We have traveled quite a bit across the Americas, including Canada and Mexico – both as a couple and as a family with two kids. Traveling with kids (infants or toddlers) across the United States and Canada requires way less planning and risk management than what is required to go to either Europe, Asia or Mexico.
For one, you can easily take a road trip or a flight anywhere across the US or Canada, and to most places in Mexico, with the peace of mind that most of the country is cookie-cutter and chain stores are pervasive, which sometimes can be a good thing –
PLANNING: Most places you visit will have a familiar Walmart or Target or Walgreens when it comes to off the counter medication that might be needed in a pinch. No need to pack everything. Even though we do have a standard medicine ziplock that we carry on trips, every once in a while drugs could be past their expiration date or close to being empty. No worries, as you can always replenish the travel ziplock supply wherever you go.
MEDICAL: No need to get that set of dreaded vaccinations done weeks before travel. Even for Mexico, if you are limiting yourself to safe food and water supplies, you shouldn’t worry about vaccinations. Additionally, you are covered by your local insurance wherever you go.
ACCESS: Cell phone roaming is now a pretty standard inclusion in most wireless plans, so you can be assured that most places you drive to or fly to will have cell phone access for both voice and data. Additionally, WiFi hotspots are getting way more popular than they were just a few years ago, and some broadband home access plans even come with hotspot access for free across the US.
DRIVING: Driving and renting is a breeze – Google Maps works smoothly and cell phone data access is rarely a concern. Renting a car in Mexico involves carrying steep insurance costs – nevertheless, we strongly recommend that you take the local insurance if you plan to step out of the closed walls of your resort and explore. Driving in Mexico is safe as long as you stick to daylight hours (mostly) or stick to inhabited areas.
FOOD: We strongly recommend that you try the off the beaten path and local cuisine from the region you are visiting. Yelp would largely send you to the right place, though you should be aware that Yelp is now allowed to manipulate reviews and so mileage for us has started varying considerably in larger cities such as San Francisco. In smaller towns, Yelp is still fairly accurate. If we are unsure about a review on Yelp, we cross check it using the Zagat/Google reviews and sometimes even the score on TripAdvisor.
STAY: A lot of families prefer AirBnB or VRBO for house rentals. Unfortunately, our experience with renting houses has been not so stellar – primarily because we travel with younger kids, it is harder to maintain a good AirBnB property through our stay which ends up translating to unreturned cleanup deposits. We don’t want to performing house chores and cleanups during our vacation – our mental model is to put every hour we have to good use in exploration. Rather, we have used Priceline demand-based pricing quite successfully if we are staying in larger cities. For smaller towns, we just go ahead and book from Expedia or directly from the hotel website. One trick to use here is to sign up for a Hotel Rewards program (just like airline frequent flier miles programs), and use and receive points every time you travel by sticking to the same chain or brand.
PHOTOGRAPH: Image searches on Google Image Search or TripAdvisor will help you build an itinerary and places of interest (POI) that you might want to photograph. Then head over to Flickr and 500px and search for that POI to see how other photographers have actually captured it – the viewpoint of capture and the time of capture. Light at various times of the day can display/hide/highlight various parts of the POI – for example, you don’t want to land up at a grand valley viewpoint when it is covered in shadow. Your next step is to launch Google Maps Street View and navigate to the POI and find out where you have to be to get that viewpoint as shown in Flickr or 500px. We use Google Calendar to plan the itinerary, and make a note of all of these tidbits in the calendar notes for that entry. Check this post out for tips on photographing with kids.
Monument Valley, Arizona