Do you ever stop yourself from living your dream of exploring the world, because you have a kid or two to worry about ?! Our guest author, Veena Bhandarkar, writes about her recent travel to Costa Rica and all the adventures they experienced with a toddler.
Living your dreams with children is a rewarding, exhilarating experience, and will build unforgettable memories for both you and your child. – from John and Nancy at Travel with Bikes
“Which country are we in”? Our (almost) 3 year old asked me the day after arrived in Costa Rica and each day of our winter break. Obviously the concepts of town, city, country all were blended in his head but he knew that we were away from home and on a holiday.
There are different kinds of vacations and given the attention span of a toddler it is best to combine multiple different activities and spread them out sufficiently instead of trying to do it all. So here goes a list of things that worked for us.
1)Planning the itinerary:
One of the best piece of advice that I got (thank u tripadvisor)when planning the trip to Costa Rica (an unfamiliar ,foreign country then to me)was that the distances between cities are deceptive. Given transfer times and multiple modes of transport, one would end up spending a huge chunk of the day in transportation. So multiple days at a particular spot works better than trying to visit many different places. We spent roughly 3-4 nights at Tortuguero, Arenal and Manuel Antonio and that worked out very well for us.
2)Preparing for the weather:
Advance planning always helps but with kids it is imperative. We found out that there were rains predicted and it was raining on an almost daily basis. We invested in some rain jackets and rain boots for the little one. Yes, this is an extra expense but if you are going for a much awaited ‘once in a lifetime’ vacation you don’t want to be spending it inside the hotel room. The joy of splashing around in puddles was heightened with these boots and we could spend a lot more time outside.
3) Setting the tone:
Even on a vacation where there are no rules, it helps to set some ‘tone’ so that you can set some structure to it. It used to get dark each day by 5 pm, so ours was waking up and being up and about early. Our toddler got used to the idea and was just as excited as us on the early morning wild life viewing boat trip as we were
4)Planning for the activities:
You don’t need to plan down to the last minute every activity but it helps to know what is your idea of a vacation and plan towards that. Both my husband and I enjoy hiking so we have a “hiking chair” that my husband uses to carry our son during hikes. Knowing about the anticipated rain , we also go a waterproof rain cover for the hiking chair bag. When it was pouring down in the Rio celeste hike, my son did not get so much so as a single drop of water on his clothes. This is again a choice that we made, ditching some extra clothes in favor of the bag in our check-in luggage.
5)Packing for the kids:
Obviously, we were limited in the number of books and toys we carried. For the bed time story book I picked out a story that he had not heard before and was sufficiently long so I knew it would last our trip and for the toy, we let him pick out one to take on the trip.He picked a white teddy bear which accompanied us everywhere until it had a fall in the public bathroom ( that story for another time).
6) Experience something new:
Wildlife: Costa rica being as bio diverse as it gets is one of the best places for kids to experience all the wonders that nature has in store. Nature is the best teacher and the best way for a budding student is to experience it with his own eyes. By the end of the trip my son could distinguish between the 4 different types of monkeys, identify the type of sloth, knew what an iguana was,could spot a macaw etc. No video we show to him can ever compare.
Ziplining: This was a first for all three of us and I was admittedly a bit nervous given that we had a toddler but the company assured us of their attention to safety and also had my son strapped to the guide during the canopy rides but they let him rappell down by himself at the end. The thrill of adventure and the adrenalin rush is inbuilt into all of us although we are restrained by our individual thresholds; looking at my son enjoy himself so much I was glad that we had overcome our initial reservations and tried this out.
Surfing:My son had his first surfing lesson at Manuel Antonio. The warm waters and the big waves make it the best location for body boarding and surfing. Not sure whether he was quite ready for this, he might have been just as happy playing in the sand. Oh well, you never know until you try it out.
All in all, we managed to get through the trip without an ipad or tv time which in itself I would consider a success in this digital day and age and we came back home with tons of great memories!