Traveling with children is an amazing opportunity for your kids to discover new worlds, learn about foreign cultures, and have out-of-this-world experiences. It is the opportunity to enjoy family friendly cruises
But, let’s be honest: it can be stressful.
Have you ever considered coming to the Galapagos with your kids? The amount of one-of-a-kind wildlife on the islands fascinates travelers of all ages.
But what are some ideas for “Kid-Friendly” cruises? Let’s take a look at the basics that parents consider priorities:
• Simplicity of travel, and
• Learning opportunities
Every parent is concerned for their child’s safety at home, and, even more so, away from home!
The most important factor when planning your family cruise is the safety of the vessel:
Does the boat meet with national and international safety standards?
Does the boat have up-to-date emergency and rescue equipment?
Are the sides and balconies of all decks on board child proof, with bars or glass that prohibits falling?
Your travel agent should be able to answer all of the questions above in order to push aside any anxiety.
Safety and security are serious issues, especially on the high seas. Do not be afraid to ask your agent any questions you may have about safe practices on board.
The Galapagos Islands are a “living laboratory” of land, sea, and sky creatures.
Children will be amazed at the close proximity they will have to all of the animals. Lying down next to sea lions, swimming with turtles, seeing giant tortoises larger than they are: the idea of getting back to school and showing off photos of volcano hikes, crater swims, dinghy rides, lava tunnel walks and snorkeling with penguins is pretty exciting!
Galapagos cruises generally include two land visits and a snorkeling trip every day. Kids should be comfortable in the water, as well as with snorkel equipment so that they can see the outstanding underwater world below.
Back on board, most ships have DVDs and books about Galapagos, as well as “non-Galapagos” movies and books. Ships generally also have a collection of board games and cards.
Larger ships offer certain extras, like the EXPLORER II that offers its 100 passengers Spanish, cooking, and towel-folding classes, as well as a glass bottom boat.
Smaller vessels, like the Cormorant and Galaven catamarans with only 16 passengers, can provide personalized dinghy tours, the opportunity of getting to know the captain by name, bridge visits, and 24 hour access to the cookie drawer.
Simplicity of Travel
Many companies offer full packages that include airport pick up (no dragging luggage around behind you while looking for a taxi and unfolding the stroller!), local knowledgeable staff members (no need to haul out the dictionary while fumbling through the diaper bag!), and key tips and pre-trip information to help you and your kids know how things are going to go from the minute you land.Booking with a recognized travel agency who can help you with the ABCs and 123s of traveling to Galapagos is highly recommended.
Galapagos cruises offer daily lectures for passengers with a variety of themes, but this isn’t the onlyway to learn while on board.
Kids will more likely enjoy learning “hands on”, experiencing the wildlife and geology for themselves, touching different kinds of lava rock, swimming with endemic species, and learning about animals up close.
Have the kids keep a photo or video journal, the best opportunity to enjoy family friendly cruises.
Taking a Perfect Galapagos Family Vacation
Among parent’s least favorite children’s expression: “Mum/Dad, I’m bored”. It makes us feel guilty and concerned at the same time. But you’ll never hear that cry from the heart if you take a Galapagos family vacation which is perfect for keeping children of all ages fascinated, energized and never bored.
Your kids will have a blast in the Galapagos as so many thousands have before them. On a regular cruise there is just so much to see but taking a Family Friendly cruise will just take it all to another level and ensure that life-long memories are created for your children.
Traveling with children is always an opportunity for your kids to explore new worlds, rub shoulders with foreign cultures, and have experiences that widen their outlooks. For parents, it just dials up the enjoyment of a vacation even more as you almost see your kids breaking down boundaries in front of your eyes. So imagine how much more ‘wow!’ a Galapagos family vacation can be for both parents and children.
Fearless wildlife approaches and interacts with children regularly leaving parents truly moved when they see the looks of delight in their children’s eyes when they come almost face to face with a sea lion or giant tortoise. Encounters with the exotic yet fearless Galapagos wildlife are daily occurrences in the Enchanted Isles. Lie down with sea lions on a beach, sea turtles swimming in the shallows, snorkel with penguins and watch ‘strange’ birds (strange for the children) with blue feet and others with huge wingspans do funny dances (mating rituals).
Then there is the exploration side that children just love. Descending through lava tunnels, long sandy beaches, walks through mangroves, hiking over dry lava fields.
But overall, the number one enjoyment factor for most children is the chance to spend such a large part of the trip being in and around water and of course a Galapagos cruise vacation is all about the ocean and water activities. There are island landings on pangas (zodiacs), beaches to swim on, and almost daily snorkeling activities. If your children enjoy water, and most do, then this is an enchanting trip for them. Of course, to take advantage of this aspect kids should feel comfortable around water and probably a snorkeling lesson in a swimming pool at home would be a great idea if they haven’t snorkeled before – don’t worry it’s quick and easy to pick up.
When it comes to the snorkeling there is no more exciting aquatic activity. Sea Lions, in particular, are just energized play companions, endlessly curious, they seemingly love to zip above, under and around us to the extent that we are mesmerized by them and most guests can’t wait to get back in the water with them again. Harmless small reef sharks and rays are common sights and guides experienced with children are in the water at the same time.
The Galapagos Family Friendly cruises often include additional guides and activities for kids. The guides, who are often picked for their aptitude to engage with children, tailor their talks and their walks for younger audiences. There is a lot of reading material and entertainment on most yachts, even the smaller ones, such as DVDs and books about the Galapagos but also non-Galapagos material. Activities just for the children include map games, T-shirt painting and movie nights.
Children enjoy learning hands-on and the slower paced family cruises allow time for them to assimilate all they are seeing and touching in their own way, maybe just sit and be close to animals, experiment with taking photos and perhaps in the evenings, during a quiet half hour after dinner, they can produce a photo journal or their social media postings ready for when they are ‘connected’ again.
The very largest yachts have even more options such as swimming pools – but we are betting your children will not have too much spare energy in supply – more meal choices and games rooms too. On the other hand, on the smaller yachts with 16-20 passengers, you’ll be able to meet the Captain and go up on the bridge, something younger children really enjoy.
Some yachts have connecting cabins for families or larger suites. If the choices seem overwhelming that is why we always have experts at the end of the phone ready to help you sort through all the options.
But as wildly fun as a Galapagos cruise is for children and families, let’s be honest: it can be stressful. The Galapagos Islands are a National Park and a world heritage site so you can be sure there are lots of rules. Perhaps the most famous one is that you are not allowed to get too close to the animals or touch them. Then, you must stay on the designated trails when doing a hike. You must always stay with the guide and obey what they say.
Because of these rules, many yachts have a passenger minimum age rule of six or seven for taking part in a cruise. You’re not allowed to take food on to the islands so if you have a toddler who needs to be fed regularly this could present an issue – not an ideal solution. You must stay close to your guide and not wander off even if the family-oriented cruises do have guides used to going at a slower pace they still cannot cater for folk who lag behind. On board the yachts while there are very exacting safety standards it’s fair to say that the yachts were not designed for toddlers to roam about on.
So is a family vacation to the Galapagos in your plans this year? If you have children that are even the slightest bit interested in nature and wildlife, then the Galapagos is the most amazing place to explore. Don’t miss a chance to educate them about our amazing planet. Make sure to keep your children well rested and comfortable and at the end of the cruise you’ll be overwhelmingly pleased with yourselves for having taken the perfect Galapagos family vacation.