Planning a big trip

So we decided to go on a trip, the first decision was where to go! Andrea after uni had backpacked around South East Asia and Julian around Central and South America. When the 1st two kids were babies (general tip is travelling when the baby is around 7 months works really well: some form of sleeping routine, less need for mum and hopefully not crawling yet so safe around water), we went to Thailand and to Malaysia. So this time around, although Thailand felt easy (many flights from Sweden and very child-friendly), we felt this was a last chance for a real adventure (Elisa starting school next year), so opted for Central America, which Julian still raves about.

Next was working out how long for. After much arguing, we agreed on 6 weeks. Julian felt very stressed out about it work-wise with lots on, but the truth is it’s never a good time work-wise for a 6 week trip. And you’ll never regret going on an incredible adventure with your young family.

Planning activities to decide precise locations: being winter in Sweden, we wanted to combine Beach and swimming with seeing animals and jungle for the kids so we opted for 4 weeks in Mexico travelling around the Yucatan and 2 in Costa Rica. Another reason for the split was, when comparing daily costs (can recommend travelforum.se) we saw that Mexico is cheaper than Costa Rica.

For practical details, here’s the order we would recommend:

  1. Book intercontinental flights – this helps to finalise dates and internal travel timing as well as give rough parameters for budget. We booked it through a travel agent, which surprisingly ended up being cheaper and is so much easier when there are too many alternatives for flights.
  2. Plan internal travel itenary – we eventually realised that we would need to rent a car for part of the trip for example. With small children it’s harder to be completely flexible in the way we would travel normally.
  3. Book accomodation – we are mixing a combination of midprice hotels, airbnb apartments / houses and even very fortunate to be borrowing a great aunt’s apartment. Our key criteria: pool, AC, easy access to local food, supermarkets or beach, ideally with a cot for Alexander. We have mainly booked hotels through hotels.com and booking.com. Hot tip: most hotels have a free baby policy (in parents bed or with cot). So when searching and booking hotels, we enter 2 adults and 2 kids (excluding baby) to avoid seeing rooms with 5 beds.
  4. Read up on things to do and places to eat – we do this gradually as we go along, each looking up seperately and comparing notes.

The best way to get great tips is always to talk to local people. For example yesterday morning we met a Swedish woman who had lived in Tulum for 12 years, was moving to Stockholm so we exchanged details and she recommended a lagoon we went to today. It was the most magical place, perfect for small kids and we would never have found it on tripadvisor or Rough Guide.

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