Travel to the Extreme

Hiker

Is an off-the-grid adventure on your bucket list this year?

From frigid Antarctica to the uninhabited islands of the Pacific—be ready when you go where most do not. Learn about your risks and prepare for a fun and safe trip with CDC Travelers’ Health.

Adventure travel has become a popular way to explore new destinations and test your physical abilities. Adventure travel includes “extreme” activities such as mountaineering, backpacking, diving, surfing, bungee jumping, rafting, zip lining, and paragliding.
Many adventure travelers also enjoy skipping the tourist-filled areas and opting for harder-to-reach locales. Some of the best travel experiences can take place in the middle of nowhere. However, traveling to a far-flung destination for adventure can require a bit more prep work than a typical vacation.

Before You Go

Adventure activities, both at home and abroad, carry some risk of injury. Remote locations can pose additional risks:

  • Limited or no access to medical care
  • Unreliable communication that can delay emergency response
  • Unexpected weather changes that can make safety more challenging and rescue efforts more difficult

Here are some healthy travel tips to know before you head off on your adventure:  

Get a healthy start.

  • Use our website to learn about health and safety concerns at your destination.
  • Make an appointment and discuss your itinerary with your health care provider to get needed shots and medicines at least a month before you leave.
    • Make sure you’re up to date on routine vaccines, such as influenza and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). Due to risk of injury, you may also want to consider a tetanus vaccine
    • Talk with your doctor or nurse about any planned adventure activities.
  • Train properly for your trip. Many adventure tours and activities can be physically demanding, so it is important to be in shape before your trip.

Prepare for the unexpected

evacuation helicopter
  • Make sure you have health insurance that will cover you in case of emergency. Consider travel health and evacuation insurance to cover any gaps in your coverage.
  • Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel. Also make sure someone at home knows how to reach you in an emergency, and carry your emergency contacts with you at all times.
  • Enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get safety updates and phone numbers you might need in an emergency at your destination.

Pack smart.

Prepare a travel health kit with items you may need, especially those that may be difficult to find on your trip, including:

  • A first aid kit
  • Any prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra, just in case) 
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen (SPF15 or higher)
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Water disinfection tablets

Consider additional equipment and supplies may be needed and may not be available in remote locations.

During Your Trip

Take your doctor’s advice. If your doctor prescribes medicine for you to prevent malaria, take the medication as directed throughout your trip and after.

  • Be careful when swimming, boating, or diving, especially in countries where emergency services may not be quickly available.
  • Avoid swimming in fresh water like lakes and rivers. Infections such as schistosomiasis and leptospirosis are spread by contact with fresh water. Talk to your doctor if freshwater adventure is in your plans.
  • Protect yourself from extreme temperatures, sun exposure, and wet weather. Adventure travel involves certain risks, such as extreme weather
    • When traveling to extremely hot or cold climates, take steps to prevent temperature-related illnesses and injuries, such as avoiding activities during the hottest part of the day in hotter climates and wearing warm clothing with several loose layers in colder climates.
    • Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. Remember that sun protection isn’t just for tropical beaches—you can get a sunburn even if it’s cloudy or cold.
    • Prevent altitude illness. If you are traveling to a high altitude, avoid altitude illness by ascending gradually. Consider getting medication from your doctor to help with altitude sickness.
    • Wear protective gear (such as a helmet or life jacket) when doing adventure activities, and follow your adventure guides’ safety instructions.
  • Prevent insect bites. Use insect repellent to protect against diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and malaria.
    • Use EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
    • Always apply sunscreen first, let it dry, and then apply insect repellent. Be sure to follow instructions on the label, and reapply both as directed.
  • Avoid animals, including pets, local farm animals, and wild animals. In addition to the risk of rabies, all animal bites carry a risk of bacterial infection.
  • Always wear seat belts and choose safe transportation. In many developing countries, there may be poor road surfaces without shoulders, unprotected curves and cliffs, and no streetlights.
  • Be careful when indulging in the local cuisine. If you’re visiting a developing country:
  • Eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot.
  • Do not eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can wash or peel them yourself.
  • Drink only bottled, sealed beverages, and avoid ice—it was likely made with tap water.
  • If you are camping, hiking, or staying in a remote area, learn how to disinfect your drinking water before you go.

After Your Trip

If you don’t feel well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Some travel-related illnesses may not cause symptoms until you get home. Tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip.

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