CR Trip Report with 4 and 1.5 yo

Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:23 PM
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CR Trip Report with 4 and 1.5 yo

We're just back from CR with our two kids- my son will be 4 this week and my daughter is 17 months. I know there are a couple of others traveling to CR soon with little ones, so hopefully this will help. I will check back too, so if you have any other questions, please feel free to post.

What kid gear we brought:
-Pack n play
-Stroller (Maclaren Triumph, their second to lightest stroller- a little bigger than an umbrella stroller, but not too heavy)
-Baby backpack
-2 carseats
-Hip hammock (kind of a cross between a bjorn and a sling)

It was definitely worth bringing the pack n play. My daughter slept well in it and we had a mosquito net that went over it. She is the only one of us that didn't end up with a ton of mosquito bites. One note- the pack n play ended up in the oversized luggage area in San Jose, so you should check there if it doesn't come out on the belt.

We brought both carseats on the plane going down, thinking that the kids would fall asleep. They didn't, and on the flight home we checked my son's carseat- my daughter still needs hers on the plane. We used a folding luggage cart to get the car seats to the gate. That worked really well and we could throw our carry-on bags on top too.

It wasnít worth it for us to bring the backpack. The only time we used it was when my son refused to walk and wanted to go in the stroller. Instead, I probably would have brought our really cheap umbrella stroller- it's smaller and lighter than the backpack. If you are going to the beach and you have to carry a lot of gear, the backpack might make sense since you can't push the stroller on the sand, but my daughter was pretty interested in walking or we carried her where the stroller couldn't go. The stroller was able to go on any longer walks/hikes we went on- all the paths are paved. I know there was some debate about jog vs. regular stroller. We were fine in the places we went with the regular stroller. We definitely would have had problems fitting the jog stroller in the car.

We also brought enough diapers and wipes for the whole trip- the supermarkets all have this stuff, so it wasnít necessary, but it was easier to have it and not run out. I also brought pedialyte and a bunch of first aid stuff. I fell the first day and scraped my knee- so was walking around with Elmo bandaids, but otherwise, everyone was fine.

Trip location:
We were visiting someone who lives near Guapiles (about 1.5 hours from San Jose, on the way to Limon) and we spent a few days with her, and a few days in the Central Valley.

Driving:
We rented an automatic Suzuki Grand Vittara from Dollar. I wanted to go with an American company, in case there were any problems, I felt there would be some recourse when we got home. We were covered for damages by Amex, and didnít have any problems. I think I would probably arrange the car through whatever hotel I was staying at- even though Dollar transported you back and forth to their facility, it would have been easier to have the car delivered to the hotel. We had originally planned to get a manual and then had to upgrade to an automatic, since my husband forgot his license (ďI have my passport, I donít need any other IDĒ- ahhhh!) and I donít drive stick. I was a little worried about driving since I hadnít planned to, but it was fine. The car was brand new and was great to drive. Since we didnít go too far from San Jose, the roads were in great shape. A little windy and narrow at points, but otherwise fine. For what we did, we didnít need a 4-wheel drive, but I found it nice to be high up when driving.

There was a cd player too, which was nice- we brought some of my sonís cds. The two carseats were installed outboard. There was not enough room for another person back there. You could maybe put one in the middle and have another person on the outside, but it would be tight. All of our luggage fit in back, but we had the stroller in the backseat on the floor- this might be a problem with a jog stroller. I guess if you packed a couple of duffle bags, you could put those on the floor in the backseat and have just the stroller and pack n play in the back.

I definitely think it is worth renting a car with kids. The vans we drove in from the airport and to the car rental were just not that comfortable and the seat belts were not that great (or not there) for car seats. The car we had was very comfortable and it was nice to be able to leave the car seats installed. It also really helped to be able to travel on our own time.

Where we stayed:
We spent the first night at Orquideas Inn. It was fine- big room, two double beds, a/c, cable tv. The pillows were not very comfortable. If we didn't have the A/C running, it would have been a little noisy because it is right off a main road. The only hassle was the location. They say 10 minutes from the airport, but really it takes a little while to get there because you have to drive through Alajuela, which is crowded. I guess I didn't plan logistics too well, but to get our car, we had to drive through Alajuela, then back through Alajuela to get back to the hotel, then back through Alajuela again to get where we were going that day. If you can arrange to have a car delivered to the hotel, and if you are going to the West coast, then I would say it is a good place to spend the first night.

We spent the next few days with the people we were visiting, then we checked into El Cafetal Inn for 2 nights. My husband and I had stayed here on our last visit, so knew how beautiful it was. We stayed in the ďBungalowĒ room- a huge room and a huge bathroom, with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker, private balcony with table and four chairs. There's a king sized bed and two trundle beds that pull out from underneath. We were supposed to stay in a different room, but it was just too small for all of us. They gave us a good price on an upgrade since the room wasn't occupied when we got there. You might want to look at a couple of rooms, because the rooms do vary- some are pretty small.

We were supposed to spend our last night at El Cafetal too, but we got worried about returning the car and getting to the airport on time for our early morning flight, so we ended up moving to the Hampton Inn- it was totally fine, but felt like the vacation was over and we were back home. Of course, with the central air and comfy beds, it was the best night sleep we had. In the other places, there definitely were a lot of mosquitoes at night and it was very hot while we were there. It is a good place to spend the first or last night, but I think I'm still glad we spent the first night at Orquideas- you wake up and feel like you're in CR, instead of in the states.

We didnít have too many problems with the kids sleeping. Only the last night was it really hard to get my daughter to sleep- and I knew that would happen if we switched hotels one more time. When we stayed with friends, it was nice- we put my daughter down in the room with us, then my son down in another room. We could hang out in the living room until it was time to go to bed. At El Cafetal it was fine too- my daughter went to sleep, we read my son stories on the balcony and then put him to sleep after my daughter had been asleep for a while. Then we hung out outside until we went to sleep (not too much later- we were exhausted too!). The first night, they fell asleep in the car on the way to the hotel, and both transferred to bed. If you can stay someplace that has a separate room or a balcony, I would recommend it. Trying to get everyone to sleep in one room is tough!

My daughter took all her naps in the car and it definitely took its toll by the end of the week- she was a little cranky and probably sleep deprived. My son also napped almost every day in the car and he doesnít nap at home anymore.

Eating:
Bring snacks!! I was especially glad that I had brought some cereal bars and cheerios with us- the kids were getting up at 5:30-6 am with the time change and most of the hotels don't start serving breakfast until 8am. You can hit a supermarket there, and they will have most stuff, but definitely the first day you want something with you.

My kids love milk, and it was really great because you can get juice boxes of milk that donít need to be refrigerated- they have different flavors too, but we just stuck with the plain 2%.

My daughter (17 months) ate everything- she loves beans and was very willing to try everything. My son was a little pickier, but I figured he would survive if he didn't have balanced meals for a week. It was really nice to have places with fridges- we bought bread and cream cheese and made sandwiches (my kidsí favorite). It also helped to be able to buy something at the supermarket because it was hard to drag them to restaurants all the time. Most of our meals were with our friends, but I will recommend two places that were particularly kid friendly.

In Atenas (near El Cafetal) there is an Italian restaurant- Pizzeria Alida. Italian owner and really yummy food- wood burning pizza, tons of pasta dishes. The kids were really psyched for this.

Near the airport- if you take the side road off of Route 1, that runs past the Hampton Inn towards Heredia, there is a BBQ joint. Food was just so-so, but it is very family friendly- kids meals, and a little playspace in the back with little tikes jungle gym, toy house and swing set. The only playground we saw the whole trip, so the kids had a blast.

All the restaurants we went to had high chairs.

We drank bottled water the whole time and no one got sick, even though my son drank tap water from his water gun and the garden hose and my daughter sucked on her fingers after touching everything.


Activities:
I know this has been said before, but really, really cut back your expectations about what can be done. I had planned what I thought was a very light itinerary and we still ended up doing about half of what I had planned. The kids were really happiest just playing in out friendsí yard with the hose or stomping around in the rain. A hotel with a pool is a plus. I also wish that we had planned a rest day. Since we were really only there 6 days because of arriving late and leaving early, I tried to cram a lot in and I think it was a little much for the kids.

Here are the activities we did:

Rainforest Aerial Tram- This was just ok. I thought my son would be really into it, but he wasn't and my daughter was very squirmy, which made me nervous. I carried her in the hip hammock, so she was secured to me, but I guess the height just made me too nervous and I couldn't enjoy it. This was only our second day on our trip, so it might have just been too ambitious to do so early on. It is also very pricey- $125 for the family and they didnít even charge for my daughter. One note- you park at the top and take a bus down. Since it is more than just the tram- a little hike, etc, I wish I had taken the stroller with us. Part of the problem was it was very structured, so it was a little hard with young kids- they have their agenda and are not that flexible.

Butterfly farm in Horquetas- one good thing about the Aerial Tram was that the guide recommended that we check out this butterfly farm in Horquetas- on the road to Sarapiqui. This was really the highlight of the trip. It is a little hard to find, so if you drive into Horquetas, you just want to ask someone for William Comache and they will direct you to his house. William Comache is an amazing guy. He has a little preserve and he will give you a tour of his property. He has a butterfly garden, and much more- amazing butterfly garden- also had cocoons where we saw the butterflies coming out, there were frogs (and frog eggs- very cool), there is a baby sloth living there and lots of flora and fauna. It was really the highlight of the trip. He spent about an hour with us and the kids were really into it. He only speaks spanish, though, so it will help if you speak it too. He speaks very clearly and even though I don't speak much, I could understand him and my husband could speak with him. There's no admission fee- we bought a bunch of stuff at the gift shop and made a donation to his preservation efforts.

Zoo Ave- ďBird ZooĒ, but other animals are there too. The iguanas are amazing. We went on a Saturday and they had face painting for the kids. Definitely doable with a stroller and worth going.

Poas Volcano- Not necessary to get there early like they say- we were able to see when we went at around 10am. I think my son was disappointed that there wasn't lava pouring out of the volcano, but still enjoyed it. Everything is paved so doable with a stroller. We went on the hike, which they say is 30 minutes, but it is a tough hike and took us longer- maybe an hour. Very steep up and very steep down. It is all paved except for the last little bit, which is packed dirt. My son walked most of it, though we did take turns giving him piggy back rides for some of it. The only downside about the hike was that I really wanted to do the La Paz waterfall gardens after the volcano and it just wasn't realistic after the hike- the kids were totally wiped and so were we.

World of Snakes- an outdoor little area with cages of snakes, a little depressing, but the guide was good. If your kids like snakes, it is worth it. They get to hold one after the tour too.

Overall:
Overall, the trip was good, though really not that relaxing- it is hard to travel with small kids and I think next time I would just stay in one place. Our main purpose was to visit friends and since my husband and I have been to CR before and we will probably go again, we tried not to get too uptight about our limited itinerary.
elzi121 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 07:03 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 993
I thought the Orquideas Inn was part of an old coffee plantation. Is it a rather urban setting? I just want to manage my expectations, if need be.
misha2 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 07:19 PM
  #3  
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Orquideas Inn is not urban- I guess it is probably more suburban. It is a few km outside of Alajuela, but you have to drive through the town to get to the highway. It might be a pain if you are using Orquideas as a base. It has nice grounds and view on one side, but it is off a fairly busy road. It's a happy medium for your first or last night- close to the airport but with more charm than than the airport hotels.
elzi121 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 05:43 AM
  #4  
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One other clarification- there is a big wall on the road side, so it's not like you're right on the road- it is gated in, but you can definitely hear traffic. Though at El Cafetal, there was no traffic, but roosters and dogs barking, so I don't think you will ever get silence
elzi121 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 09:32 AM
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Hi elzi121,

I appreciate your trip report. I have tons of questions!! Is your stroller a double (side by side) stroller?? That is what I have and even here in the States it is somewhat of a pain going through places. The hip hammock sounds like something I could use, where did you buy it?? Like Babies R US, or REI? What kind of folding luggage cart? Did you take one or two baby backpacks?? I am wondering if we only take one and use the baby hammock for the other one. How much do you babies weigh?

Your children like that milk packed in those little boxes OK?? If I remember the flavor changes a little since it has been ultrapasteurized. Do they sell American diapers and wipes and were the prices reasonable? Do you suggest we take mosquito coils??

I guess as parents of little ones the only way we can ever truly relax is to leave them with grandma and go away for a few days.

Thanks for the great trip report, I will definitely consider Zoo Ave and Butterfly farm.

Sorry for so many questions, but I guess I will learn from your experirnce.

Thanks!!
crarmy is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 04:26 PM
  #6  
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Hi Crarmy- I'm happy to answer your questions and I hope it helps!

-We did not bring our double stroller. We brought one single stroller. I think the double would have been too hard to push. Since you have multiple people going with you, you might want to consider 2 strollers. Even at home, if my husband and I are going out together with the kids, we will take 2 strollers instead of the double. We have a really cheap second stroller (I think we got it for free at toys r us when we spent a certain amount) and I wish I had brought it with us. My son always seems to want to ride in the stroller when my daughter is in it.

-We brought one baby backpack. My son (who will be 4 tomorrow) is in the low-30s weight wise, and we did put him in the backpack once, but really his legs are too long for it to be comfortable. It was easier to carry him on our shoulders or back when he didn't want to walk. My daughter (17 months) is low to mid- 20s, and it was ok carrying her in the backpack, but we only really did it once or twice.

-The hip hammock is something I got at an independent baby store, but the company that made them has been bought by playtex and you can get them at babies r us now. It works pretty well, but nothing is that comfortable when you're carrying 20+ lbs! It does give your arms a little break as the weight is on your hip.

-My son would not drink the ultrapasteurized milk out of a cup- he said it smelled. But I guess when he was drinking it out of a straw he didn't notice the difference. You can get fresh milk, but it is more convenient to get the stuff that doesn't need to be refrigerated. We also brought those first years disposable cups with the straws- the straws in the boxed milk seemed to fall in a lot, so we would sometimes just pour it into a cup. They also had flavored milks in the little boxes- a pretty wide selection, so that might mask the change in flavor, if you don't mind the added sugar.

-I didn't notice the prices of diapers and wipes, since we had enough with us (my son is potty trained and we were only there for a week, so didn't need to bring too many), but there was such a huge selection that I imagine the prices had to be pretty competitive. They definitely had huggies and I think pampers too. I even saw swim diapers at one big supermarket outside of Alajuela. Also, tons of baby food, formula, soy milk, bottles, sippy cups, even breast pumps in the supermarkets! I think if you're at a big enough supermarket, you can find anything you would need.

-You could try mosquito coils. We brought one of those electronic mosquito repellents (emits a high pitch). I think most rooms were too big to make a difference and it seems hard to avoid the bites. I bought some non-deet stuff because I didn't want to use deet on the kids. I think anything only lasts a few hours so is going to wear off during the night. I always seemed to get a bunch of bites then remembered to put on bug spray- I probably could have been more proactive about always putting bug spray on all of us. If you are staying someplace with A/C, it's going to help.

I think I answered everything, but let me know if you have more questions.

You are right about leaving them with the grandparents- I think we are going to have to do that for at least one night this summer! Maybe in another year my parents will be ready to take them both for a longer time period.

elzi121 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2005, 09:04 PM
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I just wanted to add that given your itinerary I'm not surprised the McLaren worked. When we were there before it wouldn't have worked in most places. I think because we're not bringing a pack and play then the jogging stroller will go in the back of the car and two luggage bags will go at the children's feet. I hear you about children not sleeping in the same room with the parents. I'm really curious to see if after 15 days they get so sleepy they will actually do it or if it will just be two weeks of total family sleep deprivation. Fortunately while we're at home we have an agressive go-go schedule so the kids are used to it (and get bored if you try to have a slow day, which is the downside of that).
MonicaRichards is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 05:26 AM
  #8  
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With bags at the kids' feet, you will be fine with the jog stroller in the trunk. I think your youngest is older than mine- my daughter is too young to sleep in a bed, so we didn't have the option except to bring the pack n play.

Even though your kids are used to going all the time, I would definitely plan some down time, especially for a 2 week trip. In general, I think our trip was a lot of driving for everyone, so you might want to plan a couple of days where you don't get in the car at all. You probably will have more time just to hang out since you are going for longer.

Because my daughter took every nap in the car, she was a little weary by the end of the trip. I probably should have let her nap in her bed, but because of the time difference she was napping around 10:30am and because of the rainy season, we wanted to do stuff in the morning since it rained in the afternoons.

I hope I'm not coming off too negative- we had a great time and I'm happy we went. It was our first trip with both kids where we weren't visiting family or friends and it just takes some adjustment!
elzi121 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 05:49 AM
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We'll be in each place for three to four days so we will definitely have down time. What worked last time was to go someplace in the morning and then go back to the room for a nap and then swim and dinner afterwards. We took them to Italy last year and Charlotte (who was then a year and a half) did take pretty much every nap in the car. She got cranky but it was still manageable. However, in Costa Rica we're staying closer to our destinations so that won't be necessary. We've also got a portable double DVD player that goes in the car (screen on each seat back like a plane) and it will also hook up to a tv in a room so the kids will be able to watch their favorite movies in the car and hotels, so that should help keep them settled.
MonicaRichards is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 05:53 AM
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Also Elzi, now that you have taken a family vacation with small children and survivd, where are you planning next? The first trip is the hardest, don't you think? I'm glad it went well for you.
MonicaRichards is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 08:48 AM
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elzi121,

Thank you for answering all my questions, I think I will go buy two of those cheapy umbrella strollers. I had thought to buy the back pack, but maybe we need to try one out with our 3 year old before we buy one, my 3 year old will be 4 in August and weighs about 33-34 lbs, sounds very similar to your situation, our 2 year old is little he only weighs 24lbs. When they were babies babies I used the baby Bjorn carrier, and even though it is much easier to carry them in that it gets tiring, and adding all that extra weight to your self poops you out real fast, especially in the heat. We live in Texas!! Central Valley is cool right?? How hot is Arenal do you know? I guess I will have to run to Babies R Us today and see what I can find. I thought I was doing good planning everything ahead of time but now I am running out of time AAAAHHH!!! I am not very experinced at this. Ask me anything else about parenting, but not about traveling to The Rainforst/Jungle with little ones.

Oh, folding luggage cart?? Where did you get it?

Thanks again.
crarmy is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 10:50 AM
  #12  
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crarmy- my husband got the folding luggage cart at a store in nyc- I think you can get them at any luggage store. They are just wheels and a rack with a bungy cord that you strap the luggage on. Pretty common, I think.

You might want to bring the bjorn for the little one, just in case there's someplace you want to go that you can't push the stroller- at least if you alternate between carrying him, the bjorn and having him walk, it might not be too bad. If you have time, maybe scour some garage sales for a backpack- it might be nice for you if you are doing more hiking than we did. I'm sure your 2 yo is able to walk for a longer time than my 17 month old. I assume the 3 year old will be able to walk on his own.

It was hot in general when we were in CR. I don't know if it was a heat wave or just it is hotter in June, but I don't remember it being so hot when we were there in August last. When we were near Guapiles it was almost unbearable, but in the central valley it wasn't too bad. We didn't go to Arenal this trip. But I guess in Texas you are used to heat!

Monica- That would have been ideal to have Gabriella nap in the room in the afternoon, but unfortunately, since it is a 2 hour time difference from NJ, the kids were getting up at 5:30-6 and she was ready for a nap at 10:00-10:30 (sometimes she even fell asleep in the car earlier).

Our next couple of trips will be to visit family. My in-laws live in Minnesota so we're going there in August and my parents winter in Florida so we'll go in February. It's nice to visit family because then they can help with the kids and my husband and I can go out! The person we were visiting in CR is trying to convince us to come next year again and stay with them for a week or two- it's tempting.

We almost went to Italy this year instead of CR. We were in Tuscany when my son was 3 months old- our last international trip. My husband and I both traveled a lot on our own and together pre-kids, so it was weird to go almost 4 years without a big trip. I'm thinking it might be nice to rent a house someplace for a week next summer. Maybe a cabin in northern Minnesota and combine it with a trip to my in-laws. What about you? It sounds like you have done some really great trips with the kids. I would really like to leave the kids with my parents and go away on our own for at least a weekend! I definitely have more respect for my parents- we did a ton of traveling when I was a kid and I have a brother who is 20 months younger than me.
elzi121 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 02:01 PM
  #13  
 
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We are in the process of looking for a vacation home in the Sierras so that might keep us busy for a while. But we love to travel, so probably by next summer we'll be ready for another adventure. It's my husband's choice, so it will probably be Germany/Austria. Oh, and we're hoping to take a parents only long weekend to New Orleans in the fall with frequent flyer miles. Fortunately, our families live close so we don't need to spend precious vacation time on those kinds of trips!
MonicaRichards is offline  

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