Photo: Kristen Cudd

When we told people that we were planning a two week adventure in Peru with our little ones we received many reactions.  All of them were strong; few of them were positive. One person actually said, “What are you thinking?!” We knew we were taking on a challenge dragging our not yet 5- and 2-year-old sons with us but we were certain we were up for it.

Much like parenthood itself, a trip of this magnitude with your kids is not something you can completely prepare yourself for; you just have to jump in and figure it out as you go along. And although we questioned our decision to bring them along many, many times on the trip we experienced just as many awesomely high moments that absolutely would not have happened if they weren’t there with us.

For all those brave parents out there with an itch for adventure, here’s some totally candid advice based on what it is really like out there in the great wide world.

Edit That Itinerary

When planning the trip, pair it down to essential destinations and then make at least one more cut. When my husband and I take a big trip we go all out cramming as much in to the time we have. It should go without saying that you can’t do that with littles.

We chose three major destinations and even that turned out to be very ambitious. In total we took four flights, three train trips, and one road trip to make that happen. That’s enough to make most adults motion sick.

Flexibility Rules the Day

You should throw several things out of your mind and out of your pile of luggage. Your kids’ schedule is gone. Forget about it. They will stay up until 11 and may only nap in your arms on a bumpy bus winding up an impossibly skinny mountain road. You can also leave the travel crib at home. Everyone will pile in bed together and if you think you’re going to stop it, you’re wrong. Family bed will be in full effect.

…Which leads to another thing you should pretty much forget about. Sex? Plan to get busy in the bathroom if at all.

Bring ALL the Meds

I thought I was overdoing it when I realized I had three toiletry bags full, and I mean zippers bulging full, of every medicine known to man for children and adults. By the end of the trip, we’d collapsed down to one bag due to consumption and purchased antibiotics for all of us, twice.

Bodily Fluids Happen

Expect excrement of every variety from every child every step along the way. There will be poop. There will be puke. They will puke in cars, beds, toilets, floors, sinks and of course, all over you. This is going to happen.

Luckily, all of the poop stayed where it should go with the exception of that one time our youngest dropped a log on a white leather chair when we were snapping some early morning ethereal naked baby photos. Kind of killed the moment, but in a really funny way.

They Will Surprise You

Expect amazement at how curious, resilient, determined and open-minded your children are. Your shy baby will bloom into a social butterfly before your eyes after realizing that all this loving attention being thrown his way is pretty darn nice. Your intellectual boy will make you sit back and smile as he strikes up an adult-like conversation with some local women about the customs of the Uro people, teaching them things they didn’t realize about a subculture of their country.

They will walk, hike, eat completely foreign dishes, sleep in different beds every few nights…they will be completely at ease in a completely different place, lacking judgement and absorbing worldliness.

Unsolicited Advice

Be prepared for well intentioned, but sometimes a tad overbearing, advise from local women regarding your children.  It was winter there and though it did sometimes dip into the 40s at night in the mountains, for the most part we were out in daylight and it was very mild. But in the eyes of the Peruvian women, it was simply not possible that my baby’s head was warm enough without a wool stocking cap.

Most of this attention was fine and good but don’t get me started about that one lady on that boat who tried to show me how to rock my inconsolable toddler while offering him cookie after cookie.

Relax & Enjoy the Ride 

Try to be chill about things. Try to take it all in stride. There will be tantrums, there will be tears. Sometimes they will be yours. Soak in the views. Have an adult beverage at lunch. Even though it’s hard work, you are on vacation and you should enjoy yourself.

Take turns with your partner having time to on your own. Let him explore the local market while you let the kids nap. Go to the hotel sauna while he lets them run wild in the hotel bar. Be present and be relaxed.

When it’s all said and done, If you kept them alive, you did your job. If you were also able to enjoy yourself, you’ve excelled. After you return and sleep for 12 hours a night for a solid week give yourself a pat on the back for what a brave, badass parent you are.

After all, you’ve done it.

You’ve given your kids the world.

This post originally appeared on Long Days, Short Years, Stiff Drinks.