Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka on Their Epic Galapagos Trip — and Tips for Traveling With Kids

The family went zip lining through a cloud forest, ate guinea pig, and cruised around the Galapagos.

Neil Patrick Harris and family on cruises expedition in Ecuador
Photo: Courtesy of Neil Patrick Harris

On their first night in Quito, Ecuador, Neil Patrick Harris, his husband, David Burtka, and their two twin children went to hotspot Zazu for dinner. Of all the dishes they tried off the tasting menu, their favorite was the roasted guinea pig prepared three ways.

"When we travel, we try everything, that's just our style," Burtka, a professional chef, told Travel + Leisure. "When it comes to food, the rule is that you don't have to like everything, but you at least have to try it."

And so kicked off the family's whirlwind two-week trip in Ecuador. It was their first time in the country, but the Harris-Burtkas — who have traveled around the world, crisscrossing Europe and Latin America — hit the ground running with their 11-year-old twins, Harper Grace and Gideon Scott, leading the way.

"They're seasoned travelers," said Burtka.

"And Travel + Leisure readers," added Harris.

With just under 2 days in Quito, the family stayed at the luxurious Casa Gangotena hotel, took a day trip to the Middle of the World monument, and walked the city's colorful streets, poking their heads inside churches to admire the ornate decoration and gilded surfaces.

But nothing compared to what came next: a weeklong journey through the Galapagos with Hurtigruten Expeditions, the Norwegian cruise line that recently expanded into the archipelago in partnership with Ecuador's Metropolitan Touring. The cruise itinerary included daily aquatic and on-land excursions, expert-led talks, and visits to pristine islands like Española and Santa Fe.

Neil Patrick Harris and family on cruises expedition in Ecuador
Courtesy of Neil Patrick Harris

For Burtka, who had long dreamed of traveling to the Galapagos, the cruise exceeded his every expectation.

"We just loved it," he said. "The excursions were phenomenal, and the Hurtigruten guides were so knowledgeable."

For Harris, the trip was the perfect combination of fun and education.

"As much as I love watching Planet Earth, it doesn't quite compare to being in the Galapagos, blowing bubbles five feet from a baby sea lion," he said, explaining that, "when education can be experiential, it has more impact. We've been trying to fill our kids' and our own lives with more of that."

Neil Patrick Harris and family on cruises expedition in Ecuador
Courtesy of Neil Patrick Harris

Other highlights of their cruise included swimming with sharks and dolphins and snorkeling in the waters around San Cristóbal islands, where they saw colorful schools of parrot fish.

The family then embarked on the next leg of their trip: a two-night stay at Mashpi Lodge, a pioneering eco-hotel on the western flanks of the Andes.

Getting to the lodge, a 3.5-hour drive from Quito, requires navigating narrow, winding roads that pass small villages, dramatic valleys, and sugar cane plantations. It was quite a bumpy adventure, Harris recalled, especially after the family's week after sea. But once they arrived, they were immediately soothed by the chirping of birds and the sounds of the rainforest.

During their time at Mashpi, the family swam in waterfalls, hiked through dense cloud forests, and went on night walks to see spiders and snakes. They even rode an aerial bike across the canopy of the forest.

On their last night, the family was treated to a special goodbye activity at the Hummingbird Garden, a platform in the middle of forest where around 19 species of the bird can be identified. As the sun set, the family held feeders in their hands and watched as dozens of birds encircled them.

After their big adventure, the Harris-Burtkas are back in New York City and looking to put their feet up for a while — but not for long; they're already looking ahead to their next family adventure.

"There are trips that we waited to take until our kids were old enough to appreciate them," said Harris. "Now that they're older and more self-sufficient, we're pushing them to get out there. We still have safaris to do and Asia to discover!"

Neil Patrick Harris and family on cruises expedition in Ecuador
Courtesy of Neil Patrick Harris

Echoing the same sentiment, Burtka lent a tip for families looking to travel.

"Ecuador isn't necessarily a chill family vacation," he said. "There are a lot of excursions. So, I'd recommend it for families with children ages 8 and above. And be sure to balance all the adventuring with iPad time."

However, whether they're jetsetting off for an adventure or relaxing at home, the actor is still engaging with travel through his newsletter, Wondercade.

"I just wanted to talk about things that are worth talking about," Harris said of his newsletter which covers topics ranging from his family's favorite recipes to their dream vacations and his recommendations for kid-friendly entertainment.

Subscribe to the actor's newsletter here.

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