We love it when we get the chance to chat with globetrotting parents about their adventures with kids in tow. Recently, we caught up with the Burris family, who just got back from an incredible vacation to Argentina — a few days in Buenos Aires paired with a stay in Ushuaia, capital of Patagonia’s Terra del Fuego region. Here’s their take on the trip … this kind of personal insight is family travel gold!
Why did you choose Argentina and Patagonia?
We went to Europe last summer, and thought it would be fun to do South America this year. We wanted to go some place where we could speak Spanish and could experience an interesting urban culture as well as natural beauty. I’ve been fascinated with the “Paris of South America” for a while and was excited to spend time there.
What did you hope the kids would get out of the experience?
Our kids are 4 and 6, and our hope at this point is to instill a love of travel. We knew they would love the planes, the boats and the Tren del Fin del Mondo (End of the World Train) in Ushuaia, and from past experience, we knew they don’t seem to really care where we are — they just enjoy having Mom and Dad’s undivided attention.
Were the length of the trip and the time of year ideal?
Nine days was the perfect amount of time. We did the first 4 days in BA (Palermo), 3 days in Ushuaia, then another 2 days in BA (San Telmo). Staying in a different area of BA on our way back was a fun way to enjoy another part of the city.
We went in May, which is late fall down there, and we packed the right clothes for the weather, but for some reason did not anticipate the shorter days. This wasn’t really a problem in BA, where the sun came up around 7 and went down around 6, but in Ushuaia there were only about 7 hours of daylight. We still had plenty of time to do the things we wanted, but it would not have been ideal if we were planning any long hiking days.
What were the itinerary highlights and the kids’ favorite activities?
In BA, they loved the Museo de los Ninos, Recoleta Cemetery, and the boat trip to Colonia, Uruguay. BA also has some amazing bookstores. While they mostly feature Spanish-language books, many of them have cafes or bars, so they are still a lot of fun for hanging out. In Patagonia, they loved that our hotel had an indoor/outdoor pool where they could swim outside and see the Beagle Channel, then swim back inside again. The Tren del Fin del Mondo was a huge hit.
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Our 6-year-old says his favorite thing was the Beagle Channel Tour because he got to see sea lions and a lighthouse; our 4-year-old says her favorite thing was eating dulce de leche and going to the Evita Museum (because she really liked the dresses).
Colonia was fun, but it was a really tiring day for everyone. We had a great lunch at El Charco and rented a golf cart to ride around and see the sites in the colonial town. The kids took a nap on the ferry on the way back and were energized for a late-night dinner.
The Tierra del Fuego national park tour was amazing. Our particular tour was ideal because the bus took us to multiple locations in the park, let everybody get off to run around for 20 or 30 minutes to see various sites, then get back on. It was perfect because we got to see a lot, but nobody got too tired or too cold.
Is there anything you’d have changed?
One thing we would have done differently, especially in BA, would be to build in a “down” day where we just did a bus tour (similar to the one in Patagonia) that allowed us more time to rest, as opposed to all of the walking.
What advice do you have for families around navigating logistics like local transport and late meal hours?
BA is very family-friendly, and it was not uncommon to see kids at dinner in nicer restaurants at all hours of the night. Nobody eats dinner until 9 or 10pm, and most restaurants don’t even open until 8pm. It’s an hour ahead of EST, so we made most of our reservations at 8 or 8:30 so it felt like 7 at home. Be aware that public transport is not great, but cabs are cheap. Of course, if you’re anxious about car seats, then cabs are not a great choice, but I would not have rented a car either because traffic was pretty chaotic.
Given the travel time required to reach South America and especially Patagonia, are there any tips you’d recommend to minimize hassle with kids?
Our flights to and from BA were night flights, and our kids are good about sleeping on planes, so that part was actually pretty easy. Our flight to Ushuaia was 3 hours, but it was midweek after everyone had a chance to recover from the first flight. We built in extra time in BA on the way back from Ushuaia as a way to rest up for our flight home, which worked well.
Tell us how your accommodations worked out.
We stayed at Home Hotel in Palermo for the longest amount of time. We chose it because the neighborhood is very family-friendly, but still trendy. The hotel had a loft room, which was perfect because the kids could have their own space, and there was even a kitchen that we used to make snacks. For Ushuaia, we stayed at Los Cauquenes, which we chose mostly because of that awesome pool. There are not many hotels in Argentina that have four-person rooms, but this hotel had a deal for getting a second, adjoining room for kids under age 18, which was perfect for our family. It was nice to close the door and relax after the kids were asleep.
On the way back through BA, we stayed at the Hilton Anselmo. We were a little hesitant to stay at a chain hotel and lose out on a more local experience, but this one was awesome. It’s one of their boutique hotels, so it was small and right off the Plaza Dorrego. We were there over the weekend, so we got to walk straight out to the San Telmo market — it was a lot of fun to see the booths, street performers and tango dancers.
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Editor’s Note: Photos courtesy of the Burris family except where noted.
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