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!