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Packing light for 9 day family trip to Costa Rica - advice needed please!

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Feb 5th, 2013, 05:16 PM
  #1
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Packing light for 9 day family trip to Costa Rica - advice needed please!

We're heading down for our first trip to Costa Rica on 3/30, staying for nine days. We'll be in San Jose for 2 days, then up to Heredia for two or three days, then the rest of our time will be down in Manuel Antonio. We'll be flying Sansa from San Jose to Quepos, and back, so we'll need to make sure we pack lightly to make the 30 pound weight limit.

So... my question is this: how can we best pack for a family of four (with kids ages 7 and 9)? We've done tons of travel, but never with this weight restriction. Any particular pack you would buy? Any secrets to making the most of your space?

Any and all advice is much appreciated. Thank you!!!
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Feb 5th, 2013, 05:38 PM
  #2
 
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Seems to me that packing light is packing light. Having failed to answer the question, I'd suggest that you compare the cost of a private driver with cost of the plane fare + new light luggage, etc. Perhaps hiring a driver would allow you to take everything you want or need.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 05:58 PM
  #3
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Thanks Kinkazote...

Actually, Sansa tix are already bought and paid for. We did it in the advice of a friend who has made frequent trips to the area. We decided that the weight limit and cost were worth the huge time savings. We're up for packing light - would just love some advice on what would be essential to bring to CR this time of year. For example, will we really need long pants? Will a light jacket be enough for evenings in San Jose and Heredia?

I know it seems a very basic question, but really - any advice would help.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 05:58 PM
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I have never travel in helicopter or small plains so I'm not sure how much I can help you out on that. But I'm from CR so maybe I could give you a hand on what is essential and what can be dispensable for your. Be sure to pack your essentials: one bathing suite at least for each one of you, 2 outfits one for a more casual look and the other a bit more formal in case they take you out to nice restaurant, don't forget your running shoes! This is very important specially if you take a tour from SJ or Heredia to any of the volcanos or to the mountains. I Think thats about it, take your camera with you, it would be plenty of times and places you can take beautiful shots. In Manuel Antonio you can certainly buy sun blocker and bronzer, dont worry about that plus that stuff tends to weight alot and be sure to buy one with high protection so you only have to buy one, it would work for your husband and you and fit your kids needs as well and can leave the bottle behind and not be caring lots of diferent bottles. Be sure if any of your children gets easily dizzy or you and your husband are not used to big movement while flying to take some pills against dizziness. Small plains tend to move alot and because of our geographic terrain it can be bumpy at first.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 06:09 PM
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Since you can check a bag up to 30 pounds per person, you may want to consider having separate bags for each one of you.

Your kids can manage a back pack or a small size wheeled bag like the ones kids take to school as a book bag. Check the size restrictions.

Stick to the basics for everyone. Plan on wearing things more than once and doing a light wash once you get to the place where you will be the longest. you can wash out underwear, t shirts and bathing suits in the sink using whatever soap body wash or shampoo is provided,, or see if your local drug store has those single use travel packets of liquid soap such as tide.. you can put them in the checked luggage .. they are very very light .

Wear your heaviest foot gear, whether its sneakers or hiking boots.

Make a list of essential items Do not take anything that you will only wear once.

You will save room by rolling your clothing.

I never take a hair dryer any more as most every place I have stayed has one.

use travel size items, such as tooth paste. you don not need to take the family size items as they are heavy and too large for 9 days. Share items.. can you kids share one hair brush? etc so that you are not duplicating items that are bulky.

You are allowed to carry on your purse, and a camera, not that you would want to check that, as well as a book or magazine. So dont pack the reading materials, even if its an e reader someone should carry that onto the plane

Once you are packed, get one the scale and weigh your luggage and see how well you did.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 06:11 PM
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I haven't been to Costa Rica but spend a 3-6 weeks in Central America every summer and am a big pack light fan. Even without the internal flight weight restrictions and even for trips many times as long as yours, a loosely-filled carry on is the way to go imo. With kids, more important still plus there are lots of things you can share as a family to keep the sizes down and their clothes are small.

I'd get the kids each a small bag, either a comfortable backpack (what I'd do) or a roller so they can have their own things; they needn't be full carryon size. I'm not a fan of rollers because the apparatus is heavy and takes up space plus I enjoy places where rollers don't work; I'd recommend conversion packs for the grownups, though I know some folks prefer rollers.

I've pasted my advice below from a previous thread. Have a great trip!
_______________________________

My best travel advice is to pack really light - just a loosely-filled carry-on sized pack. As Rick Steves says:
“The importance of packing light cannot be overemphasized, but, for your own good, I'll try. You'll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags: "Every year I pack heavier." The measure of a good traveler is how light she travels. You can't travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two.”

Here's a great resource for validation and ideas:
www.onebag.com
Take clothes that can be layered, including a light fleece for the highlands plus a light goretex jacket or cheapie poncho if you'll be there during the wet season; I'm not an umbrella person but some folks prefer them to a jacket or poncho. Good quality microfiber/wicking clothes are awesome - they're actually cooler than cotton in the heat, layer well, and dry in a flash so they're good in the highlands as well as the lowlands.

Some clothes with "wicking" tags are cheap knock-offs and wear like plastic. As a rule of thumb, anything that REI sells is a good brand:
www.rei.com
They're spendy but have great sales. I also like shopping at these online outlets (after I've researched REI and know what brands to consider):
www.rei-outlet.com
www.campmor.com
www.sierratradingpost.com

Be sure your shoes (I take Keen Newport H20s and a pair of flipflops) are comfortable for walking and that your pack is comfortable; if you're interested in my take on a few great travel packs, let me know.

My packing list for CA is #14 in the FAQ thread of the Thorntree forum. It's served me well for many years, though I've added a tiny netbook computer since I blog and help manage other people's trips while I'm on the road. I usually spend 3-6 weeks each summer in CA but my list would be the same for a week or 6 months:
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre...hreadID=828622

You might also be interested in the advice I give folks who are traveling with me when I lead groups:
http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/4/...NG%20NOTES.pdf

Cultural note: I reserve shorts and sundresses for beachy areas, rafting, etc. to be respectful culturally but lots of tourists wear them - ok as long as they aren't so daring they attract attention.

Hope that helps - happy trails!
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Feb 5th, 2013, 07:02 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,405
Also when we traveled to Costa Rica and our kids were those ages they sort of fudged it on the weight because the kids were so light. So I think my bag was over but they let it through anyway because our total party weight was so low.

I would have a lightweight wheely bag like this: http://www.ebags.com/product/rocklan...uctid=10131911 for each of the kids. They should be able to manage it, and it will be great for them for years to come. My girls love theirs.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 09:00 PM
  #8
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You guys rock!! Thanks so much for your insight. I'll definitely check out the info above (and may come back with more questions!).
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Feb 6th, 2013, 06:55 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 87
I need to bookmark this. We are not taking a flight with weight limits but I agree that travelling light is a good thing so I'm reading this with interest!

Hopefulist, the most useful information on your thorntree post is that you use your Keens for hiking too. We'll be travelling with a 8 & 10 year old so while we'll be doing a bit of hiking, it won't be too strenuous and I think the keens will work for our needs. I know a lot of our activities require water shoes, and I was thinking Keen would be the best brand for that, but I thought I would need separate hiking shoes.

I hate to latch onto someone else's post, but I think the answers might help the OP too. We are travelling in mid-April and we will be in the Arenal area and then Manuel Antonio. Would we need a light rain jacket (I'm thinking yes), a fleece (I'm thinking NO) or pants? I don't think we'll need pants for the cold, but would there be times when we were hiking that we would want to be covered up? I'm just thinking the pants will be too hot. If we did bring pants they would be zip off, but I'd have to buy new pairs of zip off pants for all 4 of us, and I'm not sure we would ever wear them again.

Thanks in advance!
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Feb 6th, 2013, 09:19 AM
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Definitely don't get zip off pants for the kids! I don't know if you have girls or boys but they usually have lightweight roll up pants at places like Old Navy and Children's Place that will work for this.
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Feb 6th, 2013, 09:22 AM
  #11
 
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I would definitely get each person one bag (backpack or roller).

I am not a particularly light packer and my 24" rolling duffle bag I take to Mexico weighs in around 25 lbs.

Especially for the kids, no way should/would they be packing more than 30 lbs. of stuff. I'd aim for each person to have a bag packed that they can easily manage themselves, if need be.
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:08 AM
  #12
 
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I always bring one long pair of pants - good for cooler weather, horseback riding, ziplining, and things like that. Also a jacket if you're going anywhere where it cools down at night like Monteverde or Arenal or Poas. For Manuel Antonio, you really only need warm weather clothing. We've worn fleece at Monteverde and Poas, a light jacket for evenings in Arenal and San Jose, and shorts and Ts for Manuel Antonio. Most places we've stayed have had laundry service that's pretty affordable if you want to send out your laundry; I'd e-mail the hotel and check prices and availability just to be sure.
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:15 AM
  #13
 
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For laundry, we find a drop off laundry place, leave it in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon. Very convenient and not at all expensive. Not like when we tried that in Vancouver -- over $100.00! But they did tie the laundry up in ribbons when they delivered it to the hotel...
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:35 AM
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Hey Hopefulist - I think I'll take you up on your pack recommendations. Our plans were to have my husband and I take the bulk of the load in our own packs, then have each of the kids take what is ok for them to handle. (Agreed Suze - no way would I want either of them carrying anything near that 30 lb limit!). I've been perusing the REI site and see some good options, but would love some input from those who have actually used some of them! A few of the Osprey and REI packs looked like good options.

And cboris - no worries about jumping on! The more info, the better!
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Feb 6th, 2013, 01:12 PM
  #15
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,110
I've pasted some opinions on travel packs below from a previous thread. There's an older version of the vagabond on sale for under $90 right now if you hurry:
http://www.rei.com/product/830286/re...ck-special-buy
___________________________

I've researched this heavily and vetted my top contenders and the information is below. You can't go wrong with either of these well made, nicely organized, great value packs; both fit your criteria:

http://www.rei.com/product/809157/re...40-travel-pack
http://www.rei.com/product/837012/os...46-travel-pack

I have a terrific Gregory women's pack for actual backpacking but recently replaced my trusty Columbia Pakmandu which I've used for 10 years (no longer available). It's a strange shape and not well organized and I travel so much I felt I deserved an upgrade. In November 2010 the Vagabond came on sale at the same time that REI was offering 20% off one regular priced item to members. I purchased both the Vagabond and the Osprey Porter 46 and took them home for a complete vetting with real packing and hikes up the hill from my house to assess comfort. My needs are specific to carry-on travel since I already have a different pack for backcountry pack trips and there's no replacement for actually trying a pack to be sure it fits you comfortably, but I'll summarize my findings below.

PORTER - Held more, easier to get into, a bit more of a classic carry-on shape, better compression system, a little simpler but still with nice organization features, similar to the Vagabond in that regard. The suspension system is not as nice as the Vagabond, both in terms of waist strap support and the part of the bag that lies against your back. The carry handles are a bit nicer than on the Vagabond.

VAGABOND - A bit smaller, narrower design, flap/zip system a tiny bit awkward by comparison, excellent suspension/strap system. It's a bit longer than the traditional carry-on measurement but I've made dozens of trips with Vagabond owners (relatives and friends I've recommended them to) and I've never seen one refused as a carry-on. In 2009 I lead a group of 15 people to Guatemala and nearly half had Vagabonds because they were closing out a very slightly different model and cut the price in half right before Christmas that year - no problems, everyone loved them. Nice organization features and a terrific suspension system all around, though it's a bit harder to stow away than the Porter's. This version is very different than the original which my son uses; I travel with the slightly smaller Hitchhiker version of the original (just got back from a long week-end trip to the east coast with it). The current one is improved in many ways, especially with a mild compression system and the included rainfly/cover, though it seemed a little awkward to use and wear the bag, almost designed more for carrying the bag with handles and for checking to keep the bag safer.

In the end I returned the Vagabond because the suspension/back system was plenty comfortable on the Porter for travel (better than the bag I've loved for years) and the general ease/opening/size/shape considerations for my traveling made it better for me (size was an important factor). I absolutely LOVE IT - really an amazing bag.

The eBags Weekender is popular with travelers:
http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/w...roductid=56582

My brother- and sister-in-law traveled with those when we traveled with them for 3 weeks in Belize in 2009. The design and organizational features were very nice and the price is great. The suspension system is pretty dismal, so I wouldn't pick that one if you think you'll actually be wearing your pack a lot. I think the Rick Steves’ bag is similar in size and function:
http://www.ricksteves.com/news/trave...travelbags.htm

Both would be good value options for the sort of travel where you're mainly carrying it in brief stretches but sometimes I'm off the track enough I walk a lot with mine.

Hope that helps! Happy trails!
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Feb 6th, 2013, 05:58 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 22,983
We bought these Weekender Convertible bags after seeing several recommendations for them on this board. We love them.

http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/m...ductid=1370035
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Feb 9th, 2013, 01:02 AM
  #17
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
You've received excellent advice. I would add gum for the small plane to help the kids with earaches - any other ideas for this? It seems that there is always at least one distressed child on every small plane we've flown on, though they're usually all smiles once the plane has landed!

A cheap camera for each of the kids.

Keens are my all-around shoe as well. I would pack light hikers or sneakers for the kids at least, if you'll be in an area where there are bullet ants or snakes. Here is where I don't always practice what I think is best; Keens are just so much easier!

Have fun!
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Feb 9th, 2013, 05:09 AM
  #18
 
Join Date: May 2007
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A camera for the kids is a great idea. I'd also recommend getting some of those foldout wildlife identification cards. Kids love those so they can help spot the animals.
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Feb 9th, 2013, 08:15 PM
  #20
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Hopefulist, I was just going to ask wherei might find the foldout cards volcanogirl was talking about! Love it - ordering the set of 6.

And can I say how thrilled I am to have found you all. Such great advice - thank you!!
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