I thought I would share the HOW’s and WHAT’s of our travel prep thus far. As I mentioned before we chose Tamarindo because we wanted an expat, family friendly surf town. We searched cities that were close to airports (1 hour to Liberia) with local clinics in town and larger hospitals nearby (1 hour to Liberia). Fact: Costa Rica’s Healthcare system is ranked 36th according to The World Health Organization – Canada is 30th and the USA is 37th.
Here is how and what we researched for this trip.
Straight to the source. We joined the Tamarindo Garage Sale Facebook group to get a feel for the community and posted a request for accommodation. While we didn’t find our accommodations directly from this post, we were connected with a few locals, including Mom’s with twins who shared some great tips and answered ALL of my questions (thanks again Michelle and Tara). From them I learned: Bring a stroller with air filled tires to help navigate through the potholes and beaches. (We bought the Bumbleride Indie Twin and LOVE it) Bring any specific products you use (organic sunblock, bug spray, body wash, baby products, etc). You will be able to find these items down here but they may not be a brand you are comfortable with and they could be twice the price. Funny enough we have found diapers CHEAPER down here but sunscreens, shampoo, etc are more ($30 for kids sunscreen). We also read blogs by other families who had traveled to Tamarindo and followed their advice/ tips. Two of my favourite’s are: Ten Feet Traveling (Thanks to Matt and Erin for helping us find our nanny/babysitter) and The Barefoot Nomad (who helped us commit to our accommodations).
Accommodation: We reached out to both rental agencies and home owners and found Mango Condominiums online. After many emails to the owner (and fellow Canadian) Julius (who was very patient with all of my questions), we set up a Skype walk through to see the condo and test the wifi connection at the same time. Both were great and we booked for 2 months. We decided not to stay over Christmas as rental prices all over Tamarindo double, if not triple, the weeks of Christmas and New Years. (I will keep you posted on our next move) Mango has been perfect. Our place has 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. It is one level with an open concept living room and kitchen – perfect for the twins to roam around in. It has 2 smaller pools in the centre (a la Melrose Place), with a shared BBQ and patio space. One of the pools is a wading pool which has been perfect for the twins.
Transportation from Airport: We worked with Denise at Xplore Costa Rica. Denise is AMAZING (and also a fellow Canadian). She was knowledgeable, quick and informative with her replies and even helped us organize our exit ticket with another company. Eugene picked us up at the airport in the Xplore van, he helped us navigate through the many people who wanted to help us with our bags (for a fee I’m sure). After strapping the twins into their rental car seats (included with the rental) he welcomed us to Costa Rica with “dos cervezas” and we were on our way. Cost $90.00 plus tip.
What to pack: We brought 4 suitcases, 2 pack and plays and 1 stroller. FYI: while children under 2 fly free, you do have to pay airport taxes on international flights. Westjet allows children under 2 to fly with 2 personal items (this includes a play pen, stroller or car seat)
J and I each brought 1 suitcase for our clothes (shorts, shirts, underwear, bathing suits). The twins shared 1 suitcase for their clothes which included sizes 12-18 months to cover their growth. The 4th suitcase had all of our “stuff” which included:
Bottles, bottle warmer, sterilizer, baby carriers, sleep machine, monitor, blankets, sleep sacs, hats, light toys, books, bathing products, breast pump, inflatable water floaties, sun tent, stroller rain cover, infant tooth brushes, bowls, spoons, as many diapers as we could squeeze in and clip on highchairs (thanks Jason/Samantha and Scott/Julie). We also brought a: screwdriver, hammer, battery charger, portable speaker, Brita water jug, grounded power bar and plastic outlet plugs.
*Shoes: If you plan on coming to Tamarindo during the rainy season, be prepared to walk in a lot of mud. I brought a few pairs of shoes, but I have only worn the pair of sandals that can easily be rinsed and not ruined by the rain and mud.
Odds and Ends: There was the never ending list of “things to do”. Speak to our bank about our travels, get health insurance, ensure our tenant insurance was up to date, renew any cards that would expire while we were away, get our travel shots, sort our cell phones out, pack up all our personal items, organize our storage and sell any baby stuff we won’t need when we return.
Flying with Kids: We have flown multiple times with the twins now and there are a few things I have learned.
1) You can bring your stroller to the gate which makes transporting baby bags and belonging a lot easier.
2) Pack more food and drinks then you think you’ll need. You aren’t just packing for the flight, you are packing for: the drive to the airport, waiting to depart, on the flight, clearing customs, on your way to your hotel and until you can get groceries… it’s a long time and having an extra banana helps…
3) You can’t bring that banana across the boarder… or the orange…. or most fruits. Check with your airline to find out what is acceptable so you aren’t left with water and raisins.
4) Bring food for you.. or allow yourself to buy food on the plane… YOU NEED TO EAT TOO
5) Get 1 partner to go on the plane first to set up your seats (put your bag overhead, pull out snacks, water, nursing blanket, phone for quick access, etc) This way the parter with the baby(s) can walk onto the plane and sit down without having to fumble through bags.
6) Accept help – from the flight attendants, from the people beside you. Once people accept they are sitting next to a baby, they are pretty good with helping pick up dropped toys or even holding the baby – let them help.
7) Shit’s gonna be stressful. There is NO WAY AROUND IT. Flying with kids is stressful.. gone are the days of catching up on HBO. It’s over… accept it, and accept that you are not going to relax until they are in bed and you have that first glass of wine.
The more work and research you can do before you travel the less you have to do when you arrive which means you can start to relax sooner. Planning for a trip can be overwhelming so my last tip comes from my sister B – MAKE LISTS. This way you will remember what you need to do and not overlook those last small yet important details.
Here are a few more photos of Tamarindo and our “home”- Mango Condominiums.