Have you ever looked at your geocaching statistics on the Geocaching.com website, found yourself clicking on the maps tab and feeling disappointed in the number of places you’ve cached in the world? Or you have you got an upcoming holiday and are wondering whether there are any caches you could do whilst on vacation?
Either way, geocaching abroad is both an exciting and terrifying prospect. So if you are thinking you might indulge this summer, before you grab your GPS, suntan lotion and sombrero, consider these handy tips.
Unless you are vacationing specifically to geocache it’s likely that those travelling with you will want to do things other than hunt for Tupperware. Set clear and reasonable goals for yourself about what you want to achieve whilst away, whether that be a single cache in a country or one in each state or county you pass through. Travelling companions might not want to break off from their holiday every 5 minutes to find a geocache. Either set a specific day during the holiday to geocache or a time (such as before breakfast). Be sure to communicate and agree the plan in advance to avoid arguments and tensions.
Also be sure to give yourself time to look. Geocaching whilst under pressure to “hurry up” or whilst having someone look over your shoulder can make it an unpleasant experience. If you can, try and research the caches you intend to do beforehand. Different countries have slightly different ideas on hides that can throw a visitor. They can even have different ideas on terrain and difficulty rating, meaning what you thought was a simple find actually turns out to be a little more tricky. Studying the photos posted to a cache’s logs might seem like slight spoilers but it will help you get an idea of what to expect.
Be sure to think about maps. Depending on your GPS and the package that came with it, it’s possible that you might not have any maps for the country you are visiting. And it’s possible that even if you do have maps that they may not be detailed enough or even routable to guide you by road to a geocache location. There are a number of different solutions to this problem dependent on your GPS but be sure to investigate this early on as some of the purchasable maps for GPS devices are not immediately in stock.
And whilst thinking about your GPS, consider how you are going to power it whilst away. Will one set of batteries suffice or will you buy disposable batteries whilst away? If you intend to recharge the device, be sure to remember to pack the charger and any power converters needed for different shaped electricity sockets. You might decide to just use your phone instead of a dedicated device but be sure to check your provider’s calling plans. International data tends to be extortionately expensive and it’s very easy to rack up a very, very hefty bill. If you are limited to your phone, consider purchasing a non-contract sim whilst abroad. Check that your cell phone is not locked to your provider before you travel though!
Do you intend to log your caches whilst away? If you intend to, you’ll need to remember a laptop and USB cable. Most hotels offer complimentary WiFi these days but the last thing you want is to find out that Pocket Query you were preparing to download the night before your big geocaching day is going to set you back thirty bucks. In reality, unless you intend to move a lot of trackables whilst on vacation, most logging can wait until you get back. I’m sure there are those who get irritable about people not logging right away, but given you are on vacation most reasonable cache owners will understand if you don’t get round to logging for a few weeks.
Always have a backup plan. Whilst you can’t prepare for every eventuality, you don’t want your caching potentially halted because you didn’t do something as simple as pre-loading an older Pocket Query for the area you intend to cache ahead of time.
Remember that nature is unforgiving and another country may have hazards you don’t encounter in your own. Try to be aware of any potential venomous creatures, such as snakes and spiders, and sensible precautions you can take against your geocaching vacation being cut suddenly and very definitely short. Also consider the environment. Roads may not be as maintained as you are used to back home. In some parts of the world, the weather itself can be a hazard. Ensure you know how to stay safe and what measures you need to take should extreme weather occur.
If this all seems like a mountain of preparation and you don’t have a clue where to start, I would advise checking to see if there is a local geocachers association. You can sometimes find these by looking at the area you intend to geocache and looking at any events planned. If they are not organised by the local association, the description page will often have details. Failing that, sending a message to one of the more prolific geocachers in the area may point you in the right direction. Most geocachers associations and groups have a social media presence these days. They are fantastic sources of advice as to which caches to do and things to be aware of. Who knows, if you intend to attempt a series of caches you may find yourself a new caching partner.
Whilst it can be a lot of work to geocache abroad, it can be a lot of fun as well. Not only whilst on vacation but also in the preparation leading up to the event.