From the trip planning stage it is clear that Peru (as such, much of South America) is backpackers’ territory. You can throw some adventurous retirees into the mix, maybe a few Pacific-cruising baby boomers, but that’s about it. People with young kids apparently all go to Disney for spring break. Unexpectedly, this fact turned to our favor in a myriad little ways.
- On domestic Peruvian flights we were invited to preboard as we were usually the only family with kids (2 and under rule didn’t apply simply because there weren’t other kids). This was in total contrast to other international flights where to attempt to preboard is to endure heavy jostling, indignant cussing or, at the very least, dagger glares. Boarding a plane can be a pleasant experience after all!
- Restaurants in Peru don’t cater to kids with separate menu choices like American establishments do. My kids are extremely picky. This meant that they went hungry many evenings, having only consumed American snacks we’d brought along all day. Although we (and the kids) are used to this kind of routine on travel, I pitied them enough to approach our hotel’s kitchen twice during the trip to ask to use their equipment to cook a simple butter pasta. We’re talking actual hotel/restaurant kitchens here. What can I say; I was desperate. I can’t imagine getting away with this in America or even most of Europe, but in Peru I did! They made me wear a hair net (ridiculous), but once inside, set me up with cutlery, a small pan of boiling water, butter (we brought our own pasta), seasonings. How cool is THAT?!
- You end up meeting people you’d never otherwise have talked to because your kids broke the ice when you weren’t looking. While browsing a handicrafts market in Lima, we’d outfitted the kids with their electronics and seated them within eyeshot so they’d let us look around in peace. 10 minutes later we returned to a gentleman excitedly informing us that he couldn’t believe we lived in NoVa where his daughter lives. On further investigation it was revealed that their daughter lives across the street from V’s school and that the gentleman often runs by the school when he visits his daughter. There is something fateful about meeting someone from home, that speaks your language, in a foreign country. Both our families left with bemused smiles, nodding our heads at the pleasant coincidence.
- Another time, on the bus to Lake Titicaca, we struck up a conversation with a nice young couple via our kids who were asked what grades they were in. Later we learned that they were a teacher-doctor couple from Australia who were on a year’s sabbatical to travel countries like Peru, Bolivia, India, Sri Lanka and more, and were already 3 months in. Having never done this before (up and left), such lifestyles are a constant source of admiration, and trepidation, for me.
- Peruvians are such a friendly people anyway, but traveling with kids brought out even more of their generosity. Every time we stopped at a kiosk for a souvenir or a roadside stand for snack, the owner would smile at the kids and hand them a small gift or a piece of candy. The gifts might be eaten or lost but their feeling is never forgotten.
Peru may seem to have a rugged character on the outside, but there is absolutely nothing to discourage families with young kids to travel to this destination. You may end up experiencing the suburban version of an adventure — taking the train up to Machu Picchu vs. hiking the Inca trail — but it is an adventure nonetheless. One your kids may even end up remembering for a long time to come.