is resting as it should be. Wear them for an hour around the house and see if they pinch. If it’s bad, you may have to get different shoes.

  • Next is the blister test: go for a walk in the wild, either around the neighbourhood, around a local lake, or somewhere you can get off paved paths for an hour or two. Even if they blister, they can still be broken in further to keep this from happening, and it’s better to know when you’re home than when you’re thousands of miles away from home.

  • Then, if they’ve survived the last two tests, take them out into the wilderness to deal with rocks, streams, and sand. Then you can really see if these shoes will give you enough support, or if they’ll be your arch-nemesis.

  • One week out

    Don’t overdo it right before the big hike. Take a break, allow your body to reach peak physical condition. You don’t want to hurt yourself right before your vacation starts, and if you’ve been preparing for the suggested amount of time, taking the final week relatively lightly won’t mean that you lose any of your progress.


    The Day Of

    If you have an escort (and AMA offers lots of fantastic escorted vacations, just sayin'), ask if they are trained in any emergency medical treatment, what they’re prepared for, and how you can be of assistance in an emergency. Even if the answer is that you should stay out of the way, it's important to know.

    Warm up with a short walk.

    Stretch after your muscles are nice and loose.

    Drink a lot of fluids and keep something on hand that will refill your spent electrolytes (aka anything with salt).

    Take your time and enjoy the vacation!



    Right after

    Continue to refill your fluids. Eat something. Rest.

    A Week After

    TELL ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE YOU KNOW! And send us your pictures.




    Contact Us

    Want to know more about how to have an adventurous vacation? We are partners with numerous adventure travel companies, including G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, Goway, Boomerang, Exodus, and Exotik Tours vacations, each of whom can help you get your blood pumping. Call one of our travel agents at 1-844-771-1522 or book an appointment online, and we’ll make your next vacation a memorable one.

    About the Author
    Caleb Caswell
    Caleb Caswell is the digital copywriter for AMA Travel. When travelling, he enjoys not making plans and expanding his wardrobe. His top travel recommendation is trying Japan’s raw-chicken tataki. C’mon, live a little.