We did it! Last week we booked our big family travel plans! After hundreds of research hours, conducted over many years, I was ready to buy our vacation to a destination that I’ve had my sights on since forever – long before it became the international superstar that it is now.
Costa Rica is one of the most stable countries in Latin America. Without a national army, it’s incredibly safe with a stable currency. The region boasts equatorial temperatures, and so long as you don’t mind a bit of rain, there’s really no bad time to visit. The biodiversity in Costa Rica is insane, and the animals that call it home are some of the coolest alive! From the west coast, it really isn’t that far or airfare that expensive. There is so much to do – ziplining, hiking, horseback riding, waterfall explorations, touring coffee farms… just SO much adventure! I can’t tell you how many of my family and friends have gone because I keep yapping about how amazing Costa Rica is.
So, now, let me tell you why – only moments before purchase – we decided NOT to go to Costa Rica this year…
When Booking Family Travel, Accept Your Reality
I am so inspired and motivated by parents who travel internationally with their young kids. I comb through the blogosphere looking for posts from real-life parents on traveling with toddlers and preschoolers. I’m fired up by their go-to attitudes, their willingness to rent a car and drive a foreign land and, certainly, the “I am Mama, hear me roar!” persona that tells naysayers to keep their mouths shut. We’re raising global citizens over here, after all!
So when my naysayers started advising against taking the kids to Costa Rica (mainly my mom!), I immediately shut my ears and rattled off all the reasons why I thought my vacation plans were perfect for us. And, yes, the detailed itinerary I’ve researched over the years – which have us traveling by car for hours multiple days during the trip – is awesome and perfect for family travel. But here’s the thing: we aren’t rich and this vacation needs to serve a number of purposes. It is likely the biggest vacation we’ll take this year. Quite frankly, it cannot disappoint.
For me, our family travel should be about connectedness – to each other, to oneself and to nature. I’ve also created a self imposed rule that our family travel is done to Spanish speaking countries, preferably with strong Afro-influences or indigenous culture (talk about specific, I know). Daddy D is wrought with stress from work these days, so this trip needs to be rejuvenating. His vision is of “an ocean with white sand where I can see my feet though the water”. That’s it – he’s easy to please, and that’s why I love him. Alina is crazy interested in animals and Sebastian, well, we just want that crazy guy to survive the trip.
Alas, my reservations over the amount of in-country travel, along with the number of activities we could not do because our kids are so little (like ziplining), was too much to ignore. I started to accept the reality that our two very small kids do, in fact, pose limitations and, to optimize our experience, I might have to consider an alternative destination.
Finally, I looked to a trusted and respected voice in the travel blogging world, Carol Cain of Girl Gone Travel, to help me make a decision. I’ve never met Carol personally, but we’re connected on social media. I know her to be blatantly honest, with high morals who is obsessed with traveling. She’s Latina raising mixed boys and understands my need for cultural relevance. She’s also been to Costa Rica with her family. I highly respect her opinion, so when she told me to save Costa Rica for another two years, when the kids can walk for miles without being carried, hike and scale rocks, my heart sank a little. The turning point in our conversation was when I asked her if I could bring a stroller…
For all the adventure, warm waters and lush flora, Costa Rica just isn’t the right choice for our big family travel this year. Taking a suggestion from Carol (and my mom’s Te lo dije!), we decided to book an alternative destination that provides us with a slightly more age appropriate itinerary and a home base to relax at. It’s a Spanish speaking destination with a tourist economy, but our travels will take us completely off the beaten path to a little town that only recently got an airport. With Carol’s help, I literally booked an entire vacation within 24 hours. To me that says it was the right decision.
We’re taking our Britax car seats, renting an SUV and embarking on an adventure that, I hope, gives each of us what we’re looking for while creating the foundation of a strong family legacy…
Booking family travel is a complicated process. But this experience has taught me that, when it feels right, it doesn’t have to be. Once I accepted our reality, appreciating the impressionable and beautiful – if not limiting – stages my children are in, my expectations of an amazing family vacation actually seem attainable.
More on our trip soon, but I want to know, have you traveled internationally with your little (wild) ones? How did you decide on a destination?