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How Much Does a Galapagos Vacation Cost? DIY vs. Agent vs. Cruise vs. Land Cost Comparisons

Blue footed boobies Galapagos family trip

Cost of Visiting the Galapagos Islands

Like many adventure travelers, the Galapagos Islands were on our bucket list. Every time an adventure travel brochure arrived in the mail, or a travel deal landed in my inbox, I would gaze at the pictures of colossal tortoises, blue-footed boobies, and colonies of Christmas-colored iguanas. But as soon as my eyes landed on the price per person, I would immediately multiply it by 4. And that number always landed the brochure in the same place:

the recycle bin.

After years of tossing out the Galapagos dream, Dale finally gave me the travel-planning green light. So what made us change our minds about this seemingly super-expensive-once-in-a-lifetime destination? Our travel track record!

One of the benefits of being super Type A and super frugal is that I can tell you, to the penny, how much every one of our trips costs. Couple my OCD money tracking tendencies with the Trail Wallet app, then pile on my need to analyze and cross reference our itineraries with those of professional agents and travel groups, and the result is this:

You can visit the Galapagos Islands, or anywhere else for that matter, for MUCH LESS than you might think.

Coupon clipper and DIY philosophy

In a recent interview on the Vacation Mavens podcast, I explained that my goal in trip planning is to create itineraries with the best value. I’m not looking for the cheapest way to visit a place, but I am looking to create the most extraordinary experience on a (somewhat) ordinary travel budget. There are far less expensive ways to travel than what the glossy travel brochures make you think. But then again, that is their business–catering to the non-DIY crowd. They aren’t going to tell you how to do it yourself. If you want to save big pesos, euros, or bahts, you’ve got to do the research yourself.

For example, were you ever inspired to begin coupon clipping after watching one of the Extreme Couponing shows? I was. These extreme couponers are masters at stacking store coupons with manufacturer coupons and knowing all of the tricks to save ridiculous amounts of money on their weekly groceries. As inspired as I was, I quit because it took way too much time for the return.

In the same way that extreme couponers can save cartfuls of money off of the retail prices for store items by doing some legwork, you can save suitcasefuls of money by researching and planning your own trips. But instead of saving $12 a week in groceries (the best I ever achieved), you could save $15,000 on your family’s trip to the Galapagos!

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Cost Comparison of DIY vs. Agent vs. Cruise vs. Land

The chart below details three different approaches to a Galapagos vacation:

  1. Our 12 day DIY itinerary featuring a 4 day cruise, 6 days land-based, plus 2 days in Quito. Total cost per person: $2,762.
  2. An 8 day itinerary booked through a travel agent specializing in the Galapagos, featuring the same 4 day cruise as #1 and 4 days land-based. Total cost per person: $4,420.
  3. A 10 day itinerary booked with a popular mid-range travel company, featuring 8 days cruise based. Total cost per person: $6,550.

3 Itineraries Compared: Land-Based vs. Cruise

Galapagos 10-12 day itinerary budget

Just Do It Yourself (DIY)

At $2,762 per person, not including international airfare, the Galapagos Islands are not a “budget” destination. However, by taking the DIY travel approach, you can visit one of the most iconic destinations on the planet for roughly the same cost as a typical ski vacation or European packaged trip.

Whether your bucket list includes a trip to the Galapagos Islands, a safari in Africa, meditation lessons in Vietnam, bungee jumping in New Zealand, surfing in Bali, diving the Great Barrier Reef, or even a trip around the world, YOU can plan it all!

Bottom Line

If money is no object, and you hate planning, then feel free to let someone else do the work for you. However, don’t ever throw away your travel dreams because of brochure prices. All you need is an intrepid spirit and internet connection to experience the most extraordinary adventures on an ordinary budget.

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