Spring Break 2018 in Peru

The whole family (wife, and three kids 3, 6, 10) just went to Machu Picchu (MP), Peru for spring break.  We loved it!  Since many people have asked about the trip, I decided to document some suggestions and lessons learned here.  Enjoy:
 

Pre-Planning

If you want to get into the spirit before your trip, I highly recommend this book: Turn Right at Machu Picchu.  Make sure you get the paperback version that you can hike along with in Peru because I really enjoyed reading and being where they were talking about.  The pages became weathered, wet, damp and dirty as our adventure delved deeper into Bingham’s world and it was a wonderful way to feel connected to the story.
 
#protip: Pack light.  Bring a good pair of shoes to climb over everything and bring clothes you can rinse in the sink.  The less you carry the better.  We squeezed five of us into two suitcases and three small backpacks.  This became key when traversing terminals, taxis, trains and planes.
 

Travel

We flew from Chicago to Miami, then overnight to Lima, then Cusco where we stayed for 3 days to acclimate to the altitude.  The flight was long, but the kids did very well.  Miami is a horrible airport to transfer from domestic to international at 12:00am.  The luggage was not able to be checked all the way through so we had to drag it 5 terminals over (Fix this Miami!).  While I did not have any issues with altitude when we arrived in Cusco, my wife and son did so it was good we stopped for a few days. 
 

Cusco

Cusco was great for the kids.  There is an excellent town square and museum.  We did a chocolate making class and hiked up to the top of old Incan ruins.  We learned all about the puma and the llama which are revered.  Llamas and alpacas are everywhere and we got tons of great pictures.  We stayed at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco.  It is an old monastery with a tour of its own where you can see the old bricks in the basement.  The service, the food, and the spa are divine. $$$$
We used Valentin’s Pachamama Tours around Cusco who gave us a walking tour of the city and a great tour of the market sharing details about how treks are done, the food is made and life in Peru.  They were excellent!
 

Aguas Caliente

After three days we took a taxi to the train station.  Normally, you can take the train from Cusco to MP, but in the wet months you use Peru Rail to board a 2-hour bus that drives you to the train halfway.  The train then takes you all the way into Aguas Calientes,  the city under MP.  There is a fancy and non-fancy train option.  We chose the non-fancy train, but our friends without kids did the fancy train and loved it.
 
The train dumps you right in the city at the base.  The whole city is geared to getting you up to MP.  It is built into a hill and is awesome!  
 
We stayed at the bottom of the hill at the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel.  It was the last hotel before you head up the trail to MP.
Our friends stayed at the Inkaterra Macchu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. The hotel is great and boutique.  A great place to rest or even just visit, but the service was a lil lax.  The city is in-between.  We ate at Tree House which I highly recommend.  Make a reservation ahead of time!
We got another personal guide to meet us in town and escort us through MP.  He was great because we had kids, were slow, mom was afraid of heights, had lunch plans, etc… he was able to help manage all of that.  We also chose to get the lunch at the top of the mountain.  
 
In MP I would recommend that you stay a couple of days.  We arrived in the afternoon, hiked the next day, spent a 3rd day in the morning around town and took the afternoon train out.  I would suggest you a typical trip look like:
 
Day 1 – Arrive in afternoon, get to hotel, have dinner at The Tree
Day 2 – Do basic morning hike around MP with a guide, take pics, take bus back down.
Day 3 – Hike the peak inside MP or do the trail to hike up to MP or do any of the 10+ other trails around the town.
Day 4 – Relax, have a morning spa and take the 2:00 train out of town.
 

The Road Home

We then spent a half-day after our tour of MP in the city at the base and then reversed our trek.
We stayed at Antigua Casona San Blas on the way back in Cusco (for like only 6 hours) with a cute lil courtyard and it was amazing!!!  It was cute and boutique.  We loved the old design of the rooms, we seriously considered delaying our trip by a day to enjoy it.  The room service was sublime.
 

More #protips

  1. Drink the tea.  It helps with altitude.  We let the kids drink it (the HERBAL one only)  as it was fun for them to seek it out at all the places. Make sure you do not have a drug test when you return home.
  2. Skip Lima.  (We didn’t do anything there.)
  3. Cusco is fun, but 3 days is about all you need to see the whole city.
  4. Travel with an air sickness bag and replace it immediately!!  Many of us got sick either from altitude or a virus.  Having the bag at hand greatly helped this.
  5. All llamas you see are real, even if your friends ‘think’ they are fake in the pictures.
  6. The weather goes from cold to sun burning to rain to fog in hours.  Have multiple light layers and sunscreen.  (One of my favorite items is the Houdini from Patagonia.)
  7. Get an ice cream before you get in line to wait for buses to come off of MP.  It will be a wait ;)
  8. Ask the concierge at the JW where to eat.
  9. Pack snack bags for the kids ahead of time.
  10. Walk through the itinerary with them so they know what to expect (and you can plan).