by Christine Mackay
Kids just experience places differently. Take our recent family program to Peru for example. When we arrived at the Inca citadel of Machu Pichu I let the parents know that I would take the kids (ages ranging from 4-6) with me to play games and the adults could go with the local guide to find out more about these amazing ruins clinging to the side of cloud draped precipices.
So the kids and I went from one section of the ruins to another playing hide and seek. I was certain I was having more fun than the adults. Playing hide and seek at Machu Pichu is like playing golf at St. Andrews.. always another hidden turn, amazing view, and places to lose your ball. I was “it” the entire time and I loved it. Counting in Spanish to 20 and hollering out.. “ready or not, here I come” brought me back to the days when wonder, laughter and games filled my days.
The kids hid in crevasses in the rocks, went into rooms made of stones so intricately placed together not a piece of paper could penetrate the cracks. They climbed up stairs and down walkways, laughing and hiding. Every once in a while I would shout.. “look.. your parents are over there”.. And they would all look up to the Sun Temple or some other important promontory and see their parents. The kids would wave at their parents and then return to the important task at hand: play.
Our entire trip was like this. The first day of the program at Santo Domingo Church just off the Plaza de Mayor, the kids spent most of their time chasing pigeons and sending them air bound in a flurry of grey wings. They could have done this for hours. The parents awed at the incredible wooden vestibule, the catacombs and the amazing centuries old paintings. The kids thought the bones were “cool” the centuries old books were “really old”. They didn’t even notice the art work. Kids just see different things and this is what makes it so wonderful to bring children to a place like Peru.
During our home-stay, when I asked my daughter Trinity what her favorite part of the stay was.. with no hesitation she said “the guinea Pigs!” which she was seen holding at any given time during the whole three days, often pleading- “Mama don’t let them eat this one (she had named butterball). If you are not familiar; guinea pigs are commonly eaten in Peru and are called Cuy (pronounced: kwee). One of the other boys –Gil from NY was the opposite. An astonishingly courageous eater at 4, he looked at the pen of guinea pigs and said “which one do I get to eat?”.
We had four kids on the trip. A 4 year old, a 5 year old and 2- 6 year olds. The kids were strong and did great with different foods, different climates and even the altitude. Kids seem to take it all in stride, assuming that there will always be food to eat when they are hungry, a coat for when they care cold and a lap to sleep on when they need it.
The key to traveling with children is to take it slow. Never have a train, plane or bus ride last longer than 2 hours. Plan on making lots of stops for applying sunscreen, bug repellent, getting water down the kids, taking off and putting on clothes and offering up snacks. The other key is to be sure to travel with other families. All these little things just seem to take longer with children and something adults without kids just don’t have the patience for. If everyone has kids then everyone knows that at some point their child will wine, cry out, run ahead and possibly throw food or do those things that can at times seem embarrassing but as part of a family program are just an expected part of the travel plan.
In the Amazon, Trinity my daughter loved the hammocks and seeing the animals. We saw a large caiman, capybaras, parrots, macaws, and more. The lodge was incredible and Trinity couldn’t wait to go to the upper level that is adorned with swinging hammocks stretched out across the length of the huge room with open air walls at each end where you could see the weaver birds diving in and out of their close hanging nests. Trinity would swing up there in her hammock for hours if I let her. She would lay down quietly swinging back and forth, listening to the sound of the jungle, watching for birds. This is what I loved..the fact that the jungle had its own rhythms that my daughter was able to join through the movement of our hammock.
At the impressive Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the adults learned of the last Inca stronghold against the Spanish while the kids slid down rock slides, climbed over rocks and blew up rocket balloons and chased them around the huge open fields, laughing and competing to catch the falling deflated balloons.
Our last day had us in Lima for 8 full hours while waiting for our outbound flights. Most adults would try to pack in what they could to see the last of Peru. But with families..we slowly wandered along the cliffs, enjoying the breeze and watching the surfers below. We spent an hour at a silly arcade letting the kids run around and play games. Then we walked into the center of Miraflores and let the kids play at the playground. It was relaxing for the adults who sat together, talked, drank coffee and watched the kids get out all their energy. We were all grateful not to be dragging them on a tour of a museum which would bore them to tears. We were grateful they could burn off their energy so they would sleep on the plane that night. We were grateful to have spent a wonderful and entertaining 10 days filled with the sites and sounds of such a diverse place as Peru.
Peru is a magical place filled with wonder and truly incredible ruins. But the best way to experience it is with your kids. It adds another layer of wonderment to see the country through your child’s eyes. You will see more animals, run more, climb more and discover your own inner playground.
Do you want to join us and travel with a purpose with your family this summer?
We are now enrolling for the Peru Family Program Summer 2012.
Dates: July 7 – 17, optional extension to the Amazon July 17 – 20
Cost: $2,621 adults, $1,725 kids
Click here to learn more!
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