Ashton's Tips for Galapagos Family Travel
Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are an incredible destination for families to come together and discover an amazing natural wonderland that captivates the mind and the spirit. Here, where the extraordinary wildlife reigns supreme and up-close encounters are an everyday event, children can discover, explore, and gain an appreciation for nature. Recently, ET’s President Ashton Palmer, wife, and four children experienced the wonders of these 'Enchanted Islands,’ swimming with sea lions, coming face to face with a 150-year-old giant tortoise, and walking in Darwin's footsteps amongst frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.
1. In your opinion, why are the Galapagos Islands an ideal destination for families, especially for young children?
The Galapagos are great for all ages, however on my recent visit I realized just how perfect the destination is for young children. Ecuador and the Galapagos are easy to travel to, accessible for all physical abilities and offer some of the most up-close wildlife encounters anywhere on our planet. Most young children love animals, so it’s hard to go wrong honestly. In addition, traveling aboard an expedition ship and having a daily routine of visiting different islands works very well for a family and actually can be much easier than traveling by car from place to place. The landing sites are easy to access and the animals are right at your feet as soon as you step ashore. Not only is the wildlife close-by (no need for binoculars), but the wildlife have no fear either. Children can be wiggly…but so can the blue-footed boobies, so the environment is perfect for introducing children to the natural world. Add the enthusiasm and knowledge of the accompanying naturalist guides, many of whom have children themselves, and you have a perfect travel experience. Each day there are activities such as swimming, hiking and playing on the beach – with the baby sea lions of course, and back on the ship you have most of the comforts of home.
2. What were some of your favorite moments during the trip?
Swimming with sea lions, seeing the children’s excitement as they explored, discovered and learned about the environment they were visiting; sharing in their enthusiasm for the animals, cooling off in the surf after our hikes, and hearing them sleep soundly each night after each full day of exploration.
3. What are your “Top 10 Tips” for traveling with kids to the Galapagos?
1. Come prepared with games, workbooks, electronics, and things to do during downtime between islands.
2. Prepare your kids ahead of time by setting their expectations which makes for easier transitions into new environments.
3. Bring a few snacks or treats from home. A few familiar items become real treats when traveling in a new place.
4. Protect them from the sun. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and rash guards are a must.
5. Consider bringing a snorkel and mask from home that your child is used to and practice in the local pool at home if they are not experienced.
6. Give your kids cameras to take their own photos. We bought the waterproof disposable kind, which were great.
7. Coordinate with their teachers so they can share the experience with their classmates after the trip. They can share their travels by writing a journal, etc.
8. Be sensitive to their stamina when scheduling travel days and allow for recovery time from long flights.
9. Make them carry their own backpack with their toys and books and limit what they bring.
10. Take lots of pictures and video because you will be having the trip of a lifetime.
4. How do you think this trip has and will impact your children?
Time will tell, however, I hope that by introducing them to travel at a young age they will have a broader awareness of our planet, and a greater appreciation of where they live and what they have.
5. What’s next? Where would you like to take the family next and why?
I would really like to take them to see the gray whales in Baja, to Africa on safari, and to Antarctica, of course. All of these destinations offer the most amazing wildlife encounters and are truly life-changing adventures.
Learn more about this amazing trip in Ashton's travel journal and photo slideshow.