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Backpacker Magazine – March 2009

Travel Like a Pro: What to Do Before You Leave

Don't suffer through a poorly planned trip: Use our tips to choose a destination and create a to-do list to begin your adventure.

by: Berne Broudy

Travel Tip
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest days to fly.

What to Do Before You Leave | Tips for En Route | When You Get There | How to Stay Healthy | Etiquette On the Trail | For the Extreme Traveler

Trip-Planning Tools


Lonely Planet, Cicerone Press

Peak info

Local beta
Contact one of the member clubs (in more than 60 countries) on the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation's website,

Do I need a guide?
Some trips–the Inca Trail, Mt. Kilimanjaro–require guides. For others, it's up to you–outfitters can take care of logistical hassles, provide technical coaching and gear, and show you the best trails, campsites, and wildlife-watching spots.

If you decide to go guided, research options in advance at or Look for someone with internationally recognized certification (the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations is a great place to start). When hiring a local guide at your destination, make sure he or she has first-aid certification, English proficiency, and client references. Henry Beyer, program director of the American Mountain Guide Association, also suggests asking to see valid permits and equipment use records (to judge gear safety), as well as asking the guide to explain your chances of success and risk of injury on the trip or climb.

How to be a good client
"Guides want to have a good time as much as the client does," says Beyer. Help them do it, and you might find yourself on the winning end of a few perks, like side expeditions, secret campsites, and post-hike brews at locals-only bars.

  • Disclose all health concerns or limitations pre-trip. Neglecting to mention your severe vertigo can sabotage the whole group's activity plans.
  • Lay off the after-dinner tequila if your group has an early start the next day.
  • Offer to pitch in with camp chores like setting up tents, food prep, and dishes.
  • Be sensitive to differences in ability. If you'd like a bigger challenge, politely ask if you can split into two groups, add an optional side hike, or head out on your own.
  • Don't be a martyr. If you need help, ask.
  • Follow advice–your guide is a professional who likely has years of experience.


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