After traveling all around the coffee triangle region of Colombia (and enjoying their world renowned coffee every chance we got) we found it was easier to transport everyone by renting a small bus vs. individual taxis or vans. The kids enjoyed it because it felt like a school field trip every time we rode our bus (the littlest one having never ridden a school bus for a field trip was particularly thrilled by the experience). I’m grateful all our kids were well behaved, and of course, I’m grateful that they all listened to my safety warnings and followed them to a T.
When traveling with kids, especially on long trips, I find it very important to make each child feel comfortable in order to get their best behavior. As an example, I always make sure to pack my daughter’s precious blanket. We don’t leave home (overnight) without it. I also made sure to pack her favorite drinking cup, one toy, and her favorite, weather-appropriate, outfits. These small details made her feel secure and it made the environment a little less scary for her. Also, please always make sure they have comfortable shoes for long walks, that way you don’t have to deal with foot blisters and other issues that can potentially ruin a good time.
I always carry a cross body bag, big enough for my personal belongings, a few snacks, and a bottle of water. Refillable bottles that have a snap-hook that you can attach to your bag are very convenient. I usually like to be hands free and carry everything on my cross body bag. I also carry a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer, tissue, and band-aids (believe me; you’ll thank me should you need these).
We laughed a lot. Hubby is 6’5” and needless to say, he looked like a giant compared to most locals. This was pretty hilarious especially when he realized that he his feet hung out of the South American standard beds, and he had to watch his head through many door frames and other structures.
We had a scary moment when we thought one of us lost their wallet with all personal information and identifications (it is always a good idea to have a photocopy of yours and your child’s documents stored in a safe place while you travel). But don’t worry… we found it!
One of my favorite places was Salento, Quindio. We climbed the Alto de la Cruz and all of its 250 steps. We were exhausted once we got to the top, but it was totally worth it. The views of the town and the mountains were breathtaking. I also thought it was very curious to see so many stray dogs walking around, and none of them looked malnourished (although they some were thirsty). The locals and hundreds of tourist feed and pet these very friendly dogs all the time, so living on the streets might not be too bad for them after all. They get sheltered by local vendors when needed, and the town is their playground.
We also had some small injuries and scrapes. Kid #4 got a splinter (a very small splinter) and cried bloody murder for a good twenty minutes while uncle and dad tried to remove it. Picture this: Lunch time; the water park's restaurant area packed with people trying to eat; a four year old screaming but moved to the grassy area just outside the restaurant to minimize a spectacle (that didn’t make it better btw). Dad is holding her so she doesn’t move, uncle is performing an improvised cutaneous amateur surgery, well, that’s the way it seems from a distance judging by the screams and kicks... and suddenly it stops. The splinter is out and magically she feels nothing anymore. The rest of the crew recovered their original color as their faces go back to normal from the bright tomato red they had turned with embarrassment. Immediately, Kid #3 starts to cry. She also has a splinter that was conveniently painless until she saw it. Repeat. Buy everyone ice-cream after the ordeal.
Despite the minor incidents everything went well until our way back home. We had another eight hour layover in Panama. By that time we knew the airport like pros. We knew exactly where the AC area was, and what restaurants were good. About an hour before boarding hubby started to feel queasy. He looked pale and clammy and I knew that something wasn’t right. “Maybe it was something he ate?” I thought, but we all ate the same thing and we were feeling alright so that couldn’t be it. Then I saw hubby pacing back and forth. He was holding his right side. The flank area of his body, he said, was throbbing. The pain made him so sick that he was vomiting. I knew he was not going to be able to make it on a plane for 4 hours in that condition. I knew he was passing a kidney stone (he suffers from this often). Even if he wanted to board the plane, the airline clerk saw his pale face and asked me what was wrong. I told her I suspected a big kidney stone. Well, apparently they don’t let you board a plane (at least not in Panama) if you are or look sick. He looked terrible. Even my five year old daughter knew something wasn’t right. So our group gets split in two and we stayed in Panama while the rest flew back home. Luckily, the medic at the airport clinic was incredibly nice and gave hubby something for the pain. He was able to stabilize him and after a couple of hours his pain was bearable. The airline was also (to my surprise) very cooperative. They placed us on the last plane back to the States that night, and although we missed our connecting flight, we were glad to be home.