Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu Travel Questions

Ever since I posted my vacation recaps from my family’s trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands, I’ve received a bunch of emails with travel questions from those of you hoping to assemble a similar trip. I figured I’d do a roundup post featuring a bunch of the questions I received from you guys.

For those of you who are hoping to plan a trip to either destination (or both!) in the future, I am thrilled for you and I hope you have the most amazing time! Feel free to email me with any additional questions you may have!

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  • Did you use a travel agency to help you plan your trip?

Yes. We used Samay Adventures, an Ecuador-based travel agency to help us plan our trip. Samay Adventures is owned by Dayanna, the sister of a close family friend. (We were able to spend some time with Dayanna and her amazing family when we were in Quito, which was wonderful!) We told Samay Adventures where we wanted to go, gave them a 10-day timeline and outlined our budget and they came back with a basic itinerary that we were then able to adjust. The expertise they provided was truly invaluable. They were able to pre-select all-day or half-day tours for us to join in the various cities and we loved all of our tour guides. Samay Adventures also suggested the live-aboard option in the Galapagos Islands where we lived on a boat with 16 other people and toured around the islands. Their recommendations were fabulous!

  • What camera did you use on your trip? The pictures you posted of Machu Picchu and the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands were amazing!

Photography isn’t a big interest of mine, so I really lucked out on this trip because my sister and her boyfriend are really into photography and took tons of incredible pictures that they let me use on the blog.

Nikon D90

According to Ross, they used a Nikon D90 camera and the lenses they used were the Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 and the Nikon 70-300. (He recommends checking craigslist.com for deals on the lenses and re-selling them after a trip if you won’t use them regularly since they really hold their value.) Camera-speak makes no sense to me, but there you have it!

Nikon D90 Machu Picchu

I also took a bunch of pictures that were featured on the blog with a Canon Powershot S95 (the latest edition is the Powershot S100), my point-and-shoot camera that I absolutely love!

Canon Powershot S95

  • My husband’s family is from Quito and I’d love to hear more about what you did while you were there. Can you share a little bit about your time in Quito?

My family and I spent two nights in Quito and had a blast thanks to Dayanna and her family’s incredible hospitality. During our first night (before we left for the Galapagos), we arrived in Quito in the early evening and went on a brief city tour.

Quito

Quito Church

It drizzled during our tour, but the light rain just made the reflections of the city lights even more stunning. We were told that professionals were hired to come in and light up the city which really made Quito come alive at night. It was gorgeous!

Quito at Night

For dinner, we met up with Dayanna, her mother and sister at Pim’s, a restaurant located at the top of El Panecillo, a large hill overlooking Quito featuring the Virgen de Quito statue.

Virgen de Quito

Dinner was amazing and we ate decadent empanadas and fresh ceviche and sipped on fabulous Ecuadorian wine. It was wonderful to hear more about Quito from three women who live there and love it so much.

We spent our second night in Quito on my birthday on our way home from the Galapagos. We arrived in the evening after a long day of traveling and I was shocked when I found out that my dad and Dayanna worked together to plan a special surprise for my birthday. I was dying to try Dayanna’s mother’s cooking and could not have been more thrilled when I found out that we were heading to her mom’s house for appetizers featuring her mom’s homemade ceviche and tostadas.

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Her ceviche was, without question, the best ceviche I’ve ever had in my life. It was unbelievable!

Ceviche Ecuador

They also surprised me with a birthday cake, which I thought was so kind.

birthday cake quito

Once we were done eating, we headed out to a restaurant in downtown Quito for dinner.

Dinner in Quito

Everyone we met in Quito was so kind and passionate about Ecuador which was so wonderful. We absolutely loved our time in the city!

  • Where did you get your luggage?

My luggage was a graduation present from my grandma.

Diane Von Furstenberg Luggage

I have both a carryon size suitcase and a larger suitcase in the same color. It’s Diane von Furstenberg and my grandma got it on sale at TJMaxx back in 2007. I’ve used both suitcases on a bunch of trips and they’ve held up very well!

  • I remember you saying something about only being able to take a carryon with you on your trip. Why?

This was a self-imposed rule that my dad created that everyone agreed to adhere to in order to simplify traveling. At first I thought it was silly, but, in the end, I was really glad we all packed carryons. Since our trip included a lot of flights, bus rides and train rides, we were carrying our luggage around with us quite a bit. Not having to wait at baggage claim or worry about the luggage of six people fitting in the small trunk a shuttle van helped alleviate unnecessary obstacles that could’ve popped up. It wasn’t mandatory, but I’m glad we all agreed to minimize our luggage.

  • What did you pack to wear to Machu Picchu? I’ve heard it can be really cold and wet. Did you pack for cold weather and just luck out?

Since we were all determined to carryon for our 10-day trip, packing was rather tricky. Machu Picchu can be quite cold, so I packed a pair of thicker athletic leggings (Moving Comfort endurance tights <—I LOVE these tights and highly recommend them!) and planned to wear layers on top (a tank top, sweatshirt – or two if needed – and a Columbia rain jacket that I bought for the trip). Since we booked our trip at the very end of the wet season, we weren’t sure what kind of weather we’d get, but we lucked out. I didn’t end up needing a jacket at all and just wore a pullover for the first few hours that we were there and then wore a tank top when it started to heat up. (Tip: Wear LOTS of sun screen!!)

Machu Picchu Vacation

What to wear to Machu Picchu

  • What did you pack to bring to the Galapagos Islands?

I packed mostly athletic wear since I knew we’d be doing some hiking and exploring. I brought two pairs of gym shorts for our entire trip, three tank tops (I wish I would’ve brought one or two more since I wore them a lot), two pullover sweatshirts (again, I wish I would’ve packed another one for our time in Peru and cold travel days, though two would be fine for the Galapagos) and three sun dresses to wear over bathing suits or to dinner.

Galapagos Voyager

Dress aboard our boat was very casual. We didn’t do our hair, wear makeup or wear anything other than cover-ups/sundresses and gym clothes for most of the trip. For shoes, I packed a pair of flip flops, sneakers and sandal sneakers (see more below).

  • What shoes did you wear in the Galapagos?

The ugliest shoes known to man.

Shoes for the Galapagos Keen

We were strongly advised to buy these sneaker sandals (I’m sure there’s a more technical name for them that I don’t know) and they really did work quite well. I got a pair of Keen Turia sandals for less than half price through Hautelook. I’ve seen them on sale frequently on RueLaLa and Hautelook, so definitely check out those sites to save some money! They were great for transitioning from the dinghy to the islands for hiking. I would’ve stubbed my toe a bunch of times had I not been wearing them, so I would say they were a good purchase. Plus, everyone else on our boat was wearing them, so we all looked goofy together.

  • My fiancé and I are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands for our honeymoon and he really wants me to get scuba certified before our trip. I feel like I could see everything I’d want to see just by snorkeling and am a little nervous about running into bigger animals that might freak me out. Did you see anything that made you nervous underwater? And do you think scuba diving provided you with a better experience than the snorkeling that you did?

I’m definitely going to side with your fiancé on this one. Get scuba certified!!! Scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands was one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life. We saw white-tipped reef sharks but they completely ignored us and didn’t make me nervous at all. Our dive was organized by Scuba Iguana and they did a phenomenal job of emphasizing safety while still allowing us to see amazing wildlife.

Scuba Diving Galapagos

Question of the Morning

  • What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had on vacation?

Comments

  1. says

    Skydiving on the North Shore in Hawaii was one of the most surreal and best experiences of my life. I turned 30 this year and we went to Hawaii in January and I had all of those who came with us go skydiving as I wanted to tick it off the list before my birthday (in April).

    Glad they organised a birthday cake for you :)

    Very impressed about only taking carry on the whole trip. Not sure I could do it, or actually I would probably sneak some extra stuff into my boyfriends luggage!

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  2. says

    I had never though of going to Machu Picchu until I read your posts about it – since I’ve recently taken up hiking, it seems like it would be the perfect vacation for me and and my boyfriend.

    My most memorable vacation/abroad memory is from when I studied abroad in Mexico City. We took a day trip to a silver mining village in the mountains and then the weather turned very very bad. We were too scared to head back down the mountains on the bus in the tornado-like conditions, so we ended up staying the night in a castle in the village. While it was unexpected, it ended up being such a memorable experience – the castle was amazing!!

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    • Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers says

      Hiking the Inca Trail to Machi Picchu seems like it would be right up your alley! Ryan and I both thought the four day hike would’ve been unforgettable!

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  3. says

    Ah what a fantastic trip. All your photos have been so fun to look at and I felt like I could taste that ceviche through my computer screen. Looks soo good! Most memorable experiences on vacation- great question. probably in puerto rico my mom and i decided to do a midnight kayak trip in a bio-luminescent grove. it was amazing- even though we were in pitch darkness and we had to rely on sound and a tiny light on the kayak ahead of us to stay on course, the sparkles that lit up in the water every time the paddle went in were gorgeous and really other-worldly.

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  4. says

    After watching the video you posted the other day from your scuba diving experience I really want to get certified! That looked incredible! Thanks for the follow up post and answering so many questions!

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  5. says

    I cannot believe how beautiful your pictures from Machu Pucchu are! My dad was born and raised in Norway, so we travel to a couple different European countries as well as Hawaii a couple of times a year. But, you are giving me the biggest urge to expand our travel horizons!

    I’m just finishing my first year to college and it’s so weird to think that soon I’ll be able to make my own plans for where I’d like to travel. Machu Picchu is definitely first on my list :)

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  6. Kimberly says

    Definitely our vacation to Hawaii…specifically Kauai. We went on a catamaran cruise to view the Napali Coast, whale watching and the most incredible sunset. The views are breathtaking for sure!

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  7. Liz says

    For the last question: I went snorkeling in the Galapagos when I was there (for three weeks! it was amazing) and I saw “Galapagos” sharks a bunch (these turned out to be great white sharks but my tour guide didn’t tell me that until I was safely back on our boat). They didn’t seemed at all interested in us. As long as they don’t think you are a seal you are good. Since there is no hunting allowed there the sharks get plenty of food and don’t attack humans (or at least this is the story I was told…maybe it was just to calm my fears?).

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  8. Marci says

    I’ve loved reading about your trip! I spent two weeks in Ecuador in 2011 and had the best experience. My most memorable experience on that trip was spending a weekend in an indigenous community in Otavalo. The family we stayed with was amazing. It was also challenging, but rewarding, to learn to communicate almost entirely without language.

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  9. ali says

    My most memorable trip (and I’ve traveled a lot) was the 2-week, 7-country Contiki trip to Europe. It was absolutely crazy to try to see so much in so little time and I’d never do it again but it was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to younger people who want to see and learn a lot while going out and partying a lot.

    There was one question you didn’t answer and it was the one I was the most interested in. What underwater camera did you use? I’ve been thinking of getting one every time I travel to a place where I know I’ll go snorkeling or doing any water activities but never decided on one because of bad reviews. I’m going to Cancun in two weeks and plan on doing a LOT of water activities so I think this time I’ll finally get one! Thanks! :)

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    • Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers says

      Oh I meant to add this question to this post! I’ll edit the post when I get home! The camera that we used underwater wasn’t mine, unfortunately. It was the dive masters and I didn’t think to ask what kind it was! I really wish I would have!

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  10. Becca says

    I was strongly advised to get Keens when I went traveling in rural China for a summer. I thought they were the ugliest things ever too and was embarrassed to wear them too!! They do work well though, especially for hiking and boating, but they’ve been hanging out in a shoe box in my closet since that summer!!

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  11. Charlotte @ Weekends So Sweet says

    oooh man, those ARE the ugliest shoes known to man! hahahaaha you are hysterical

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  12. says

    Thanks for all the tips! I have traveled all over the world (not yet to the Galapagos Island though), so I’ve had a lot of memorable experiences from the scary (getting lost in flooded Venice at 10pm with no map) to the amazing (helping care for rescued elephants in Thailand) to the spectacular (living in Paris for a year right near the Eiffel Tower) – I highly recommend everyone to travel as much as they can!

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  13. says

    I think the Galapagos would be SUCH an amazing trip and I would love to take my mom as well. She is an avid outdoors-woman and a biology professor so I know she would just love all the plants, water and wildlife…Thanks for such wonderful recaps :)

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  14. says

    I would love to take a trip there some day soon with my husband. I love that it was socasual and you could spend so much of your time exploring instead of in the hotel room primping for the day ;-)

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  15. mikeyd says

    I have a question you havent addressed…Who paid for the trip? Seems like the kids in your family mooch off the parents a lot especially since you are almost in your 30’s. Or did you pay for your parents?

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    • Dana says

      mikeyd-

      I’m not sure how their trip was arranged, but I encourage you to rethink your viewpoint on it. You can’t know for sure if anyone paid their own way or helped in paying for things along the way on the trip (and by what right is it of yours to ask?), but even if no one paid a dime, it’s sad that you are faulting this family for wanting to bless their children and share an experience together as a family. If you were sharing an experience with people on a blog, Facebook, etc. that you were excited about, I would want to share in on the excitement with you, and not tear you down with assumptive accusations against your character. I hope that one day you are blessed with an unsolicited and undeserved gift from someone, and that you can enjoy the gift without feeling judged by others. Please do not be quick to rush to judgment, because you would not want someone rushing to judgment against you.

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    • Cristina says

      Ummm I’m almost 30 and every year my in-laws treat the entire fam (13 of us including all the grandkids) to a huge family vacation somewhere tropical. Nothing wrong with that!

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  16. says

    As a little girl, I always wanted to live in a castle. So the first time I visited a castle in Europe I cried. I know, I’m a cheesy mess! But to tell you the truth, I have SO many amazing vacation memories. I LOVE to travel…hence the online name of The {Happy} Travel Bug! :)

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  17. Cristina says

    My most memorable moment on vacation happened in the Greek isles. My family chartered a 70 foot sailboat and explored for 2 weeks. We caught fish for dinner, bathed in the Mediterranean and had an amazing time. One afternoon I was sitting in the seat on the very front of the boat with my feet hanging over and a pod of dolphins swam up and raced alongside the boat. They were jumping all around me, I could almost look into their eyes. It was incredible!

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  18. says

    Wow I’m amazed you were able to fit a vacations worth of clothes into a carry on! I took a carry on and a checked bag when Josh and I went to Nebraska for four days. haha Packing light is not my specialty. Your trip looked like it was so amazing. I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself!

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  19. says

    My favorite vacation memory was going to China and visting all the big-named places; ie Great Wall of China, Terracotta Army, Summer Palace, etc. This year I’m going back but to the western side to see the humongous Leshan Buddha and JiuZhaiGou. So excited!

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  20. says

    This was really helpful, thanks!! I always carry on my luggage for trips like these – I’ve had far too many lost bags to chance it…plus it DOES make it a ton easier if you are moving around a lot.

    I have so many memorable travel experiences!!! I would have to say my probably all time top was going on safari in the Serengeti, followed closely by plunging off the world’s highest commercial bungee jump in South Africa (something I never thought I would ever do, but am so glad I did).

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  21. says

    You know I had a question for you actually. I have always wanted to go to Galapagos and my husband and I have discussed it, but he’s concerned about the high crime rate in Ecuador. Was that an issue for you guys at all or did you do research about that first? I feel like if we stay with a large group, we’ll be fine but he’s kind of on the paranoid side. Oy.

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  22. says

    The best expeience I’ve had on a vacation was probably cave touring through Belize, then ziplining out of the cave into the pouring rain into the rain forest! We were soaked, but it was such a wonderful experience. I’ve heard great things about those shoes…I usually use my Skeletoes for things like that (which I have to say are probably even uglier!)

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  23. Ashley says

    The picture that is right after the question about what you packed for Machu Picchu (the pic with everyone in it) almost looks fake it’s so beautiful. :) It sounds like you guys had such a memorable trip, thanks for answering those questions!

    I swam with dolphins in Cuba which was pretty wonderful. Being lifted out of the water by two dolphins at your feet was awesome.

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  24. says

    I went to Edinburgh for New Years. The day before New Years Eve, Edinburgh does a Hogmanay torch procession from the castle through the city. It was an amazing site to see the thousands of torches in front and around us as we walked.

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  25. says

    Hi Julie! I’m going to the Croatian Islands this summer for about a week and a half and have been looking for an waterproof camera that takes great pictures above and below the surface! Did you use your own camera to take the photos from your scuba trips? If not,what type of camera was used and/or have you heard of any cameras that take great photos above and below the water??

    Thanks! :)

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  26. says

    I loooveeed seeing these answers & it makes me want to go SO SO bad!

    My favorite trips have been to Bali (went with my dad), and our honeymoon to Mexico. And of course, Europe (where my mom is from). Switzerland is THE best country & most gorgeous place in the world. And anything there–hiking, eating, wandering, so so amazing. I have goooooood memories from there!

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  27. Jodea @ chillichocolatelove.com says

    I did the four day hike to Macchu Picchu and it was one of the highlights of my whole life… I did it when I was 30 and hope to do it again before I hit 40!

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  28. says

    Loved reading more about your trip!

    Two years ago, my husband and I went to Antigua. It was an amazing trip! The water was teal, so clear and warm. The tropical plants and flowers were so beautiful. I’d love to go back some time!

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  29. says

    So beautiful!!! I adore your posts :)

    And I was happy to write you a recommendation as a health coach via Reach150. If any of your other clients – or just friends you’ve inspired! – ever want to do the same, they can always go to the link below:

    http://reach150.com/post/HUFC7T

    You deserve so much praise for the good deeds you’re doing <3

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  30. Ush says

    I’m really glad you posted these questions/answers, it’s always interesting knowing more details about traveling (I LOVE to travel). A good friend of mine just went to Peru and loved it, and after seeing your awesome pictures, I really want go too! I’ll have to add it to my very long list of travel destinations :)

    I don’t know what my most memorable experience (there are so many experiences!) is but out of all the places I’ve traveled, I have two cities that I thought were absolutely magical and on my shortlist of favorites – Florence, Italy and Udaipur, India. I’m going to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in 2 weeks so maybe one of them will also make the cut!

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  31. Jennifer says

    Thank you so much for sharing the information about your trip to Galapagos and Ecuador! After reading your blog and seeing those amazing photos a couple of weeks ago, I have decided to plan a trip there in October of 2014! It looks like you guys had the most incredible time. Again, thanks for sharing :)

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  32. says

    Did you hike the Inca Trail? It is so amazing, right? I went when I was 25 in 2008, it was a spur of the moment kind of trip. We just hoped around from Lima, south to Arequipa, then to Cuzco and hiked to Machu Picchu. I would actually recommend NOT going with a tour, I feel like they take you away from the experience of the actual culture there. It is SO easy to book hotels and flights (we booked ours the day before we decided on each stop). But maybe I’m biased, I never use a tour group for anything, especially not in Europe (although it might be necessary for the Galapagos). Love the pics, they take me back! :-_)

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