Heading off on your first active holiday can be slightly daunting. What if I can’t do it when I get there? What if the weather turns bad? What if I get lost and don’t speak the language? Well, it is pretty easy to put ‘what if?’ to the back of your mind, get prepared in advance and squeeze every jot of joy out of your active holiday. To help you get prepared and banish any pre-holiday worries, Fraser McRae, Destination Specialist at walking and cycling holiday provider Macs Adventure, shares his 5 IDEAL tips for preparing for your first active break.
KNOW THE TRIP IS THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOUR
Active travel is by far the best way to see the world, to get you completely immersed in any particular area, but before you go, you have to ensure that the specific trip is the right one for you, your skills and your level of fitness.
Deciding that you want to go on a walking holiday and that you love France does not mean that you should go and walk the Tour du Mont Blanc. For a first timer, this might just break you, so it is essential that you take in exactly what is expected of you on a daily basis and decide if your body can cope with that.
Don’t be over-cautious though! An active holiday should challenge you, and you will definitely feel the benefit of pushing your body a little harder, just don’t overdo it!
GET FIT FOR IT
This ties nicely into number one. Even if you have chosen the perfect trip for you, it is imperative that you get yourself in decent shape for it. There is nothing worse than being halfway through a day’s cycle and feeling that your quadriceps are going to explode and that you can’t go on.
Working on your general fitness is important, but building up your training to mimic what you can expect on your holiday is a great way to ensure you can focus more on enjoying your trip and less on ‘I need a seat, I am done in!’ If you are taking a walking holiday with average distances of 15 miles per day, make sure you can walk a couple of 15-mile days in a row before you head out.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT KIT
The thought that you are going to go on a pilgrimage across Spain instantly makes you think of sunshine. Add to this the fact that your trip is active; you might think, shorts, t-shirt, walking sandals; sorted. I have been there, only to be at the top of a mountain, in two feet of snow, freezing cold.
Getting the right information about where you are going, and a good packing list is essential. This also helps with not overpacking, which is the other end of the scale. Figuring out exactly what you need and packing only that makes your active holiday that more comfortable and enjoyable.There are always things that don’t immediately spring to mind when heading to a particular location, like taking sunscreen to Scotland, but it does occasionally get blisteringly hot, and you don’t want to be caught out and ruin the rest of your week.
GET TO KNOW THE AREA
While it is always lovely to get a surprise, it is a great idea to do some research before heading on your active holiday. Knowing the area and knowing at least a bit about what to expect is a fundamental way to stay safe and be able to overcome any incidents you may have on the trip.
If you don’t want to see what it looks like, then guidebooks are the way to go. They will tell you all about the area in rich detail, without showing you exactly what you are letting yourself in for. The next level up is blogs and online guides. These give a great personal side to the area you are going to travel in and let you see a bit more, get to understand the region. Then, for the full experience, YouTube is the place to go. There are thousands of YouTube videos for every subject, so you will be able to see people participating in the exact holiday that you are going to take, watch their trials and celebrate their victories.
THROW YOURSELF IN
Travelling is different things to different people, but by far the most enriching travelling experiences come from when you simply immerse yourself, get into the local customs and culture and experience it all. When you are walking or cycling in a particular part of the world, you come into far more frequent contact with the locals, asking them for directions, where the nearest bar is, where is best to eat.
Taste all you can (active holidays mean you have an excuse to eat a lot!), try those local wines, speak your 15 words of Spanish as often as you can and feel the warmth in the replies you will get for trying. Holidays come too few and far between, so explore any opportunities that present themselves while you are away and you will return home having had a hugely fulfilling experience.
Bon voyage, travellers!