When we would mention our upcoming vacation to Peru to coworkers, friends, and family, there were generally two reactions: “Peru? Wow, but what do you even do there?” or “Oh fun, but if you’re going to Machu Picchu, you’re not taking your toddler, right?” It was quite shocking to discover how little people knew about Peru. And then if they did know anything, it was surprising that they couldn’t see why we would take our two-year-old with us.
By Kaylyn Marsano
Here’s Why We Traveled to Peru
- Direct Flight–Living in Houston, TX, we have a non-stop six-hour flight to Lima, Peru. We found cheap airline tickets (well, I guess cheap for international travel), which made it even more enticing.
- Same Time Zone–I must admit that when we first clicked the button and bought the airline tickets, I didn’t realize this. This was a great bonus!
- Marriott Accommodations: As my husband used to travel a lot for work, he is a Titanium Marriott Bonvoy Member. We heavily play the points game and can book amazing international hotels and resorts on points. At this time in our lives, it’s a no-go if there isn’t an available Marriott option.
- We Love Mountains: We realized that we just love the fresh mountain air. We usually go to Colorado at least once a year; we were excited to explore the Andes!
- Machu Picchu: My husband had Machu Picchu on his bucket list. We figured–WHY NOT?
When I was planning this trip, I realized the concern regarding altitude sickness. I was familiar with it because I developed symptoms every time we hiked at high altitudes in Colorado. We did not experience altitude sickness in Peru.
Here is what helped us avoid symptoms:
Acclimating to High Altitude
When planning our itinerary, I followed recommendations online on adjusting to high altitude. I had read that it’s best to fly into Cusco (11,151 feet above sea level) but then to stay in the Sacred Valley (a one-and-a-half hour drive) that’s at a lower altitude (approximately 9,000 feet) for several nights before returning to Cusco. I think that this was key to avoiding altitude sickness.
We were very diligent about staying hydrated. We always had a sippy cup with water handy for our daughter and I constantly encouraged her to take sips . We kept our water bottles with us at all times. My husband and I also drank coca tea, which Sacred Valley and Cusco locals claim helps with altitude sickness. There’s no scientific proof, but I believe that it helped!
Strategic Activity Planning
We deliberately didn’t pack too many activities into each day. Generally, every day, we went on a half-day excursion and spent the rest of our time resting and playing at the hotel. Having enough down time helped us a lot.
When I felt a headache coming on a couple of times, I took Tylenol and it went away. When we were in Colorado earlier this year, a local told us that Tylenol is more effective relieving altitude headaches than Advil. I don’t know if that’s true, but the Tylenol worked for me . We brought children’s Motrin and Tylenol for our daughter and used it as needed. We didn’t bring any prescription altitude medications, but that is an option you can look into. This is what worked for us, but maybe not for you. Please consult your pediatrician and/or general practitioner before traveling.
Tips for Traveling to Peru with a Toddler
Snacks Are a Life-Saver
This was key was key for us. When prepping for this trip, I packed two-gallon-sized Ziplocs filled with snacks for our sweet little girl. I thought that I was overpacking and was even slightly embarrassed. Guess what? After only four days, we had to go to a local store in Urubamba to stock up on more snacks!! I highly recommend bringing a good stash as selection in the Sacred Valley is limited. These familiar on-the-go snacks were a necessity in keeping our bébé happy. She never went hungry, whether we were at the top of Machu Picchu or in a tour van on our way to another Inca site or town.
Traveling with Kids in Peru is Actually a Perk
Yep, you read that right. We skipped every airport line because we had a toddler–security, customs, and pre-boarding. We even got to sit in the front of the bus to Machu Picchu because we had a toddler. It made our traveling so much easier!
Bring All of Your Gear
This was not a minimalist trip for us! Below is some of the gear we brought. We used it all!
Carseat–essential as most of your traveling will be via private transfers in vans that are generally not equipped with car seats. I also recommend bringing a belt lock because all the cars we traveled in had lap seat belts only. You will likely need a belt lock to correctly secure your car seat. We used the Cosco Scenera because it’s really lightweight and our daughter is still under the height/weight limit.
Stroller–If you bring one, it should be a trail stroller due to the rough terrain. We have a Bob which was great on the cobblestones and rocky terrain. A traditional stroller with rubber wheels never would have made it.
Baby/Toddler Carrier–We had to decide between bringing a hiking backpack carrier and the Tula carrier (original, not toddler size). I brought the Tula because it’s easier to pack than the much bulkier hiking backpack. This worked for us everywhere except at Machu Picchu, where the hiking backpack would have been better. I met another mom at our resort who rented a hiking backpack carrier in Cusco for Machu Picchu. You may want to check out this option. The Tula was essential at Machu Picchu because there are so many ledges. It kept our toddler safe and secure.
Itinerary and Hotel Accommodations
As previously mentioned, we factored in altitude acclimatization when planning our trip. After arriving in Lima on United Airlines, we flew on Peruvian Airlines from Lima to Cusco because it was much cheaper. After landing in Cusco, we transferred to our hotel, the Tambo Del Inka Hotel in Urubamba, where we stayed for five nights. We then went back to Cusco and stayed at the JW Marriott El Convento for two nights before flying to Lima where we spent the night at the JW Marriott Lima in Lima’s upscale Miraflores district before taking the red eye back home.
Note: In Peru, they recommend arriving at the airport two hours ahead for domestic flights and three hours for international flights. Also, rolling carry-ons aren’t allowed on board Peruvian Airline and have to be checked in. They allow one checked bag per person and each additional bag is $30USD. Allow for extra time to pay for this surcharge as payment at a different location from the luggage drop off. Or, pay when booking your flight.
We often had our meals at the hotel for convenience, but here are some recommendations from restaurants we sampled:
Kaia in Urubamba–We a great lunch at this cute little restaurant where the food is fresh and options plentiful. Our daughter especially liked their playground.
Pachapapa in Cusco–We loved this traditional Peruvian restaurant which has great service and high chairs.
Kion in Cusco–This Asian-Peruvian fusion restaurant was so good. Great appetizers and their Asian wings are some of the best we’ve ever had!
What We Saw in Peru
Maras and Moray
We booked all our tours through Venturia, the tour company located at our hotel in Urubamba. The Maras and Moray Tour was a private tour from 8AM to 12PM with an English-speaking guide. A van drove us about 45 minutes to the Maras Salt Mines where our tour guide took us around and explained the history. The Tula carrier came in handy here as there were a lot of stairs. We then loaded back into the van for an approximate 20-minute ride to the Incan Moray Site. We used our trail stroller here as there was a path we could push the stroller on. I highly recommend seeing these two sites as they are so unique to the Sacred Valley.
We went on another private tour with Venturia to Chinchero, a traditional town in the Sacred Valley at an elevation of over 12,000 feet. We had a great English-speaking guide and stopped to take pictures with llamas. We got a full demonstration of textile dyeing and weaving before touring the town. In town, we explored the Inca site with beautiful mountains in the background. We used our Bob trail stroller here. Since there are a lot of steps in some areas, my husband and I carried it up and down. After our 9AM to 1PM tour we got back to the hotel in time for a nap. This was actually my favorite day as we were able to interact with the locals, who were so welcoming. They simply love children and doted on our daughter. I truly felt like I got a glimpse of the kindness of the Peruvian people.
The big day! We went on another private tour with Venturia for Machu Picchu. One cool thing about the Tambo Del Inka Resort–they have a private train station. You can take either the Vistadome or Sacred Valley Train (more luxurious and expensive) to Machu Picchu. We boarded the Vistadome train at 6:30AM. I’m so glad we purchased my daughter her own seat. She loved looking out the window. During the two-and-a-half-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, we were offered a drink and a snack (small cake). We brought a bunch of extra snacks in a backpack and activities to keep our toddler busy on the train.
We met up with our tour guide in Aguas Calientes and then we were off on a bus to Machu Picchu. It was great havinhg a private tour guide because we didn’t have to figure out where to go. Also, once we got into Machu Picchu, we could move at our own pace. This was key because our daughter wanted us to keep walking and would put up a fuss if we stopped in one place for too long. Machu Picchu is absolutely beautiful and it’s a day we will never forget. Our daughter loved seeing the llamas whom she called “baa baa’s.” After touring the site, we had lunch (included in the tour) at the restaurant at Machu Picchu and then took the bus back to Auas Calientes train station. It was a long day as the entire tour was from 6:00AM to 7:00PM. Our toddler ended up falling asleep on me on the train ride home–she was exhausted!
Awana Kancha Alpaca Farm
On the way from Urubamba to Cusco we stopped at the Awana Kancha Alpaca Farm so our daughter could see more alpacas. There is no entrance fee and they provide food for you to feed at the alpacas. We skipped the textile demonstrations since we had already done them. Their textiles seemed very overpriced. After we petted and fed the alpacas, we went back to our van to Cusco.
We ended up not having too many things planned while we were in Cusco, which was mostly because I am the planner in the family, and I had focused all of my planning on our time in the Sacred Valley. We decided to take our daughter to the ChocoMuseo for something to do. We did the 45-minute tour which included some chocolate making. My husband and I thought it was pretty touristy, but our daughter loved it. I think it would be especially fun for older kids.
In researching our stay in Lima, it seemed clear that we should stay in the Miraflores because it’s one of the safer areas. Luckily for us, that’s where the JW Marriott is located! As we only had one day to really explore Miraflores, we chose to go on some long walks in the parks that are on cliffs overlooking the ocean. It was really great to stretch our legs and enjoy some ocean air. Our toddler loved playing with all the kids in the playgrounds there. It was a really nice, relaxing way to end our trip.
It’s Not Goodbye–It’s See You Later!
Overall, we truly loved our trip to Peru and have already talked about going back someday. I was surprisingly emotional when we left the Sacred Valley because it’s such a wonderful place filled with lovely people. It was so great to see how much our toddler enjoyed the culture and people of Peru even though she’s only two! I’m also convinced that she’s caught our travel bug because when we landed at 7AM from our red eye flight to Houston, she asked to go on a plane again! She totally loved it! The greatest thing about this trip was that it further confirmed how great it is to travel with your kids no matter their age. With a little extra planning, and ALL OF THE SNACKS, traveling internationally with a toddler is not just doable, its enjoyable. Can’t wait to see where we choose to go next!
Did you know Bebe Voyage has partnered with Our Whole Village, a company that curates meaningful family adventures? They are all about local and authentic travel experiences for families who want to raise good global citizens and make a difference. Here are a few reasons we love their Peru itinerary for families:
– Plenty of local and authentic hands-on experiences, from feeding alpacas to a ceramics workshop;
– Great English-speaking kid-friendly guides that bring Machu Picchu, Maras, Moray and other Inca ruins to life;
– Outdoor experiences like kayaking on Piuray lagoon and horseback riding through fields and Andean villages; and
– A special community-based experience with the artisans of the Sacred Valley. As a fellow blogger put it: “I can confidently say that our day in Huilloc was one that we will not be forgetting anytime soon. Our children were able to not only play with the local kids there, but take part in meaningful and educational experiences alongside us.”