So… you have children… and Peru is on your bucket list, and so is the Inca trail! So it follows that you start wondering if you could take your children trekking in Peru. In this blog post we give you some guidelines of what is possible, and should you book, what you need to consider.
Every child is different, every family is different – and most importantly each trek is different. (And for different reasons, sometimes it is altitude; sometimes it is due to the steepness of the terrain). In this blog we refer to kids aged about 6 to 12 years old, often referred to as tweens or even pre-tweens!
The 4 key questions if you are considering a trek with Children
If you are considering doing a Peru trek with tweens, these are some standard questions you can ask yourself! (*Note specific advice to the Inca Trail is found below)
- Are your children fit and relatively athletic? They need to be fit and physically able.
- In addition to fit, are they focused and resilient? (eg, lots of 8 year olds are quite fit, but might complain bitterly about trekking for several hours straight. That is, they are not focused nor have the mental stamina to keep trekking) Are they well behaved/ will they follow the guide’s instructions?
- Have your kids done long distance treks? Have they trekked for a full day recently?
- Have they camped before? Will they be comfortable using squat toilets and other basic facilities? going without electricity for days?
If you answer Yes to most of these questions, read on. If you answer NO to most of these questions, then put trekking in the Andes on your ‘in a couple years’ bucket list. Or head out for a day in your local National Park and see how your kids fare with some trekking! In many cases, waiting a couple of years for this bucket list adventure will make it a more enjoyable outing for everyone!
Should you decide to do a trek in Peru with Children… Things to include in your Plan!
- Ask your travel consultant for their advice on the easiest treks. Make sure you are comfortable that they are familiar with the Andes and can give you some ideas about what are the best options. For the youngest children we recommend the Huchuy Qosqo trek or a variation of the Lares trek. (Choquequirao is NOT suitable for a tween)
- Acclimatize for a minimum of 3 plus days in Cusco. 4 days are even better. Make sure that you are rested, and healthy. There are a multitude of activities to do in Cusco and the Sacred Valley for kids and families!
- Consider doing a private trek where it is just you and your guide and trek team. This will mean that you can go at your own pace – with plenty of stops for kid’s questions and interest in the world. If you are on a group trek, there is a lot less opportunity for going at your own pace and you can be rushed along, which is when kids can feel the pressure.
- Let the kids know that it is OK to turn back, because their safety and health is the most important thing in the world. This is also the advantage of doing a private trek or ensuring that there are two guides with you.
- If you are doing an alternative trek, talk to your company about having an Emergency horse/ mule. These walk alongside you and can totally save the day on steep sections when little legs are following. We’ve seen on many occasions the horse get to the top, and then go back down for the next person that is struggling. The ability to have an emergency horse (not available on the Inca Trail) is one of the ‘deciding’ aspects of doing Alternative Trek vs the Inca Trail… Some families have opted to have two Emergency horses so a couple children can ride at the same time. All reputable trek agencies will be able to organize this for you.
- How sensible are your kids? Especially on the Inca Trail (but some alternative treks also) the drops are very steep and the path is very narrow. The kids need to be old (and wise) enough to understand the need to stay away from the edge without you holding their hand. Can they remember to stay away from the edge when you are not there? A 8 year old might get distracted, but by the time they are 10 they have a better sense of self preservation! This totally depends on your child.
- Depending on their age, once children are about 10 years old, they can carry their own backpacks, but remember that even a couple kg at altitude make things more difficult. Having their own backpack means they can carry their own water bottle, layers of clothing (which you need), rain jacket and snacks.
- Take snacks that the children like from home, especially in the case of picky eaters, so they can keep their energy up on the trail.
Trekking the Inca Trail with a Tween or Pre Tween
- Some agencies say the minimum age is 8, to us that seems too young for the Inca Trail Even the short Inca trail version which doesn’t involve camping is really steep and there are sections where kids would find it hard to clamber up the extremely steep steps. (see photos)
- We would think that age 10 would be the absolute minimum age for trekking the Inca Trail, but only on if they meet most of the 4 initial questions above. That they are fit, outdoorsy and resilient. The Inca Trail is a trek that MOST adults struggle with, both due to the altitude gain and loss, and the altitude…. Plus the STEPS. This is going to be harder for a small child, so if in doubt, put your trek off for a year or two.
- ‘The best age for an ‘average’ child would be their teens – from 13 upwards.
- The Steps on the Inca Trail are often about 30 cm or 12 inches high, in some parts approaching the sun gate even harder. This will be challenging
- The narrow trail and steep drops that characterize some sections of the Inca Trail are challenging for many adults, more so for children.
Disclaimer: We haven’t experienced the tweens age as a parent – we are just entering into this phase. However, Mumma Traveller has operated a Peruvian Trekking agency for over 10 years and worked with many parents on a range of treks… and bases this advice on feedback from those parents!
Thinking about trekking in Peru with Children?
consider asking a travel agent for help for some of the logistics. Apus Peru Adventure Travel Specialists have plenty of experience in offering treks with young people!
Looking for more Peru family travel advice?
Here are our list of tried and test tips for Visiting Machu Picchu with kids.
Where should you stay in Machu Picchu? We have a fantastic list of Machu Picchu hotels, which we have stayed in ourselves. Take a look at the Best Family Hotels in Machu Picchu
One of the major things about Machu Picchu is that you need to book really early, check out Book your Machu Picchu Family Holiday early – 6 reasons why!