I consider myself an expert at toddler travel as Yale (my toddler) and I have been traveling extensively since she was 6 weeks old. Most recently, we just got back from one of our many trips to Costa Rica. I’ve been going to Costa Rica for over a decade, and now that my parents have a house there, we are frequenting the Pura Vida nation even more. Which is AWESOME – obviously! This time around though, there was a little extra development thrown into the mix to make things extra…interesting. I am 5 months pregnant with my second child, AND “dad” had to stay home to work so I was traveling as a single parent with my super dynamic, super hilarious, SUPER active toddler.
Everything went pretty smoothly, so I’m not here to playback anything dramatic, but I am here to impart a few pieces of advice on toddler travel and traveling while pregnant. I’ll also give a quick rundown of some new fave spots and aspects of travelling in Costa Rica.
On traveling pregnant and with a toddler:
-Do your best to create a relaxed and fun environment throughout the ENTIRE process. I’m talking from the moment you leave the house to drive to the airport, to the 4:30am waking up in the hotel airport to catch your first flight, to the 5 hour layovers. This may sound obvious and simple, but sometimes travel can make adults high strung and when you give off that “stressed” energy, your child picks right up on it, and will mirror it. SO – even though you’d prefer not to be driving in traffic to the airport OR waking up at 4:30am OR taking multiple flights in one day OR spending 5 hours in an airport – PRETEND like you’re super pumped about it all and make it an adventure because you will have much easier, happier, more cooperative small travel buddy if you do. This is also classic psychology – you’ll ACTUALLY feel less stressed, more happy and more relaxed about those early mornings, long customs lines, shitty airplane snacks, if you start by playing the part. This piece of advice could of course be applied to any situation in life, but I find it to be an extra effective tool and way worth it during those long travel days, and doubly worth it for toddler travel.
-Something less deep but equally important with toddler is snacks on snacks on snacks. Pack some from home + buy some at the airport + buy some on airplane (and make it an adventure! “wow, look at this cool snack – we’ve never had it before!”). Variety is key. Throw out whatever routine you have at home and just roll with whatever and however many your toddler wants to eat, pick, play with. On long travel days a snack is both nourishment AND activity. You have plenty of time to be strict and regimented during “regular”, every day life.
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the person checking you in, the person waiting in line at the gate with you, the pilot, you name it (although the reality is that most people are EXTRA kind and helpful when they see you traveling with baby/toddlers, so in this respect, travel is actually easier with small children).
-Gratitude. In keeping with the first piece of advice. If you find yourself flustered from whatever situation, remind yourself, you are traveling, and having an adventure, and about to experience new and exciting (or relaxing) things when you get to wherever you get to, so yay!
-Pregnant specific tip – pack a travel neck pillow not only for your neck, but for wedging between your lower back and your seat for that extra support your back is going to need with all the sitting in airplanes. A small curled up blanket or sweater also does the trick.
-Applies to all travellers, but especially important for pregnant ladies: drink lots of fluids and walk around when you can. (always book an aisle seat – super beneficial for traveling while pregnant and toddler travel).
On traveling in Costa Rica:
–For the first time in a long time, we flew into Liberia instead of San Jose, and I am here to say that the experience is much better. The airport is cleaner, way more efficient in terms of design and “customer” experience and you are in and out way faster. The hotel nearest to the airport (a Hilton Garden Inn) is also clean, efficient (for getting to and from the airport) and pleasant enough for a one night stay. It doesn’t make sense to fly into Liberia all the time. It definitely depends on where in Costa Rica you are going, where you are flying from and what time of year you are going. But if both options are open to you, fly into Liberia.
-Before heading towards our casa, we spent a couple of nights in the Guanacaste region. We stayed at the El Mangroove, Autograph Collection and I would definitely go back. It’s only about 20 minutes from Liberia airport, is on the pacific (in a bay area so super calm water good for kayaking and other water sports), is trendy and modern and has an overall really charming vibe, has a super cute kids area with classes and toys and babysitting services and the staff are performing at a high level.
-Other hotels that I’ve stayed in recently in Costa Rica that I enjoyed include Tango Mar in Tambor and Nantipa in Santa Teresa, both of which I cover briefly in previous Costa Rica blogs.