Polar operations enjoy a limited season and extreme popularity. This means you should plan ahead and reserve a journey at least nine months in advance.
Expeditions to polar regions are diverse in style and cost. The cost is usually affected by the duration of the expedition, the passenger numbers and the activities included. You might find flights to the embarkation point for some journeys rather costly.
Time of Year
The location or activity you choose might be dictated by the seasons. In some places winter is the best time to visit, as it is far safer to travel on firm ice. In other places you will have to wait until summer for the pack ice to recede. In a lot of polar areas winter can last up to 10 months although global warming means this has been reduced.
The polar regions are so vast that only a small portion of them can be explored during a two-week period. The further you go takes considerably more time, although shorter trips are possible to visit outlying islands or polar seas.
Once you are on a voyage or expedition you can’t upgrade or change the itinerary if you’ve selected badly, so invest wisely. Choose an expedition operated by a reputable company and ships purpose-built for polar waters. Try to look for tours that take limited numbers of people or are accompanied by naturalists who can explain the wildlife and natural phenomena.
Safety and Equipment
Even a sunny, calm day in these environments can change to extreme cold, blinding snow and high winds in just minutes. Whether you are trekking, snowshoeing, skiing or dog sledding always have emergency survival gear like food, clothing, matches and a tent or bivouac bag. Always take snowshoes and skis for longer trips and pack a map and compass as it’s amazing how disoriented you become in the snow. Let someone know where you are going to ensure quicker rescue should you become lost.
Other dangers include avalanches, particularly in steep mountainous areas. Check with rangers or guides for current conditions and areas to avoid. Similarly be wary of weak snow bridges along streams and rivers and thin ice. Put your clothing and food in a waterproof bag in case you have an unexpected icy plunge.
If you encounter any wildlife give them the right of way or make plenty of noise so you don’t surprise them. Moose, bears and animals with young are best avoided. If you have dogs do not allow them off the leash. They wreak havoc with other dog sleds and harass the wildlife.
During the winter months there can be very limited daylight. Check the sunrise and sunset times before setting out. High mountains will also block the sun until early/late. On the other hand the midnight sun in summer provides endless hours for exploration.
Usually age is not a determining factor if you are in good physical condition. Children can usually be catered for, although there may be a minimum age for some activities such as driving your own dog sled.