Top Ten reasons to travel with a baby

Frequently, I hear of families putting off trips because they have a small baby. It seems like too much work, so they want to wait until the baby is weaned and they can leave him/her home.  First of all, I understand this thinking.  They are a lot of work.  There are messes and sleepless nights.  There are unknowns and fears of strange places.  There are things you won’t be able to do with baby in tow.  Plus, the baby won’t remember any of it! All that being said, I love traveling with a baby!  Let me tell you why.

  1. Most people love babies.  I met and struck up conversations with the most interesting people because of having a baby with me.  Locals, docents and tour guides who normally leave tourists alone,  couldn’t resist the smiles and coos of a baby.  This really helped me experience the location through the eyes of people who lived there.  It also helped me connect with other travelers who have great ideas or tips of things to do (or not to do!). Babies are easy conversation starter with people in lines or airplanes.
  2.  Babies help pass the ‘downtime’ of travel with joy. I loved the smiles and tickles and complete attention I could give my baby while I waited in lines, sat at the airport (delayed, of course!) and in my hotels. As my 3rd and 4th babies, sometimes they don’t get the attention they deserve and on trips I could fill their cup to overflowing.  I loved having pressure-free time to snuggle baby on the plane.
  3. When you are together traveling you make sure to feed and change the baby frequently, before it is too late and causes a probably. Meeting the baby’s every need means that she will be happy, healthy and sweet the whole trip.
  4. Little babies can sleep anywhere! My babies aren’t great at sleeping long on the go, but made up for it by napping frequently. Being in a stroller, car or plane helps lull them to sleep. We even changed time zones 9 hours and my baby learned to sleep when it was dark within one night!
  5. Even though babies wont remember the trip, there are still pictures and stories they will be told as they grow.  A love of the world and traveling can be started this young.  They will be exposed to other peoples and cultures (and probably some foods!) that will help them become more understanding of others.  My baby can say she’s been to Paris and show photos.  She will grow up with a connection in her mind to Paris.
  6. Babies are mobile and flexible. As you child gets older, babies will need consistent naps in a bed (not on the go).  They will want more movement and independence, have louder lung capacity and be more needy.  As a baby, they are perfectly happy where ever they are when their needs are met.
  7.  Nursing is the best if you are traveling!  No need for bottles or cleaning.  In this photo, I nursed my baby in the wrap, during the swamp tour and she proceeded to fall asleep for the rest of the ride.
  8. Strollers actually can be a benefit for traveling.  We got to skip the amazingly long line at the Empire State building and go straight into the wheelchair/ stroller line!  Disneyland has the stroller pass which we maximized to ride as many rides as possible!  Having a stroller means people give a little more space for you, which can be nice in crowded places.  ( my snap and go is my favorite for baby travel because the carrier can snap in and out of it.  It is so light weight)
  9. A baby wrap makes it possible to hike, walk steps, and do any activity mom desires.  Plus, baby loves to be close to mom for snuggles and sleep.  Its a win-win!
  10. Bonding with baby can happen for mom or dad as you do something together.  It was difficult for my husband to bond with a newborn since I am doing most of the caring and serving and ALL of the feeding (my babies wouldn’t take bottles).  When we took a trip with just #3, he finally connected and felt a relationship with her  because of time spent and memories created with her.  Even if the baby doesn’t remember, you will remember your time with them forever. And that contributes to your family closeness and bond.

So you can have a baby and travel, too!  Make it happen!  What do you love about traveling with a baby?




Succeed sightseeing with your youngsters

Bolzano - Main PlazaLast year we had the opportunity to take my 7-year-old son to Italy.  I was excited to show my son a piece of the world outside of the US, but nervous.  He can be a ball-of-energy and hard to reign in.  Travel with him is sometimes difficult because he wanders and is impatient  with waiting, delays or the unknown.  He is a picky eater and a complainer when he is tired (jet lag!!)  I was uncertain about so many things.  My husband and I don’t speak Italian and had never been to Italy so we weren’t sure what to expect ourselves, let alone with our son.

However, the trip went SO much better than anticipated and my son LOVED it. Our memories of this one-on-one trip with him are amazing.  I recommend taking a child with you whenever possible!   We still had plenty of couple time and relaxation without our littles around.  And my son passed on his love of Italy to his sisters and they are begging to go.

Here is how we prepared and what worked wonders with him.

Sleeping and Jet Lag

To help alleviate jet lag, and make sure your body will sleep when it is suppose to take Melatonin (Doctor approved for us!) Get up really early (5 am) the day you flying out, even it you don’t leave until the evening. On the plane take melatonin 30 mins before you want to sleep and try to lay down. Jackson Sleeping on way to VeniceMy son laid on the floor where there was white noise and darkness. Within an hour, he was asleep for the duration of the flight. When we touched down in Europe about 3 am our time, we woke him up and started going on our day. Stay up on the first day until it is night time where you are. Take melatonin every night (30 mins before you want to sleep) to help get to sleep quickly in unknown places and time zones.
They make Melatonin in gummys that taste delicious! My kids loved them, but BEWARE! My kids became monsters 30 mins after they took it because they got SO tired.



Venice - On the Water BusWe found our old point-and-shoot digital camera and gave it to him before the trip.  I wasn’t too worried about him losing it or breaking it since we hadn’t used it in several years.  The camera was essential in keeping my son engaged and looking.  I didn’t care how many pictures he took and what they were of.  It was very entertaining that he got pictures of several door knobs, garbage cans, flowers and every pet and seagull we saw.  While we were  looking up at the Roman Forum, he was taking a picture of the trap door we were standing on.  His perspective was blocked by tall adults so he noticed different things than we did and this

Pisa - Jackson & Jamie at the Leaning Tower
Funny pictures make site-seeing more enjoyable for kids

actually enhanced our site-seeing experience.  Every night as we talked about our day we would have Jackson show us his pictures and talk about his favorites.  His pictures were HIS and what he saw and focused on.  This helped us to relate to him better and for him to communicate to us what he liked better.


Side note:  We thought we would get better pictures of us as a couple since Jackson had a camera, but we mostly just got shots of us and sky in the background.  Or with Dads head cut off. so have a stranger take your picture if you want a good one!

Renting a car vs. public transportation

Bolzano - Overlook Drive (1)We debated this for quite a while because we were only doing a one way trip (expensive for a rental) and the train system in Italy is really good.  But I am so glad we opted for our own car.  Having a car gave Jackson the down time he needed and gave us the freedom to come and go at our leisure.  We probably paid more for the car/parking/tolls (and parking tickets!) and gas than a train pass would’ve been, but we also go to see and experience more of what we wanted when we wanted it.  I noticed that when we got in the car it was like a traveling home for us.  Jackson could be louder and get down time playing with his toys, books, souvenirs, etc.  It gave us time to re-group and plan our next step.  It was a perfect way to break up the site-seeing and being in public with some relaxation time without us feeling like we were wasting precious time in a foreign country.  My husband and I could continue to site-see from the car and my son could take a break.

“Treat” budget

Florence - Gelato ChoicesWe budgeted $50-$100 for gelato.  Typically, we try to save money on food and especially unhealthy foods, but in this case it was worth it!  We knew our son would look forward to ice cream!  We made a goal with him to try as many flavors as we could (and we wrote them all down in his travel book with a rating next to it).  This helped us to motivate him to hike faster, walk further, count a certain number of statues seen or steps cliRome - Gelato with the Covingtonsmbed, etc.  It kept him engaged and he didn’t even notice feeling weary when he was licking a gelato.  Whatever your vacation provides that your child will enjoy, plan on splurging a little to make a better experience for them.

Our friends who lived outside the main city of Rome, showed us that we were paying triple the price for gelatos than what they pay at their corner market.  But convenience is worth the cost, unless
we could bribe Jackson to wait until we got home.

51xUsnZz9WL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_Tourist guide book

I found a travel book for our trip just for kids.  It had bits of historical information, things to find at each site, some Italian phrases, and some games. Jackson loved looking at his travel book in the car before and after sites.  He especially loved trying out the Italian.


At the end of every day we would glue in our ticket stubs (yep I brought a glue stick for him), rate things we ate, and write a bit about our day.  We bought a journal to help guide our thinking about the events and give my son space to write, but I bet you could make a little journal yourself.  I liked helping my son go over each day and all the things we did and saw.  In one day of sight-seeing there is more to remember than a month of the mundane!


The people we were staying with in Rome lent us a scooter for our days there.  This was such a blessing for us.  It folded up and had a strap so we could carry it if needed.  There were a couple times we couldn’t take it in places and so we found a locker for it or had to stash it in a bush and hope it was there when we returned (it was both times!) Jackson absolutely loved it.  He lasted for 10 hours through the city of Rome.  I think we walked 8 miles or more and he just kept on scooting!  He was so entertained and we were able to see all the things we wanted without hearing a minute of complaint.  We actually wore out before he did!

Rome - Riding a Bike in the Villa Bourghese
See a site in a different mode of transportation to rest weary muscles or feet

Listening entertainment

My son doesn’t love movies and after several on the plane, I didn’t want him to overdose on screen time.  I filled an old ipod with audio books, kid-friendly comedians (Jim Gaffigan, Brian Reagan, Bill Cosby) and music he would enjoy.  Sometimes he listened with headphones on his own and sometimes we plugged it in to the car speaker and all got a laugh.  We had to set some rules for when he could listen because he kept wanting to listen as we saw sites (which meant he wasn’t looking and would wander off).  Once the newness of having his own ipod wore off it worked wonderfully!

Hotel fun Bolzano - Swimming Pool in the 4 Peak HotelOur first hotel had a pool on the roof top!  Unfortunately, we didn’t figure this out until after we checked out (but we went back to swim and enjoy the view of the alps for a bit).  Make sure you check your hotel amenities first!  We had to wait a couple of hours for dad to work and wish we could’ve gone swimming to pass the time.

Our next hotel was built on the cliffs ofCinque Terra - Hotel on the Cliff (2) the Mediterranean Sea which was amazing for us, but it also had a pingpong table, game room, outdoor playset, etc.  We didn’t schedule enough time to play on it so we had to take a stop after we were done with our site-seeing so Jackson could get enough play time.   Finding hotels that offered something for him was not on purpose, but it added fun and excitement for his trip.

Our next hotel had a queen bed and a single bed.  I don’t think American hotels offer this, but a triple room was so perfect for us!

Finally, we stayed with a friend that had a yard for soccer and a boy his age with a few toys to play with.


When we encountered our first souvenir stand, I realized that Jackson wanted to buy EVERYTHING!  My husband and I collect magnets so we usually don’t waste a ton of money on souvenirs.  We quickly set a standard for him.  He could get one postcard from each place we went.  He could buy something for under $10 for each sister and find something for himself he could buy at the end of our trip.  We helped him figure out the currency rate so he knew how much things cost(Mathematical application anyone?).  He also helped us pick which magnets.  This gave him something to look at without constantly begging for more things.  We also bought shirts for all the kids.

Humanitarian We gave Jackson a handful of coins to pass out to the homeless in the city.  This really helped Jackson to look around and see people and their situations.  He had the opportunity to interact as he gave a few coins to each person.

Venice - Dipping Feet in the Grand Canal
Dipping our toes in the Canals of Venice.  Say yes, if you can to kids requests.

Make it a game  We counted steps,skipped stones, threw pennies in fountains, named statues, found differences in churches and tried to turn everything into a game for Jackson.  My husband is great at coming up with ways to engage him in what we want to do. Rome - Exhausted Jackson

My son was exhausted after the Vatican museum.  In this photo we are waiting in line to hike up to the top of Peter’s Basilica.  I never thought he would make it, but dad made up a game and Jackson made it up to the top by counting each step to see if it was more than the last building we climbed (971 steps.)


Rome - Jackson Climbing the Basillica
Counting steps at the top of the Basilica
Rome - Jackson at the Colosseum (1)
We told stories of what might have happened at each of the ruins to help him to get a picture in his mind.  Here he is being a gladiator.

Photo Journal after the trip When we got home I compiled all of his photos (and mixed in some of ours) into a book.  You can make them on Shutterfly, Arts Cow, Snapfish.  He loved showing his book to anyone who would look and this made the trip last longer than a week.

Cinque Terra - 1st City - Winding down to the Train

Food Jackson is pretty picky eater, but I felt like Italy was a great introduction since we could find pasta and pizza anywhere.  Your vacation may be a bit more challenging.  I kept snacks (especially with protein) on hand.  Travel packets of peanut butter, granola bars, apples, raisins, beef jerky, trail mix, or crackers are perfect to fill a belly when a meal isn’t coming soon.

One of our first stops was a grocery store, which was fun to see the differences from America.  We let Jackson pick some snacks he’d like and picked up a flat of water so we’d never be thirsty the rest of the trip.


Club at PHL (2)
A LONG layover can be fun when you find a playplace and get ‘free’ food at the airport club.

Rome - Pringles Goooooaaaalllll


We had an amazing trip thanks to these tips and ideas.  What else do you do for your little ones on sight-seeing trips?

Venice - Jackson Eating Pasta
Finding food he likes!!

What is Flying by the Seat of your Pants?

In the past, airplanes weren’t equipped with the instruments and functions that they now have.   To fly pilots had to steer by the feel in the ‘seat of their pants’.  Thus, started the idiom that has come to define our family.

I’m Jamie.  I am a normal, run-of-the-mill, stereotypical stay-at-home mom.  I have 3 kids, ages 7,5 and 3.  I make home-cooked meals, I drive to soccer and dance lessons. I do a load of laundry a day.  I try to save money, eat healthy, work out, read books, volunteer at the school, teach boy scouts, serve in a church community,  have play dates, go to the library, be close to God,  be close to family, stay in touch with friends, and be the best mom I can be.  Usually, I feel I am failing in all areas simultaneously because I spread myself thin, trying to do it all.

Family Pictures - Nov 2014 - Family (2).jpg
This is Jackson (6) Hallie (4) and Mariah (1) with my handsome travel partner, Dave in 2014

There is one thing that I do that is different than many other stay-at-home moms I know.  I travel.  With kids.  A lot.   Our family has been on 70 flights in the past year.  I mostly travel with my whole family, but I’ve been known to take trips alone or just the kids and I and also as a couple, with my husband.  I have always dreamed of a stable home and predictable life.  I  knew being a mom would be my most important calling and job in my life.  But I never could have imagined it would include seeing the world in so many ways while fulfilling my role as a mother.

San Diego, California                 Maui, Hawaii                  Las Vegas, Nevada

Five years ago, I had only taken a handful of flights ever.  I was the oldest of seven kids and although my parents took us on road trips each year and showed us the world (or rather the US of A) as best they could,  taking nine people on a flight together was a bit out of their financial reach. Because I hadn’t flown much, I was actually a {bit} terrified of flying.  I had seen that show in the 80s that shows the top of the plane being ripped off and flight attendants flying out of the plane… terrifying!  On the  only international trip I had taken, I remember thinking I was going to die. I gripped my seat in terror for 16 hours of the flight.

Chicago, Illinois              Denver, Colorado            Fort Myers, Florida

But five years ago, all this changed.  My husband was hired by US Airways in their corporate office.  He had just finished an MBA and was searching for jobs to use his sparkling new degree.  We had no hopes or dreams of working for an airline, it just happened.  And when it did, our eyes grew wide at the possibility of exploring the world more fully and we began to dream.  We made lists of places to go and things to see.  We put up a map and talked and planned night after night together.  Working for an airline we get to fly for free in the US and for a small fee internationally.  However, we fly stand-by, meaning we only get the left over seats IF there are any.

Boston, Massachusetts        Washington DC          Rotenberg, Germany

Because we fly stand-by we have the opportunity to fly for a fraction of the cost.  However, stand-by is not actually ‘free’.  You pay in uncertainty.  In being flakey and uncommitted when visiting family or friends. You pay with stress of never knowing if you will make it to a desired destination and never being able to plan in advance.   You pay with anxiety as you watch the seats on your ideal flight filling up.  You pay with disappointment and packed bags that never lift off the ground before returning home.  You pay because planning ahead and ‘getting the best deal’ is not usually possible.  You pay by booking something you may never get to use.  You pay with making plan a,b,c and d and usually doing z (and being grateful it worked out that way).  Most airline employees know this and have experienced these stresses. In fact, many decide it is not worth it to travel stand-by and buy confirmed seats just to by-pass the madness.  However, for us, we love a good deal.  We also love being together as a family and want to include everyone in the fun, so traveling frequently at cost would not be possible for us.

New York, New York           Indianapolis, Indiana           Nauvoo, Illinois

We are never quite certain what day or time we will arrive in which airport or in which city.  Thus, we’ve learned to travel ‘by the seat of our pants’. We’ve learned to be totally flexible and last minute.  Our extended family has learned to not be shocked by a call saying we will be visiting in a couple of hours. Frequently, we wait to get on the plane before we book a car or hotel.  More frequently, we sit outside a hotel and book from our phones before heading in to check in.  We usually book several rental cars in many different locations and times just to cover our bases.  Most of the time, we don’t know exactly which flight we will be taking home.  We just have to check in and see what feels like the best fit for us at the time.  We sometimes have to take early,early morning flights waking our kids up.  Sometime we fly late into the night, hoping that ours kids will sleep on the flight and wake up enough to walk off the plane and through the airport.   Sometimes we take a red eye through the night and pray we all get to sleep.  You see, we don’t get to choose the prime time for traveling, we take the left over seats that no one else bought.  We make do with what we get.

Big Island, Hawaii                Snowbird, Utah               Portland, Maine

This blog is meant to pass along the many things I have learned traveling with small children without being able to plan for our trips in depth. I often get asked travel advice for being on a plane for little ones.  I have typed up countless novels for people. This blog is meant to get everything I’ve used and learned is all in one easy to access place.

Carlsbad Caverns, NM              Saguaro NP, Arizona           Austin, Texas

Traveling is valuable for our children and our families.  I want to show families that it can be done… quickly, easily, without too much work and provide memories and connections forever.  Sometimes the thought of travel is so overwhelming that moms don’t want to do it more than one big trip a year, but smaller more manageable trips are possible (and even desirable!)

So plan (or don’t plan) your next adventure and lets experience this world as a family!

17 budget friendly travel tips for Machu Picchu Peru

My husband and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Peru for our anniversary.

Machu Picchu - Dave & Jamie in the Ruins (7).JPGI spent many hours researching for the trip, but there are some things you can’t prepare for without experiencing it.  For non-Spanish speakers traveling to South America for the first time, our eyes were opened in a few ways. Here are a few ways you can be more prepared than we were.

  • Travel:
    1. Spanish speaking.  Most everyone said that it would be fine to not speak Spanish and all the people working in the tourist town would be able to help us in English… not so!  Both of our hostel workers spoke NO English.  Even the word ‘map’ was unrecognizable to him (its ‘map-a’ in Spanish).  We had a difficult time finding maps or guidebooks in English at the Cuzco ruins, or even menus in English at the Lima Airport. We just had to point to something and hope it was good.   Bring a dictionary or a translator.  Luckily, my husband remembered just enough from his college course to get us through.
    1. Keep your immigration form handy:  When you go through immigration they stamp a form and then hand it back.  Whether they told us in Spanish and we didn’t understand or not, we didn’t keep the forms and upon going back through immigrations you have to show these forms or pay $10 per person to get new ones
    1. Lima airport doesn’t have free wifi, you can pay $10 for 24 hr access.
    1. The train to Aguas Caliente.Aguas Calientes - Train RideFor tourists to go to Machu Picchu, the trains are VERY expensive.  We paid around $300 for both us round trip (1 ½ hour ride each way).  You can save some money by buying a round trip upfront, but we weren’t sure when we would be ready to go home, so we paid a little more for 2 one-way trips.  This gave us more flexibility, but you run the risk of it being sold out.  There were only a few seats left when we bought our return trip so we weren’t able to sit together (Until someone traded seats with us.)  The Vistadome on Peru rail is more expensive than the Expedition.  Vistadome serves a snack and drink and the windows wrap around the top of the train to give a fantastic view.  However, the Expedition also serves a (smaller) snack and drink and has windows on the top.  I didn’t notice a huge difference and as a money saving tourist, would not have paid more $ for the Vistadome, except that it was the only option we had in the afternoon.   Inca rail was smaller and more affordable when I looked online, but in person was $75 each way, with fewer time options. It did look like there was another train option that all the Peruvians were taking.  I’m assuming a smaller train, cheaper and more stops, but I didn’t look into it since we couldn’t speak much.
    1. Expenses.  After you’ve already bought your flight to Lima and then to Cuzco, the cost of transportation to Machu Picchu is still very high.  Most people book a tour which means the tour company takes care of all the details of getting you around, you just have to meet with them.   After pricing everything out, I found it is still much cheaper to travel on our own.  I like this option better as well, because I have tons of flexibility, I can go or leave when I want and don’t have to wait for others or hurry up for others.  However, this means I have to make plans and hope they work and it can be a bit stressful.  It obviously up to you and what is most important.  But we chose the option of flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants and traveling on our own.

    Cost breakdown for 2 people

    • Taxi to Ollaytantambo $55
    • Train to MP $120
    • Bus up the mountain $24
    • Macchu picchu tickets with mountain hike  $87
    • Tour guide $60
    • Bus down $24
    • Train back to ollaytantambo $150
    • Minibus back to Cusco $30
    • Taxi to airport $10
    • Total: $530 (not including airfare)

At Machu Picchu

  1. Make sure you have a PRINTED ticket to Machu Picchu.  They require the printed tickets at the top of the mountain (and they do not sell tickets there) and your passport.  I bought tickets at home right before we left for the airport.  I don’t know how accessible printers are in Peru and didn’t want to wait and find out.  There are several places to buy tickets to Machu Picchu in Cuzco, but I didn’t want to pay a taxi driver to take us there so I bought at home.  I did read that they sell out in high season, but there were plenty of tickets available for us on the day we went in late November.
  2. Inside the gates at Machu Picchu there are no toilets, water or food.  The hotel right outside the park sells some snacks, water, ice cream and food (buffet for $40/person and outrageous prices for everything else, too) but once inside the park there is no option for food or water.  The booth to check in for our hike did sell small water bottles for 5 soles.  The bathrooms outside the park cost 1 sole to go in.
  3. Mountain Macchu Picchu is a 4 hour round trip hike. (Wayna Picchu is 2 hours round trip). Machu Picchu - Dave & Jamie Overlooking the Village.JPGWe pride ourselves on being fast and fluid hikers, so we did it in 3 and 1/2 hour, but it was really, really hard. Over 3000 steps and a huge elevation climb. We were huffing and puffing and taking frequent breaks. Only a few steps after our breaks and we would be right back to breathing hard. We were so sore at the top and then hiked all the way down (including down the part where you can take a bus if you opt to). The sore muscles lasted for several days. I am not in the best shape of my life, but I am also working out several times a week. The lack of oxygen and the many steps made this hike very difficult. All that being said, the view from the top is fantastic and indescribable. Photos never do it justice. The reward of our hard labors was worth it. I just wish I would’ve done the stair master at the gym a few times to prep for this.
  1. Do Not go into Macchu Picchu without a guide! Machu Picchu - The Tour Guide.JPGWe first entered without a guide, looked around and then went back out to get a guide to tell us what we were seeing and answer all our questions. There are plenty of English speaking guides at the gate hoping to get a tourist for the day. The tour is about 2 hours and you will not regret knowing more about the ruins and getting to ask all the questions you want. As cool as the site was, I didn’t really know WHAT it was, so having a tour was critical making our trip worth it. Patrick (our tour guide) told us he would wait at the ruins FOREVER, so you could always ask for him. (We paid $60 for a 2 hours tour including a small tip).

Packing Tips  

  1. When a hotel advertises wifi and breakfast, it may not be what we expect in the states.  Both our ‘hostels’ served a roll with butter and Tampico orange juice for breakfast.  Aguas Calientes - Breakfast at the HotelWith the price we paid ($36  1st night, $24 second night), we weren’t going to complain, but I was glad that I packed oatmeal packets to add to hot water to make a more complete meal.  The wifi was only in the lobby at one hotel and was very spotty in another hotel.  I had to ask 3 times for it to be restarted.  They were friendly and kind about it, but it was annoying to have to go ask them.
  1. Bring your own toiletries.  Maybe you will stay in a nice hotel that provide these amenities, but we choose to stay in cheap places so we can afford to travel more frequently.  Both our hostels had no shampoo, conditioner, or lotions, or hair dryers, etc.  Our hotels did have toilet paper, but many of the public bathrooms did not, so pack your own! None of the public bathrooms had soap so if you want to stay germ free, bring hand soap and/or hand sanitizer. Bug spray was pretty costly ($7 for a small bottle) so if you can bring your own this would save money.  Sunscreen was also costly and since I thought it would be raining we didn’t bring any or buy any.  Our skin peeled for 3 weeks after our hike up Macchu Picchu mountain!
  1. Toilet paper:  You cannot throw the toilet paper in the toilet which is pretty gross.  Any bathroom outside of the airport didn’t have any toilet paper in the vicinity (so bring your own) and the toilet didn’t have a seat on it (just the bowl part). so practice your squat holds!
  1. Soles.  When we traveled, Soles were about 3 times dollars (so 1 dollar=3 soles) this math wasn’t easy to do in my head when they would say “40 soles” and I was trying to figure out if I was willing to spend that much money on an item.  In some cases, we spent more that we wanted and in others it was much cheaper.  Our first meal in the country we paid about $8 per meal which we thought was reasonable, until we walked down the street of Ollaytantambo and found hamburgers for 10 soles (or $3.50).  I thought Machu Picchu tickets for 2 were $300.  AFTER I purchased them and it appeared on my credit card bill as $87 (300 soles) I was so happy!
  1. Don’t believe the weather report. We had 90% chance of rain all day, everyday and it only rained from 3 am to 5 am. The misty mountain cleared of completely by 10 am.  Wear sunscreen! Bring sunglasses! We burned so quickly and deeply. Our skin peeled for 3 weeks after our trip. Our ponchos were a waste of money, but we were worried about rain breaking out, so we bought them before we headed up the mountain, we should’ve bought sun screen.

Other things to see in the area

  1. Auguas Caliente is the town at the base of the mountain up to Macchu picchu.  It has no cars in it, just a walking town.  It is quaint and cute and quiet. Aguas Calientes - Misty Town Square I loved that we spent our first night there and were ready to go up the mountain first thing in the morning.  I would definitely recommend this travel itinerary (taking the afternoon train into Auguas Caliente and spending the night), but it is a tourist trap.  Souvenirs here are nearly double what you will pay elsewhere. There is more selection there than in Cuzco or in Ollaytantambo, but it is costly. The food was reasonably priced.
  2. The ruins in Cusco are amazing too, but the price is high as well.  We paid $40 to see Sacqueshuaman.  Cusco - Saqsaywaman - Dave by the RuinsThe hand carved giant boulders made into a perfectly smooth wall were spectacular!  We paid a taxi driver $30 to drive us around to the other 3 smaller sites (on the same ticket) as well as take us to the airport.Cusco - Ovewrlooking the City
  1. If you are traveling on your own, they you may not be able to take advantage of seeing the ruins in Ollaytantambo without paying a high price.  You can only get tickets to see the ruins there by buying a combo packet that include 3 or 4 other places.  It was $40 for the combo pass and we knew were weren’t going to make it to any of the other sites, so we didn’t do it.  If you had the time and taxi, these places may have been interesting, but paled in comparison to Machu Picchu, so you may want to do them first.Cusco - Saqsaywaman - Lady Posing for Picutres

I know I don’t travel like many who save up, book nice hotels and a tour to make it all easy, relaxing and enjoyable. We choose the budget- friendly route so I can continue to be a stay-at-home mom to our kids and we can keep going on more and more trips.   Our philosophy is, “The less we pay on this trip, the sooner we can go on another one!” Also, we like exploring on our own terms and conditions coming and going when we feel ready and not when our itinerary tells us to.

If you want to ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ it is definitely doable.  Hopefully these tips help!

I’m so glad I got to see this amazing wonder of the world!  I sat in the grass here and soaked in the view (and rested my aching hiking legs) for over an hour!  Machu Picchu - Overlooking the Village with Llamas

For details and pictures of our trip and itinerary you can read it on my blog