London - Travel expert Debbie Suenson-Taylor takes us through the ideal steps to create and prepare for an activity holiday.
Fitness and skill level
It's vital to assess what level of fitness or skill is involved before you commit to any activity holiday, and this is the first question I ask my clients. If they're keen walkers then deciding to climb Kilimanjaro may be the perfect challenge for them but if they do zero physical activity and suddenly decide that this is the challenge for this year we need to be realistic. If they're a regular dog walker with decent fitness they may be able to build up their fitness level in a period of six months, so it's important to assess how long you have to train or gain a skill.
Likewise, almost anyone can gain a scuba diving qualification in a matter of a few weeks if they put their mind to it, but amassing the experience and stamina to then sign up for a serious 14 day diving holiday is another matter.
Be honest when you look at your fitness/skill level. Most organisations provide a sliding scale of levels for the level of difficulty: from 0 requiring little fitness to three being fairly fit and four and five being quite demanding.
Look at the group as a whole
Who is going and what are their own levels of fitness and skill? Is the intention that youall stay together (and so have to cater for the fitness levels of the weakest person in the group) or will you split up to be able to accommodate different abilities? It's important to ensure that everyone has enough challenge, support and company to enjoy the activity side of a group holiday, and absolutely vital if there are children or elderly people involved.
Build in contingency plans
Things go wrong. People get injured, come down sick or just get bored with doing the same thing day in, day out. In the process of designing an activity break, I have to make sure there is a bail out opportunity at every stage, whether that's a car or other vehicle available, or just the opportunity to sit out in comfort for some relaxation, sightseeing or other things to do.
On a recent trip to Everest North Col, in Tibet, we started with six people but in the end only three of us made it there. Our guide did a wonderful job in making sure those that were unable to continue were looked after, while those that were able to go ahead were not held back.
What support is available? And how much does it cost?
If you're hankering after a diving holiday but need to get qualified, you will have to add the fees for your training on to the full cost of your holiday. Likewise, the same goes for lesson in language, sailing, skiing or any other skills. That said, don't let these costs put you off: most training and courses are an investment in your own development as well as preparing for your adventure.
If you're doing your activity through an established charity, they will often have access to a house training and support so do take full advantage of this.
Increasingly, the cost of flights tends to go up the closer you get to your departure time, so booking well ahead makes financial sense, as does avoiding school holidays if you don't have children in your party. In fact, come spring time I often find that flight can increase from a not insubstantial 30 percent of the budget to over 50 percent in some cases. Also, be aware that children tend to be charged adult fares once they've hit 12: something which often takes clients by surprise.
If you're saving for a holiday it's easy to get thrown off course. Having a visual representation of your goal will help. I recently suggested that a couple who are planning an around the world trip in 2017 put up a map where they can see it - placing pins in all the places they want to go. This means they not only have visual reminders to gather information on those places, but it will also keep them motivated and excited.
Something else to remember is that with an consultancy like Travel Producer you usually only pay a deposit initially, so you can save and keep the excitement going, but still know that you've got the trip you want at a price you want.
* Debbie Suenson-Taylor is from travel site www.travelproducer.co.uk.