how to travel nicaragua with small kids

Here is a list of things that we did/brought/found out that really helped when travelling Nicaragua with our kids (3.5 yrs and 11 month old twins)

Sleeping

Our accommodations (except for our very last night) all had 2 or 3 bedrooms.  We wanted to be able to put the kids to bed, then enjoy spending time together – without sitting quietly in the dark so we didn’t disturb them.  I couldn’t imagine doing this trip without having a separate bedroom for the kids!  So for where the kids actually slept, the babies slept in Pea Pods.  This worked great to contain them and also kept them bug-free while they were sleeping.  We brought along two inflatable pool noodles for Hannah.  Putting them under the fitted sheet of her bed keeps her in.  We also brought along our white noise machine, because the twins are used to sleeping with it at home.  Our baby monitor at home is fairly expensive, so I picked up an inexpensive one at IKEA and we brought it along.  I would consider the baby monitor to be a “must” – in some of the places we stayed our bedroom was quite a distance from the kids. 

Gear

I always knew we would bring buckle carriers for the babies, but I debated about whether to bring a stroller or not.  After discussion with TL Travel and some Google street-view exploring I decided that it would be helpful.  We bought a used twin umbrella stroller to bring along (MacLaren), rather than bring our heavy and expensive City Select.  It was $100 well spent!  The basket underneath held quite a bit of stuff for us and we could loop the backpack over the handles.  We even dragged that sucker to the beach because it made transporting all the kids and stuff so much easier!  One other bonus, Hannah could use it too – even though she seems to have unlimited energy, those little legs get tired sometimes. 

Feeding the babies 

Before we left I had started introducing whole milk to the twins and trying to wean formula, but we didn’t make it to 100% cows milk before we left.  At home they were drinking Nestlé Good Start formula.  I packed along one canister, which wouldn’t have been enough for the trip, as well as individual packets of Enfamil (which would have been convenient for travel days).  When we got there we found out they wouldn’t take the Enfamil, so we thought maybe they would drink milk there.  At the grocery store Trev bought high-heat pasteurized milk (there wasn’t fresh milk at that store) and a powdered formula that was made by Nestlé.  The pasteurized milk was also a no-go, but thankfully the powdered formula was an acceptable substitute to their formula (I think it was called Nido?).  We brought along water bottles for all the kids and four bottles.  We used purified water to make their bottles (and for drinking), but we would wash the bottles with soap and tap water, then sterilize them using Medela sterilization bags.  We brought along a dozen pureed food pouches from home and banked on being able to buy more there (we had bought them in Costa Rica a few years ago).  There were limited choices of flavour, but they did the trick and were an easy snack or appetizer for the twins while we waited for meals.  Our twins primarily eat table food, so we were able to feed them from our plates when we went out or we cooked foods we knew they would like.  Speaking of going out, highchairs are a luxury we didn’t always have.  Most restaurants had one highchair, very few had more than than one and a few restaurants didn’t have any highchairs.  This led to a lot of “shift-eating” for Trev and I while one walked around with a baby and the other ate/fed the one in the highchair.  We got by though, and were always super-grateful when there were two highchairs.  Also, there weren’t any highchairs at our accommodations (of course) so we generally put a beach towel on the floor and fed them there. 

Ground transport

TL Travel arranged all of our transfers between the airport and between destinations.  Having private transfers seriously made our lives so much easier!  We didn’t have to figure out how we were going to move place to place, figure out times, etc.  Our driver just showed up and helped us load the kids and luggage – amazing!  With our van we also had car seats for the babies.  They were forward-facing, but we were happy to have something.  Hannah didn’t use a car seat, just the regular seatbelt (they don’t have any larger car seats there – in fact most locals don’t even use infant seats).  We had discussed this in advance and Trevor and I decided that we were okay with this arrangement, but of course, you could bring your car seats from home (don’t count on LATCH anchor points though).  We took a few taxis while were there and would hold the babies on our laps. 

Kid containment

we brought along a foldable play-yard (this is the one we have) and it was ESSENTIAL to successful travelling with two 11 month olds! We used it to contain them in our houses/apartment when we were cooking, helping Hannah with something, etc and weren’t able to supervise them.  We would also bring it to the beach with us.  Having a place to put the babies where they were safe & contained made going to the beach doable when the kids outnumber the parents. 

Health

We follow the government recommended immunization schedule with our kids, so all of their regular vaccinations are up to date.  In addition we had Hannah immunized with Twinrix (Hep A & B) and the twins immunized for Hep B (you can't have Twinrix until after 1 year old).  Trevor and I also have up-to-date vaccinations, because of our love to travel and my work.  We brought along prescription meds for traveller's diahrrhea as well as a whole travelling pharmacy worth of other meds, bandages, etc. (details in the packing list)

Travel days

The travel days are long when coming from Canada, there's just no way around it.  We choose to have a longer (4 hour) layover in Houston Texas, so with the two flights and layover time our travel days were 12 hours.  My friend Kelsy has a great blog post about how to entertain/pack for flights with kids (check it out here).  Because the twins were under 2, we could have had them both on our laps, but we choose to buy one more seat - so four seats for the five of us.  Arrival at Managua International Airport is a bit hectic - when you're travelling with kids and a ton of luggage it's totally worth it to pay for the porter.  We paid our porter $5USD and he carried all our stuff, matched up our luggage tags, brought us through customs and loaded our luggage in the car - fantastic. 

We're half-way there dad!  

We're half-way there dad!  

Other Stuff

Our kids are early risers (between 5:30-6am…uugh, I know) and the babies still need two naps, so they go down for a nap around 8:30ish.  After some trial and error we found that it worked best for us to cook breakfast in, put them down for a nap, then go out for the day.  If we went out for breakfast it was so much more of a struggle to keep the babies happy – especially given how long meals out could take (see the next point…)

Prepare yourself to operate on Nica-time!  We noticed this most when we went out to eat.  Things just move so slowly!  It would take a long time for servers to bring menus, then come back to take our order and we could usually count on at least a 15 minute wait for drinks, such as coffee. Then 35 minute wait for food to come out.  So what ended up happening was that we fed the kids snacks/food we had brought along while we waited for our meals.  Food pouches and crackers for the win!  Unfortunately, Nica-time doesn’t always match up with the needs of small kids, but you can prep for it to minimize the impact.  That being said, our transportation was always on time or early. 

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Nicaraguans love kids!  Everywhere we went people would smile, wave or talk to the kids.  People will also probably touch your kids (touching their feet, rubbing their head, patting them) – we knew this before we went, so it wasn’t surprising or problematic for us.  I actually loved how travelling with our kids helped us connect with local people.  I think we chatted with way more people because of the kids than we would have if we had been traveling alone as adults. 

Packing List

Whew!  This list seems big, but this is actually adjusted a bit from what we actually packed.  We brought a bit more clothing than this, and it was unnecessary because we had laundry access in our rental houses in Granada and Hacienda Iguana.  Even if we hadn't had laundry in our homes we had planned to do laundry somewhere along the trip - packing for the full 17 days would have been WAAAAAY too much!  Also, if you're like me, I end up with a few "favourite outfits" during a trip and tend to wear those on repeat - so I could probably have packed even a bit less clothing than this.  

So altogether we ended up with 3 suitcases (one for adults, one for kids, one for gear), one carry-on suitcase, two adult backpacks, one kid backpack, the stroller and the play yard. Definitely a luggage cart full at the airport :)

I already talked about formula up above, but I wanted to mention diapers quickly.  We could easily find diapers for the twins (they wear size 4 in Canada) but I packed along enough night-time diapers for Hannah (she wears a 6) because I wasn't sure I would be able to get her size.  This worked out well - so if your kiddo wears a size 6, or is on the bigger side of size 5, I would pack what you think you need for diapers. 

Carry On

Backpacks
Change of clothing for everyone
iPad/tablets and headphones
Battery pack
Charging cords
Pen
Small notebooks
Snacks
Water bottles
Bottles (2)
Formula (enough for 8 bottles)
Food pouches (6)
Pouch straws
Straw cups (2)
Books (favourite/new)
Toys
Blankies
Stuffies
Soothers
Copies of passports
Suckers
Sunglasses

Adult Gear

Watch
Cell Phone
Camera & film
Nikon D90
Lenses
Ebook
Hat
Travel Ring (we wear silver bands and leave our real ones at home)
Carabiners
Rope
Ziploc bags (lots, both large and sandwich size - they come in handy for so many things)

Adult Clothes (each)

2 Board shorts (Trev)
2 Bikinis (Court)
Coverup (Court)
2 Shorts
Yoga Pants
Trekking pants (Trev)
Cropped pants (Court)
6 T-shirts/tank tops
Hoodie/sweater
4 pairs socks
Running shoes                          
Flip flops
8 pairs underwear
2 bras (Court)
Hats
Rain jackets

Kid Gear

Life jackets
Pea pods (babies)
Inflatable pool noodles (Hannah)
Stroller
Play yard
Full buckle carriers (2)
Muslin blankets (4)
Soothers (4)
Diapers (we brought along one package)
Wipes (lots)
Diaper disposal baggies
Zinc cream
Change pad

Feeding

Bottles (we had 4 total)
Dish soap
Sterilizer bags
Bibs (2, silicon)
Straw attachments for food pouches
Food pouches (brought 12 total for flight there & back)

Kids clothes (each)

Six outfits (shirt + shorts or dress)
3 short sleeve body suits (babies)
2 pyjamas
1 sweater
2 pants
2 long sleeve
4 socks
Sandals
Shoes
Swim diaper (babies)
Swim suit/ rashguard
Hats
Drool bibs (babies)

Return trip package

Formula (enough for 8 bottles)
Food pouches (6)
New toys/books
Suckers

Toiletries

Shampoo/conditioner
Body wash
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Makeup
Brush (mom + kids)
Hair product
Elastics (mom/Hannah)
Sunscreen
Mosquito repellant
Deodorant
Shaving stuff
Nail clippers
Lip balm

Med Kit

Bandaids
Alcohol hand sanitizer
Alcohol pads
Blister pads
Latex gloves
Gauze
Oral rehydration salts
Safety pins & scissors
Tensor bandage
Tweezers
Thermometer
Hydrocortisone cream
Allergy meds
Anti-diarrhea meds
Anti-motion sickness meds
Antifungal/antibacterial cream
Cold/flu med
Pain meds (adult)
Pain meds (peds)
Anatacids/stomach meds
Aloe gel for sunburn
Proof of medical travel insurance + contact number
Benedryl (Adult and peds)
Duct Tape
multitool

This is everything, all packed up and ready to go

This is everything, all packed up and ready to go

Well, that's it folks!  Thanks for following along on our first big family adventure!  I'm more than happy to answer any questions, just leave a comment or send me an email!  

san juan del sur

San Juan del Sur (SJDS) is a mecca for surfers and backpackers.  We picked it because it’s one of the larger cities in the south of Nicaragua and a popular tourist destination; we figured it would have enough things to do and restaurants to try to entertain us for a few days.  If you’ve done any reading about SJDS, you would have surely noted it’s reputation as a party town – with mention of “Sunday Funday”, and daily pub crawls – which all sounds great if you’re in your 20’s, but not so much if you’re travelling with small kids.  Therefore we stayed up on one of the hills overlooking town.  Our hotel had a shuttle that would bring us down to town and back, so transportation was relatively easy.

In SJDS there are several great places to eat and we had some good meals while we were there.  (Look for my list of recommendations below)  There weren’t as many shops to look in as I had imagined, based on how popular SJDS is with tourists and cruise ships.  The shops we found were mostly hipster surf apparel, but we did find a few small Nicaraguan souvenir shops as well.  There is a small market with mostly fruit and vegetables, a few stands selling t-shirts and a little restaurant.  You could easily explore the majority of town in a day, but if you’re taking life at a leisurely pace, spreading your exploring out over a few days (like we did) works too. 

For groceries there is one larger grocery store (Pali) on the way into SJDS.  It wasn’t as well-stocked as the Pali we went to in Granada, so don’t expect to find everything there.  We found that the little pulperias (corner stores) in town actually were pretty fair with their prices and had some things we couldn’t get at Pali (even produce) so definitely worth a browse!

The beach in the town is nothing special – we didn’t spend any time there.  If you’re in SJDS and you want to get in some beach time or surfing you have to head either North or South about 30 mins to get to the better beaches.  That being said – watching the sunset from the beach in town is pretty great! 

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We visited Playa Maderas twice.  The first time we shared a cab with a couple from our hotel and it cost $20USD each way.  The second time we found a driver in town and he brought us for $25USD round trip.  Maderas has a few restaurants on the beach and a few hostels nearby.  We rented lounge chairs and an umbrella on the beach for $10USD (having shade is key to having the babies on the beach!)  The beach has nice sand with some rocks and tide pools at the north-end of the beach.  The surf there looked pretty good (but Trev didn’t surf there).  We ate at Taco Locos both days we visited.  The staff were super-friendly & accommodating for the kids and the food was good.  Hannah was happy to have “fish with eyeballs” (whole fried snapper) and I was equally happy with my margarita made from fresh-squeezed lime juice. 

We also visited Playa Hermosa for an afternoon.  Trev signed up for a surf lesson through Good Times Surf Shop in SJDS for $30USD and his 1 hour lesson included board rental and transportation to and from the beach.  They charged us $10USD total for the kids and I to get to the beach and back too.  Hermosa is on private land, so there is a fee to access the beach (our driver paid, so I’m not sure how much it was).  At the beach there is a restaurant and hostel.  Because Hermosa is a private beach club, use of lounge chairs, hammocks, shade palapas, etc. is included.  The beach is long and almost deserted and if you look to the south you can see Costa Rica. 

So what was our overall impression of SJDS?  We liked it and we’re glad we visited, but five nights was probably one or two too many.  The town was cute and we liked the mix of exploring/trying restaurants and spending time at the beach.  We thought that having to pay to visit other beaches was a downside though.  On average it cost $25-30USD just to get to another beach, plus we would likely eat lunch there because once we made it to the beach we wanted to stay for several hours.  This was a big contrast to our stay at Hacienda Iguana where a beautiful beach was just a two-minute walk away, and we could go back to our house for lunch, naps or whatever.  Maybe this would have been different if our kiddos were a bit older, but with small children this was a bit of a challenge.

Where to eat in San Juan del Sur:

La Lancha: Go here for delicious “fresh off the boat” seafood and a cozy, local atmosphere.  We ordered a whole fried snapper and the waiter kept coming back to ask if it was okay that the cost would be a bit more because that day the whole snapper were “mas grande”.  Of course we said yes, and I’m glad we did.  Our fish (and sides) was about $16USD and sooo delicious!

Barrio Café: Worth a visit at any time of the day.  Barrio Café is proudly Nicaraguan owned and the servers there were probably the friendliest and most helpful we came across.  We went a few times, so they would start bringing us highchairs as soon as they saw us and they loved playing with the kids.  The food was excellent: try the steak for dinner and huevos rancheros for breakfast (and carrot cake anytime). 

Nacho Libre: A funky bar and burger joint.  Delicious burgers and fries!  All sorts of funky combos and deluxe toppings to select from.  Make sure you read through the menu, it’s pretty funny. 

El Gato Negro: A funky and artistic café.  We went for a mid-morning snack and had smoothies and crepes.  The environment was very kid-friendly with colouring pages on the tables and a bin of stuffies that the babies loved.  The twins were very popular here and went for a little tour through the kitchen, haha. 

Superfrutto Gelateria: a little gelato shop worth stopping by for a scoop or two.  Good selection of flavours at a reasonable price.

San Juan Surf: half men’s clothing shop half coffee bar.  The guys working there were always so friendly and the Vietnamese iced coffee ($2USD) was awesome! 

Taco Stop:  Not to be confused with nearby Taco Spot (we were warned).  A fast-food type atmosphere with a variety of options for quesadillas, burritos and bowls.  We grabbed lunch to-go one afternoon on our way back to our hotel and we all enjoyed it. 

Stay tuned for one more blog post with tips for travelling with small kids and our packing list!

hacienda iguana & the tola beaches

Hacienda Iguana is a gated community on the Emerald Coast, also known as the Tola Beaches.  We spent five nights there in a rental house a two-minute walk from the beach and it was perfect. 

The beach there was amazing!  It was a few kilometers long and we shared it with only a few other beach-goers and a handful of surfers.  Speaking of surfing – the breaks off this beach are considered to be the best in Nicaragua.  We usually set ourselves up right in front of the Colorados break and we had fun watching the surfers.  Trevor also took a surf lesson with Ryan from Iguana Surf Rentals and he said it was the best surf lesson he’d ever taken. 

Most days we had breakfast at our house, then headed to the beach for a few hours.  Went back to the house for lunch and afternoon naps then went back to the beach to catch the sunset.  It seemed like everyone came down to the beach for sunset – to walk, play and visit with other people.  It had such a great community vibe.  Near our house there was also a restaurant and beach club.  Every evening the bar there had great happy hour specials on food & drinks, so we had dinner there a few times. 

Within the community there were several other restaurants and a few little shops.  We visited Spokes & Scoops (an ice cream and coffee shop) several times.  Both the ice cream and coffee were good and it was fun to lounge on their pillows while watching surf videos (if the kids would sit still for a minute or two). 

While we were away it was our dating anniversary, so Trev surprised me with dinner on the beach at Aqua Wellness Resort (about a 20 min cab ride).  The food and atmosphere were great, so we brought the kids back the next day to eat lunch and play on the beach there.  The cove there is a bit more sheltered than Hacienda Iguana, but that day the waves were still fairly large.  We didn’t pay to use the beach when we went, but we heard they were in the midst of changing the policy and some people were being charged $20USD to use the beach, beach toys and lounge chairs.  If this is something you’re planning on doing maybe check into it first. 

Stay tuned, I've still got two more Nicaragua posts coming up!

granada

We loved Granada with it’s colourful buildings and colonial charm.  We were staying a few blocks away from the Parque Central, towards the lake.  It was an easy (although, not exactly stroller-friendly) walk to lots of great restaurants, the local market and some churches.  There’s lots to do in/around Granada, even with small children, so it was a great pick for us.  We spent five nights there.

It’s true what they say about Granada – you have to peek through open doors to truly see the hidden beauty of the city.  The way the city is built every building has a courtyard.  We loved walking through the lush gardens inside some of the hotels or cafés. 

Things to do:

Horse-drawn carriage ride:  Yes, this is a very touristy thing to do, but it’s worth doing.  When we were walking around Parque Central we were approached by a carriage driver asking if we were interested in a ride.  My gut instinct is to be distrustful of people who approach us – but in this case (and what we experienced in Nicaragua in general) he was actually helpful and not trying to be pushy.  We arranged for a 1-hour tour for $25USD.  Our driver Manuel was great!  He had lots of great info to share with us about history, the sights in town and the politics of the country.  The carriage ride was like nap magic for the babies too! 

Boat tour of Las Isletas: Another touristy thing to do – this one I wouldn’t recommend as highly as the carriage ride, but I’m glad we did it once.  We set up our boat tour through Manuel, our carriage driver.  Our private tour lasted about an hour and cost $40USD.  In some ways it felt like we were on a Hollywood star homes tour – our guide knew how much each island/mansion cost and who owned it.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if we saw a bit more local life, rather than just big mansions. 

Day tour to Masaya: Seriously amazing!  We booked a private tour through TL Travel so that we had a private van, car seats, and an English-speaking guide.  We started the day at the Masaya Volcano.  We took a look in the little interpretive centre, then continued up to the rim of the crater.  It was so amazing to look down and see lava rolling and boiling in the bottom of the crater.  We could feel the heat, smell the sulphur and hear the roaring.  Seeing lava up close was an amazing experience!  After we drove down the volcano we went to the town of Masaya and the craft market there.  When I was doing my own trip research I had read that this was THE place to pick up souvenirs, so I made sure that I bought some of the things I really wanted to bring back.  In the back of my mind though I was thinking that I might find more things in San Juan del Sur when we went there – this was a mistake though.  You truly should buy anything you think you want at the craft market (or possibly Garden Café in Granada).  After the market we went to Pacaya Lodge & Spa for lunch.  The location is beautiful, up on the lip of the crater overlooking Laguna Apoyo.  The food was excellent and service was very attentive.  It was a great place for lunch and I’m sure staying there would be great!  After our long lunch we went to San Juan del Oriente (one of the towns in the Pueblos Blancos) to visit a pottery workshop.  The potter did a demonstration for us and we ended up buying some pieces from his workshop.  After that the kids were getting pretty tired (car naps just don’t cut it) so even though we had an hour or two left of tour time we choose to go back to our apartment.  We saw and did so much in that one day and doing it as a private tour made it possible for our family.  We could stop somewhere for as long/short as we wanted and when the kids were fussy in the van we didn’t have to feel bad about disturbing other guests. 

Fave places to eat (and a few to skip):

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Garden Café: a beautiful setting with a lush courtyard.  We enjoyed breakfast here and the food was really good.  The servers were also amazing and would stop at our table to play with the kids.  They have a boutique souvenir shop with some great stuff.  The goods and handicrafts in the store are artisan or cooperative-made and higher quality than what I found in the street market.  I wish I had bought more of my souvenirs there!

Café Bristol: located just off of the Parque Central, this is a great place to stop for a little pick-me-up coffee and treat.  We didn’t eat there, but their menu for breakfast/lunch looked pretty good.  They made excellent espresso-based drinks and their desserts were delicious.  The café is also part of a hotel that has a beautiful courtyard and some beautiful religious artifacts. 

Kathy’s Waffle House: You’ll find this one on most restaurant recommendation lists (and for good reason).  They do breakfast really well!  We tried both the waffles and the pancakes – I might have liked the pancake a bit better, but really they’re both great choices. 

El Pizzaiol: This Italian/Mediterranean restaurant is worth a visit!  They make a decent thin crust pizza and the falafel plate was really tasty!  They make their pita bread and hummus in house.  The only small complaint was that service was verrrrry slow – I’m not sure if something happened and we were kind-of forgotten, but our meal there took for-ev-er. 

El Zaguan: Go here for delicious steak.  We had the steak with chimichurri and it was so flavourful and tender.  They cook their meats over open flame and it’s awesome.  The meals were large and came with starter salads, and sides so our whole family shared the two steak dinners and an appetizer. 

La Gelateria: a little ice cream and crepe shop on a corner along Calle la Calzada.  We had ice cream here a few times and it was tasty and inexpensive (try the coconut).

Chocomuseo: this one was a miss for us, which was really disappointing because I had been looking forward to it.  They have an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet for $6USD per person.  Their advertised hours start at 7am, but when we arrived a little after 8 there wasn’t anything set up yet and the one staff person working wasn’t very helpful.  The food wasn’t anything special either.  But if you do end up there, make sure you take a walk through the attached hotel – it’s huge and goes way back through several courtyards, ending with a big swimming pool. 

Café de Arte: this place also shows up on several recommended lists that I looked at, but I thought it was overhyped.  The food was okay, but nothing special; prices were average; atmosphere was okay…the overall verdict was ‘just okay’.  The café also sells art and a few souvenirs. 

Stay tuned for more Nicaragua posts!

nicaragua...with kids

The “…” in the title of this post are significant.  They represent the look on people’s faces and the hesitation we encountered when we told people we were heading to Nicaragua.  I could have also titled this post “You’re going where?” because that was also a common response.  The next question was usually “are you bringing the kids?” to which we would answer “of course!”

I do understand why people reacted this way.  For most people Nicaragua wouldn’t even make the top ten when listing places for family vacations (but it should – more on that later).  Nicaragua is thought of as a dangerous place with assumptions of drug trafficking and civil war, but this is no longer true.  Nicaragua actually has the lowest crime rate in Central America, and we felt very safe there.  That being said, it is a developing country.  Social systems are emerging and the poverty rate is high.  This can lead to some culture shock – especially if you haven’t traveled in a developing country before.  I think when people heard we were going they wondered if we were going to help with a humanitarian cause or a mission trip, which I understand because this type of aid is obviously needed – but our answer of “nope, just vacation” seemed to be a surprise to those who asked. 

We’ve also been asked several times “why Nicaragua?” or “how did you choose to go there?”  The answer has a lot to do with our past experiences, so I’ll give the quick run-down on the type of family we are:

  • Trevor and I backpacked in Thailand and Cambodia for six weeks in 2010 and he went on his own in 2007
  • We love experiencing local culture and food, so even when we went to Mexico we would spend the majority of our time off the resort
  • We’ve always agreed that travel is important to us and that we wanted to continue travelling after we had children
  • We took Hannah to Costa Rica when she was 16 months old.  We absolutely loved it.  The country was beautiful, the people were friendly and it was easy to get around with her. 
  • We took the twins camping (in a trailer) and did some day hikes in Banff when they were 4 months old – and we survived! 

Probably our biggest deciding factor in choosing Nicaragua was our trip to Costa Rica.  We just loved it so much!  And because we like travelling a little “off the grid” we decided to try another country in Central America.  I read somewhere that travelling in Nicaragua was similar to what travel in Costa Rica was like 20 years ago – I was hooked.  I did some research and talked to some people who had been and decided it fit our wanderlust needs perfectly. 

So how did we actually plan it?

We did some research and decided which cities/areas we might like to visit, and then we enlisted specialist help!  Our wonderful friend Teri of TL Travel planned everything for us.  We gave her a budget and a rough idea of what we wanted and she got back to us with itinerary and accommodation suggestions.  Our requests for accommodations were that we needed two bedrooms and we wanted a kitchen so we could make some meals in.  She set up everything and made sure we were well taken care of.  She arranged private transport (with car seats for the babies) for airport pick-up/drop off and transit between the different places we were staying.  I would definitely say that the private transport was key to the success of our trip.  It took off so much stress to not have to think about how we were going to travel around, or what time we would need to catch a bus…or even how we were going to get all our stuff moved around. 

Teri set us up with everything we needed –even restaurant recommendations.  This was the first time we have used a service like this and it was seriously amazing.  Normally we spend countless hours researching: scouring blog posts, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, Frommers, Thorn Tree, etc. etc. to figure out where to stay, what to do, must-sees – but these days, with three small children, we just didn’t have time.  Turning this job over to Teri was great!  I still did some research, but I felt like the success of our trip wasn’t dependent on MY planning.

So how was it?  In a word, fantastic. 

Our first big trip as a family of five is down in the books as a success.  We loved Nicaragua – it was exactly what we were looking for.  A little bit rough; but not enough to make things difficult.  Tourism is an emerging industry there, but this can be a benefit and shouldn’t scare you away.  The people are glad to see tourists and happy to help (genuinely) – we didn’t have the feeling that we were ‘just being tolerated’ or worse that we were seen as unwelcome outsiders.  We felt safe everywhere we went, but of course, we travel smart - and because our kids go to bed early, we were never out late.  We also loved that the cost of travel in Nicaragua was less than in Costa Rica…it’s not quite as cheap as South East Asia, but we found it to be very affordable. 

People there LOVED our kids!  The twins attracted major attention and the fact that they were boy-girl twins made them extra remarkable (considered very lucky).  Everywhere we went people asked if they were ‘gemelos’ (hem-mel-ohs) and told us how beautiful Hannah was.  Something I should mention is that people there will touch your kids (touch their hands/feet, pat them on the head).  Trevor and I both knew it would happen, so it didn’t bother or surprise us.  But it’s not as common in Canadian culture, so just a little heads-up.  Because Nicaraguans love kids so much, I think this makes it a very family-friendly country to travel. 

Stay tuned for more blog posts about our trip.  More about the places we stayed, what we ate, what we did.  Also I’ll be posting about travel with small kids and our packing list. 

arrival at managua international airport

arrival at managua international airport