Ask Harriet: How to dress for Antarctica trip

This month, I wanted to answer a question I hear frequently from our travelers: How to prepare for upcoming trips. These inquiries are most frequently tied to regions where weather and seasonal temperatures play an important role in deciding what to pack. The following question focuses on a specific region, Antarctica—which I’m excited to announce is one of Grand Circle Cruise Line’s newest Small Ship CruiseTours for 2013—where the climate is one of the greatest factors in properly planning for your trip …

Q: How should I prepare for my Antarctica’s White Wilderness trip?


A: In celebration of the 35th anniversary of Grand Circle, I visited Antarctica for the first time in 1993 with Alan and our children—plus 20 associates from Boston and 350 travelers. Also aboard were Bradford and Barbara Washburn and Sir Edmund Hillary. All three were influential explorers and mountaineers in their own right, as well as members of Grand Circle Foundation’s Honorary Board of Directors.

With the help of our team in Antarctica, I’ve compiled a list of packing suggestions below, but I also want to share with you just a few simple tips I’ve learned over the last 30 years of traveling that apply to just about any trip you take …

1. You don’t need as much as you think you need
Always pack less than you want to. Traveling light, and not bringing a lot with you can be so freeing. And let’s face it, many of us are past the point of needing to be fashionable while we’re on the road … you can wear the same things throughout your trip. Throw on a scarf and you’ve got yourself a new outfit. If you forget something, your Program Director can usually help you find a place to buy what you need, and then you have a souvenir to take home that you can actually use!

2. Pack appropriate clothing

  • The secret is to layer your clothing. You’ll be traveling to Antarctica in January, February, November, or December—which is summer in this area of the world. Weather can be unpredictable and may change in a matter of minutes. You’ll begin your vacation in Buenos Aires, where temperatures range from 80°-100°F, and then fly to Ushuaia and onto Antarctica, where temperatures drop to between 40°-50°F. If it’s windy, the temperature can reach as low as 30°F.
  • You’ll be experiencing a real expedition, so it’s best to dress in functional and casual clothing. Make sure you pack insulated socks and underwear, a Polartec-type fleece, and comfortable clothes for the interior of the ship (which is heated, with an average temperature around 70°F). You might want to bring a slightly dressier outfit (slacks or a skirt with a nice top for women, khakis and a sport shirt for men) for the night we spend in Buenos Aires, as well as for dinners onboard.
  • If you tend to get cold easily, ski shops sell adhesive hand and foot warmers that provide heat for hours.
  • The landscape in Antarctica is very white and the glare from the sun can be intense. Be sure to bring a good pair of sunglasses and a hat with a brim or bill (you can wear it under your stocking cap).
  • Expensive jewelry is not recommended—especially in Buenos Aires, where there is a risk of being pick-pocketed.
  • Bring sun block (it should be at least SPF 45), moisturizing and sun-blocking Chapstick, and UV sunglasses.
  • Pack mosquito repellent for your time in Buenos Aires, and especially if you’re taking the optional post-trip extension to Iguassu Falls.
  • Grand Circle Cruise Line will provide parkas for this trip, which will be sent to you before you depart. Try it on to make sure it fits—and remember to pack it in your luggage.
  • Grand Circle Cruise Line will provide Wellington-style rubber boots for your use during your voyage. When you submit your medical form, you’ll be asked to provide your boot size. Once you receive your form, make sure you send it to our Boston headquarters as soon as you can. You will get these boots when you arrive in Ushuaia in a plastic bag (hold onto this bag). Try them on with the socks you’ll use for your landings in Antarctica, so you know if they’ll be comfortable or not. You are responsible for your boots (if you lose them, you'll be charged $50). After the final landing in Antarctica, you will be asked to hand in your boots in the same plastic bag in which they were originally given to you.

3. Electricity

  • Electricity is 220 volts in Argentina, so check if your electrical devices are for both 110v-220v. Otherwise, you’ll need a converter. In Argentina, a typical European two-round prong plug adapter is most frequently used, and Type I (3 prongs in a triangle) is also quite common.
  • Most hotels and your small ship will have a hair dryer available in your room/cabin.

4. One more thing...
If you haven’t seen it already, watch the movie March of the Penguins. It’s such a great movie and will really get you even more excited about going to Antarctica. Frozen Planet, which is now airing on The Discovery Channel, is excellent, too. And if you have any movie recommendations of your own, or books you enjoyed reading, please tell me about them: harriet@gct.com.

I hope these suggestions help you to better plan for your Antarctica Small Ship CruiseTour. You can also read through our Traveler Handbook, created especially for this trip. It’s always wise to expect the unexpected whenever you travel—but it never hurts to be as prepared as you can.


Letters to Harriet

One of the things I love most about our travelers is how eager they are to plan their next trips. So I wanted to let everyone know that it’s an exciting time here at Grand Circle: We just began introducing our 2013 departures dates! After reading this post left by Susan Pruitt Gaskin on our Facebook wall, I wanted to provide an update for those of you that might be ready to begin planning your 2013 travels.

When will 2013 River Cruises be available online?
—Susan Pruitt Gaskin

Susan, thanks so much for your question. I’m excited to share that 2013 departure dates are now available online for all of our Grand Circle Cruise Line vacations. Plus, I’m thrilled to let you know that we’re adding four new small ships to Grand Circle Cruise Line’s award-winning fleet in 2013. When you travel with us next year, you’ll now be able to visit the Mediterranean aboard one of our 50-passenger small ships, the M/V Artemis or M/V Athena; discover Antarctica’s icy landscapes on our privately chartered, 112-passenger Corinthian II; and learn about Panama’s most notable accomplishment—the Panama Canal—on our privately chartered, 24-passenger M/S Discovery.

If you’ve ever traveled on one of our River Cruises, you can rest assured that our small ships offer the same comforts and safety you’ve come to expect from our river ships. And, when you travel on one of our vessels, you’ll be able to pull into lesser-traveled ports, sailing alongside yachts rather than large cruise ships. After Alan and I journeyed on one of our Mediterranean small ships last year, we knew they were the ideal vessels to add to Grand Circle Cruise Line’s fleet.

I hope you’ll join us in 2013 and discover more of the world aboard one of our newest small ships. You can take a look at all of our vacations by clicking here.

Ask Harriet a question or share your thoughts with her

Do you have a question you’d like to ask me, or comments about the stories featured in Harriet’s Corner? Please email me at harriet@gct.com—and your submission could be featured in the next Harriet’s Corner update. I look forward to sharing what you have to say!