Galapagos Packing List
Whether you're a veteran world traveler or a first-time vacationer, getting your suitcase ready for the Galapagos Islands is an exciting moment. But don't let the flurry of pre-trip preparations land you in these tropical Islands without a properly packed bag.
Bear in mind that airlines have luggage size and weight limitations. The industry standard is one checked 50-pound bag per person, in addition to a carryon bag (such as a backpack or small suitcase) and a personal item (such as a purse or camera case). Packing in advance is important so that you make sure not to forget anything.
The first thing to think about is clothing – since you are going to one of the world's most relaxing, yet adventurous destinations, aim for comfort.
- Quick-drying shorts are ideal for most occasions on your Galapagos vacation.
- Lightweight t-shirts are another way to maximize your comfort.
- A sweater or light jacket can be comfortable at night when the temperatures get cooler, or to warm up after a full day of swimming in the chillier waters.
- A waterproof rain jacket is a smart idea if you are traveling during the wet “garua” season from late December until June.
- Long sleeve shirts or blouses will provide you the best protection against the intense equatorial sun.
- Full-length pants are important for the evenings as well. If you’re comfortable in jeans, they aren’t a bad option, but lightweight pants are generally the best.
- Athletic socks and underwear are a good investment before the trip, as hiking and island exploration tends to put the “active” in “activity.” Pack plenty of both of these in the likely event that your hotel or cruise doesn’t offer laundry services.
- Sports bras or other comfortable bras are important for the ladies.
- A bathing suit (or two!) is probably the most obvious thing to pack, so that you can take in all of the stunning underwater sites via swimming, snorkeling, and diving opportunities.
- A hat and sunglasses are smart and stylish ways to protect against the sun. There’s no reason to toast your face or burn your eyes when polarized sunglasses and a ball cap from your favorite team can make all the difference.
- Panama Hats! Did you know that Panama Hats were actually invented in Ecuador? Bringing a wide-brimmed hat like this or purchasing it early on in your trip can offer you clutch sun screening for the back of your neck (and a great souvenir of your travels).
- Strapped sandals (Teva-style) are probably the most comfortable footwear for your tropical vacation, as they will allow you to lounge on the deck of your cruise ship, wade safely into the water, or walk along the white-sand beaches. Flip-flops, however, are only really appropriate for use in your hotel or boat, for comfort.
- Walking shoes or boots will allow you to get the most out of the Islands’ many miles of trails and hiking opportunities. Any athletic shoes are good, but a pair with good ankle support or even boots is best for hiking through the variable terrain (volcanic, sandy, etc).
Once you've packed all your clothes into your suitcase, turn an eye towards a backpack or duffel bag. Either one is a good option for your carryon luggage (especially if it has wheels), but backpacks offer the advantage of doubling as your daypack for daily excursions. This is where you can keep some of the essentials:
- Travel Documents! If there is one item to quadruple check, it is your travel documents. This includes your Passport, Boarding Pass, and any reservation or booking information. Smartphone apps like “Passbook” allow you to store boarding passes and ticket information right on your phone. Passports, however still must be in hand to travel internationally. However you choose to carry these documents, just make sure that they are accessible in your pockets or carryon when you are in the airport. Otherwise, your trip will end before you even leave the country. It’s also never a bad idea to keep spare copies of your Passport in various compartments of your luggage, just in case.
- Toiletries, such as your toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorant, hygiene items, combs and brushes fit nicely into a duffel bag or nap-sack. Be careful to follow all airline regulations when packing this if you plan to carry it onto the plane with you. Razors, liquids over 3.4 ounces, and aerosols are best to pack in your checked luggage.
- *If you are packing these things in your carryon, remember TSA’s 3-1-1 guideline: 3 ounces or less of liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes per container, all in a 1-quart sized clear zip-lock bag, per every 1 passenger.
- First aid & medications are easy to overlook, but essential when traveling to new parts of the world. Aloe vera, high-SPF sunscreen, insect repellant, and hand sanitizer are all important to have in your first aid kit, for skincare, prevention and treatment. It’s also a good idea to bring standard first aid items like band-aids, antibacterial ointment, and pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Motion sickness pills or treatments are smart for those booking cruises through the Islands, as the boats are smaller catamaran-type yachts rather than giant ocean liners, which amplifies the rocking sensation of the waves.
- Cash is vital. Budget enough for your airport travel, plus $100 per person for the Galapagos National Park entrance fee. Other fees, like the $10 INGALA Tourist Control Card, and any spending money for souvenirs, food, drinks, or tips are also factors to consider.
- Debit cards are useful if you have notified your bank that you will be traveling internationally, and most major credit cards are accepted in many locations as well. There are ATMs at all Ecuadorian airports and in the Galapagos Islands, but international transaction fees for withdrawals can be steep.
Gadgets and Accessories
Accessories are the final items to think about. Once you have your clothes and personals all packed up, it's time to consider everything else that will take your trip from great to greater:
- A water bottle with a high capacity is important to stay hydrated on your trip, as you adjust to the heat.
- Alarm clocks will make sure you're never late for your cruise's continental breakfast or that first snorkeling session after your afternoon siesta.
- A quality camera to capture your experience is a must. Whether you are an avid photographer and want to bring your full DSLR camera and lens adjustments or a simple point-and-shoot, this is an awesome way to share your amazing adventures with loved ones back home. Underwater cameras can be a cool way to capture the experience too. No matter what, though, be sure to pack extra battery packs and chargers so that you don't have to worry about running out of life just as you get to the top of that 360? panoramic vista of the Islands. Also pack a few high-capacity memory cards (16-64 GB) so that you have plenty of space to store all your pictures.
- Your phone can be a good tool to have on your trip. Although it probably won't get service internationally unless you have arranged otherwise, smart phones can still connect to the Internet and give you access to most of your applications. It's also great for a quick camera, a handy alarm, or a simple Google search of the extraordinary mating habits of the Blue-footed booby.
- Laptops are not a necessary, especially if you just want to check your email or post some pictures on Facebook. That's another great reason to bring your phone along.
- A journal and reading material are great ways to unwind and reflect after an exciting day in the Islands.
- Snorkelling gear (flippers, snorkel, and mask) and diving gear (regulator, computer, full-body wetsuit) might make you feel more comfortable if these activities will comprise a major part of your itinerary. Otherwise, you can just rent them on the islands or use the set your cruise company provides, and save space in your bag.
- Binoculars can be helpful when searching the seas and skies for shyer or more distant fauna, like whales or soaring hawks.
*Packing tip: I always pack my clothes rolled up in freezer bags. This has several functions – 1) It prevents wrinkling or folding with my clothes. 2) It offers a kind of vacuum sealing to save space in my suitcase. 3) I can use the bags afterwards to store my personal items during my trip. In the Galapagos, this can be particularly useful for things like electronics (cameras, phones, etc.) that could easily get wet if not in a sealed waterproof bag.