Traveling with Young Children
With the right planning, traveling with kids through Peru can be a blast. Kids tend to attract lots of attention from passersby and can cause interesting cultural interactions. By traveling through Peru, children learn a great deal and gain an understanding of how different life can be for people across the world.
Experts suggest that children should be involved in the early stages of a trip in order to get the most out of it. Children’s books and movies that deal with the history of the Incasand the Spaniards will help your kids better relate to the ruins they will see later on. Parents should explain to children what they will encounter, prep them for the day’s activities, and then hear from them how it went afterwards.
Keeping your children healthy means taking precautions. Make sure your children get the right vaccinations, and watch what they eat while they are in Peru, because the major threat to their health is dehydration caused by diarrhea. Bacterial infection can be prevented by washing children’s hands frequently with soap or using hand sanitizer.
For very young children, don’t bother bringing your own baby food, as it is cheaper in the country. You will have a hard time, however, finding specialty items like sugar-free foods, which should be brought from home. Outside of Peru’s major cities, there is not much selection in supermarkets, so stock up while you can. Always carry a good supply of snacks and bottled water with you, as there can be long stretches where nothing to eat or drink is available.
Pack your medical kit with everything you will need for basic first aid: bandages and gauze pads, antibacterial ointment, thermometer, child mosquito repellent (vitamin B acts as a natural mosquito repellent), envelopes of hydrating salts, and strong sunscreen. Items like Tylenol (paracetamol infantil), can easily be found in the local pharmacies, though quality varies. Medical services are very good in Lima and often quite good in the countryside, where city-trained, English-speaking medical students perform residency. Medical care is so cheap in Peru that parents should never hesitate about seeing a doctor. Bring photocopies of your children’s medical records.
Your embassy may be of some help, but the best place to contact for advice or help is probably the South American Explorers Club (Piura 135, Miraflores, tel. 01/445-3306, www.saexplorers.org, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Sat.).
Think carefully about your travel arrangements. Kids are likely to enjoy a sensory-rich environment like the Amazon jungle much more than back-to-back tours of archaeological ruins. Buses generally allow children to travel for free until 5 years old and/or if they sit on your lap, but choose flights over long bus rides that could make kids crabby. Choose family-oriented hotels, which offer playgrounds and lots of space for children to run around unsupervised. If you ask for a room with three beds you generally won’t have to pay extra. If you have toddlers, avoid hotels with pools, because they are rarely fenced off. Children’s rates for anything from movies to museums are common and, even if they are not official, can often be negotiated.
Because parents are often distracted by their children, families can be prime targets for thieves in public spaces like bus stations and markets. Even if you have taught your children to be extra careful about traffic at home, you will have to teach them a whole new level of awareness in Peru. Time moves slower in Peru, and families spend a lot of time waiting for buses, tours, or meals. Be prepared with coloring books and other activities.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition