10 Tips for Adventure Travel with Kids
Please join us in welcoming the Voelkel Family to The Window Seat. J&P Voelkel are the cowriters of The Jaguar Stones book series including, Book One: Middleworld and Book Two: The End of The World Club.
The first time we took our three kids to the Central American jungle, the youngest was only two. We worried she’d get eaten by a jaguar but, in reality, the biggest problem was getting her to swallow her anti-malaria medicine.
Since we’ve been writing our Jaguar Stones books–a contemporary adventure series for 11-14 year olds–we’ve been back to the jungle every year. We’ve tracked howler monkeys in Belize, chugged up the mighty Usumacinta River, crossed swinging rope bridges above the forest canopy in Guatemala, explored ancient cave systems in Mexico, and visited around 30 Maya sites. It’s been an amazing experience for all of us–and nothing promotes family bonding like bullfrogs croaking in the bathroom and howler monkeys roaring on the roof at four in the morning!
Here’s our ten top tips of things we’ve learned along the way.
1. Dress for Adventure: Wear sneakers or hiking boots–not open-toed sandals. Long sleeves and long pants are a must in buggy areas and in the evenings. (Although be warned: some mosquitoes can even bite through clothing.) And don’t wear perfume or perfumed deodorant–it attracts mozzies.
2. Never, Never Drink the Water: or any drink with ice (or eat salad or unpeeled fruit) in a restaurant without making sure that they use purified water. Use bottled water for brushing teeth.
3. Travel Light but Bring the Essentials: Assume there will be no shops. Bug spray, itch soother, and sunscreen can be expensive and hard to find. Remember hand sanitizer and tissues–bathrooms can be a challenge. A perfumed travel candle helps in a moldy-smelling room. Pack sketchpads, pens, and glue sticks so your kids can make travel journals. Audiobooks are great on long drives.
4. Find a Decent Hotel: If your options look bleak, consider changing your route. Kids will put up with more during the day if they know there’s a nice bathroom/pool/meal/bed at the end of it.
5. Involve the Kids: Read books together about the area before you go. Let them help plan the sightseeing agenda–they’ll be more committed and less likely to complain. And if you’re headed into jungly areas, be sure they know not to touch anything. The plants can be more dangerous than the animals.
6. Set the Bar Low: Expect to cover a lot less ground when you travel with kids. Pick out your must-sees ahead of time and regard everything else as a bonus.
7. Be Flexible: Take a day off from sightseeing now and then. The great thing about traveling with children is all the time you can spend sitting in playgrounds and plazas, making new friends and watching the world go by. When you have children with you, the locals are so much friendlier and more willing to chat.
By ClemMcGann, via Wikimedia Commons
8. Relax Your Nutrition Standards: When you don’t know where your next square meal is coming from, stock up at gas stations with potato chips, plantain chips, trail mix, chewing gum, chocolate bars, cookies… anything! It helps to have familiar snacks in the car for those long drives. And always plenty of bottled water.
9. Make an Effort to Communicate: If you can’t speak the language, buy a phrase-book and use it. Encourage the children to order their own food in restaurants. Before you go, be sure to teach them the basics like “hello,” “please,” and “thank you”.
10. Never Underestimate the Power of the Tropical Sun. Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, and bring hats, rash-guards, and extra T-shirts for swimming.
And a bonus tip: Don’t stand under a tree with howler monkeys in it. They’ll pee on you. (We learned this one the hard way.)
From time to time, the Window Seat publishes articles and blog posts written by guest authors to give you a fresh perspective on the world of travel.