At the beginning of the year, I plan my vacations and try to schedule two international trips with a few smaller stateside trips, otherwise I go stir crazy.  This year, I had an itch to get to South America and it so happened that Karisa was going to Peru over Memorial Day.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the trip because one of my best friends was getting married and I was in the wedding; so back to the drawing board I went… (Note to self, no more weddings on the first long weekend of the year; there are only a few people I’ll forgo that coveted vacation time for)!  After I decided on the continent, I had to pour over my South America options.

I found a Gate 1 trip to Ecuador on sale in January.  At first, none of my travel companions had interest in Ecuador… and some of my friends hadn’t even heard of the country!  So I kept searching. I pondered Rio – I had stumbled on some great airfare deals, but I hesitated on booking the ticket.  Then, I decided that I would take my little sister along with me and had heard that Rio can be a rough city; so I decided against taking her there for her first BIG trip abroad.  After considering all my options, Ecuador was still on my mind, so Ecuador it was.

Now when to go…  I had a small window of time I was aiming for, because like I said, I get stir crazy if I wait too long without traveling.  Capitalizing on holidays off is always a plus (and I work for a bank, so there are lots of bank holidays for me), but this was an 8 day trip, meaning only 5 days off of work, so there was no need to utilize a holiday weekend.  The bright side to Ecuador is their weather – it’s relatively consistent year round so the time of year you travel doesn’t matter.

My travel companions for this jaunt aren’t big on planning, so this trip was all on me.  At the time, work was busy and I just didn’t have the energy to research all the details on my own; so I opted to book the (now full price) Gate 1 Travel trip to Ecuador.  With this method, we could cover far more ground than if we did it ourselves in a shorter period of time.  Even full price, it was a good bang for your buck.  The hotels we were put up at were amazing and well worth the cost we paid.  One thing I like about tour groups is the fellow travelers that you meet.  Also, a lot of the people I meet on tours are people I wouldn’t necessarily encounter in my daily life.  Interestingly, we met an older couple from Ecuador on our trip.  This particular gentleman had stayed at each of the Gate 1 hotels separately on his family vacations and agreed that the Gate 1 trip is a spectacular deal.

Where were we headed in Ecuador?  Quito, Otavalo, Papallacata, AMAZON, Banos, Patate here we come.

I chose Ecuador because it seemed the most affordable way to finally conquer a corner of South America… not necessarily because there would be a UNESCO Heritage Site, or a foodies haven, or even to see different architecture.  That said, Ecuador was beautiful and picturesque and it exceeded my expectations.

This post was written by one of FWTG’s contributors, Crystal Doro. 

CC header image from Flickr: Cayambe Volcano by Andreas Kay.