International Travel with Kids 2: COLOMBIA

 Cocora valley

Cocora valley

After traveling all around the coffee triangle region of Colombia (and enjoying their world renowned coffee every chance we got) we found it was easier to transport everyone by renting a small bus vs. individual taxis or vans. The kids enjoyed it because it felt like a school field trip every time we rode our bus (the littlest one having never ridden a school bus for a field trip was particularly thrilled by the experience). I’m grateful all our kids were well behaved, and of course, I’m grateful that they all listened to my safety warnings and followed them to a T.

When traveling with kids, especially on long trips, I find it very important to make each child feel comfortable in order to get their best behavior.  As an example, I always make sure to pack my daughter’s precious blanket. We don’t leave home (overnight) without it. I also made sure to pack her favorite drinking cup, one toy, and her favorite, weather-appropriate, outfits. These small details made her feel secure and it made the environment a little less scary for her.  Also, please always make sure they have comfortable shoes for long walks, that way you don’t have to deal with foot blisters and other issues that can potentially ruin a good time.

RELATED: INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL WITH KIDS PART 1: COLOMBIA

 giant man

giant man

I always carry a cross body bag, big enough for my personal belongings, a few snacks, and a bottle of water. Refillable bottles that have a snap-hook that you can attach to your bag are very convenient. I like to be hands-free and carry everything on my cross body bag. I also carry a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer, tissue, and band-aids (believe me; you’ll thank me should you need these).

We laughed a lot in this trip. Hubby is 6’5” and needless to say, he looked like a giant compared to most locals. This was pretty hilarious especially when he realized that he his feet hung out of the South American standard beds, and he had to watch his head through many door frames and other structures.

 somebody didnt fit through the door of the bathrooms

somebody didnt fit through the door of the bathrooms

We had a scary moment when we thought one of us lost their wallet with all personal information and identifications (it is always a good idea to have a photocopy of yours and your child’s documents stored in a safe place while you travel).

But don’t worry… we found it!

One of my favorite places was Salento, Quindio.  We climbed the Alto de la Cruz and all of its 250 steps.  We were exhausted once we got to the top, but it was totally worth it.  The views of the town and the mountains were breathtaking.  I also thought it was very curious to see so many stray dogs walking around, and none of them looked malnourished (although some were thirsty).  We noticed that the locals, and hundreds of tourist, feed and pet these very friendly dogs all the time. So, living on the streets might not be too bad for them after all.  They get sheltered by local vendors when needed, and the town is their playground.  

 brother giving a stray dog some water.

brother giving a stray dog some water.

We also had some small injuries and scrapes.  Kid #4 got a splinter (a very small splinter) and cried bloody murder for a good twenty minutes while uncle and dad tried to remove it. Picture this: Lunch time; the water park's restaurant area packed with people trying to eat; a four year old screaming but moved to the grassy area just outside the restaurant to minimize a spectacle (that didn’t make it better btw).  Dad is holding her so she doesn’t move, uncle is performing an improvised cutaneous amateur surgery, well, that’s the way it seems from a distance judging by the screams and kicks... and suddenly it stops. The splinter is out and magically she feels nothing anymore. The rest of the crew recovered their original color as their faces go back to normal from the bright tomato red they had turned with embarrassment. Immediately, Kid #3 starts to cry. She also has a splinter that was conveniently painless until she saw it. Repeat. Buy everyone ice-cream after the ordeal.

 flying back home

flying back home

Despite the minor incidents everything went well until our way back home. We had another eight hour layover in Panama. By that time we knew the airport like pros. We knew exactly where the AC area was, and what restaurants were good. About an hour before boarding hubby started to feel queasy. He looked pale and clammy and I knew that something wasn’t right. “Maybe it was something he ate?” I thought, but we all ate the same thing and we were feeling alright so that couldn’t be it. Then I saw hubby pacing back and forth. He was holding his right side. The flank area of his body, he said, was throbbing. The pain made him so sick that he was vomiting. I knew he was not going to be able to make it on a plane for 4 hours in that condition. I knew he was passing a kidney stone (he suffers from this often). Even if he wanted to board the plane, the airline clerk saw his pale face and asked me what was wrong. I told her I suspected a big kidney stone. Well, apparently they don’t let you board a plane (at least not in Panama) if you are or look sick. He looked terrible. Even my five year old daughter knew something wasn’t right. So our group gets split in two and we stayed in Panama while the rest flew back home. Luckily, the medic at the airport clinic was incredibly nice and gave hubby something for the pain. He was able to stabilize him and after a couple of hours his pain was bearable. The airline was also (to my surprise) very cooperative. They placed us on the last plane back to the States that night, and although we missed our connecting flight, we were glad to be home.  

Read about: tips on what to pack when traveling with kids

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International Travel with Kids part 1... It is Possible!: COLOMBIA edition

We love to travel abroad.  Last summer we packed our bags and took a plane to Colombia. This beautiful, diverse South American country had so many things to offer, we should’ve planned for more than the two glorious weeks we took.

 Always have a"fun-kit" on hand for long layovers

Always have a"fun-kit" on hand for long layovers

We traveled with four kids, ages ranging from 8 to 4. Let me tell you, yes I was nervous at first because for three of the kids, it was their very first time on a plane. We spent the weeks before the trip preparing them for any possible scenario. Fortunately, although they are little, they are smart kids. We went over safety rules, different foods, how to behave on a plane, cultural differences, language differences, and safety rules one more time. I was satisfied that they had learned at least a little after my constant (almost obsessive) repetition. By the way, we budgeted our finances in order to travel with the whole family.  It takes effort, but it's totally worth it! (click here for how to budget to travel).

The day came. Five adults, four kids, lots of bags…. Well, not really, we tried to travel light.  We knew we had an eight hour layover in Panama, so we were prepared. (See What to pack TIPS when traveling with kids ). We had activity books, portable DVD player, cards and little games for them to play…and snacks; plenty of plane-friendly snacks. BUT, we didn’t count on the almost infernal heat at the non-air conditioned airport. Neither one of us had ever traveled through that airport before, so we didn’t know what to expect. Apparently the airport was under construction and only a very small part of it was air conditioned. Well, needless to say, we spent 7 of the 8 hours in the AC area. The kids were comfortable enough and really tired by the time we got in the last plane to Colombia. They all fell asleep.

When we finally arrived to the city of Pereira, one of the main cities in the heart of the“Coffee Triangle”, we realized that hubby’s bag was missing!. The airline in Panama failed to transfer it to the next airplane. After the aggravation of setting up a lost-bag claim, we were greeted by some of our family that lives there. They had also rented a bus to fit us all and transport us around. 

We had to accommodate all of us in a small three bedroom apartment. It was tight, but it wasn’t terrible. It was hot thought (thank God for fans and micro-fiber cooling towels). We toured the city the first day with no problems. We also had to shop for hubby’s clothes since he had nothing to change into.  Note to self:  sizes in other countries are slightly different from the US.  Large there is NOT like a large here. 

We quickly learned the lesson in apparel shopping, but not before we had already purchased some items.  That didn’t stop us from having fun. 

 Hotsprings waterfall in the background

Hotsprings waterfall in the background

Our first destination was a natural hot-springs pool park of Termales of Santa Rosa, up in the central mountain range, about one hour from where we were staying. It was hot in Pereira, but this place was cool and comfortable, although it got a little cold at night fall. The hot-spring in this area was a natural volcanic spring that flows from an impressive waterfall at 158° and reaches the pool area at 104°.  Once the water enters the pool it is combined with cold water to make it comfortable and soothing. You can even smell the volcanic residue in the air. It was amazing and the kids loved it. 

DESTINATION #2

After this day experience, we went to a sports/waterpark complex called Confamiliar Risaralda- Parque Consota, and stayed in a beautiful cabin while enjoying a semi-private pool and all the amenities of the park. Fresh coffee was served each morning by their friendly staff dressed in typical- coffee region attire.  In the meantime, hubby’s luggage was still in limbo.

DESTINATION #3

Way into day four, we were able to recover the luggage, along with the comfortably fitting clothes of a 6’5” man.  He was happy, and we moved on to the next destination; a country house outside the Pereira.  We relaxed for two days laying in hammocks and cooking out in the outdoor kitchen.   The kids had a wonderful fenced space to play around and breathe in the fresh air and also fishing.

DESTINATION #4 was a Coffee-themed amusement park.  We all enjoyed this place tremendously.  Filled with roller-coasters, water rides, theater, music, and eco-friendly walks, this coffee-themed park was both informative and fun.

Back in the bus to:

DESTINATION #5

Kids are singing, and we are all admiring the view.  We arrive to “Salento” and first on our list is horse-riding in the Cocora Valley, part of the central Andes Mountains.  Horse-riding in the Andes was, in my opinion, what the kids (and the adults) enjoyed the most.  The gorgeous views of the mountains, and the small colonial town of Salento, Quindio, with its multicolor colonial architecture were breathtaking.  Salento also had dozens of small stores full of handcrafts and souvenirs for tourist.  The locals are friendly and the food is fantastic. (Read our blog about the local food!).

We spent the rest of the days in between walking around the city, shopping, and eating local food.  The kids behaved great and we felt safe and confident to even go out at night (we got a sitter for that ).

 Night view of the city

Night view of the city

Read about the interesting encounters (with pictures), and the adventure back home… which includes a complication, in Part 2.

Also stay tuned for a complete list of what to pack when traveling with kids.  See more pictures in our gallery (Pics & Art) tab.

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