Get the scoop on traveling internationally with junior explorers from WAYB’s Brand Adventure Chief, Amanda. Amanda, her husband, and their two kiddos have been all over the world, and have put the lessons learned to use on their latest trip to Costa Rica (including bringing the WAYB Pico travel car seat along!). ¡Vamos!
Last spring break we headed to Thailand, flying for 20 hours straight and visiting Bangkok, a Peace Corps Volunteer and her host family, and the beach (top tip: all family vacations should end on the beach if geography and season allow). This year we got the spring break itch again, but figured tickets would be super expensive. I took a peek at Google flights “explore” feature for our dates, and found direct flights to Costa Rica for around $400 a person.
After the Thailand journey, a 6-hour direct flight seemed almost too easy. The kids each carried their own backpack, and we didn’t have to check a bag (we even brought a WAYB Pico car seat, which we wanted to try on the plane but we mostly tucked in the overhead bin. Result: even though our kids don’t really need a car seat on a plane anymore, Pico is clearly the best plane seat ever, even if I’m biased. Easy to install, secure, and sits low kids can even use the tray table).
Wheeeee! So excited to not check bags now that we are past the stroller and crib phase.
Easy carry-on travels even with a car seat - thanks Pico!
Love that Pico is so easy to install on a plane and low-profile so kids can easily use their tray table.
Since our flight was a red eye, we booked window and aisle seats but not the centers. It’s a gamble that always pays off: if someone takes the center seat, they just switch with one of us (which makes them happy to get a window or aisle!). If no one sits there we get a whole row. We got lucky and had two rows, so the kids could lie down on two seats.
I’ve finally learned a few things about making a trip fun for everyone: start somewhere relaxing but completely different from home, one major activity a day, let the kids do “kid stuff” that they also enjoy at home, even if it seems like a waste of trip time.
For Costa Rica, this meant grabbing our rental car in San Jose and heading for an eco-lodge at the base of the volcano Arenal. It was a very relaxing and stunning setting, with Toucans and Magnificent Frigatebirds flying over our heads, and Coatis wandering around. Side note: we did try to use our WAYB Pico in the car, but I had forgotten to bring a locking clip and our rental didn’t have LATCH or a seatbelt with a switchable retractor. That was a good lesson for me: when traveling abroad with a car seat, bring a locking clip and make sure you know how to use it (feel free to write email@example.com if you want a free locking clip for your Pico). Luckily we had small boosters too that didn’t need installation.
My favorite travel mug and Arenal make for a great morning.
Every day we did one big nature outing in the morning, but in the afternoon we journalled, chilled out, and swam. I brought a bluetooth photo printer and the kids used pictures from the morning to start their journal entries each afternoon. After that, the kids wanted to spend all their time playing foosball in a game room. A few years ago I would have been complaining that they should be outside, looking at wildlife or hiking a volcano. I’ve learned that a dose of adventure every day is enough, and downtime makes for happy travelers (and pretty cute sibling bonding).
Bridge to the game room… and foosball table!
My reward for a solo sunrise hike while the fam slept in.
Our next stop was my favorite, and also more intense so we kept it short: volunteering with animals and a local homestay (shout out to my husband who caught me trying to book a full week homestay and gently talked me out of it). For two nights we lived with a mom, dad, and two wonderful teenage kids, who generously spent all their time playing games with our little ones. The kids didn’t have a lot of language in common, but luckily this family’s humble and small bungalow had one major feature: a foosball table. I wanted the kids to pick up some Spanish, which they did, but mostly I wanted them to see that if two people try, they can communicate even without language. They saw me struggle through conversations and step out of my comfort zone with my rusty Spanish, and they were willing to try some words and phrases here and there.
The wildlife center, Proyecto Asis, was an amazing experience. They really tailored the day around the kids, who had the chance to not just feed the animals but learn about the importance of keeping them as wild as possible so they can have a chance to return to nature. Kids are naturally so curious. It was amazing to hear our kids ask questions like “What do monkeys eat?” and “Why do birds squawk?” and “Is a Coati like a racoon?” and instead of looking online or in a book, they could just talk to an expert and use their own observations. I feel like my number one job as a parent is to help fuel my kids’ curiosity, and I think travel is hands-down the best way to do that.
Hullo spider monkey!
As I said up top, family vacations should end on the beach if possible. We headed to the Caribbean side to a little town called Cahuita, which has an entrance to a national park. We quickly fell into a rhythm of beachgoing, sloth-sighting, and a daily walk into town to the playground where our wee ones ran around with local kids. We let them go to the store and buy ice cream, as long as they did it in Spanish.
On the way home since it was a daytime flight, the kids got to watch TV nonstop. It took us a few years to stop fighting this, but now everyone is happy. The kids love flying because they get screen time. This actually helps us enforce zero screen time during the trip itself (since the kids know a return flight is coming up). And we parents actually get to relax, read, or watch a movie ourselves. Throughout the trip I had taken pictures and really short video clips on my iPhone, so I used a little bit of plane time to finish editing everything together in iMovie. By the time we landed, we had a 7-minute video of our whole trip, so when Grandma and Grandpa picked us up at the airport the kids could show them all we had seen. I’d go back to Costa Rica in a heartbeat… if there weren’t so many other places I want to see next.