“Should we take the kids?”Â Â Yes.Â Latin American is one of the most child-friendly places on earth.Â Â Traveling with children will make your whole trip special in ways that you could never have imagined before you became parents.
But traveling with children also has it’s own challenges and special considerations.Â Here are a few of the basics to cover before you depart on your trip.
Passports – Every child, including infants,Â must have his/her own passport.Â US passports may be obtained through most US post offices.Â Apply well in advance, particularly for summer travel – it can take several months to get a passport (you can get a passport in less time, but it is more expensive).
In order to get a passport for a child, both parents must be present when you hand in the application, and give their permission.Â If it’s not possible for both parents to apply together, the absent parent can give permission via a notarized statement of authorization.
You will also need a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate ( a simple photocopy will not due, it has to be an official copy), and two passport photos.Â Passport photos for an infant can be a bit of a problem, as the baby can’t sit up.Â Try going to a portrait studio that specializes in baby pictures.Â These are often found in malls or near stores like Sears or Penny’s.Â They will have ways to prop the baby up in order to get a proper passport photo.Â Their prices are usually quite reasonable, too.
Visas – If you are visiting a country that requires visas, such as Brazil, all children (including infants) will need visas as well.Â Most countries charge the same amount for children as for adults, so be prepared – it can be costly.
Permission to Travel -If both parents will not accompany the child on the trip, get a notarized letter from the absent parent giving permission for the child to travel.Â Many countries, such as Mexico, absolutely require it – your child will not be allowed to board the plane if you cannot prove that both parents have authorized the trip. Â Even if a country does not officially require it, take one along – I was asked for permission to travel for my infant daughter when entering a country that did not officially require any such thing.Â Fortunately, being paranoid, I had it.
The letter of permission should include the trip dates and destination.Â I usually include a line authorizing the traveling parent to seek medical care for the child if necessary, as well.
Vaccinations.Â Infants are often too young for many vaccinations, but be sure your child receives any that he/she is able to get.Â Remember, vaccinations are not widespread in many parts of Latin America, so there is no “herd immunity” – diseases spread faster and are more serious.Â Infants who are still breast-feeding will get some immunity from their mothers, but vaccinations are still the most effective deterrent.Â Check with a travel clinic to find out what vaccinations are recommended for the countries you will be visiting – the usual US vaccinations may not be sufficient.
When to travel – it’s always nice to travel on off days, but even more important when flying with children.Â Â Statistically, Tuesday and Wednesday tend to be the lightest travel days.Â Try to avoid travel on Fridays and Sundays – flights tend to be packed, and tensions flare more easily.
Where to go – Anywhere!Â Â Don’t be afraid to take children away from resort areas.Â Children can have fun at the beach, in the mountains, or in the city.Â Markets, ruins, and bus rides are all an adventure for them.Â Don’t be nervous – buy your tickets and start traveling again!