Long-haul travel with small children is not always easy but having a new family and exploring Latin America are not at all incompatible. Humboldt Director Kirsty draws on her own experience of travelling with her family and offers some tips and tricks!
For many people, the expansion of their family means the start of limiting their long-haul travels, at least for a few years. As one of the owners of a travel company that was never an option, or to be honest, a consideration for me. When our daughter arrived, I was excited about taking her to South America and we had always known that we would be travelling with her from a young age. Her first trip was to France when she was about 10 weeks old. She slept all the way and the pram made it to Toulouse all in one piece – my main concern! At the baby stage, they are so portable that it is the easiest time to fly with them.
When she was eight months old, we ventured a further afield and headed to Brazil. This was a slightly different kettle of fish as she was crawling and a much wrigglier and more adventurous little being. I should start by stating that we travelled with both of her grandmothers and so having two extra pairs of hands was of course a help!
Right from the flight, people tend to be that little bit more helpful with you when you are travelling with a child. The cabin crew are always happy to talk to your little one and interested in your trip. There are always people (normally ladies of a certain age) smiling and remarking how sweet the baby is and I found that many people wanted to recount their own stories of travelling with their children. One lady even came to say to me that she had been desperate to ask if I needed any help (her husband had tried to discourage her) even though she could see that I had plenty of help and my daughter was behaving very well.
For me, the real highlight of travelling with children in Latin America, is the Latin Americans themselves. They are incredibly warm and friendly people and very family orientated. Everyone from teenagers right up to grandparents wants to interact with your child. This might sound concerning and for us English, they are often more hands on than we are used to. However, I never found anyone to be disrespectful or inappropriate and a simple smile and no will suffice if you do not want them to hold your child. Regardless of this, a toddler will soon make their feeling known if they are not keen to be held by someone! It is common to see parents out and about with their young children in Latin America, in restaurants and at the beach. If your child is making a noise, no one bats an eyelid and people are always smiling and chatty with young ones and families.
I have found that facilities for babies and young children are readily available wherever we go in Latin America. Most restaurants have highchairs and all hotels will provide cots. Baby changing facilities are not always so easy to come by so this sometimes requires some improvisation and baby food in jars is often not what we are used to in the UK. You will find the standard brands but if you prefer something closer to Ella’s Kitchen, bring your own. I carried kilos of baby pouches round Brazil, the large majority of which came home with us because our daughter was too excited to eat much at mealtimes!
Once children are past the baby food stage, finger food and larger meals tend to be easy to manage. Rice and beans are available everywhere and I have found that soups, sandwiches and pasta are all readily available no matter where you venture in Latin America. On a recent trip to Belize, whilst on a tour at a Mayan women’s cooperative, one of the teenage girls there took our daughter under her wing (or in fact our daughter grabbed her and bossed her around!) I came out of a pottery workshop to find they had got her into a highchair (something she had refused to do for us during most of the trip) and were feeding her rice and beans and homemade tortilla. They had checked with me that it was ok to give her this beforehand and it was just a wonderfully inclusive and relaxing experience for everyone.
So far, we have taken our daughter to Brazil, Guatemala and Belize in Latin America. Each trip has of course been tiring and different to trips pre-baby, but they have also been such a joy and have opened us up to more of the country, different aspects and interactions that we would not have had previously. I am excited about the possibilities of future travel in Latin America with our daughter and with another baby on the way, the trips are only going to get more hectic and more fun! I encourage anyone considering it to head to this amazing part of the world as a family. It is more rewarding than it is stressful!
Are you thinking about visiting Latin America as a family? Learn more about Brazil and Belize and browse our sample itineraries. Contact us today to speak with your travel specialist and plan an idyllic family escape!