Archive for the Category »Peru «

Oct
28th
  A Top Notch Family Trip Organizer Adds A Gorgeous Location: Norway
Adventures by Disney trip to Peru

Adventures by Disney trip to Peru

I have been fortunate to work for Disney recently  – it’s cruise line, and also was sent on an Adventures by Disney guided tour to Peru with my family. If you didn’t know Disney has a travel arm, well, let me happily introduce you.

Norway, from movelands.com

Norway, from movelands.com

The newest location added to Adventures by Disney  is Norway…and why I love this is that this is not a destination a whole lot of people have on their top five places to take kids, but is stunning!

Bergen, from bergen-guide.com

Bergen, from bergen-guide.com

It is a place that is worthy of visiting, and doing it with Adventures by Disney introduces you to a world you may not have thought about venturing.

IMG_5353

Adventures by Disney has a number of planned family trips, with guides, accommodations, meals, activities, transportation and entertainment all included in the packages. The guides are an added bonus because you learn so much about the destination through them.

The company  makes it very easy for parents – you book the trip and you are done. No renting cars, booking hotels, researching kid-friendly activities. The price may seem steep per person, but you have to do the math for what it would cost at going alone to realize the value.  Disney even provides snacks so you don’t have to stop and look for a store or cafe in a foreign place. If you don’t like traveling with others so closely – eating meals and driving to locations in mini-vans together, remember your kids might enjoy having other kids around.

 

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

I went to Peru – Machu Picchu was always on my bucket list, but with the altitude, and difficulty of getting there, it was way more appealing to go through a tour group like Adventures by Disney. I will tell you Disney does it top notch.

Adventures by Disney takes families to the following destinations and more: Australia, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, China…and the trip I really want to take: Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

From visitnorway.com

From visitnorway.com

The Norway trip will take you to storybook villages, scenic fjords, and river rafting in the pristine outdoors of that country.

For more info:  www.adventuresbydisney.com

 
Sep
10th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Keeping the Family Healthy – Don’t Let A High Trip Get You Down!

IMG_4424

I was caught by surprise on a recent trip to Santa Fe New Mexico. Despite the relaxation, great hikes, and fresh air, I wasn’t sleeping well, and felt a little nauseous at bedtime, along with a slight headache. I was “off.”

Too bad I realized too late that Santa Fe is 7,000 feet above sea level! Who knew?

Altitude sickness had set in. About 20% of use get some symptoms of altitude sickness between 6300 and 9,700 feet above sea level. My doctor told me that people with low blood pressure are even more susceptible… (I’m no MD, but after thinking about it, it makes sense – need to get oxygen flowing stronger!)

Aspen, CO

Aspen, CO

Since it will soon be time to book ski trips over the holidays, I want to remind everyone how altitude sickness can creep up on you, and cast a little haze on your trip if you are not careful… especially if you ski in the higher elevations.

Symptoms of altitude sickness are similar to a severe hangover: insomnia, nausea or vomiting, or light headedness. To prevent it head on, make sure you stay hydrated – more water vapor from the lungs is lost at higher altitudes. Try and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Give yourself time to acclimate before exerting yourself on a hike or something….

If you start exhibiting more serious signs of altitude sickness like excessive vomiting, fever, loss of consciousness,  make sure to seek medical attention. This is especially true if you are climbing higher than 10,000 feet – they say you shouldn’t climb higher  than 300 feet a day at that level.

If you have a pre-existing heart condition you should see your doctor prior to the trip.

There IS medication to prevent altitude sickness. I know that I am susceptible because 3 out of 5 trips to Aspen I have gotten altitude sickness (listen up skiers).

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

So when I was invited to go to Peru for work, a place on my bucket list, I didn’t want my trip to be compromised because I didn’t feel 100%. My doctor prescribed Diamox. I took it a few days before my trip so my body could get used to it, and I felt great even at 11,000 feet.

salt mones Peru

I went with a tour group, Adventures by Disney, and I must say that many people on my trip who did not take Diamox, got sick – including my own family. I was very happy to be on it and wasn’t affected by altitude at all. Some countries, like Peru, offer coca leaves to help… I can’t say that it helped anyone on my trip.

My recommendation would be to check with your doctor – especially when it comes to medicating your children with anything. I found that the kids adjusted better than adults – maybe a stomach ache for a few hours, and then they were fine.

IMG_5018

Don’t let a high trip get you down – be prepared :)

 
Feb
08th
  Taking the Kids to Peru: Final Days -and Lima WOW!

The last days of our Adventures by Disney tour to Peru found us with a lot of time on our own to wander the streets and ruins of Cuzco and Lima.

I will leave you with the last images I have in my head about these two very different but both wonderful cities.

Cuzco

The doors in Cuzco were amazing – all over the main square. Such craftsmanship.

Lima was breathtaking at sunset on a Sunday, when all the families were out and about.

Lima, Peru

Both are must see stops on any trip to Peru.

Two highlights though…. Our final dinner together as a tour group was made special by the tour guides – They always say when you travel with a tour you really get to know the people with whom you journey. This is especially true for a Disney tour – they infuse every step of the way with fun, and a positive environment.

The final dinner was where we had our “white elephant” exchange – we all bought small tokens from the Pisca market, and wrapped them – you had to be creative because wall you had to work with was what was in your hotel room or your suitcase!

It was a fun night.

Our final lunch together in Lima was a true treat. We got inside one of the oldest private homes in Lima, which has been in the same families for generations. It was right next door to the presidential palace…

Lima, Peru

Downtown Lima is gorgeous. It was such a surprise – the architecture in the main square rivals other world class cities.

It was a perfect way to end our super adventure – in awe and  leaving us wanting more.  We walked away with new friends… and new found appreciation for Peru and the Incas.

Happy Travels to you!

www.adventuresbydisney.com

 
Feb
07th
  Taking the Kids To Peru: Day 5 Shopping the Markets and Lovin’ the Llamas!

Day 5 of my family adventure: This could very well be my kids’ favorite day in Peru

We left our home at Sol Y Luna to venture to our next hotel in Cuzco. The way our tour group, Adventures by Disney, broke up the all of the drive time worked really well.

Our first stop along the way: Pisca Market. To make shopping seem fun to kids, the Disney tour guides gave everyone 10 soles to spend… but you had to buy a gift for a white elephant exchange at our group’s last dinner together. Creative and fun idea!

The kids really took pride in picking a gift among the traditional chotchkies you’d find in Peru – hats and scarves made from alpaca, dolls, beaded jewelry, etc. The prices are so cheap  – the dollar goes far. It is not hard to bargain here, by the way.

The kids all made friends .. the young Peruvian girls dressed in traditional garb charge you to take a photo with them and their animals.  Even though you know it is a more tourist trap than National Geographic moment, you can’t resist, and want to give them something because frankly, there are many poor people in that country.

My youngest was particularly drawn to the dogs in Peru… I’ve never seen anything like it, but all the dogs roam freely on the streets. They are not kept in a yard at home…. they are not on leashes. Sometimes they seem so busy running through the cities, it is as if they are late to a very important meeting. My son found every dog and had to pet it. :) The language of dog lovers is the same everywhere.

Awana Kancha Llama Farm

From the market, we headed to Awana Kancha – another place I can’t imagine learning about without the sage guidance of a good tour group. At this point, we were all impressed with how easy it was to be part of a tour – you are able to experience the present better because as parents we weren’ t worrying about where our next meal would be, how we would get to our next location, or where we could buy a bottle of water.

Awana Kancha is an exotic animal farm of sorts -

With Suuth American “camels” to with which to interact!

My kids loved feeding the llamas and alpacas -

Some were aggressive and chased my six year old. They all had a great time.

Part of this living museum is that visitors also learn about how the animals’ soft wool is used to make beautiful woven textiles.  Then the next thing you know you are whisked from a dusty, dirty grass patch with alpaca roaming, into a marble-floored, air conditioned indoor mall selling all sorts of very nice Peruvian sweaters and souvenirs. It felt totally out of place, but was some of the best shopping we’d had – at a llama farm! It is so exclusive, we weren’t even allowed to photograph it…

After fraternizing with our furry friends, we finally reached our destination: Cuzco, a city of about 350,000 that disarms one with it’s unexpected charm.

Cuzco, Peru

Cobblestone streets… Beyond gorgeous churches…And all very clean.

There are 300 Catholic churches in this small town – these churches weren’t like the ones you see in Europe by the way – in general they were more intimate, but equally ornate, with alters of carved gold detail.

Cuzco is an Incan city, and was once headquarters to the Incan Empire.. and our hotel was once the home of one of the Spanish Conquistadors.

The Libertador is a regal hotel, and you can see the Spanish influence in the architecture. It is walking distance to the main square which is great with kids.


Even though it is an ultra elegant hotel, the staff was uber-friendly to children. Some of the nicest staff I have encountered in all my travels. The only bummer was no internet service in the rooms, only the public areas. At this point I had been offline for about a week, and needed to check on some things back at the ranch.

That night we ate a super gourmet meal at a restaurant – Limo. Because Cuzco is of high altitude, many people were feeling the effects – even after being in Machu Picchu. It can hit pretty suddenly so be prepared.

It didn’t stop us from walking back to our hotel from dinner – with the lights on the nearby hillside sparkling as our guide.

Lima, Peru

Tomorrow: The bustling cities of Peru.

 
Feb
06th
  Taking the Kids To Peru Day 4: Machu Picchu – One of the Great Wonders Of The World

My family’s 8 day trip to Peru last week finds us on day 4 in my blog….

We had a SUPER early wake up call that morning because Adventure by Disney’s goal is to beat the crowds. Have to admit – I was not loving being told what time to wake up – which is part of a being with a tour group- but it ended up being worth it.

Arriving at the Ollantaytambo train station to being our journey to Machu Pichhu, I already felt transported somewhere lost in time.

Although the station is pretty modern, Peru is still a third world country. It felt old fashioned.   But once inside the passenger car, which services thousands of tourists, the ride was surprisingly plush: leather seats, meal service, and even a fashion show!

In my seat I took it all in. The additional windows on the ceiling allowed more extensive viewing of the lush and rugged Andes dotted with Inca ruins.

The thick fog rolling in and out between the hills – revealing a new scenery each time it dissipated… and the mysterious music playing through the train’s speaker set the scene for a spiritual and mystic journey to the lost city of the Incas.

It was an hour and a half train ride, and when we arrived at the main gate, you must show your passport.  Tickets are pricey about 50 US dollars. Our tickets were already part of our Disney package, so we didn’t need to wait in any lines. The Peru govt is now limiting the number of people, so order tickets in advance. There are lockers to check personal belongings too. (The other way to enter is to hike the Inca Trail.)

Meandering up a hill, the ruins suddenly become visible as you walk through a tunnel-like rock formation.

The first glimpse is an awesome moment – it makes you think about life and those who came so long before you.

Machu Picchu - Put This On Your Bucket List

We spent a few hours following a guide up close through the ruins….I had always wanted to come to Machu Picchu. It is easy to savor the moments here.

Bringing my kids was a thrill.  Having guides from the region is a huge bonus. Disney trains all the local guides, so they are jovial and a fabulous source of information.

I could tell you all the amazing stories about the Incas that you come to appreciate by exploring Machu Picchu… but you are better off getting the history lesson from another website. www.peru-machu-picchu.com/

In a nutshell. the Incas built this city to purposely be out of reach.. and up high to be closer to the gods.

The reason they say these remains are so special is that they weren’t destroyed by the Spanish when they conquered Peru…. and were actually kept secret to most of the world, overgrown with fast growing lush vegetation. That, until American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911.

Because they’re unspoiled, we can marvel at the Incan construction – how did they get this many tons of boulders up to 8000 feet  above sea level?

How did they get each stone to fit together flawlessly, without mortar and modern tools?

So how did the kids like it?

As parents, we bring our children on trips like this with the hopes of teaching about other cultures and explaining history. At the same time, I realize true appreciation of this magnificent site won’t take root immediately, and that’s OK. The guides on our tour did a good job of trying to keep the kids engaged, and my six year old actually asked if we could Google the Incas…. mostly because he learned they had small feet, but hey – it was a start…. My older kids had fun imagining playing laser tag at Machu Picchu. Had to be honest. :)

We ate lunch at the restaurant right at the entrance – which is much more expensive than going back down the mountain for a cafe, but it gives you more valuable Machu Picchu touring time. My tip would be to splurge at the expensive restaurant near Machu Picchu, or pack a lunch if possible.

After lunch, the guides gave us two choices: to hike part of the Inca trail from the ruins up to the Sun Gate.. or to spend more time wandering the ruins on our own.

Our family chose to hike about 1000 feet higher  along  the stone path that the Incas built some 500 years ago. All my kids made it – even my six year old. The Inca trail here is wide enough that parents don’t have to worry. You should however, judge the maturity, and physical shape of your child before you take him or her up there.

It is a good hike – most in our group didn’t find it too strenuous – about two hours round trip depending on how long you rest at the top, and how big a ham you are…..

Kids having fun at Machu Picchu. Disclaimer: There IS solid ground below their feet.

We took many photos – you can’t resist…. but we found the views at Sun Gate aren’t more spectacular than below, just different.

The Incas were highly spiritual people.. so I couldn’t help but feel the power here. It was nice actually.

Needless to say… we all slept like babies that night…. with strangely lucid dreams. Machu Picchu had infiltrated our souls.

Tomorrow: Lovin’ the llama.

 
Feb
02nd
  Taking The Kids To Peru: Day 2 & River Rafting

Machu Picchu, Peru, Jan, 2012

This week I am chronicling my recent family trip  to Peru with Adventures by Disney. It will give you insight into taking a guided tour rather than going it alone, and shine a light on a bucket list destination, that is educational for children too.

Day 2 found us waking to a beautiful sunshine morning…. the birds chirping was our alarm clock. Perfect setting for our  thrilling river rafting trip between lush Andean mountains through the Sacred Valley.

You may be asking yourself…. Is she crazy to take her young kids rafting in a third world country? What if something should happen? No, I am not loco.

What you will learn about my particular tour operator, Disney, is that the company is uber conservative, and ultra concerned about safety.

Adventures by Disney Guided Tours Took Us Rafting

Case in point: At the last minute, the guides changed the location of the rafting trip because the rains the day before swelled the river, causing rougher, class 6 rapids. They said the new location had Class 1 and 2, and “Maybe” 3 rapids…. their estimation really ended up being a float, not more than class 1.

They also made sure there was a trained guide on every raft….

and an extra solo guide on a catamaran-like vessel who went ahead of everyone, making sure the path was safe, and also hanging around in case anyone fell out.

Although these mellow waters were not a blood rushing experience that older children may have had bragging rights about, it was perfect for the younger kids… and the adults thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing nature and the incredibly beautiful scenery. We all had fun.

The great thing about this organized tour, is that the Disney guides have bottled water for you anytime you want it, and provide snacks between meals if you need it. So after a snack and a quick change into dry clothes, we were off to the second part of the day – the old Inca town of Ollantaytambo. (If you notice the pattern here, Disney seems to organize the days with 50% something fun for kids, and 50% something cultural and educational that they try to make the most engaging.)

Something struck me about Ollantaytambo… not the largest… not the cleanest or even most developed town… but it felt very authentic, despite being a popular starting point for thousands who hike the Inca Trail.

The guides arranged a buffet lunch of Peruvian fare (as always) at this charming little garden, and then we explored the ancient Incan ruins on the hillside.

What you MUST research about Peru before you go, because it is inescapable once you get there, is a little bit about the Incan Empire… and teach your kids about it too. The Incan Empire was the largest pre-Columbian empire in America. It was headquarted in Cuzco.

Incan Ruins at Ollantaytambo, Peru

The Incas were eventually conquered by the Spanish, but their ruins are well preserved around the Cuzco area. Ollantaytambo is the perfect example – we hiked the hillside to see a 600 year old temple.

Incan Ruins at Ollantaytambo, Peru

This was an intimate intro  to Incan construction style, which we would later in the trip learn more about at Machu Picchu. The Incas were known for their precise joints between boulders – and how tightly each rock fit together. Look how closely the rocks are bound – not even a piece of paper could slip through. More astonishing is that they used no mortar.

After the tour, we wandered the cobble stone streets of this town, then headed back to the hotel for dinner…. and the kids had dinner and movie night with the Disney guides! They loved it, and the parents got a little break!

Tomorrow: Exploring the picturesque salt mines.

 
Feb
01st
  Taking The Kids To Peru: Day 1 – Beautiful Countryside And Culture

In my last post I told you I just got back from an Adventures by Disney guided trip to Peru. In the next week I will describe the experience so you can get a feel of taking a family-oriented tour, and learn about family-friendly things to do in an exotic land.

The first day we arrived at our hotel in Lima, Peru a little past midnight – rather late, and painful because our flight the next morning to Cuzco, Peru required us to be up at 6:30 AM.

Arriving in Lima, Peru after midnight

Even though the Disney Adventure Guides are lively  even at midnight, (note photo LOL,) ***my HUGE recommendation to you is to arrive a day early  before moving around again.  Give yourself and your kids a chance to adjust to the time change. Trust me on this – it sets the tone for the first few days of the trip. It is worth any extra money so you are fresh and alert for the first activities. We were all zombies.

I had never jumped at the idea of an organized tour…but before our flight from Lima to Cuzco the next morning, we gave our baggage to the Disney Adventure guides, and didn’t see it again until we arrived at our next hotel later that evening.

No schlepping – nada.  Disney checked all of our luggage through security. Plus one in “Organized Tour” column.

Andes, Peru

After the hour long flight, we were off to the Andean village of Chinchero, in the mountains of Cuzco, Peru. At  12,500 above sea level, some travelers in our group  felt the altitude effects right away. The kids fared very well – we made sure they drank plenty of water. TIP:  See your doctor before you visit high elevations like Cuzco or Machu Picchu. I took some altitude meds and felt Uh-Mazing the entire trip.

Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco, Peru

At the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco in Chinchero, the ancient custom of weaving is on full display.

We saw demonstrations  on how to weave some of the traditional blankets one would associate with the Latin American country.

We saw the alpaca wool being made into yarn… and the whole loom process, still done by hand.

It can take months to make something like the blanket above.

This stop is one of many cultural experience that Adventures by Disney tries to “weave” into it’s trips.  The benefit of this kind of family-friendly tour is that the guides try to keep it entertaining for the kids… thus, the parade of Peruvian clothes on everyone. The whole experience was an interesting contrast to the fast-paced, commercially mass-produced life in the United States.

We had a nice catered lunch there under a canopy, another plus for the tour to not have to think about where to eat. We then saw our first torrential downpour – and hail! (Which is what my six year old won’t forget) The Disney guides have ponchos for guests – they are prepared for all conditions.

From there, we were ready to crash after the exhausting travel…but made a trek through the beautiful country side of Peru to our hotel in the Sacred Valley.

The scenery is peaceful… Agriculture is big there… We passed many farms, and many poor houses made simply of adobe and grass roofs. The local guides told us most houses are made of adobe because it can cost only $1000 to build.

Sol Y Luna Hotel, Sacred Valley, Peru

The beautiful Hotel Sol Y Luna, surround by the Andean mountains, was our home for the next four nights.

It is not short on charm, but in a third world country, you can’t always have every amenity when you need it – like internet service. If you take a trip like this, I wouldn’t plan on having much time to be on your computer, but also don’t count on a connection 100% of the time in a remote location like this. I only know because I had to get out one document for business.

That night – we ate dinner in the hotel, which has lively and colorful Peruvian decor.

Dining Room at Sol Y Luna Hotel, Peru

The meal preparation was fascinating – an unorthodox BBQ by our standards, but common cuisine in Peru…

The chefs dug a deep hole in the ground, put all the meat in, then covered with burning hot coals. The coals are then covered with blankets to keep the steam in, and waa-laa! The meat is cooked with a flavorful smoked taste. As entertaining as it was delicious.

After dinner,  we watched an authentic Peruvian show, which felt like a performance we would see at Epcot, coincidentally. Credit to Disney  to incorporate the local culture. There is never a dull moment on a this tour, but once in a while you may need some down time. The kids were so tired, we wanted to get them back to their rooms to bed. Once again, arriving a day earlier could help you and your kids adjust and not be so tired.

The Sol Y Luna casitas were cozy, and the next morning we were ready for a thrilling river raft down the magical Sacred Valley. Check back in tomorrow….

 
Jan
31st
  A Family Adventure of Epic Proportions: Peru

My spiel is to encourage families with children to travel to all sorts of destinations…and still remain sane! At the same time, I realize there are certain locations that would require so much work, planning, schlepping, and research because of the exotic or geographic nature, that we all need a little help.

Enter, stage right : Disney. They own the family brand, and rule the theme parks, but did you know they have a whole family travel division? The Disney cruises are probably the most well-known.

For the next week or so of posts, I am going to blog about the bucket list trip I took to Peru with a lesser known Disney travel area: Adventures by Disney guided vacations. Yes! We took the kids to Peru ….

Machu Picchu, Peru

…climbed the Inca Trail… and got spiritual at Machu Picchu…

Awana Kancha Llama Farm, Peru

….and went loco for llamas at a llama farm.

Was it easy? Surprisingly, yes. If you don’ t believe me, just ask my husband who is a little more the reserved roamer than the passionate pilgrim that I am.

Adventures by Disney organizes tours around the world: See the Great Wall in China…. cruise down the Nile in Egypt… or search for the Big Five in South Africa.

Let me just say that I have never been attracted to organized tours because I have traveled a lot, and like doing things on my own time.  But I was impressed with how much easier an organized tour makes family travel. Do you get to pick your own hotels? No. The restaurants? Not all of the time. Make your own schedule? Nope.

However… Travel stress melts away as everything is organized for you – your hotels booked: Check. Luggage picked up at airport and you don’t have to even TOUCH it : Check. Transportation from airport to hotels, to attractions: Check . Check. Check. Key in a third world country like Peru.

Pisac Market, Peru

You also save countless hours in planning and researching every activity and hotel…and with a little Disney magic, you can avoid crowds at some of the most packed tourist attractions, and have access to true treasures otherwise off the tourist trail.

If your idea of vacation is to move around a lot, learn a bout other cultures,  be chauffeured around the world without a worry, and mingle with other families – then this is something you might want to consider.

If you like slower pace with lounging at a pool – that is a different trip, and frankly,  you don’ t need to pay to have guides show you that. There was little down time on the tour I took -  This is a special immersive experience for which you have to have the energy.

Disney Guide and Jr Adventurer

If you don’t think you have the energy, you almost certainly will once you arrive because if Disneyland is the happiest place on earth…then the Disney adventure guides are definitely the happiest people on earth. They have the personalities and patience to have fun with the kids from all different time zones, and at the same time work hard to make sure the adults have ever single thing they need, without ever breaking a sweat.

In our group, an American Disney guide was paired with a couple local Peruvian, Disney-trained guides. The American guide  is the heart and soul if you will…. and the local guides are well versed in their country’s history, know the language and customs, and can answer all questions. We tried really hard to stump ours – it became a game – “Stump Ernesto.”

If you do consider a guided tour for any trip, here are some things to think about:

1) Make sure the destination is age appropriate for your children. Only you know your child best. For example, I would recommend waiting until your child is 7 or 8 to go to Peru. Not only will they get more out of it, but if they are bored or fidgety, you will not have a great time.

2) If you think the price sounds expensive, try itemizing what it would cost to go it alone at comparable quality hotels and attractions.  Often these tours sound expensive, but are better-priced because they have the power to negotiate good rates since they bring in more business… and some mistakes you may make with transportation, etc could cost you more in the long run. Plus, you have little extras that you may not even think about when calculating the cost of your trip- Disney had water bottles for us whenever we needed.

3) Find  a tour group that fits your personality. Adventure? Scholarly? Volunteer-oriented? Family? Disney for example, makes family the focus.

4) If it is an international trip, I would highly recommend flying in a day before the tour begins to adjust to any time difference. Trust me, it is worth any extra money. If you are a zombie at the beginning of the trip, it is hard to recover.

Now that you have a general idea of a family vacation option, the next few days will take you on a more personal look at my vacation of epic proportions…a day by day journal of our adventure through Peru. From river rafting, to hiking the Inca Trail overlooking Machu Picchu, it was a trip we will always carry with us.

www.adventuresbydisney.com