A little bit of packing advice:
One of the things I was most nervous about when preparing for my trip was whether or not I had packed correctly. I was terrified I would overpack and have to pay a fee or that I would under pack and have to trek through the Amazon without the appropriate clothes. There is a balance between these two extremes and I’d like to share a few of the things I learned. (Note: this packing advice is for a 3 week study abroad to a place with a moderate and tropical environment.)
A camping/hiking backpack is the best option for your large luggage piece. DON’T take a suitcase or a flimsy duffle bag. My pack was a 65 liter one and worked perfect. It had great support for walking around the airport, plenty of space, and lots of pockets. You can often purchase these on sale if you think about it in advance and they’re well worth the investment. For a long trip in rural areas, taking a bulky suitcase is not worth the hassle. My plane ticket only allowed one checked bag, so keep that in mind but DO bring an extra duffle stowed in your pack for souvenirs. This can count as your carry on, and believe me, you’ll need the space.
For your personal item, I suggest a backpack (your school backpack is fine) and a compressible travel pillow. It’s nice to have a pillow you can rely on and a larger bag for personal items (books, camera, etc.) on the plane. DO also bring a “day bag” stowed in your main luggage (something lightweight and small like a drawstring backpack or fanny pack) for hiking and shopping while in Ecuador. I forgot a day bag and seriously regretted it, as I ended up dragging my large backpack all over the trails to hold my water bottle and snacks.
One huge way to save on weight is to only bring one pair of shoes. Seriously, you will only need your Chacos or some other heavy duty hiking sandal. I brought tennis shoes as well and never wore them. Others brought hiking boots and only wore them twice since we were provided with rubber boots for all hiking expeditions.
On the mainland of Ecuador I mainly wore field pants and dry fit shirts. I brought tee shirts but rarely wanted to wear them due to the humidity. Field/hiking pants and dry fit shirts are awesome because they keep off the bugs, pack small, and will actually dry out in the Amazon. I also had a few long sleeved hiking shirts that acted as nice layers but I only really needed two of them. In the Andes, temperatures were cool but not super cold, so one warm jacket or sweatshirt is perfect but you don’t need more than that. It’s warmer in the Amazon, but I wore pants there as well to protect from the bugs and it worked like a charm. In addition, mens calf length work-socks are perfect for this trip because they’re cheap, have cushioned soles, and keep your pants tucked into your boots.
While I only wore pants on the mainland, in the Galápagos I mainly wore shorts. Its warmer there and also less traditional due to tourism, so board length or Nike shorts were perfectly acceptable, and again, dried quickly. You’ll do a lot of swimming in the Galápagos so pack a couple bathing suits, shorts you can throw over wet suits, and your own sunscreen. Sun shirts are a LIFESAVER because they keep you from getting sunburnt in boats and also keep you warm in the cold water while snorkeling. A microfiber towel is also a great packing hack.
Another note on clothes: We were able to do laundry, so if this is an option, you can definitely pack less clothes. Also, packing your clothes in plastic bags is super smart and helpful. It keeps everything clean, organized, and dry.
DO bring snacks. You’ll be hiking a lot in decently rural areas so go ahead and bring granola bars, trail mix, and small snacks in your checked luggage. Especially if you have a dietary restriction or get hungry easily, this is really helpful.
DONT pack too many extras. I brought way too many replacement batteries and backup flashlights. These weigh a lot and I never had to replace a flashlight. Just take one flash light, one headlamp, and maybe 4 extra batteries- you’ll be fine. Same goes for toiletries. I washed my hair every day and only went through 1 travel sized shampoo. If you run out of a common toiletry or medical supply (Advil, Benadril, Bandaids etc.) it is likely your coordinator or someone on the trip will have extras. You also will have occasional stops to grocery stores where you can stock up on these things.
DO pack your confidence! This will be challenging and different but fun! And you’re not going alone- there’s a team of students, faculty, and friends going too. They’ll be there to help you with anything you forget or to help you carry your supper heavy souvenir duffle.