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Traveling to Antarctica is a once in a life-time opportunity, and one which tops the bucket lists of many travelers…including us! And, with Spectacular glacial lagoons, dramatic icebergs, vast areas of remote wilderness, breaching whales and deep-diving seals, it’s not hard to see why.

Antarctica really is the final frontier!

Almost everyone who travels to Antarctica travels on a cruise, which is a fantastic option as it combines accommodation, transport, meals and activities all in one. While camping is available in some circumstances once ashore, there is hardly any infrastructure on the continent itself, and as such cruising is best option available for accommodation purposes.

90% of cruises leave from Ushuaia, Argentina, across the Drake Passage, however some cruise companies offer departures from Australia or New Zealand, and explore the Ross Sea side of Antarctica.

For those serious about travel to the Antarctic, Lonely Planet’s Antarctica travel guide has more information.

#1 Book a Last Minute Cruise

For an average trip consisting of a 10 day cruise you should expect to pay around $5,800 US or £ 3,700.

You can, however, considerably cut down your costs by NOT booking your trip in advance.  Last minute deals are readily available for those willing to show up in Ushuaia in November/December; you may need to be flexible with dates, however can potentially save a few thousand dollars.

Antarctica. Photo CC by Andreas Kambanis.

Antarctica. Photo CC by Andreas Kambanis.

#2 Book to Step Foot on the Continent

Make sure your itinerary includes the opportunity to step foot on the Antarctic Continent, as some cruise companies won’t allow you to get off the ship.

One of the main draws of Antarctica is the phenomenal wildlife; hundreds of emperor penguins, leopard seals, exotic birdlife; wouldn’t you actually want to walk among the spectacular wildlife you’ve traveled to the edge of the earth to see?!

Read Jonny Blair’s account of what it’s like to step onto the Antarctic Peninsula.

Walk among the wildlife! Photo CC by Eli Duke.

Walk among the wildlife! Photo CC by Eli Duke.

#3 Know Which Costs Are Included

You may think you’ve found a killer deal on a cruise to Antarctica, but be sure to double check and fully research all of the trip details and associated costs.

A lot of companies will offer hugely discounted rates, however not cover inclusions such as food or optional activities like kayaking during your trip. Make sure you’re aware what is included and what’s not, and balance this against more expensive cruises which do include everything for you.

Some itineraries also include travel to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands as part of the trip (something to consider as you’re traveling all this way!), and check for optional activities like kayaking, hiking, scuba diving, helicopter rides or camping.

Kayakers in Antarctica.

Kayakers in Antarctica. Photo CC by Andreas Kambanis.

#4 Don’t Overdress

Jonny Blair of Don’t Stop Living recommends not to overdress.

The air was clean, clear and crisp. I was ridiculously over-dressed. They had told me that Antarctica would be cold so I feared the worst. I needn’t have bothered.

Two coats and two pairs of trousers and socks was extreme, but I was already dressed for the landing as we anchored off shore. I was even sweating!

Aim for quality of clothing over quantity (also remembering you have to fit everything in your bag). Make sure your jacket is windproof, waterproof and comfortable, and that it covers your lower back.

Consider which colours look better in photos (bright colors is a good way to go). And pack a hat which covers your ears.

#5 Record Your Adventure

The old saying “photos or it didn’t happen”applies here! Be sure you’re set with enough equipment to properly chronicle your adventure.

Antarctica is a once in a lifetime trip; a continent most people only ever dream of stepping foot on; so this could well be the trip which is worth the investment in good camera equipment.

For ametuer photographers, we use a point and shoot Canon PowerShot SX50. All of our photography is shot from this camera, and the photo quality is astounding.


Shooting with a Canon Powershot SX 50

GoPro HERO3+ is another fantastic camera option, and it’s underwater capability is phenomenal. GoPro shoots fantastic photographs as well as video footage.

Carry multiple memory cards and back-up batteries with you. Cold environments drain battery power at a quicker rate than in warmer climates. We summited Mt Kilimanjaro only to find the glacial environment had killed our camera battery!

You may also consider traveling with a diary to record each day’s adventure, or alternatively a voice recorder works well for those not keen on writing. Also, think about investing in a decent pair of binoculars.

About Meg Jerrard

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Featured Photo: CC Waitt Foundation


  1. Really? Last minute discounted cruises to Antarctica. Brilliant.

    • You would have never thought right!!

  2. Shame it’s only for US citizens. Could I apply if I took care of my own airfare to Punta Arenas?

    • I know! I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for global competitions as well though!

  3. Great post, Megan! I’d love to go to Antarctica! This kind of coarse landscapes have always really appealed to me :) Shame the competition is only open to US citizens.

    • The landscapes there would be unbelievable! I’ll keep my eyes out for future competitions which are open to a larger audience :)

      Hope to see you in Antarctica one day!

  4. That is a trip of a lifetime. They are even taking care of your tax issues. This is such a great contest.


    • I know! I was super impressed by that as well – finally a competition which is truly comped!!

  5. Sounds awesome! Good to know that it is best to book last minute! When I visit that is definitely what I will do :D

    • Handy little tip that not many people are aware of :)

  6. Some solid tips you have there Megan! We’ve heard all about the last-minute cruises and that will no doubt be our plan when we get to that end of the Earth. Scuba diving in Antarctica is one of our huge bucket list items! I have heard that Ushuaia is not a cheap place to hang out though, so better to go prepared expecting to spend a bit of cash before your cruise. Cheers for the great post!

    • Thanks Jazza! And in turn, I wasn’t aware that Ushuaia isn’t the cheapest spot, so we both learned something today!!

  7. Great idea to see if you can find last minute deals since Antarctica is something people usually plan way in advance. Thanks for sharing…fingers crossed on the contest!

    • Best of luck!

  8. I had no idea that last minute cruises were even an option for Antarctica – good to know! I have been wanting to go to Antarctica for a long long time – I would love to go kayaking and just to set foot on the continent – wow! Thanks for the tips – and the contest info :)

    • Best of luck with the contest – and you’re welcome on the tips! Glad they were useful :) Last minute stresses me out a bit, but sometimes you can really work it to your advantage!

  9. Wow, thanks for sharing the contest! That’s great that the lodging in Chile is an ecocamp at a national park too! Great tips!

    • It’s a pretty epic trip! I’ve been so focused on the Antarctica bit, but the Chile portion is just as fantastic! Best of luck!

  10. Traveling to Antarctica is one of the most exhilarating trips you will ever take.

    • On that we do agree! Best of luck with the competition!

  11. Can I pretend I am American? This is so cool! I can’t wait to go to Antarctica!

    • I’ll take you with me if I win. Though you have to be the one to tell Mike we’re running off to Antarctica together :P

  12. Gutted that not being from the States excludes me from entering the competition – what a fab prize! But some great tips on getting to Antarctica all the same. Love the tip about brightly coloured waterproofs looking better in photographs – I would never have thought of that. And nice to know that it *is* possible to get last-minute deals on visiting Antarctica. Thanks! :-)

    • Will be keeping my eyes & ears open for other fab comps which offer entry to everyone! Glad you took some good tips away from the article all the same – the last minute deals are a great little unknown fact about traveling here – not really something I would have thought of if not for having been told!

  13. Oh Wow this is a life long dream of mine. Wish I was closer! Cant wait to go one day!

    • I’m hoping to make it happen one day for us as well – fingers crossed for both of us!

  14. This is now officially on my BUCKET LIST !

    • Woohoo! It’s not a bad bucket list item to have :D!

  15. I would LOVE to go to Antarctica! Its been a dream of mine for years. I should just buy my ticket and make it happen!

    • YES! Book that ticket and then tell me all about it!

  16. Wow that looks amazing!!! Why can’t I be American so I can enter? I would love to go but the price tag means that it is not in my future anytime soon.

    • Maybe we can convince one of the tour operators that a group press trip is in order!

  17. Ack! I wish I could enter but I’m not from the US!!!

    • I’ll keep my eyes and ears out for comps open to all!

  18. I watched a called Encounters At The End Of The World which is set in Antarctica. Ever since then I’ve wanted to go! I have booked marked for future reference!

    • I’ll have to do a search and see if I can download that one – I love anything on Antarctica – I’m totally obsessed! So glad you enjoyed the post – hopefully the tips are useful when you plan your journey :)

      Happy travels!

  19. Great tips on something I hope to research extensively someday. I’d hate to think I’d travel all that way and not be let off the ship to go and see the penguins! That would kill me.

    Good to have reference to Jonny Blair. I know he has first hand experience of this place and loved reading about his trip.

    • Absolutely – no drive by’s for us – the whole point you would think of going is to get off the ship and experience the actual continent :)

      I also loved reading about Jonny’s experiences in Antarctica – he’s written a guest post for us on what it was like to step foot onto the continent if you feel like some extra reading :)

  20. Hi there! I’m wondering if anyone knows if it is possible to book a last minute trip to Antarctica during the off season- I’m looking to go in early September. I’m a US citizen living and working in Chile until then, so I’d like to visit before I head back to the states, but I have to be in the states by late september/early october…

    • Hey Laura – I’ve asked around and done a bit of research and unfortunately the cruises don’t start until November.

      Between April and October the cruise ships can’t reach Antarctica because the thick pack ice extends up to 600 kilometers (1,000 miles) beyond the continent. Daylight hours are also really scarce in the winter and the temps reach -50 so it’s bitterly cold.

      There are a few cruise companies who start mid October at earliest if you were able to push back your return to the US until late October though :)

    • …though if you shoot Tiana Harris an email at – she’s a travel agent and she replied to one of my questions in a forum and said she knows of some companies which go out earlier :) Hope that helps!

  21. Thanks Megan for this amazing post :)

    I get chills every time I think about Antarctica,
    it’s pulling me so strongly..

    There’s this urge inside me and has been there for as long as I can remember,

    to one day get me a polar bear like layer of fat under my furry coat, and go meet the penguins in Antarctica LOL

    I wish you the most amazing adventures,

    Love and light,

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed the post Marko :) And I hope you can manage a trip to Antarctica very soon!!

  22. It must be amazing to be able to step out on this continent! It’s on my list! Also, I will need to make sure not to over dress- I would have thought I would need to.

    • I thought that too originally! Definitely take warm clothes, though I think most people overthink it way too much and end up with too many unnecessary layers :)

      I hope you have the chance to get to Antarctica soon Mary! Thanks for stopping by :)

  23. I have traveled 3 times to Antarctica and all with expedition ships, not your typical cruise line. If you want a true experience look into them, you spend your days zodiacing ashore , hiking, walking with the penguins while the many typical cruise lines just sail by.
    Falkland & South Georgia Islands are a must if you are already down there S Georgia has the most wildlife.

    • Thanks Shawn for the great tips – expedition ships sound right up our alley as we prefer to aim for a bit more adventure than merely a drive by. Looking into actually leaving on a cruise from Australia instead of South America as it looks like there’s also a fab island south of Tasmania called Macquarie which has similar wildlife. Would be interesting to compare it to S Georgia :)

  24. These are some great tips Megan! Didn’t know about last minute cruises and deals. :) We have always booked in advance to avoid any last minute embarrassments.

    Didn’t know one is allowed so many activity thru these cruises.

    • Thanks Nisha – glad we could share our knowledge with you :) Booking a last minute cruise is definitely something which could make a prior planner a little anxious, but if you’re willing to be flexible it can save you quite a lot.

      Hope you have the chance to visit Antarctica soon!

  25. I got some really great tips from your write up, Megan! I had a great time in Antarctica a few years back, there were penguins everywhere!

    • Glad we could help Agness! We’ve just returned from Antarctica within the last few days, so many more photos and tips coming soon! So glad you enjoyed your trip too :)

  26. I just got email from Marie of FreestyleTravelAdeventures, 10 minutes ago who has been constantly giving me information on deals.


    If you have flexible travel dates and are open to different voyages and ships, then “last minute” deals can be a good choice for you.

    A little bit about how ‘Last Minute Deals’ work: we get the leftover berths from the ship operators about 10 days to 2 weeks before sailing. These depend completely on availability and the operator gives us the pricing. We can then offer these spaces to travelers on our list. Last season “Classic Antarctica” prices ranged from $4,800-7,500, depending on the part of the season and availability.

    The cheapest and most readily available deals are usually in November, then prices peak in high season for Christmas through January departures. January is the highest month of the Antarctica season, with hatching penguin chicks, long days and whales arriving, so it can be tougher to get a deal and waiting is common. Mid-February and March are excellent for whale watching and deals are usually available.

    The best plan of action, if you want to wait for a last minute deal, is to keep in touch with us and let us know your dates. We’ll add you to our “deals list” and start sending you offers as we get them. If you’re in Buenos Aires or traveling around Patagonia, and the perfect deal becomes available, we can book you in via email and then you just need to arrive to Ushuaia a day or two before. This saves you time sitting in Ushuaia waiting for a ship, which can be up to two weeks!

    You may have read that the best strategy is to come straight to Ushuaia, but today we can e-mail the same deals out to our list that we offer in Ushuaia. Thus, it’s great to keep in touch with us via e-mail a few weeks before you hope to travel.

    Your blog is really good and will help me plan my trip.

    I love Australia and past 4 years were amazing in downunder :)

    • Thanks for sharing your insight Naga, very helpful information on finding a last minute deal.

      I hope you find a great deal and have a wonderful trip!

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