Visiting Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley with Kids: First-Time Tips
Peru may not be on the top of your list when mulling over where to take your next family vacation, but it should be! Here are some first-time tips for planning a trip to Machu Picchu with kids to make your trip to the Sacred Valley smooth as silk.
6 Tips for Planning a Trip to Machu Picchu
1. Wait until your youngest child is at least 6 or 7 years-old.
I understand that children vary developmentally and temperamentally, but in my humble opinion, it is best to wait until your child is a bit older to visit Machu Picchu and the surrounding Sacred Valley.
Considerations include the altitude (Cusco sits at over 11,000 feet), health care availability, and the simple fact that you will probably enjoy yourself a lot more if your child is a bit more mature. (Case in point, my daughter was 7 years-old when we visited Machu Picchu as a family and, thankfully, responsive to bribes of chocolate cake in exchange for hiking to the sun gate at Machu Picchu.)
2. The best time to go to Machu Picchu is during summer vacation, rather than holiday breaks.
As luck would have it, the best time of the year to visit the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu is in the summer, especially June. The crowds may be bigger, but the weather is sublime and colorful festivals abound. We visited Machu Picchu for the first time (before our daughter was born) in January and lucked out with the weather, but it is normally wet and sticky.
3. Fly the flagship airline, even if it means spending a little more.
You have several airline choices to get from the U.S to Peru, but once you are in the country and want to get from Lima to Cusco, I strongly recommend flying with the national carrier, Latam (formerly called LAN or LAN Peru). We have flown the one-hour Lima to Cusco flight on four different trips and have always been impressed with the quality of the planes, on-board staff and family-friendly service. (We were offered family boarding even when our daughter was age 11.)
Be warned, however, that the airline ground staff is incredibly strict about the size of carry-on bags. In fact, the airline may deploy staff to roam the waiting area looking for people who are trying to sneak on larger-sized rolling bags. Also, arrive at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international flight.
4. Take your time and acclimatize in the Sacred Valley.
If you are making the trip to Peru, try to stay a minimum of 10 days and 9 nights. A sample itinerary could include one night in Lima (on your way in or out of the country), four or five nights in the Sacred Valley to relax and acclimatize, one night in Machu Picchu and three nights in Cusco. Having extra time means more time to explore different villages, hikes and ruins and less pressure to squeeze everything in and wake up early!
In Lima, treat yourself to a night or two in the residential neighborhood of Miraflores at Hilton Lima Miraflores. For your stay in Cusco, consider Hilton Garden Inn Cusco, which is just a short walk to the historic city center.
5. Don’t even think about renting a car.
For each of our trips, we have used a private driver to pick us up at the airport in Cusco and drive us to our hotel in the Sacred Valley. The cost is about $60 (one-way for a non-English speaking driver), and your driver will stop in Cusco for supplies if you ask. Once you arrive in your village of choice, you will be greeted by many friendly taxi drivers. Find one with a nice car that you trust and develop a relationship. In Urubamba, we have had the same taxi driver for all three of our last visits!
6. Plan ahead for immunizations and medical needs.
Talk to your pediatrician or family physician, but chances are, you will want to get some shots before a trip to Peru. I also recommend purchasing some form of travel insurance from a reputable carrier that covers medical evacuation to Lima or back to the U.S. Reasonable basic healthcare is available by English-speaking doctors in Cusco and bigger towns in the Sacred Valley, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in case you have a medical emergency, including altitude sickness which can strike anyone.
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A self-proclaimed Jersey Girl (with a soft spot for Jon Bon Jovi), Amy currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and 11-year old daughter. She picked…