My task was simple–coordinate international travel for 13 people ages 1 to 69, and design an itinerary that is interesting, fun, and, most importantly, safe, for all. Luckily for me, this is what I do for a living. I decided on a variation of my favorite and most basic itinerary–
Day 1: Full Day Quito Tour
Day 2: Mindo–tubing, chocolate tour
Day 3: Mindo–butterfly sanctuary, waterfall hike
Day 4: Yunguilla Community–make cheese, waterfall hike
Day 5: Yunguilla Community–Pre Inca trail hike, cooking class, an evening of music and dancing
Day 6: Yunguilla Community (milk cows, etc), Mitad del Mundo, Quito for a night of salsa dancing
Day 7: Take the Teleferiqo (gondola) up Rucu Pichincha Volcano (optional hike to summit), artisan market.
If you have no idea what this itinerary means, click here to see more details!
Half of my family was planning on coming early and staying late for a total of a 2-week trip, so there was an extended version of this itinerary that included some other activities and destinations. I wrote to all of my providers explaining that my family was coming to visit and pestered them confirming every detail, rooming list, detailed itinerary, and explained that this was a very special group.
In addition to planning every second of our week together, I also designed a custom “Trip Notes” (hand-illustrated booklets with important trip information and writing prompts that we make for all of our groups) just for my family. The illustrations included each member of my family, and I also made a special book for my 4-year-old nephew with pictures for him to color and words for him to trace, as he is learning how to write. I bought handwoven baskets and filled them with Ecuadorian snacks, a water filter, the Trip Notes, and T-shirts that I spent weeks designing and had made for everyone in my family.
In the months leading up to the big trip, I also completely organized my house, bought a dining room table, a coffee table, and all new living room furniture–couldn’t have my family thinking that I still live like a college kid. I deep cleaned everything, multiple times. I even built and mounted nearly a dozen shelves on my walls and updated my flock of houseplants. To top it all off, I had a painting commissioned to hang over my new sofa–a really awesome custom piece by Daniel Reinoso, a local artist here in Quito who I highly recommend.
Everything was planned; everything was squeaky clean and organized; I was totally prepared (and also very tired and more than a little bit anxious). Finally, finally, finally, the day arrived that the first batch of family members would travel to Ecuador.
Now, there had been some chatter leading up to the trip regarding the unfolding COVID-19 situation. In the final days before the trip was set to begin, I emotionally braced myself for news that at least part of my family was canceling due to COVID fears. Departure day was March 11th, 2020–before the Pandemic was declared, and before the World turned upside down. I was relieved when my parents and brother sent me pictures of them boarding the plane along with my nephew, niece, and sister in law. It was happening–they really were on their way!