Choosing what to bring with you on a trip is as personal as choosing a travelling companion, and by no means do we dare propose a comprehensive packing list that works for everyone. But here are some essentials and suggestions:
For the daytime in the Galapagos, you will most likely want to be in shorts and a loose comfortable t-shirt or tank top. A wide-brimmed or long-billed hat and a pair of sunglasses are essentials for protecting face, eyes, ears and neck from the bright and scorching equatorial sun. For the evenings on some boats, particularly cruise ships, dinner can be a bit more formal, so a dress shirt or a simple sun dress might be a good idea. Most boats do not have any sort of dress code, and your daytime clothes will be fine. Consider bringing only one or two pairs of light pants to the Galapagos. They will be too warm usually, but you might want them for the plane and perhaps at night to enjoy the ocean nights. Also, bring a light sweater or sweatshirt so you won't miss magnificent nightly star-gazing.
You must pass through Quito, which is also on the Equator, but high in the mountains with a cool climate. Arriving at the airport dressed for cold weather is wise, so pack a jacket, preferrably a waterproof one that can double as a raincoat in the islands.
Without a doubt, Teva-style sandals are the most useful footwear you can bring to the island. They can be worn during dry or wet landing on the islands, protect your feet from the hot, harsh volcanic landscape and keep them cool. You might want the protection and support of tennis shoes or sneakers, but we would recommend that you bring your older broken-in pair than a new pair that will suffer the damage of saltwater, volcanic rock, and sand.
We list sunscreen as its own section because its so important. The sun hits the equator hard and can burn you before you know it. We recommend SPF 45 waterproof sunscreen, and everywhere --don't forget the tops of your feet! Strong sunburn can be a debilitating condition-- especially for those with lighter skin.
A swimsuit or two is perfect for the water --the sun will dry them quickly and they are great for lounging around on the decks. If you have your own snorkeling equipment and you feel like bringing it with you, do so by all means. Often it is better to have your own equipment with which you are comfortable and certain of it fitting than renting from the boat or a shop. However, if you do not have your own, if your boat does not supply it, or you don't want to bring yours down, it is quite possible to rent from a shop in Quito. For those that like to spend hours snorkeling and diving deep, you might consider a shorty wet suit for the deeper 18-23 degree C waters.
Of course you will bring your camera! The Galapagos is one large photo opportunity after another, and you will return with many photos that can never be repeated. For this reason, we suggest that you think about how many photos you will want to take and then bring and extra memory card. Frames will quickly fill with all the rarities, wildlife and oceanscapes you can dream of. But if you run out of memory space, getting more can be expensive or difficult. For those that have quality digital cameras, bringing a wide-angle/macro lens and a 70-210mm zoom lens is advisable. The zoom lens will let you frame animals at any variety of distances, and reduce the amount of camera equipment you lug with you to the islands. A polarizing filter helps to reduce the glare of the sunlight on the water and make the dolphins more visible as well as helping with sunset shots. And if you do not have an underwater camera (as most of us don't), Kodak, Konica, and Fujifilm all make disposible ones -- they work surprisingly well and let you take photos of the sea lion you befriend or the sharks that make you look twice. In case you want to bring video equipment, while adding more bulk, weight and worry, also means that you will be able to capture amazing moments and images. If you bring a tripod, make it a lightweight non-bulky one as you'll have to hike with it.
Some other items that you might consider bringing are binoculars (7x25 are recommended), and extra camera batteries.
The official currency on mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos is the US Dollar. It would be wise to already bring some Dollars in cash with you. You will want to have some cash on you while you are on board and in port to buy a t-shirt, a refreshing cola on deck, etc. The airports in Quito and Guayaquil, as well as the mayor hotels have money exchange facilities. There is a bank in Puerto Ayora (a typical stop on your itinerary) that can change your traveler's checks, give cash advances on most credit cards, and ATM cardholders may be able to take out money. Carry your money, credit cards and the like in a money pouch (held close to your body).
First Aid kits are provided on all boats, but may not be complete or provide for those with special needs. Always travel with all prescription medicines that you may need. Special medicines you should consider bringing along are motion sickness medication (if your sea legs don't develop quickly), and aloe-vera gel (in case you forget our advice about sunscreen), Quito is at 9,500 feet, (3,000m) and some people experience symptoms of altitude sickness which in most cases can be remedied by drinking lots of water, getting lots of rest (which can be difficult when travelling), taking aspirin, or if you experience symptoms of mild headaches, DIAMOX, a drug that increases oxygen profussion is readily available in Quito pharmacies. If you experience severe headaches or respiratory problems, consult a doctor immediately.
Whatever else you would consider bringing on board a boat trip of equatorial islands for a week. Remember that you are on an isolated boat in isolated islands 600 miles from the nearest continent. So if there is something you can't do without and don't know if you can find it there, bring it.
15 Packing Tips for stress-free travel
No matter how experienced you are with traveling, packing can be a daunting task. Whether you’re trying to fit most of your life into a carry-on to avoid fees or the liquid restriction is just a little too…well, restrictive, packing usually isn’t one of the most fun parts of a vacation. After having our luggage lost on a couple of continents, leaving countless items behind, and generally being unprepared a couple of times, we’ve put together 15 of our best packing tips to help your trip be smooth sailing.
Get the right bag – Important factors to consider when choosing a bag include weight (the lighter the better), expandability, quality of materials, and ease of carrying/mobility. No one bag is ideal every time. Depending on the destination, we usually go with a standard backpack or a lightweight roller suitcase. We generally prefer a roller but find that backpacks can be easier if we’re moving several times using public transportation or dealing with a lot of cobblestones.
Know your bag limitations – Airlines around the U.S. and around the world have different rules about bags, from the size of your carry-on to whether a personal item is allowed. So before your trip, it’s important to know size and weight restrictions as well as possible fees charged by your specific airline—both for checked bag and carry-ons.
Check the weather – Always check the weather for the week ahead and make sure to notice both the high and low temperatures as well as precipitation. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we’ve been caught off-guard before. Some places that are hot during the day can be quite cool at night, and you’ll want to be prepared.
Make a packing list – We’re planners and can’t really go anywhere without making a packing list. If you start to plan a couple of days before you leave, you’ll have time to make a complete list, buy anything you may need, and minimize the risk of leaving something important behind.
Copy your travel documents – Having copies of your boarding pass and passport (if you’re flying internationally) and the address of your accommodations can make your life a lot easier. They’re a few of the 13 essentials we recommend having in your carry-on. A hard copy boarding pass helps if you get upgraded at the gate or have a problem like a cancelled flight while a copy of your passport is critical if you need a replacement in another country. Knowing the address of where you’re headed can also be helpful, especially if you need to fill out immigration information on the plane. It also means you don’t have to worry if you don’t have immediate internet access when you land.
Dress for your destination – Making an effort to blend in with the locals can make you more comfortable and attract less attention, especially when traveling to another country. In certain places, this just means leaving your visor and fanny pack at home. In others, it might require having a light sweater or shawl to cover your shoulders or knees when visiting churches or mosques. Also consider bringing one nicer item – like a collared shirt or dress – that doesn’t take up a lot of room. You never know when an opportunity like a concert or nice dinner might present itself.
Pack with a partner – This is perhaps our best packing tip because there’s just about nothing worse than when the airlines lose your luggage. If you’re traveling with a friend or family member, consider having each person pack half their clothes in one bag and half in another. That way, if one bag gets delayed or lost, you can still begin your vacation with half your clothes. (We started doing this after Lance’s bag was delayed on the way to a cruise.
Roll, don’t fold – Whether you’re packing for a month, a week, or a weekend, rolling your clothes is the way to go. It took us years of packing to finally follow this advice, but rolled clothes do take up less space than folded ones and are less likely to wrinkle.
Use packing squares – Packing squares (sometimes called packing cubes) are small cases for separating different types of clothing or outfits, and they’re very helpful for organizing a bag of any size. Buy a variety of sizes to accommodate different clothing items and a variety of colors so that you can easily find what you’re looking for in your bag.
Throw in a plastic bag – We always travel with a regular plastic grocery bag because it can do just about anything. If you need something at the grocery store, you won’t get charged for a bag. If you have a bathing suit that’s not-quite-dry, the bag it the perfect place. If you want to separate your dirty clothes from the rest, it works for that, too. Our favorite use is wrapping up a souvenir bottle of wine.
Cover your shoes – Shower caps make perfect covers for your shoes (or, if you’re fancy, you can use shoe bags). Not only do they protect your shoes, but they help ensure your clothes don’t get dirty before your trip even starts.
Follow the 3-1-1 rule – You can fly with a quart-sized bag full of 3.4-ounce (100 milliliters) containers of liquids, gels, and creams. Make sure to only use a quart-sized bag (not gallon-sized) and separate it from your carry-on luggage when you go through security. Trying to take in too much liquid can cause issues.
Use travel container alternatives – For a short trip, you may not need all the liquid that can fit in a 3.4-ounce travel-sized container. If you can manage with less, try filling contact lens cases with the products you need and save the room.
Bring a spot treater – If you don’t have enough room after you’ve made the most of the space in your bag, throw in a Tide To Go. It will let you address any minor spills along the way to maximize the clothes you brought.
Ask yourself if you need it – Sometimes it’s best just to pack as light as possible. If an item isn’t absolutely essential, leave it at home. If it turns out you truly need it, you can almost always buy one on your trip. You’ll likely find that you didn’t really need it at all!