Traveling parents who are eager to encourage their kids to explore the world don’t have to go far to do it. From our neighbors just to the south in Mexico, to the inviting people of Nicaragua, to fun-loving friends in Brazil, we have a huge variety of countries and cultures to explore right here in the Western Hemisphere. The thought of a full day of travel, various layovers, and major time zone transitions with young kids can seem downright impossible. On the other hand, you can make it to many Latin American countries without a single layover in lots of cases, and the time zone difference will likely be (at most) 1 to 2 hours.
If you’re thinking of embarking on a Latin American vacation with your kids, be sure to put some extra thought into the process. Give yourself plenty of time so that you can prepare them for the experience and take care of specific needs like vaccinations and travel documents. Here’s a rundown of 3 essential things you’ll want to consider and address as you plan your trip:
1. Travel Documents
As is the case with any destination abroad, you and your kids may need a host of travel documents, depending on the country your family is visiting. Most countries grant a temporary visa upon arrival at an international airport, but you must apply for and receive a visa in advance if you’re traveling to Brazil. All travelers, regardless of age, must have a valid passport as well. The U.S. Department of State’s website is a great resource for detailed information on passports and visas.
Depending on the location(s) of your travels, your doctor may advise you that family members receive a series of vaccinations before the trip. If you’ll be staying exclusively at a resort in a well-developed area, vaccinations may not be needed. On the other hand, if you’ll be traveling in rural areas or between multiple countries, routine travel vaccinations will most likely be a smart choice and, in some cases, are required for travel between specific countries. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and yellow fever are some of the most commonly recommended vaccinations, and anti-malaria and typhoid prescriptions are taken orally. Check the Center for Disease Control’s travel website for easy-to-follow guidelines and consult with your family physician or a respected travel doctor for an expert opinion.
3. Cultural Differences
It’s important to discuss cultural differences with your children before you travel internationally. Make sure they understand that they’ll be hearing a language other than English, that locals may act and look differently, and that the food will not be the same as it is at home. Traveling abroad inspires kids to understand and respect other cultures, so be sure you take this opportunity to talk to them about how each country is unique, not “wrong.” Talk to your children about having an open mind when it comes to trying the local cuisine, and explain that they may not find their favorite foods but that they could discover a new favorite! Consider Spanish or Portuguese lessons prior to the trip so that they can feel comfortable with the sounds of the language and even understand how to communicate (from chatting to bartering) with locals.
Traveling with kids in Latin America is about so much more than taking a vacation. It gives parents an opportunity to teach their kids about understanding and appreciating other cultures and feeds their desire to learn, grow, and explore the world around them. If you’re thinking of taking a Latin American vacation with your kids, I encourage you to do so. Not only will they have a blast walking in national parks, playing in the ocean, visiting international museums, and having an overall great family vacation, but it will make an impact on them that will help them grow into better, more well-rounded human beings.