Cuba with preschooler in April

Mar 8th, 2017, 06:12 AM
  #1  
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Cuba with preschooler in April

My wife and I are planning to go to Cuba with our 4 year old in April. We don't know whether to stay in Havana the entire time or spend 2 nights in Trinidad (or somewhere else). We'd like to stay in a casa particular, but I don't know how much they would welcome a young tot. it would be really great if there were one with another young child, does anyone have a recommendation? We were alternatively thinking of renting a place on airbnb.

We'd appreciate any suggestions and welcome all guidance, including opinions on whether it's a good option to bring a preschooler to Cuba as opposed to a different Caribbean island. He's easily entertained, add are most children his age.

Thank you Fodorites!!!!!
123charley is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 06:45 AM
  #2  
 
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AirBnB lists the same casas as other booking sites, but at a higher price. Casas can be a room (or rooms) in someone's apartment/house, but also a room (or rooms, sometimes connecting) with a separate entrance, or an entire separate apartment.
Havana Vieja, a popular area, tends to have apartment buildings. Vedado, a short taxi ride away, tends to have more old mansions, perhaps with an enclosed terrace for the kid to play. You could also look at casas at the beach nearby Havana and taxi into the city.
I like using CubaJunky to find casas (best value for casa owners). You can see photos and read descriptions, ask questions and book by email, and pay on arrival.

IMO Cuba is more of an experiential trip than a sight-seeing one; meeting Cubans and talking with them. The sights themselves are not so unique or wonderful IMO (compared to Mexico or Brazil for example).
Cubans do like kids, but I'm not sure how much a kid would enjoy what the island has to offer, other than the beach. There is music in many places, including restaurants and bars (kids are OK at most), which a kid might find attractive. You could go horseback riding in Vinales (helmets for kids????), a couple of hours drive away from Havana. The classic car rides might appeal (but no car seats or seatbelts). Walking around to see the sights a kid might get tired fast, and the streets/sidewalks are not conducive to strollers.
You'd have to be careful with finding and drinking only bottled water, an additional thing to think about, and ice in drinks. And the food is not very good or varied, unless maybe you reserve at certain restaurants in Havana or make other big effort, so mostly beans and rice, and some fried pork, or shrimp, or often-tough chicken, with not many veggies.

And Cuba is NOT cheap.
It's not going to change much IMO before your kid is older, and maybe more ready, so that shouldn't be a consideration.
SambaChula is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 07:26 AM
  #3  
 
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These are some kids' activities on the calendar for March in Havana:
El hijo del viento
MARCH 3, 4 & 5, 3PM
TEATRO DE TÍTERES EL ARCA
Production and story by Christian Medina Negrín.

Gigantería
CAFÉ LITERARIO. CASA DE LA POESÍA
MARCH 24, 3PM
Performance by the Gigantería theater group.

Ballet Infantil
CENTRO HISPANO AMERICANO DE CULTURA
MARCH 4, 11PM
Concert program by the Children´s ballet of Cuba’s National Ballet.

Clowns
MUSEO NACIONAL DE BELLAS ARTES
SUNDAYS, 11AM
Clowns, music and other attractions.

Cantándole al Sol
SALA AVELLANEDA. TEATRO NACIONAL
MARCH 10-13, 5PM
Children’s singing competition, hosted by the La Colmenita. Children’s Theater Company.
SambaChula is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 11:29 AM
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SambaChula makes some good points above. I'll add a few more:

1) I question how much a four-year-old is going to get out of such a trip. You know your child best.

2) Cuba is still not an easy travel destination if you try to make all your arrangements on your own.

3) When in April? Are you going around Easter (April 16) and the week before? The place will be packed and prices will be a lot higher.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 12:04 PM
  #5  
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Thanks, Jeff and Samba. I'm not worried about the child getting much out of the trip. People seem to remember very little of what they did at that age. The important thing for us, relating to him, is that he has experiences in life that may have some impact on who he becomes as an adult. For example, we have been reading to him in Spanish since he was born, so the thought anyway is that experiencing a world where most communication is in this other language of which he understands a couple of words will bring a greater awareness of language generally. But, while this could be accomplished in any Spanish-speaking country, my wife and I would really like to see Cuba. And, I do worry that it will change because even as much as I really want to stay in homes, the temptation to go to a resort, such as they are, is strong because it's what I'm most comfortable with. The more people like me go to Cuba, the greater the demand for experiences more in our comfort zone, and the less Cuba is likely to look like it does today. Just MHO.

That said, we are seeking guidance and may not go.
123charley is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 12:13 PM
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Sorry--to answer question, intended dates are 4/18-4/23. Thanks, again for your help.
123charley is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 01:03 PM
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So go show him Maya ruins and cenotes in the Yucatan and speak more Spanish in the pueblo in Tulum than you might in Havana where the people you'll be in contact with as a tourist speak English. Conditions, staying in modest posadas and eating locally in the Yucatan are better, for an equivalent amount of money. IMO Cuba can be an uncomfortable and difficult alternative for an intro to Latin countries unless you spend more to avoid some discomforts. The "demand for experiences" in Cuba means that eventually it may get more comfortable to travel there, not more Americanized. Remember Canadians and Europeans have been traveling there for decades and their national chain restaurants are not on every street corner. And it will be decades before any Cuban can afford a new Toyota to replace the 50s classics.
SambaChula is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 02:39 PM
  #8  
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Thanks, Samba. I appreciate the advice.
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Mar 8th, 2017, 06:17 PM
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You do realize that every person who says "I want to get to Cuba before it changes" is himself/herself contributing to change in Cuba.

My real concern here is that independent travel to Cuba is still not easy. My trips there have been work-related (for Fodor's, as a matter of fact). Being constrained by a tour was out of the question because of the work I needed to do, but many times I thought how nice it would be to have everything arranged for me. I do see why people take organized tours to go there.

There are plenty of Spanish-speaking destinations that offer a polished tourist product without putting you in an all-inclusive resort. I love Cuba, but it isn't yet one of them.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Mar 8th, 2017, 06:51 PM
  #10  
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Hi Jeff. The reason we'd be going is bc my wife and I really would like to see the country. Our strong prefeeence is not to stay on a resort. We've traveled a lot and are not generally resort types. The only consideration here is that we've got the child. We're thinking of staying at an airbnb either on the boardwalk or in the city. The question then is whether to go to Trinidad or another location for two nights. Any thoughts?
123charley is offline  
Mar 9th, 2017, 10:35 AM
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There is no "either on the boardwalk or in the city". There is a low concrete wall along most of the extent of the harbor with a sidewalk next to it. In the Havana Vieja neighborhood, the wall/sidewalk mostly borders a rather industrial part of the harbor. As you go around the 'point' (look at a map), it becomes the "malecon" of the iconic photos, bordered by a very wide boulevard with speeding cars, and the buildings on the edge of the Vedado neighborhood. Walking on inland streets (or by taxi, bus or shared taxi route), Vedado and the touristy part of Vieja are not so far from each other.

OK, so if you insist on the trip being to Cuba......here's my advice.
IMO get a casa, probably in Vedado, a place more likely to have a house with an internal courtyard for the kid to play in without your having to be on guard every second.
You want to ask if there is good water pressure, and hot water. You may not find a comfortable bed or comfortable pillows on arrival. There may be mosquitos or no-see-ums; take spray.
Talk directly to the owner by email or phone with your questions, particularly to find out how far the nearest place to buy bottled water is (to drink in the house and refill your daily carry-around bottles--usually you can brush teeth with tap water), and probably where the nearest snack bar is located (so the kid doesn't have a meltdown when/if hungry), and the nearest shared taxi route or place to hail a private taxi. Have a map with you when looking at the answers.
Bring as many snacks and juice boxes as possible (if it were me, I'd bring a whole suitcase full), to carry with you. There are no convenience stores that have this kind of stuff and a snack bar is not on every corner (and they often take the CUP/MN/peso which you have to exchange the CUC you receive at the cadeca for). It can a bit of work to locate a farmer's market type fair where fruit is sold for snacks; bring veggie wash or equivalent if you intend to use fruit that is not peeled. Realize that the sun can be very hot and strong (not personally familiar with weather in April though); bring any sunscreen you anticipate needing.
Realize that your kid will be without safety protection in any type of vehicle; even if you bring a carseat; there are no seatbelts to secure it in most vehicles. You would be confined to using the newest (most expensive and not always available) taxis the might have seatbelts. These newer, air conditioned, high priced taxis were the thing I spent most on that I didn't expect to.

Make reservations for some of the "better rated", more expensive restaurants to ensure decent food. The site lahabana.com is a good resource for this and for music/dance/art events.

As far as spending time outside Havana, you could take day trips--to Vinales, to the nearby beach (20 minutes from downtown), to Fusterlandia, on the Hershey train, on one of the ferries.....
You haven't said how much time you intend to spend, so hard to tell if 2 nights in Trinidad is worth it.
SambaChula is offline  
Mar 9th, 2017, 10:37 AM
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Ooops, I see you have 5 full days. Still...up to you.
SambaChula is offline  
Mar 9th, 2017, 05:19 PM
  #13  
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Thank you Samba. This is really helpful and certainly conveys the challenges involved.
123charley is offline  
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