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.