I Plan to Take My 9-Year-Old Daughter to Ecuador. Is it Safe? Any Tips?
Ask Rolf: Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel
04.08.08 | 11:55 AM ET
One of my inspirations is to take my family around the world—hopefully about six years from now. In the meantime, I plan on taking my 9-year-old daughter on a 15-day trip to Ecuador for a bit of a father/daughter bonding time. I was just wondering if you’ve ever been to Ecuador. If so, is it a safe country to travel with kids? I am not very concerned, but I think I should check a few sources to see if I should be as concerned as some of my friends and family are.
—Paul, Ontario, Canada
I commend you on your plan to take your family around the world. I think that’s terrific, and I include resources for traveling with children in my travel-planning book, “Vagabonding.”
Before I get to the specifics of Ecuador, I’d like to pass along some general advice from Sheila Scarborough, who writes the blog Family Travel. She emailed to suggest three factors family travelers should keep in mind:
* Do your homework and have a plan; then you can change it. Serendipity is great, but you should also plan each day of a trip. Lay out the distance you’ll drive or travel, where you’ll stay, some ideas for cool places to eat, and ideas for attractions and things to do, including opening/closing times and costs. This lets you see ahead of time if that restaurant or museum that you thought you were visiting on Tuesday is, um, closed on Tuesday (whoops) and gives you immediate options if you get to destination XYZ and something goes awry. Sure, winging it is great for singles or couples, but you should see the look you get from your preteen when you tell her “We’ll just wing it” after you’ve screwed up getting to someplace in Tokyo.
* Quit lugging all that paraphernalia. Newsflash: They sell diapers and crackers and other kid stuff in lots of places around the world. You do not need to carry a Sam’s Club-sized stock with you; just take normal precautions with packing and be done with it. It’s good to teach your kids to try different things and do different things in a new place, so don’t transport your entire “home bubble” with you. If you’re traveling somewhere so exotic and out-there that you must bring specific supplies, consider going when your child is a little older and you’d be less logistically impaired. Always carry your own back-up toilet paper, anti-diarrhea medication, an antihistamine like Benadryl, some sort of anti-itch cream, Tylenol and whatever stuffed animal/blankie is currently key to your child’s happiness.
* Don’t forget to eat. Break this rule and you’ll pay for it with whiny, grumpy children (and an equally cranky spouse). Just because you tend to get absorbed in your travel “doings”—then look up at three o’clock and realize you forgot to eat lunch—does not mean that this is a good idea when you travel with kids. It isn’t too fun to be somewhere in the depths of the Louvre and hear yelling and fussing bouncing off all that marble because someone is “HUUNNGGRRYY, Mommy!”
As for the specifics of Ecuador, I think you should be able to take your daughter there and have a great two weeks. Just take the normal precautions (food, safety, etc.) that you would take in traveling with her in any American city, and you should do just fine. This part of the world is particularly family friendly, so this should afford you interactions with your hosts that you wouldn’t get if you were traveling alone.
Just to be sure about my advice—and to provide you with some specific travel ideas for Ecuador—I contacted Texas vagabonder Hayden Brooks, who recently traveled around the world with his own young family. Here’s his advice for Ecuador:
Our family of four (kids ages 6 and 13) spent two wonderful months in Ecuador, so I have many suggestions. The reason we chose Ecuador is because we had visited 15 countries in the previous 10 months and didn’t want to be moving around quite as much. Ecuador provides incredible cultural and ecological diversity within an area the size of Colorado. I would take our family back in a second. The main segments of our visit were:
* Chugchilán: A week at the Black Sheep Inn, which is located well off the beaten track, four to five hours from Quito and three hours off the Pan-American Highway on spectacular winding roads. It was great, and has all sorts of eco-lodge-type activities.
* Galapagos: We stayed on the Alta for 10 days.
* Otavalo: One month taking Spanish lessons as a family with Otavalo Spanish School. Here, we stayed two weeks at Las Palmeras Inn and then two days at Hacienda Cusín. Also did a two-week homestay with an Otavaleno family outside of Otavalo.
* Amazonian Ecuador: Stayed one week at the Yachana Lodge, and I have stayed in touch with the FUNEDESIN Foundation. Since I am in Austin, where Whole Foods is headquartered, I have been working to get the Funedesin’s Yachana Gourmet chocolates distributed by Whole Foods to all of their stores.
* We also spent a few days visiting Cuenca (a UNESCO World Heritage site) in south Ecuador, and went out of our way whenever possible to visit the local markets on market day.
My suggestion for a two-week visit would be to fly into Quito and then to pick just one of these regions to visit. If cost is not a big concern, then the Galapagos would be my first pick. Yachana Lodge and/or Black Sheep Inn would be close seconds, and Otovalo is a comfortable place to study Spanish.