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Moving Abroad or Traveling With Kids? A Few Things To Look Out For

Posted in: Expats Everywhere, Living in Ecuador, Our Perspective

A Machete in EcuadorTraveling with kids is wonderful!

It’s so satisfying to see them experience new places, foods, cultures and languages. It can really draw a family closer.

But traveling with kids means being extra careful because you have to watch out for their health and safety, which is harder than just caring for yourself.

There is a need to think about things you might not think about if you were just traveling on your own.

What We Watch For in Ecuador

travel-with-kidsLike when we moved to Ecuador, we had to teach our daughter to be much more careful around traffic because drivers are more aggressive than we were used to.

We needed to help her learn how to protected herself from drinking contaminated water, and to wash her hands more often because of lower sanitation levels.

Also just walking down the sidewalk felt like an obstacle course (pedestrian safety is not as big of an issue here) because of missing drainage grates, or pieces of rebar sticking out into the sidewalk space.

Even sun protection became more important because of the altitude and lower atmosphere that comes with living in the Andes. It’s much easier to burn. So we had to constantly remind her about putting on sunblock and her hat before heading out of the house.

We had to prepare her for unfamiliar things she would see. For example, it’s common to see a man walking down the road with a 2 foot long machete. This was new for us (and a little startling). We had to explain what they use them for and that it isn’t anything to be concerned about.

Being prepared for things like these can make your travels, or life abroad, much easier.

happy expat family bookWhen you know what to watch out for in advance, you can prepare your kids, and the whole family benefits. Everyone has more fun, and injuries can be avoided.

For more information about traveling with kids, please check out our book, The Happy Expat Family. In the Happy Expat Family we talk about the 8 challenges faced by all expats and how to overcome them.

If you have something that you have noticed that you feel would be helpful to parents traveling or moving abroad, please mention it by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

27 comments… add one
  • Brooke Jul 2, 2014, 1:35 am

    Hello Dena and Brian. My family is thinking of making the leap and heading down to Cuenca. However with two school aged children, and no real clear info on the school systems out there I was hoping to get an insiders view. How is the schools in Cuenca or is there a home-school or independent studies that you could recommend? We would like the kids to be home schooled. Do you know if it is possible for them to do an online home school course from the U.S.?
    Any info you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!
    Love your blog. It’s been a heaven sent!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 7, 2014, 6:49 am

      As we understand it, foreigners (non-citizens) can school their children as they wish. We know of expat families that home-school their kids (with their own program), enroll their kids in private schools online in the US, and also in public State schools in the US. Others send their kids to school here. Here are a couple of posts that might help: Schooling Your Expat Kids and What About Schooling?.

  • Jesse M Jul 25, 2013, 9:02 am

    Hi, So happy I found this site! My question is this,
    1) How is the job market for an average person looking to move there?
    2) Is there places to rent for a young family of five?

    We don’t have special college degrees or anything just an average family sick of the USA politics and dictatorship. Thanks for your help!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 25, 2013, 9:44 am

      Some expats work here but most work online. We work online. There is a high emphasis put on education here – so unless you capitalized on your English skills I think it would be challenging to get work.

      There are lots of options for house rentals. You can rent a nice house for $250-$400 per month.

  • Dale Holcomb Feb 27, 2013, 4:33 pm

    How long is the growing season,I like to have a large garden,what can you plant?Also how much does water cost.Do you have your own well? Thank you,Dale from California.

    • Bryan Haines Feb 27, 2013, 5:01 pm

      Food grows year round in Cuenca. Water is cheap. I don’t know anyone with a well. Those who live far enough out of the city must have them but I’ve never seen one. There are streams everywhere – the land isn’t usually very dry.

    • Jim Feb 27, 2013, 6:05 pm

      Hi Dale, I hope you don’t mind my 2 cents. Bryan covered your question, but I still smiled when I read your question about the growing season. I was told once you can drop a seed on the ground here and it’ll grow. That seems to be mostly true. We live in the country and have started growing tomatoes and peppers with potatoes soon to follow. You can start any veggie any time of the year and have a continuous cycle of fresh veggies. The growing season is year round. We have a small tomato garden that sprouted on it’s own near our compost pile. Our landlord has planted orange, lime, papaya, mangos,watermelon and bananas. Most of the population in the south of Ecuador run mini canals which are fed typically by the rivers if you are not on a water system. I have seen deep well pumps for sale so I am somewhat confident you can likely find a well driller if you do want your own well.

  • Laura Jun 21, 2012, 3:04 pm

    Hi Dena. I know your very busy and you try to answer everyones questions. I posted a question a while back regarding kids. I wanted to know wether or not your 11 year old is able to freely play or hang outside alone or with her freinds? Or does she need to have constant supervision? I mean here the kids ride their bikes alone, when in a group they go to the park, skateboard, run over to the pharmacy to buy candy….is it like this there in Cuenca? And yes….i voted for you too! I love this site. It has really helped us out a lot!! We are moving there within the next few months hopefully!! But I have concerns about the kids. Any info or help would be GREAT!

  • Kathy Jun 21, 2012, 9:15 am

    Bryan and Dena,

    Thank you for all the information you provide, it has been invaluable for us. My husband and I moved to Cuenca 3 weeks ago. Yeaaa! I was wondering if you could provide some references for doctors regarding the parasites and amoebas infections and preventive measures? I’m looking forward to your blog on the water filtration system

    I voted for your web site too. It’s my favorite. Thanks so much.


  • Sher Kariz Apr 27, 2012, 1:52 am

    I subscribe to a few sites about Ecuador, but find yours the most homey and useful.I’ve traveled to Ecuador for the past 20 years and I truly love it. I had my son climbing in the Andes before he was two. He is now 17 yrs.old.Ecuador has been one of the easiest countries to travel in with a small child.I bought one of those cheap, light weight umbroller strollers before I left Canada.Perfect for in the airports,easy to fold and take on buses and trains and worked well on all those miles of cobblestone!He enjoyed the food immensely right from the start.Ecuadorians love children and back then they didn’t see many gringo toddlers.People would give him little keepsakes everywhere we went and treated him so well. They all get very excited to see him every time we return. My baby’s now 6’4″ tall and they really get a kick out of him!

    • Dena Haines Apr 27, 2012, 9:25 pm

      Hi Sher,

      I know what you mean, Ecuadorians love children! They make such a fuss over our daughter. She is often given keepsakes as well, and we live here! It has been much easier getting to know people and make new friends because of how interested everyone is in our daughter, they are always so happy to see her. And I love how they light up when she speaks to them in Spanish! We are very happy that we moved here while she was still little, when we arrived she was 8, she is 11 now and the time is just flying!

      Thank you for your comment.

      • laura Apr 30, 2012, 9:05 am

        I too found this information on children very helpful. We are moving to Ecuador soon, and I have three young children and one much older. I have been to Ecuador myself and loved it. Cuenca will be our new home. My question….your 11 year old daughter, do you let her walk around alone like one would here in Canada? With friends, maybe to the mall or to see a movie? Or are you always with her? Can she go to the park or ride her bike without much worry? Here our children are used to riding around the area with their friends, skatboarding, walking to mall or movies with a group…and though we know they always have to be careful and watchful, they are able to go out alone at a reasonable hour. Is this how it is in Cuenca? Interesting to read your comment on how much liberty your daughter has there. Thanks again for ALL the info. Your site has certainly been the MOST helpful. And YES…we voted for you!!!

  • A&M Apr 26, 2012, 4:05 pm

    I do not have kids, but completely understand all of the things listed, since my husband and I were in Cuenca for 2 1/2 months. We love your insights, and found them very helpful, both in our preparation for arriving in Ecuador, as well as daily life in Cuenca. Please keep blogging. 🙂

  • Glen Phibbs Apr 26, 2012, 3:27 pm

    I’ve been very happy to find your website/blogs.Thanks for all of your insights. My wife and I are very much retired but work full-time helping to look after our 32 grandchildren. She complains some but feels fulfilled even at 75 taking care of family. As you see, our situation will be only like yours if the g’kids come to visit,then all of this information really makes sense, in spades !
    I have proposed that we leave for an extended vacation to Ecuador,but there are many bridges to cross first. Thanks for your wonderful assistance in painting us a great picture. Looking for a quiet retreat in the mountains might suit us better. Glen & Charlene Phibbs, Oklahomans, USA

  • Collin Apr 26, 2012, 3:12 pm

    I lived in Cuenca for a 6 months and I only drank tap water and never took anti-parasitic medicine. I was on such a tight budget that I could not afford to do either of those things. Also, I generally try to avoid bottled water because of the strain it puts on the environment. Here in the States, I have not bought bottled water in more than 10 years.

    That being said, I did not have a son or daughter getting sick on me while living abroad. I know parents will do everything within their means to protect their kin. I wonder, though, as permanent residents in Cuenca, should you not eventually make the switch to the tap?

    And were you positive the parasites derived from tap water? Or was it just an extra precaution to take?

    My main concern is that this blog has a lot of influence, and I’d hate to learn that most expats were drinking bottled water in Cuenca.

    • Bryan Haines Apr 26, 2012, 3:39 pm

      Hey Colin – great to hear from you.

      I agree that bottled water isn’t ideal, but neither is tap water. All the expats I know drink bottled water, as do many of our Ecuadorian friends. I don’t know that I’ll ever trust the water system enough to drink it out of the tap. We used to drink tap water in Canada, but it was on our own well and we had a filtration system setup to remove the little bugs and other contaminants. We are much more careful than in our pre-child life, as you mentioned there is such a need to take care of their health.

      Just a few weeks ago we switched to a water filtration system that allows us to drink tap water, after it has been run through an 8 stage filter. We’ll be covering this in coming weeks.

      Thanks Colin!


      • Jim Apr 26, 2012, 4:07 pm

        I wonder if it needs to be clarified that reference to bottled water can mean the use of reusable plastic 5 gallon jugs.

        • Bryan Haines Apr 26, 2012, 4:13 pm

          Hey Jim – good point. We use those bottles – the large poly-carbonate 5 gallon bottles that are refilled. Not as bad on the environment as disposable ones, but I’ve heard the argument that the transportation of the refillable bottles is horrible for the environment. I guess it would have an impact.

      • RG Apr 27, 2012, 3:31 pm

        Bryan, is it advisable to bring a USA made water filtration system (reverse osmosis) or just buy it there. I plan to bring one but what’s bothering me is the availability of replacement filters.

        I voted on your travel blog but could not cheat by voting multiple times.


        • Bryan Haines Apr 27, 2012, 4:10 pm

          Hello RG – we ordered ours online and shipped it here. I don’t know what is available here. They are bulky so it would take up a lot of luggage space.

          Thanks for your vote – really appreciate it.


      • Collin Apr 28, 2012, 3:05 am

        Hey Bryan,

        Hope my post didn’t come off as pretentious. Sounds like you are quite environmentally conscious and you are doing what is best both for your family and the earth 🙂 Congrats on getting the nod for best expat blog. I shot you guys a vote.

        • Bryan Haines Apr 28, 2012, 6:25 am

          Hey Collin – no worries. Different points of view are always welcome. Its what has helped our site grow. I appreciate your comment and hope you’ll continue to comment.

          Thanks for the vote – its exciting to see the response…

          All the best!


  • Jim Apr 25, 2012, 9:14 pm

    Nice writing Dena. You covered those topics very nicely. I like your points about drinking water and crossing the streets.

  • Gloria Riemer Apr 25, 2012, 6:12 pm


    Thanks for sharing all the things we should be aware of. We’ll be visiting Cuenca in the middle of May for the first time and are happy to learn all we can before we get there. We hope to learn lots more while we’re there and come to live in Cuenca at the end of this year.


    • Dena Haines Apr 26, 2012, 11:05 am

      Hi Gloria,

      I’m sure you will learn a lot more when you visit. All the best with your plans!

      Thanks for your comment.

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