Kids are hard. Traveling with kids is especially so. When we combine our kids with traveling to a new destination, sometimes the path of least resistance is just easier. For example, we may find ourselves settling for room service rather than venturing out in search of a restaurant with whining kids in tow.
While I can’t promise a magic solution that will make your ENTIRE vacation with the family a breeze, I can share some tips in hopes of making it easier. At the root of everything, plan ahead. Seeking expert advice also helps. Luckily, as Costa Rica Experts, we can do the legwork for you. If you provide the information, we can coordinate all the details of your trip according to your preferences: airport pick-ups, hotel stays, tours, and transportation. We can communicate your needs (allergies, special accommodations, you name it) so you don’t have to. However, let’s touch on some things to consider before traveling that will hopefully make your vacation … more of a vacation.
Perhaps easier said than done, but it’s worth keeping tabs on the amount of stuff you bring along. Planning to do laundry or having the hotel wash clothes for you midway through the trip is one way to cut down on luggage weight. Just don’t forget any comfort blankets. Additionally, our Experts can arrange to have cribs in the room upon arrival at your hotel. Car seats can be arranged in transportation vehicles if needed. To alleviate the stress of carrying loads of luggage, consider a wheeled carry-on for your kids. Carrying their own suitcase can give them a feeling of independence and lighten your load. Maybe you can introduce it to them and let them practice before you leave.
Get the kids excited.
If the kids are eager and interested, they’re bound to be more cooperative. Introduce the animals, rainforest, and culture of Costa Rica through books or toys. It’s also a great opportunity to get kids interested in learning basic Spanish! Furthermore, you might consider involving your kids in choosing excursions. If they had a hand in selecting the activity du jour, they’re bound to be enthusiastic and on good behavior.
Be strategic about timing — e.g. naps.
Do your kids have an afternoon nap? Plan it in. Maybe they would nap in the car over a long drive to an excursion. If the kids have a daily nap schedule, make sure that time is clear every day – which will ensure the rest of the day runs more smoothly. If it’s not possible on any given day, make sure to schedule in some extra downtime for that day.
Plan for downtime.
Go-go-go is hard on everyone. Especially your kids. So whether you have nappers or not, leaving some afternoons open can really help everyone recharge and make the days of exploration more pleasurable.
Traveling can make it a bit difficult to predict when you might come upon the next restaurant suitable for picky eaters (most kids). So make sure you have packed plenty of snacks and a water bottle. The tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink.
Skip airport lines.
Lines and kids are not a great pairing. Things like checking in online before the airport and TSA Pre-check will make everyone’s life easier. The TSA line is shorter and doesn’t require the removal of liquids, electronics, shoes, or jackets. Global Entry will also be helpful when you return to the United States as you’ll receive expedited customs processing. You can skip long lines, use a kiosk, and be on your way. Lastly, if you can travel with only carry-on bags, it will also make the airport experience move faster.
Get local restaurant reservations.
Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with ordering room service or getting dinner at the hotel bar. For those nights that you’re feeling ready to venture out on the town with the fam, it can be helpful to get a lay of the land before you arrive at your destination. Furthermore, if you find you’ve come upon spotty WiFi (it’s bound to happen), it’s much easier if you’ve already done your homework or, even better, a Costa Rica Expert has done it for you! Ask a Costa Rica Expert or the hotel concierge for a list of 2-3 restaurants near each hotel. Then, you can call the front desk to request they arrange a dinner reservation and transportation at your convenience.
Minimize hotel hopping.
Costa Rica is diverse and there is so much to see. So, I hesitate to recommend this, but I do feel that when traveling with small children keeping hotel hoping to a minimum will make everyone’s lives easier. The number of hotels will obviously vary based on the duration of your trip. For my family personally, I would probably try to keep the number of hotels to two or fewer in a seven to ten-day period. It’s ok that you may not be able to cram everything in that you would have before you had kids, that just means there’s a reason to come back!
Minimize car time.
Particularly with the littles, extended car rides should be avoided for the mental health of everyone. Consider destinations relatively near the airport. From San Jose international airport, you might look at Manuel Antonio National Park. From Liberia international airport, consider the Papagayo Peninsula or Guanacaste. If your heart is set on someplace far-flung, domestic flights are an option worth considering!
I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Just make sure to let your kids in on the secret too. If you can explain to them beforehand that travel doesn’t always go according to plan and that airports tend to have lines and will require patience, they may be slightly more tolerant or at least, more prepared.
And the #1 way to make traveling with kids easier? Plan your trip with a Costa Rica Expert. For family trip ideas, browse our family vacation packages.