There’s nothing quite like an island getaway, especially in the winter time. While people are freezing cold in the rain and snow, you can be soaking up some rays at a tropical paradise. The only real question, then, is where to go?

The answer: the Galapagos Islands. This archipelago has everything. History, beautiful landscapes, and fauna and flora you can’t find anywhere else in the world, and it’s all waiting to be explored by you.

There’s so much you can do that it can be a bit overwhelming to choose which activities to enjoy. To make things easier, here are three things you should do to get the most out of your trip to the Galapagos.

1. Research, Research, and More Research

One of the best things you can do before going on any vacation is some research. The Galapagos Islands has a rich history that’s worth delving into, giving your visit context and making for a more immersive vacation.

Many know of Charles Darwin’s voyage to the archipelago, where he made his observations and that led to the creation of the evolution theory many of us know and believe today. However, did you know that the Galapagos was a favorite hangout of pirates as well?

During the 17th and 18th Centuries, these criminal seafarers would hide out in the islands, where they could make repairs on their ships and plan their next raids. If you keep your eyes open, you might find buried treasure of you own!

You should also keep an eye on the weather when planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands. If you decide to go between the months of December and May, expect summertime temperatures of around 80ºF and great conditions for any aquatic activities due to calm seas. The dry season is from June to November, with temperatures in the 70s.

Expect to see waves and mist that give the archipelago its nickname, “Las Encantadas,” ( enchanted) since the islands seem to appear and disappear with the mist. Waters also get much cooler in these months, so wearing a wetsuit while snorkeling or scuba diving is recommended.

Another interesting fact about the Galapagos is that 90 percent of its land is considered a national park. The wildlife experience you’ll receive is like nowhere else in the world since the animals are not afraid of humans and won’t run away when you approach.

However, this is only because rules are set in place to protect the animals as well as the environment they live in. To preserve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s best to brush up on the park rules before you go.

2. Shop Smart

The biggest expense of going on vacation is not the actual going, but the staying. Food, hotels, and entertainment can really rack up the bucks if you’re not too careful. This can be harder when visiting the Galapagos Islands since you’re not limited to staying on land with their many cruise options. However, there are money saving tips you can follow that will allow you to still have fun while being conscientious of your wallet, whether on land or sea:

  • Land: There are many ways to save money while visiting land attractions. One way is to download apps that locate the nearest restaurant’s happy hour deals. Or you can cut down on food expenses greatly by forgoing eating out and and opting to buy inexpensive groceries instead.

Also, look up websites detailing what you can do at the Galapagos Islands. These sites can tell you times when admissions to certain attractions are free or at a discounted price. Plus, you may discover a fun activity you didn’t know existed.

See if you can travel to these events by public transportation as well, saving money on car rentals or cabs. Lastly, don’t forget your cards. If you have a student or military ID, you can receive discounts from many establishments; and credit cards may offer discounts or rewards that are worth checking out, such as earning free flights!   

  • Sea: There’s nothing like taking a cruise. However, you don’t want your budget going overboard. One way to save money on a cruise is to make sure to pack everything you think you might need. Cruises charge a pretty penny for things like water and sunscreen (not to mention motion sickness medication).

Also, eat the free food cruises provide instead of bringing your own or eating out at the ports. This will save you a lot of money since food expenses take up a good portion of many vacation budgets. Try going internet free as well since Wi-Fi can cost up to $1 a minute.

One final piece of advice is to take your own pictures instead of having them professionally done on the cruise. Professional photos are expensive, and you can take equally cherishable snapshots yourself (and for free!).

3. Always Be Prepared

You’ve done your research and you have a money saving plan in place. Now all you have to do is make sure you have everything you need for your exciting Galapagos adventure. First of all, you need to make sure your passport is up to date in order to travel to these islands. No passport equals no go.

Also, if you’re a smoker, you need to prepare yourself for the islands’ smoking ban, and even though cigarette smoke and vapor smoke are not the same thing, e-cigs fall under this ban too. However, don’t cross the Galapagos Islands off your list yet. There are designated areas where you can smoke when you need to, such as on small boats and cruise ships.

When it comes to the clothes you need to bring, it depends on what you do and when you go. During the hot season, shirts and shorts are a must as well as hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses. However, the dry season boasts cooler weather due to wind and may require longer sleeves, pants, and perhaps a light jacket.

You’ll probably be doing a lot of walking on your trip, so comfortable shoes are a necessity, as well as a swimsuit if you decide to swim. Also consider bringing binoculars and a camera (or upgrade to a waterproof camera to take even greater travel pictures) to better see and capture the beautiful sights and wildlife of the Galapagos. It’s a good idea as well to bring cash since some attractions do not accept credit cards.

Many of us have now felt the frigid air of winter creep into our ears and tell us it’s time for a change in scenery. That change is the Galapagos Islands. With beautiful weather, pristine waters, and the most diverse flora and fauna you’ll ever see, it’s definitely a location worthy to be on anyone’s bucket list. As long as you take the time to research, devise a money saving plan, and prepare, you can make the most of your tropical island adventure in the Galapagos.