Dianne Muldoon is the sailing manager at our supplier Intrepid Travel, which runs sailing vacations around the world, from Greece to Myanmar. She explains what to expect from a sailing vacation:


“The idea of a vacation on a sail boat sounds quite romantic, but the reality is these are real boats and travelers will need to feel comfortable manoeuvring around a moving boat and they’ll need to be able to get in and out of a dinghy during a wet or dry landing. Most importantly, travelers will be ‘living’ in quite close quarters with their fellow travelers, sharing cabins and bathrooms, and they’ll be asked to pitch in around the boat to ensure the boat is kept shipshape. For some travelers this is not their idea of a relaxing vacation, and we are more than happy to help them find a trip which is better suited to their needs. On the flip side, many of our travelers that take to the water and sailing love it so much that they come back for more. We have some travelers who have done six or seven trips and quite a few others that have gone on to enrol in a sailing course to get their competent crew or yacht master qualifications.”


“Small cabins, and sharing cabins, berths and bathrooms is something some travelers do need to get their head around. For the most part you are only in the cabin to sleep and the rest of the time you are out on deck, in the water or exploring. As we operate most trips in the summer months or warmer climates many travelers sleep on deck so sharing a cabin isn’t as big an issue as they thought it would be. Most people are also pleasantly surprised by how quickly they bond with their fellow travelers. With an average of eight on the boat and the confined space most travelers are a little wary about how the group will get on. However I’m forever reading feedback comments like ‘I made lifelong friends’ or ‘we’re already planning our next sailing trip’. The other pleasantly surprising thing for travelers is that they realise they can do without social media or their phone for a couple of days or a week, after initially fretting on day one about how they will cope!”


“Having a flexible attitude is top priority when it comes to joining a sailing trip. Weather conditions play a big part, and if conditions change so will the itinerary. We also try to tailor a trip to the group’s wishes. Even though we have to make it to a town or port at the week’s end we can tailor certain days to the needs and wants of the travelers.”

Sailing with children

“On our scheduled departures we have a minimum age of 15. However, we do run private sailing departures for families – either they book on to a scheduled departure and we close it off to other travelers, or we organise a one-off charter for them. For these trips we cap the age at five, install safety netting around the boat and have child-sized life vests on board. Most kids love the water and the chance to snorkel over coral reefs, swim with turtles and try their hand at kayaking or paddle boarding, and when the kids are happy so are the parents!”


Annie Antonatou, from our Greece sailing vacations supplier, Mystic Blue, on getting involved: “Our guests are welcome to get involved in sailing the boat if they wish, although it’s not compulsory. Our skipper gives all guests an introduction in sailing so you can help with trimming the sails and holding the helm, but there is also opportunity for other activities such as snorkelling and diving, walking, dolphin and bird watching... or you can sit back and enjoy the sailing, sunbathe, or just relax and read your book. There is something for everyone.”


Colette Dubois co-founder of our supplier, St Hilda Sea Adventures: “It is important not to forget your waterproofs. Some people think that they can manage without, but you do need them, not because the weather is bad but because when you go in a dinghy and are close to the water, and when you put the anchor up you can get wet. They don’t have to be fancy - cheap waterproofs which cost about £10 for the trousers are fine. We always ask people to bring clean shoes, too, because people think that it is OK to have dirty shoes to work on deck, but you can’t, because you have all the working things on deck when you go sailing, such as the sails, and so it is important to keep the deck clean. And then also bring something comfortable to change into when you go inside the boat. Something to slip into rather than tie laces, particularly for young children. Crocs are fantastic.”

Health & Safety

Travel safely on a sailing vacation


  • Make sure you are up to date with routine vaccinations and if you are traveling far afield, visit your GP at least six weeks before travel to obtain any other vaccinations. The NHS website Fit for Travel gives detailed health information worldwide.
  • If you or anyone in your party has any particular health needs or allergies, always tell your sailing skipper or sailing guide.
  • Bring a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not be available at the out-of-the-way locations visited on a sailing trip. In addition, although the skipper is qualified to give CPR and emergency first aid, he is prohibited from administering any type of medication, even headache tablets and antibiotics, for legal reasons. So come prepared.
  • If you’re concerned about seasickness, bring motion sickness tablets with you. Alternative remedies that can help include ginger tea and sea bands, which are elasticated bracelets that apply pressure to points on the wrist to relieve nausea.
  • Time on the water means time in the sun. Wear a high factor sun cream while on deck, even if it doesn’t feel hot. The rays from the sun are also reflected in the water, making it easy to burn while on board, and there’s often little shade. Bringing a close-fitting cap that won’t blow away in the breeze is a good idea.
  • If you’re sailing in the warmer months, make sure you stay hydrated. You may not realise how dehydrated you’re becoming, even just lolling on deck, and you’ll certainly need to take on extra water if tackling a hike or bike ride once ashore. In warm climates, it’s preferable to walk or bike early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and consider adding rehydration powders to your water. Take water while kayaking, too, which works your body harder than you might guess. No disposable plastic bottles though, as they’re light enough to fall in if conditions get choppy.
  • Be wary of touching animals while ashore, especially wild cats and dogs, as rabies is still prevalent in many countries.


Always listen to your skipper to respect the safety of your fellow passengers and crew, as well as protecting the environment. The skipper also has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it’s deemed necessary due to safety concerns, so be prepared to be flexible.
Make sure you are properly insured for all the activities you might enjoy while sailing, even in Europe.
Take advice from the skipper when it comes to swimming off the boat and only swim when someone on deck knows you’re in the water. Midnight solo skinny dipping excursions, while everyone else is asleep and oblivious if you get into difficulties, are not recommended.
No one is going to prevent you from enjoying a drink on deck while the sun sets, but do drink responsibly. Moving around the tight confines of a boat requires a degree of concentration and agility when sober, more if under the influence of alcohol, and falling into the sea when tipsy is downright dangerous.
Always tell the skipper where you are going if you plan to explore inland or blaze your own trail once docked.
At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful sailing vacation travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your sailing vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
“Take ear plugs, your shipmates may snore! Be prepared to get involved with sailing procedures if the opportunity is there, it will increase your understanding and enjoyment of the trip. Make the most of the wildlife viewing (including plankton!). Don’t expect to lose weight, Colette produces wonderful meals and is disappointed if it doesn’t get eaten!” – Andrew Swales on our wildlife sailing vacation in Scotland

“Keep an open mind, and just enjoy the sailing, seeing new things and meeting great people. Don’t let no aircon in the rooms turn you off. It’s a trip that really worth joining.” – Jade Lam on our sailing vacation in the Mergui archipelago

“If you aren’t fit for cycling and especially some steep and long hill climbs, then take the e-bike option. All who did the trip were thrilled with the vistas but if you aren’t in shape you won't be able to tackle those hills!” – Linda Roe on a Greek island cycling and sailing vacation

“Pack lightly, there is limited space on board. Being quite agile and steady on your feet will be very advantageous when out at sea and needing to walk around the boat and climb up to the lookout platform.” – Rebecca Pagnucco on a whale and dolphin research sailing trip in the Ligurian Sea

“Be prepared for the travel agenda not to work as planned as you have to respect the skipper as to where the weather will allow you to travel to. Allow the crew to suggest where to go as all their suggestions for food were very good. You may be sharing the boat with up to 8 other people so you need to be sociable.” – Sonia Reynolds on a sailing vacation in Croatia
Photo credits: [Best suited: Petra Bensted] [Right mindset: c_ambler] [Getting stuck in: _dChris] [Review 1: Graeme Churchard] [Review 2 : Paul Wordingham] [Helpdesk: Ian Burt]
Written by Joanna Simmons
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