So, we made it! From December 30th to January 13th, we traveled to Costa Rica with our three young kids (5, almost 3, and 1 year old). It was a big challenge for me! As a beginner traveler and the only person capable of handling a language other than French, I felt a lot of weight on my shoulders. Hours on the plane, some more in the car, all the luggage, vaccines and preparation to get there… all this short adventure looked like a road to hell!
Still, it was important for us to make the trip, simply because we want to do so more often. Now that we’re safely back and had great moments, it is time to share my experiences and some tips for others and future trips!
Don’t Underestimate Your Kids’ Need to Adapt
At first, we were supposed to go for a week solamente, as they say! Fortunately for us, plans changed a little and we finally booked two weeks. I didn’t know then that the biggest advantage would be giving our kids time to adapt to their new environment! I thought that a couple hours, a day at the most, would be enough for them to adjust. Boy, was I wrong!
The first week was dedicated to the management of our children going bananas!! There were new sounds, new foods, new temperatures, new beds, new routines, and new bodies to deal with daily (we stayed at my sister’s rented house with our two families). I’m guessing that children who are used to travelling deal with all this more quickly. However, apart from 2-3 car rides of a couple hours with our own little family, it was a first-time thing for them. I realise now how significant it may have been for them.
I had discussed our trip with them before leaving. I mentioned to them what they could possibly find difficult. I think my preparation with them was fine. I just underestimated their own need to adapt and how much time it could take.
I take note of that, and will make sure to plan trips longer than a week for such travels. That way, we can appreciate a couple days in harmony!
Not Enough is Better Than Too Much
I didn’t want to struggle with too much luggage. I planned enough outfits for a week, and decided to do laundry if needed instead of bringing extra clothes. I applied the same thinking to diapers, baby milk and other young kids’ necessities. Chances are that there are babies where you’re going as well! 😉 You’ll find everything you need once you’re there if you forgot something, or didn’t have space to bring it. There is always a way to work things out.
Backpack Baby Carrier: the One Key!
One of the best decisions we made for our baby was to bring a backpack baby carrier instead of a stroller. Our little girl always was happy in it! She could see what was happening around us, she could be in touch with her parents, and she was pleased to be moving. I strongly recommend it. Make sure to try it at home beforehand, so the baby is a little used to it.
It also made our life easier because we had our hands free for other things, like carrying beach stuff, holding our toddler’s hand, taking pictures, etc. It was also a lot smaller to carry than a stroller.
Plus side: we didn’t pay a dollar for it! We borrowed it from a friend of a friend who didn’t mind us using it in another country. It was not the most comfortable one, but it was perfect for our needs.
Have an Organized Setup for Security, Travel Company and Other Paper Points
A friend of mine is a regular traveler with kids. He suggested that one parent takes care of the kids while the other handles all the questions and papers related to the travel company, airport security, etc. It was a really good tip that reduced the stress related to such key moments.
Because I was the only one speaking English and a little Spanish, I was the resource person for the whole family. I organised all my papers in advance, passports opened at the right page, credits card on hand if needed, electronics and liquids ready for security, etc. And while I was attentive to all these little details, Mr. My Husband made sure the kids were following the instructions… and us! The one thing you don’t want to happen is to lose one of them! 😉
The best way to prepare your kids for the adventure is to talk with them! I rented books at the local library about airports, airplanes, vacations, etc. Months before our departure, we discussed our trip with them. I also asked them questions to try to anticipate their worries.
Of course, you might miss something! Like I did for the adaptation part. However, I’m convinced it would have been harder without such discussions.
Always Have Snacks Ready
Snacks, snacks and more snacks! These have been very helpful throughout the past two weeks! Not only for the plane, but also during our vacation days. When the kids are bored in the car, when they get too excited at the beach, or when they fight with each other, one of the best things to do is to change their mindset with snacks! It truly works!
Don’t Plan Too Many Activities
As young kids, they need to rest. They also need a certain routine. A special activity each day is just too much for their comfort. Make sure to separate them with one or two days to chill and relax. Also try to keep some parts of their at-home routine: respecting their suppertime, have them taking a nap if they still need one, etc.
Last but not least, remember you’re on vacation! When things get a little messy, try to take a breath and handle it with a smile. It’s not the time to get frustrated or to work on your kids’ weaknesses. If they don’t transgress important limits, don’t make a big deal out of it. You are there to have a break, they are too!
All you really need to do is enjoy! Spend time with them, play with them, have fun! I guarantee they will make your day easier if you do so! 😉