How To Take Kids to the Galapagos Islands
My kids, 5 and 7 declared the Galapagos Islands were “better than heaven probably” and “the best place ever.” I’ve taken them to nearly a dozen countries and have done some downright crazy things to try and relive my backpacking days post-kids. For example, traveling alone across Europe, 8 months pregnant, with a 20-month-old. I know, what was I thinking?
So relatively speaking, the Galapagos vacation was easy. I’ve never had so much fun and so little stress on a vacation. There was abundant wildlife, kid-friendly food and a full schedule to keep the kids entertained, which helped.
Here’s how we did it and what I recommend for other families.
Stay on a ship
While it is possible to book a hotel and take day trips, you’ll be able to cover a wider range of islands by boat. For families with younger kids, larger yachts that hold up to 100 passengers are a good bet. The larger ships offer more accommodation options, including connected rooms, triples and quads and special child rates. They also tend to have more kid-friendly amenities like games rooms, movie nights and small pools. Plus they have more experience with kids and tend to attract other families. Smaller yachts that hold from 12 to 20 passengers provide a more intimate experience, can go to some places the bigger ships can’t and are a good choice with teenagers and they will be a little pricier.
Plan a shorter trip
Personally, I love the 2-week adventures that allow you to experience the islands in depth. And on any Galapagos itinerary you’ll see an abudance of wildlife, including see sea lions, iguanas, sally-light foot crabs, blue-footed boobies, and others birds and sea creature. But there’s a bit of repetition from one day to the next and kids will get bored long before you will. Younger kids do best on the four-to-six day itineraries while teens and pre-teens do well on seven or eight-day trips.
Bring an activity bag
The point of Galapagos cruises is to spend a lot of time on shore seeing the wildlife. However, plan on one to four hours of travel time between the islands on most days, and downtime before and after dinner. I kept my kids engaged with an activity bag of books, travel games, and other small things they like. We also made a wildlife checklist before we left so the kids could feel like naturalists, keeping their eyes peeled for the animals, birds and sea creatures on their lists and ticking their sightings off one by one.
Give the kids their own cameras
I bought a simple camera for my 7-year-old who had already expressed an interest in photography. To my surprise, I wound up constantly lending my camera to my 5-year-old, who also wanted to take his own pics. The wildlife is so close that kids don’t have to worry about zooming in and can enthusiastically share their great shots with everyone onboard (just as the adults are doing). The best part was seeing this unique place through the eyes of a 5-year-old when we returned home; nothing better!
Plan an Ecuador extension
Most Galapagos visitors touch down in Ecuador only long enough to grab flights to and from the islands. Yet Ecuador is a fantastic place, offering a lot of diversity in a very small area. Travel times are very manageable for people with kids and per-day costs on the main land are about half of what they are in the Galapagos. Families with teens who like outdoor adventure will find opportunities to raft, zipline, bike a volcano and more. Visiting the Amazon, the highlands, and funky, laid-back Quito is manageable with younger children.
If you have kids that like wildlife, get out there and enjoy this magical place. it will be a life experience they will never forget!
When Mary Curry is not out on her own adventurous vacations she is planning them for others as a product manager for Adventure Life Travel, which focuses on low-impact tourism. She calls Montana home.