Whether it’s cruising to Antarctica, hiking the Inca Trail or summiting Everest, there are certain holidays that are more than just a vacation, they are truly trips of a lifetime. These destinations are exotic, unique and often remote, and therefore require a lot of planning.

First piece of advice, make sure that planning is happening well in advance; at least a year out. You are likely not the only person who has the Taj Mahal on their bucket list. This is especially true if it's a special event happening only once a year like the Carnival in Rio or the Pushkar Camel Fair in India. Keep in mind also that certain destinations such as the Antarctic, the Galapagos or the Inca Trail restrict the number of visitors per year. Research what paperwork may be required. Visas are the obvious one, but in cases like the Inca Trail or Everest, there could be numerous permits to be arranged.

Remember not to be overly ambitious. We Canadians counsel our overseas relatives not to combine Quebec City with Niagara Falls and the Rockies in a week and we need to think the same way. Combining, for example, Kenya with South Africa in one trip is probably biting off more than you can chew.

I highly recommend going with a tour operator and go with one that promotes small group travel. It’s a more authentic experience with fewer logistical restrictions and more attention from your tour director than if you are one of 40 in the group. Check out Canada headquartered Adventure Center – they offer 4,000 itineraries to nearly every corner of the world and promote the concept of sustainable travel. www.adventurecenter.com

When looking at itineraries, make sure there is some downtime built in. You don’t simply want a photo op and then move on. Make sure there is time for days and meals on your own as well, so you can try out that romantic little bistro for two or explore on your own.

Antarctica seems to be one place I get asked about a lot. Tours to Antarctica operate between November and March each year. The tour season is short, about four months, each offering its own highlights. November is early summer - the spring pack ice is breaking up, and birds - especially penguins - are courting and mating. December and January, when penguins are hatching eggs and feeding chicks, are the height of the austral summer, bringing warmer temperatures and up to twenty hours of sunlight every day. In the late summer month of February, whale watching is best, penguin chicks are beginning to fledge and adult penguins are ashore molting. The most affordable sailings are often offered in November. However, because the sea ice can be quite thick, passengers may not reach as far south as they would later in the year. Plus, there are no opportunities to witness baby penguins. From the towering, intricate ice formations to the abundance of wildlife, there is no experience like Antarctica. It truly epitomizes a “trip of a lifetime”. Click here for what to pack.