TRAVEL : QUIXO PERU : Special Interests
Traveling with Kids: What to Bring, Eat & Things to Do with Children in Peru
Your Guide: Catherine Criolla
Unless you are going there for a reason (i.e. work or a family visit), I don’t especially recommend Peru for families with small children (toddlers and preschoolers). It’s fine for them, but many of the things that U.S. parents and children are used to (e.g. playgrounds, libraries, public programs specifically for kids, hotel programs for kids, etc.) are lacking there, and they are too young to enjoy or remember the truly unique travel experiences that abound in Peru.
For older kids, Peru is a fabulous destination, with adventures galore and many, many places to go that will capture children’s imaginations. They can see and learn things there that they would never dream of.
Tips for traveling in Peru with smaller children
- Bring along anything that you need, or want in a particular brand. Although many items are available in Lima and several of the larger cities, brands and sizes may vary and you may not be able to find those size 6 nighttime huggies for boys when you need them. Doses and brands of children’s over the counter medications also vary so I recommend bringing your standard remedies for colds and teething etc. If you have a picky eater bring his or her favorite foods as well.
- Stay somewhere with some space. In Lima I recommend Hostal El Patio in Miraflores if you like a little local color. It has a gated outdoor patio with flowers and birds, kitchens and is near parks (Parque Kennedy in central Miraflores and El Faro park on the bluffs above the ocean) and restaurants. In other cities there are similar small hotels and hostals with outdoors spaces which I recommend over the higher end hotels (check the guidebooks). There is also a class of hotels in Lima known as aparthotels (aparthoteles) which have kitchens and living rooms.
- Food from the U.S. is available (but expensive) in grocery stores. But a number of Peruvian standard foods might go over well with your kids. Drinkable yogurt is popular, and available everywhere. Milk usually comes in boxes and is usually the long-lived kind, which may take some getting used to for some kids. Pasta is ubiquitous. Juice also comes in boxes, both large and individual sized with straws. Apple juice is jugo de manzana (grape is uva, orange is naranja), but don’t be afraid to try the nectars of tropical fruits which some kids love. Note that fruit must always be cooked or peeled and/or washed in purified or boiled water. Bananas are known as platanos and they come in both regular size and a mini one that many kids love.
- In restaurants, pollo a la brasa (broaster chicken) is a classic that almost always comes with French fries (papas fritas). Rice (arroz) is ubiquitos. A sandwich mixto is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (sandwich de queso is usually a grilled cheese sandwich). Spaghetti is referred to as spaghettis and it comes with red sauce unless you specifically ask for it without. (say "solamente con mantequilla y queso parmasana" if you have a child that only wants butter and parmesan on his pasta). When you order water be specific and ask for it "sin gas" and make sure that they bring the bottle to the table. You can also order verduras (vegetables) but make sure they are cooked.
- Many Peruvian vehicles lack seatbelts and carseats are not used widely. If you want to use yours you’ll need to request transportation in vehicles with appropriate kinds of seatbelts, which may be more expensive than standard transportation.
- Strollers are not very popular in Peru but it’s worth taking a very lightweight one that folds compactly for airports, museums, and some city walks. This is especially true if your child can nap in the stroller. Depending on where you’re going and what your habits are you may want a good baby backpack. My Kelty was fabulous there and I wound up passing in on to Peruvian friends – it’s still in use many years later. Strollers and baby backpacks are one thing I don’t recommend buying online – in my opinion you need to try them out. If that’s not practical, try the following Cosmo St. Stroller Caribbean and Kelty Tour Outdoor Child Carrier with sun/rain hood.
- Bring a “bag of surprises” but try not to let your kids know you’ve got all of it. You can pull out wrapped mini-presents (e.g. play-dough, finger puppets, stickers, tiny bags of snacks, cars, plastic animals, magic pen coloring books, lego/duplo, colorforms) as needed. Note that you can get all kinds of inexpensive toys at the open markets in Peru, but these are not the places frequented by most tourists. At tourist markets you can buy stuffed llamas, dolls and wooden toys among other things.
Tips for traveling with older children
- Let them help with research and planning for the trip. There is some pretty good children’s literature on Peru out there (see a few suggestions below) and older children can certainly read the guidebooks or at least read them with you.
- If they have special interests you can track down related places to visit in Lima or elsewhere (For example take your stamp collector to the Philatelic and Numismatic museum, your macramé artist to the Museo Amano to inspect ancient knotted textiles, your artist to the Art Museum (website only in Spanish — which by the way does have an education department and children’s programs, your musician to performances and musical instrument stores). It’s all there, with it’s own unique Peruvian flavor. Of course, if they are animal lovers, don’t miss all the wildlife (and start at the Parque Las Leyendas in Lima — where the zoo is — its the first place I ever saw a spectacled bear!)
- Research together or let them research the currency, climate, history and dress before you go.
- Find a way to have your children meet some Peruvian children. This can be through a school, or by taking school supplies to kids in Cusco (see Andean Travel Web for their latest projects )
- Try to get them some Spanish before you go (this is good advice for yourself as well) as it will just enrich their experience. Of course if they become your translators in restaurants and stores (kids pick up foreign languages much faster than most of us) it will make them feel good.
- Have them bring their own camera and encourage them to keep a journal and/or a Spanish vocabulary list while traveling, and/or keep a scrapbook together.
Packing List for traveling with kids to Peru (see also our Quixo Peru Packing for Peru page)
- A carry-on bag for each child with their favorite travel toys, books and security item. I’m a proponent of even toddlers having their own small carry-on backpack. Of course it has to be something they can actually carry themselves, and that isn’t too big or bulky. I like small backbacks for toddlers and small lightweight convertible rolling bag/backpacks for anyone older than about 3 or so. Just be sure that you can stow the backpack straps completely so they can’t drag on the ground (or get stuck in escalators…), and of course that you can carry it when you have too. It may be better to forgo the wheels and get an appropriate sized backpack (I’m partial to the ones from Lands' End ) if you’re going to Cuzco/Machu Picchu or otherwise traveling a lot when you’re there, because wheels are inconvenient and add too much weight if you’ll be hiking or even walking in highland towns.
NOTE: teach your kids to put their backpacks on in front when sitting and never, ever to put them down while out and about. Someone WILL steal it from the floor beside you the second you let go or look away. This goes for many restaurants and all public places. For older kids, it’s quite a lesson for them to understand that many families in Peru live on what they get for allowance.
- Clothes appropriate to the season. This is more difficult than it seems because the seasons are ‘reversed’ (I, for one, have a terrible time packing for winter in Peru in June or July when it’s roasting hot at home and the kid’s have already outgrown their winter stuff). For Lima and much of the coast you’ll need warm clothes in Peruvian winter (June-August) although short sleeves can be in order in the middle of the day on the North Coast or in the low elevation inland areas such as Nasca. For the highlands in any season you’ll need layers that can be made really warm and night – and in November-April don’t forget the rain gear. If worst comes to worst you can go to the big Lima Department store Ripley and buy some basics when you get there.
- The simplest traveling clothes (for long rides in airplanes, cars etc.) are cotton sweat suits – again I like the Lands' End Kids' Solid Sweat Pants. For layering, I suggest cotton t-shirts and turtlenecks, fleece, and packable wind-proof jackets (You’ll be able to buy nice wool, cotton and even fleece sweaters for them in Peru – just be careful because a lot of kids sweaters with cute designs are made of synthetics – they can be fine for some uses but they aren’t that warm). Cotton knit pants are great for girls, although you may want some warmer and more durable pants for the highlands. For boys and girls choose packable weight pants whenever possible (I tend to shop for kids clothes for travel at Land’s End, I like their Lands' End Little Girls' Yoga Flare Pants, Lands' End Kids' Open Bottom Reinforced-knee Sweat Pants for boys, and T-shirts and layers for everyone. I think they have pretty good bang for the buck and I love being able to shop in the middle of the night when the kids are asleep!)
- Comfortable shoes that they’ve worn for at least several weeks. Except for the heat of summer on the coast, make sure they are sturdy closed toed shoes
- SUNSCREEN and other sun protection. Bring more than you think you’ll need and favorite brands of toiletries. You can buy what’s needed in Peru but it doesn’t come in all the brands and varieties found here. Use it liberally and remember to apply twice a day in the highlands. The combination of wind and sun can fry that tender skin. A tube of some kind of chap stick for each child is good too, and a sun hat is a must for the highlands. If you are going to the beach or swimming I recommend Long Sleeve Rash Guard Shirt and shorts, as well as large brim sun hats (we like flaphappy for younger kids).
- Toys, books and entertainment. In addition to whatever favorite or security blankie or toy each child must bring, we like small travel pillows. Other recommendations are
- Small Plastic Animals which can go in the bath, play in the dirt, and go just about anywhere.
- deck of cards (we play go fish and old maid for 3-5 year olds, blackjack for 5 or 6+, etc.)
- music (I load my ipod with music to listen to together as well as kids favorites. I bring both headphones and speakers) Make sure whatever device you bring can be charged using 220 volts and/or runs on batteries.
- small dvd player and favorite dvds as well as some favorites. Make sure it can be charged using 220 volts
- activity/coloring books (We LOVE the klutz books like Klutz Fabulous Book of Paper Dolls and Klutz Highlight this Book as well as crayons/pencils/markers, blunt nosed kids scissors and tape/glue sticks.
Recommended books for children (teens should see the regular Peru book recommendations).
These are generally good for about 4th grade to around 7th grade. Some can be used earlier if read aloud and explained and all are illustrated elaborately and evocatively.
Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains is a story about a trickster guinea pig (cuy) from the Andes. Good for kids from around 4 or 5 years old up.
Inca Town is great for kids about 8-12. It looks at the pre-hispanic metropolis of Cusco and helps kids imagine how it was organized and what it was like to live there.
Macchu Picchu: The Story of the Amazing Inkas and Their City in the Clouds — Nice for kids 8-10 or 12 – brings ancient Machu Picchu to life with illustrations and text.
Secrets of Ancient Cultures: The Inca: Activities and Crafts from a Mysterious Land is great for the more hands-on kids and families or for those doing any home-schooling to go along with travel to Peru.
The Travel for Kids website lists several tour companies that have family tours. Note that while there is some good information on that site I do not agree with all of it. Some of the things they recommend are not fun for kids under 10 or 12. The same goes for the Frommer’s section “Especially for Kids.”