How to Plan The Perfect Adventure Trip For Newbies

Hiking Atacama Desert in Chile

If you haven’t climbed a volcano, swum with sharks, trekked an ancient site or skied in remote canyons, you truly haven’t experienced adventure travel, so we put together an adventure travel starter kit to get you started (and excited)! If it’s your first time, here’s how to plan the perfect adventure trip for beginners and newbies.

Adventure travel takes us to the farthest corners of the globe to experience nature at its finest, fulfill personal quests and, more than ever, inspire us to be better humans. How’s that for wanting to get going?

Ritz Carlton Reserve, Puerto Rico

Adventure travel has become such a large niche in travel, it’s now a $683 billion industry, according to U.S.-based Adventure Travel Trade Association, which states that adventure travel may be any tourist activity that includes “physical activity, a cultural exchange and connection with nature.”

From casual jaunts to extreme expeditions, adventure travel is worth every mile slogged. I’ve gone to some amazing, adventurous places around the world as you’ll see in some of the images I posted (and I’m more of a “lounge by the hotel pool” kinda guy haha).

Surfing in Big Island Hawaii.

If you’re anything like me, you may be intimated at first, but I promise you’ll find a lot of joy and self-realization on adventure travels. So round up your squad for a life-changing journey that has your name all over it with our adventure travel starter kit.

To make things easier for you, here’s how to plan your first adventure trip if you’re at it for the first time. I answer four common questions first-time adventure seekers typically have regarding adventure travel. This should help you identify what kind of trip you want to take, and ultimately, inspire you to book your ticket to an exciting destination!

First thing’s first: Get a reliable, durable backpack that will be your best friend on your journey. We love Teton, and Amazon has amazing options, from colors to price range. This one here is our favorite, but click here to check out what fits you best.

How do I know adventure travel is safe? 

Climbing Machu Picchu.

Unlike other vacations—like knocking back tropical cocktails on a beach or exploring cosmopolitan cities with a map—adventure travel is all about taking risks and getting outside your comfort zone.

It requires physical exertion, a sound mind, and often, specialized skills (like mountain climbing and trekking, deep-sea diving, heli-skiing, mountain biking, etc), although you can almost always choose your skill level. That’s the beauty of adventure travel.

Furthermore, what makes adventure travel exciting is that you can go mild or wild, safe or extreme, though it’s always up to you on how much or little adventure you want. Provided you listen to your guides (if applicable), pay attention to the rules and are physically able to perform activities, the journey will be safe for you as it has been for other travelers. 

How much should I spend? 

Trekking in Utah.

Budget is always a factor to consider when you’re planning an adventure travel trip. Remember, the “adventure” isn’t just the physical activity but also immersing in foreign, natural environments; experiencing distant cultures; and meeting other like-minded adventurists from across the globe.

In general, intrepid travelers prefer more exotic locations. The further you go (like Machu Picchu, Mount Everest and Uganda), you’ll spend more time there, which means your budget will increase.

We do have to mention that Tripadvisor does have some of the best rates now, whether hotels or flights. Check it out and start planning!


Adventure travel isn’t cheap. In a study conducted by Travel Leaders Group and ATTA, 30 percent of tour operators and travel agencies surveyed said adventure travelers are spending $2000-3000 per person on average; another 33 percent cited an average spend of between $3000-5000 per person; and 22.5 percent said travelers are spending $5000-plus per person on average.

One thing to keep in mind: the less challenging the experience, the more affordable it is. For instance, paragliding, kayaking, zip-lining and short hikes in US national parks will be substantially cheaper. Many hotels and resorts also offer packages that include accommodations, food, excursions, guides and transportation, which can help you save hundreds. 

What should I pack? 

Always pack according to the destination you’ll be exploring, and don’t second guess yourself. If you’re traveling to cold-weather places for skiing, you will need those long johns and gloves. Don’t assume you can buy something in a far-flung destination, so always come prepared for extreme weather.

If you’re trekking for days, you’ll want to pack light as you’ll be schlepping your belongings (in many cases, you may be appointed a helping hand like a sherpa). You always want to bring useful items like prescription medicine and even preventative medicines like Cold Calm (which prevents you from getting sick at the first sign of a cold).

Hiking solo in Sedona, Arizona.

We also suggest strong sunscreen for hot climates (SPF 30 or higher) and even heavy-duty protective moisturizers for cold climates (we recommend Innovative Skincare SHEALD Recovery Balm). Lip balm is important to prevent chapped lips, and sunglasses are never a bad idea. It’s also important to pack accessories like an external cell phone charger, an empty duffle bag and antiseptic wipes.

Depending on the trip you take, many adventure travel operators will provide other essentials like first-aid kits, bug spray, water bottles and more (always check first). There can be instances when your cell phone is misplaced or the battery runs out, so it’s important to wear a wristwatch to keep time.

Where should I go? 

Hiking Cathedral Rock in Sedona.

That’s the million-dollar question.

There’s no shortage of life-changing, adventure travel trips across the planet, and half the fun is stepping outside your comfort zone.

We suggest you stick to your interests. Have you ever wanted to scale a mountain in Asia? Hike ancient attractions in Peru? Jump out of planes in Spain? Hike and river raft Yellowstone National Park? Kayak through glaciers in Patagonia, Chile? Trek the jungles of the Amazon? Bike scenic valleys in France? Ride a camel through Mongolia?

Decide what destination calls you to most, then see all the outdoor adventures make the most sense. Also, you don’t want to be miserable on whatever trip you book (if you’re not a cold-weather person, don’t go trekking the North Pole!) and visit forums, ask other adventure enthusiasts and spend time researching to see if the trip is right for you. 

Classic trips to get you inspired

To help get you started, we rounded up classic trips that almost any faithful adventure traveler has likely taken.

These trips aren’t for amateurs, but they’re also not too extreme, hitting a sweet spot in between. 

Exotic adventures in Galapagos 


The beauty of Galapagos is that every day there’s a different adventure. Most travelers spend their entire time there on a cruise but it’s all about eco-friendly exploration.

A typical trip includes hiking terrain with few human footprints, kayaking the sea, cycling, scuba diving and immersing in a unique ecosystem that takes travelers through hundreds of unique wildlife species and reliving the history of evolution.

With the new Pikaia Lodge, the destination’s first and only luxury resort, travelers can spend days hiking, cycling and more (they even provide a private yacht for less crowded sea adventures). 

Viator offers amazing deals in Galapagos.

Hiking in Machu Pichu, Peru

Climbing Machu Picchu.

The sacred, 15th-century attraction of Machu Picchu is one of the most famous adventure travel destinations in the world. Adventure travelers trek through the Sacred Valley of the Incas (the famed Inca trail), which explores well preserved ruins, the town of Cusco, markets salt mines and the centuries-old culture of the region.  

Viator offers amazing deals on treks.

Skiing in Whistler, Canada

Skiing in Whistler, Canada.

Whistler is considered one of the premier destinations on the globe for skiing, with a solid infrastructure and great powder. Whistler Blackcomb is rated as one of the top ski resorts in North America. It’s the perfect place to shred snow, whether skiing, snowboarding or sled. Novice skiers can take the adventure to the next level with heli-skiing, where helicopters will drop adventurers to remote mountains for primetime, intense ski adventures. 

The tourism board of Whistler Blackcomb provides excellent information on skiing in Whistler as well as ski packages that include hotels, instructors and more. Of course we had to include them in our adventure travel starter kit. 

Whistler Heli-skiing is the best resource for the recreation, providing information on areas, guides and packages. 

Viator offers amazing deals in Whistler.

Scuba diving in Thailand 

Long boat in Thailand.

A trip to Thailand in Southeast Asia is an adventure in itself. There are thriving markets, ancient temples, lush jungles and sublime islands. And while the beaches are perfect for casual affairs, the sea beckons with top-notch diving. Thailand is home to vibrant marine life, rock walls and underwater attractions, and dive sites sprawl across the Andaman Sea. Diving here is also notoriously cheap for both beginners and seasoned divers alike. 

Get set up with Aussie Divers Phuket, a reputable dive company that offers PADI Courses (three to four days) and ventures out to some of the best spots, including Anemone Reef and Koh Dok Mai. 

For amazing deals in Thailand, head to Viator.

Rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park in California (outside Palm Springs) is one of the best rock climbing destinations for beginners and advanced climbers alike. There are more than 8,000 climbs throughout the famous rock formations. Best of all, it’s open virtually year-round (many other rock climbing destinations close due to snow and cold over the winter). 

Plenty of rock-climbing outfitters serve Joshua Tree National Park, though Stone Adventures offers private-rock climbing and full-day sessions. 

Rock out to amazing deals in Joshua Tree!

Have any great adventure travel tips? Let us know what you would recommend in how to plan the perfect adventure trip for newbies in comments below.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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