A trip to Ecuador can involve travelling from the freezing snow-capped volcanic highlands down to the humid, tropical rainforests of the Amazon jungle whilst the Galapagos Islands are relatively ambient all year round. Clothing needs to take specific activities into account – layers for hiking on Mount Cotopaxi and gear for water-based activities in the Galapagos. Check out our ultimate packing list for a successful family trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Top Ten Tips for Perfect Packing
1. Camera equipment
The Galapagos are completely unique and special so you will want to take hundreds of photos to record your time here. A good quality camera with a telephoto lens is the best option so you can capture that distant frigatebird or soaring albatross. Having a video option also allows you enjoy the amusing antics of sea lions or fighting iguanas. An underwater camera is brilliant fun for recording those intimate moments when you find yourself following a marine turtle or swimming alongside a white-tipped shark. It also means you don’t have to worry about sea spray when you want to take photos from your kayak or panga (zodiac boat).
Allowing the children to take their own photos really gets them engaged with the wildlife – there are some relatively inexpensive shock and splash-proof options out there and they will love showing off their photos on return to school. Several high capacity memory cards are essential.
2. Buoyancy wristband
A wearable buoyancy wristband is also highly recommended for the Galapagos. This is essentially a camera float (check the weight of the camera) which doubles as a wrist-strap – vital if your child (or you) are leaning out from the panga, snapping the seals beneath, in danger of dropping the camera.
3. Sealable bags
A variety of sealable bags – for both Ecuador and the Galapagos. A dry sack which doubles as a daypack can be useful (and to pack your wetsuit/swimsuit in on the last day on the Galapagos before flying back to the mainland).
Most vessels hire shorty wetsuits out for a small charge (usually around $20 for a 5 day cruise). However during cooler months (July to December) you may like to consider bringing your own if you have a long wetsuit available. Equally most vessels that accept children will have smaller sizes available but if your child is particularly small then it may be advisable to take your own. If you are on a land-based package it is worthwhile checking the availability of wetsuit hire or take your own.
5. Snorkelling equipment
Again most vessels have these for client use free of charge, including child sizes. Always double check though. The new full face masks are definitely worthwhile, although practising beforehand in a local pool is a good idea so that you can get used to the sensation.
6. Shoes and boots
Vital for hiking in the highlands of mainland Ecuador. However, for the Galapagos and lowland Ecuador a pair of trainers should suffice. Or even a good pair of hiking sandals with toe protection if you are reasonably sure-footed. The terrain is volcanic and rocky but there are no steep ascents or ankle-breaking boulder fields to clamber across so unless you are unsteady on your feet, there should be no need for hiking boots. There is also no need for wet shoes on the Galapagos as the ‘wet landings’ (those that involve taking a panga from the main ship to a beach) get you within a few feet of dry land so you only step out into a few inches of water onto soft sand below the water so there is no danger of cutting your feet on sharp rocks.
7. Self-filtering water bottle
If you are on a boat they should provide you with drinking water (and you do need to drink lots when you are on the islands due to the heat whatever the time of year). Certain vessels even give you complementary water bottles. We highly recommend the new brand of self-filtering water bottles which filter out 99.9% of bacteria (some claim you can fill them from a dirty puddle of water!) which saves on purchasing endless plastic bottles of mineral water and helps the environment too.
8. Strong sunscreen
Absolutely vital. The Galapagos and Ecuador are of course on the Equator and the sun’s rays are incredibly strong here. Check out the latest in One a Day sun creams as with children this can be useful – get the lathering of reluctant bodies over with at breakfast and no need to worry for the rest of the day. Hat (with added neck protection if possible), UV long-sleeved tops and sunglasses also useful.
9. Insect repellent
Not necessary for the Galapagos but if you are heading to the Amazon then this is a must. Preferably one with a strong Deet content (just remember to spray it on outside rather than suffocate everyone in your room).
10. Motion sickness aids
For the Galapagos, tablets (get children used to swallowing pills before the holiday) or pressure bands which work on nerve points in the wrist should allay any seasickness. Just make sure you take any pills before you get on board. Within a day or two your body will adapt naturally to any movement – remember this also works in reverse and it can take several days to get used to being back on dry land.
11. Eye drops and ear plugs
Especially for live-aboard packages. The air-conditioning can really dry eyes out so contact lens wearers should be aware of this. Ear plugs are really helpful when trying to dull out the constant bangs and bumps when a ship is on the move at night. And especially if your cabin happens to be near the anchor point…
Not necessarily just for the daily rain showers when on the mainland but also for trips to the central highlands of Santa Cruz Island which can be drizzly and damp and any early morning panga rides if the waves are a bit lively and the sea mist or ‘garua’, is present.
13. Warm layers
It can be cool in the early morning on the islands (and the air-conditioning on the ships can also be vicious!). On the mainland it is vital to have windproof and thermal layers especially when in the volcanic highlands (where a down jacket comes in handy in the evenings). Even in Quito it can get chilly as soon as the sun goes down at any time of year. A thin hat, gloves and neck gaiter are all useful for the mainland as well as some warm nightwear for those cool nights in the highlands (hot water bottles are generally provided in the haciendas).
14. A ‘quick-dry’ trek towel
Towels should be provided at all hotels and on board cruise ships (where they usually operate a two towel system – one for cabin bathrooms and one for the beach). Having a small towel to hand though can be useful and less bulky than carrying a larger one around with you when on the islands. You will need to dry your feet after a wet landing, camera lenses may need cleaning or you may just need it to mop up wet bodies if you get caught in a downpour walking around a market in Otovalo.
15. A pack of cards
There is surprisingly little spare time on a Galapagos holiday but a pack of cards will keep everyone entertained in the gaps between meals and excursions or on internal flights where there are no screens to keep youngsters happy. You can always buy a colourful pack of Galapagos cards locally – for once a souvenir that is practical too.
Unsurprisingly vital. Although you are well fed (and the local food is extremely delicious and nourishing), the cuisine may not be to everyone’s liking and having a back-up plan is always good. Also useful if anyone falls ill – familiar food is a good source of comfort at these times. The excursions on the islands can last for a good few hours and you are not supposed to take any food onto the islands. However the odd mint or toffee which can be sucked for long periods of time can take the edge of any snack whining. Also you will need to pay for any meals purchased on the internal flights to and from the Galapagos so having some snacks to hand will avoid paying over the odds for some tasteless muffin.
17. A spare bag
Ecuador and the Galapagos are packed full of souvenir shops and wonderful markets or handicraft stalls lining the streets – you will find yourself adding considerably to your luggage!
More about family travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos
For a complete guide to family travel in Ecuador and the Galapagos, check out our Ecuador and Galapagos family holidays section and our Ultimate Galapagos Guide. Also read our Top Ten things to do in the Galapagos with kids and A typical day on a Live-Aboard Galapagos Island Cruise. In addition, we have some example family Ecuador and Galapagos itineraries.
Get in touch
If you’d like to talk to Helene or any of the team about Ecuador and the Galapagos, we’d be delighted to hear from you, so please do ring on 01728 752751 or get in touch using our online form.