Puerto Rico is an ideal place to take the kids on a "foreign" adventure. While the customs and traditions of the country are worlds apart from those of the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory; therefore, no passport is required for Americans to enter. Just a short trip from the southeastern United States, the small island country offers kids opportunities to enjoy the ocean, explore rain forests and immerse themselves in the Spanish language.
Visit the pediatrician to ensure your children are up-to-date on all shots and vaccinations before traveling. MD Travel Health recommends that all visitors to Puerto Rico be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and tetanus-diphtheria. If you plan to do much off-the-beaten-track traveling, have your kids get Hepatitis B, rabies, measles and mumps vaccinations also.
Pack for consistently warm and sunny temperatures. Generally, temperatures stay in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit year-round. Bring sunscreen and outdoor clothes for the kids, as you will probably be spending your days hiking, snorkeling and swimming. For younger children, bring the stroller, car seat and portable crib as usual. Most airlines have a generous policy regarding baby gear, much of which parents can bring free of charge.
Make a copy of all of your kids' birth certificates. Although the FAA does not require children under 16 to travel with identification within the U.S. and its territories, airlines set their own identification requirements and may request a birth certificate or copy at the airport.
Puerto Rico is almost seven hours in flight time from Los Angeles, four hours from Chicago, three hours from New York and two hours from Miami. For longer travel times, make sure to prep your carry-on with playing cards, travel games or pillows for the kids. Check the airline's entertainment options, like movies and television programs, or bring your own portable DVD player for entertainment on the way to your destination. Older children should bring along their iPods and portable gaming devices.
Book a stay at a family-friendly hotel on the island. Frommer's recommends the Caribe Hilton in San Juan (caribehilton.com), the Marriott Courtyard Aquadilla (marriott.com) and El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa in Las Croabas (elconresort.com). Although these are luxury hotels, they each offer special activities and freebies for kids. At the Hilton, kids under 18 stay free and kids under 5 eat free, while older children are eligible for discounted meal prices. All three hotels have water parks in or near the hotel, bike rentals and family-sized rooms. The Marriott is located near an observatory and the Camuy Caves, a popular island tourist attraction. The Hilton even offers a babysitting service.
Bring a Spanish phrasebook and practice everywhere you go. Kids, especially younger ones, can catch on to other languages more quickly than adults, according to language-learning institutions like Early Advantage. Take advantage of this opportunity to immerse your kids in another language and help them practice their Spanish while you brush up on yours.
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