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Pura Vida in Costa Rica – San Jose

We took a shared cab to San Jose.

The road is again through picturesque mountain side, lush and green and gradually descends in to the plains below. As the drive progresses, weather becomes warmer, traffic increases and you find yourself in the midst of a typical city. Blaring horns, traffic, street hawkers, the general hustle – bustle which brings you back to the realities of life.

I was a bit sick by the time we reached San Jose and we decided to check-in and chill.

We got a sub, fries and watched some Spanish television.

The next morning, we went to downtown San Jose to see the Gold Museum. Of course, there are several other places of interest – National Theater, Central Park, National Museum etc. But I wanted to see the gold museum with his pre-Columbian era artifacts and models of how people lived, hunted, fished etc. in those days.

I was feeling sick again, so ventured out to find some place to drink something and sit down. There were beautiful Christmas decorations on the street.

After a quick lunch, I was still queasy.Suspecting something amiss, we went to a pharmacy and bought a pregnancy test kit. It was hilarious trying to ask the lady behind the counter for the kit. She didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak enough Spanish to ask for this. Guide books and phrase books don’t come quipped with this, well because, not all tourists go looking for this.

Finally we got the kit and came back to the hotel. We were so elated when both lines turned blue.

It was the best news of our lives ūüôā

Then suddenly I worried about the food, drinks and all the fall during white water rafting. In hindsight, everything turned¬† out to be alright. We joke that Varun’s first trip was to Central America with all these adventures. No wonder he loves to travel!

Costa Rica is very family friendly. We saw tons of large families travelling together. It’s easy to¬†book a van and get a driver for the entire stay. There are plenty of options for everyone – from zoo’s, serpentoriums, animals and insects museums to adventure sports. Its cheap and the dollar stretches further if you can avoid the Thanksgiving to Christmas peak season. Hike, bike, ride, snorkel – its guaranteed to keep you asking for more.

Its one of those places that I¬† know Varun will have a lot to¬†do and love. Cant wait for him to grow up and go zipline with him ūüôā

Pura Vida in Costa Rica – Monteverde

Pura Vida in Costa Rica – Arenal

After Manuel Antonio, we took a cab to La Fortuna, the town closes to Mt. Arenal.

Arenal is the home to an active volcano. You see the volcano from a distance so its safe. The only catch the mountain being so tall generates its own weather. Similar to Mount Rainier. So its hard to predict if you will actually see it or not.

When we reached La Fortuna after 3-4 hour drive, the upper half of the mountain was covered in clouds. It was breezy and it looked like the clouds were clearing. We met several folks who told us that they had camped around in the region with the hope to see the volcano but it has rained and was covered for last ten days or so. Bummer.

We didn’t have high hopes.

Instead we went on a hike around the base of the volcano to burn off some of the most delicious arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) of the trip.

The hike was through thick forest and we saw dead snake, owl butterflies etc

After the hike, we went to the viewpoint to view the lava coming from the top of the mountain and roll down the sides. It had cleared up by then and there was quiet a crowd at the view-point. We were thrilled to see the smoking peak.

But as it was around dusk, there was still a lot of light to be able to see the red rocks clearly. So, we planned to grab dinner, go to some hot springs and then come back later at night.

Arenal being volcanic country, every resort will have their own hot springs and pools. But, there are 2 resorts that have extensive pools – Baldi and Tabacon. They are open to public even if you don’t stay there for a fee. We went there in the evening and enjoyed it. Highly highly recommended.

Later that night we took a cab back to see the volcano and it was amazing sight. The crowd was still strong and people had come quipped with flashlights, food, drinks, snacks and blankets.

We stayed for about an hour and headed back to our resort.

Arenal has a lot of activities РWhite water rafting, horse back riding, rappelling, hiking, ziplining etc. The next morning, we had signed up for a Rappelling tour. I have never rappelled before. I was sore from the previous white water rafting and hiking trip, had a broken toe nail that throbbed but was excited to go down the waterfall.

After gearing us up and the safety drills, we rappelled down a series of waterfalls, the last being 200 ft tall. It was fun though short. I actually had begun to get a hang of it only by the last fall.

Post lunch, the outfitters dropped us back to our resort and we chilled there till evening. We went into town for a nice Italian dinner and came back fairly tipsy and happy!

Next day, we checked out and went on a horse back riding trip to Monteverde.

…to be continued.

Pura Vida in Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio

Toddler Travel Packing Trips

On our first trip with Varun, we packed everything but the kitchen sink. My parents were travelling with us as well so that added to the list. Now, unless we are on a road trip, we try to take less.

This is what we carry if we are staying in a resort for 4-5 days. The list is pared down if we are staying with family where we know we can get diapers, food and medication from known stores.

What to pack:

  • Day clothes – T-shirts and shorts. 2 pairs / per day.
  • Night clothes¬†– 1 set /per day. We keep them on till breakfast so they tend to get messy.
  • Diapers¬†– I carry @ the rate of 4 /per day. Mainly because I don’t¬†get the Pampers XL size everywhere in India. Other brands don’t¬†work well with Varun. Also, as the diapers get used, it makes room for souvenirs.
  • Wipes – 1 unopened packet + 1 in diaper bag
  • Milk pouches¬†– Single serving size ones @ rate of 2/ day. This helps when we are sight¬†seeing outside the resort. Varun has had diarrhea when he has outside milk, so I don’t risk this while travelling.
  • Snacks – Cheerios, Coco puffs, Raisins, crackers, puffed rice. Carry a ziplock full and check it in.
  • Medicines¬†– Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Baby Vaporub, something for diarrhea and loose motions, something for vomiting. Dont forget thermometer, band aids and your pediatricians phone number.
  • sunscreen
  • Cap and Socks¬†in a Zip lock bagso you wont lose those tiny ones in the suitcase.
  • Moisturizer and baby oil
  • Diaper cream
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Shoes¬†( he wears a pair, we don’t pack another one)
  • Books – Board books or bigger books. 3-4 of his favorite ones, coloring book or blank pages
  • Toys – Sorting, stacking toys, ball, one small car,Pool toys – sand pail, sifter and various small spoons and scoops, a few balloons and stickers
  • Bottle Cleaning supplies – Bottle brush and Liquid soap bottle or a sponge dipped in liquid soap and frozen. Dip/Soak generously before putting it in fridge. Then cut it into small pieces. Each piece can be used to wash a bottle. Is less messy.
  • Swim wear (SPF 50 + ) and swim diapers.
  • Painters tape – Cover ‘low’ outlets, play with, hold together broken toys etc
  • Zip lock bags – Large one for anything and everything – contain messy clothes, food, dirty diapers etc.

What to buy locally:

  • Bottled water ( if necessary)
  • Fruits – Bananas, Oranges, Apples – anything with a peel if you are in SE Asia
  • Couple of local toys from street vendor¬†– for that novel toy on return flight

What we stopped carrying:

  • Baby high chair. Yes – I carried that couple of times and Varun didn’t use it. What a waste of space.
  • Lot of toys – Varun plays with whatever he sees in the resort – from menu cards to drawing with pen on resort’s letter pad, playing with the safe etc. Mostly he loves to run.
  • Baby food – Most places you get fresh food – rice, yogurt, fruits, eggs, bread, jam, pasta. Varun has been happy to try it and loves any meat on a stick – even if he is fussy about it at home.
  • Car seat– Again because¬†we are in India and don’t use a car seat anymore.

Do you carry anything else that makes your life easier? Feel free to share in comments below.

Toddler Travel Tips

Few folks have commented on how our travel posts have inspired them to take a few trips on their own. I am thrilled to read that ūüôā Vipul and I love to travel. We have travelled with Varun since he was a baby – from a road trip down to California, to coastal town of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, weeklong trip to East Coast to meet our friends and family and then an 18 hour + trip to India.

We started early and gradually increased the flight times to destinations. We modified our travel plans to suit his needs – nap time, stretch and play time and slowed down our pace. And of course we learnt from each trip.

This is a compilation of our top travel tips. We mostly fly as Varun doesn’t¬†take to road trips very well – he hates being strapped in the car seat. But they should work on¬† road trips if you add music to take along. Works for our active 2 1/2-year-old.

1. Plan a trip around nap time

This is a no brainer. Most parenting and travel websites talk about it. Its easier said than done. If it’s a¬†road trip, its easy to plan this. Start driving post lunch and munchkin will fall asleep. With flights and their long pre-checkin¬†procedures ( drive to airport, luggage check in, security etc) this is harder. Plan the flight such that the in flight time is a bit later than usual nap time. Toddlers are excited being at airport, seeing the baggage go down conveyor belts, security procedures etc. They even like going up and down the escalators. Its tiring but exciting. So they may very well sleep later than usual. At least Varun does.

As soon as we take off, he usually sleeps.

2.Few new toys

If he doesn’t¬†sleep, we let him play with his seat – push the¬†tray table up and down, lower and raise the window shade, remove and put up the seat belt. But after a while even that gets boring. Its time to bring out few small toys – beads, four¬†pack crayons and paper, doodle pads, post it’s in different shapes and color, small books to read. We have his favorite cartoons and rhymes on our iPhone.

3. Snacks

We usually carry Varun’s favorite snacks in small zip locks. Cheerios, bananas, raisins, puffed rice, juice box ( a travel treat for him), coco puffs, oranges¬†etc. While in US, string cheese,¬†gold-fish¬†crackers¬†worked for Varun as well. Kids get hungry and can’t¬†wait for the air hostess to bring food or water so having a handy stock with variety helps. I keep his current favorite snack on hand – like cake, laddoos, blueberries, grape tomatoes etc. Oh, and the single serving toned milk packets help tremendously. A couple in the diaper bag and we are set to go. I havent seen those in US – but in US any Starbucks will give you milk for free for your kid even if you don’t buy anything there.

4. Handy stroller

When Varun was a baby, we checked in his car seat ( to be used at destination), but we carried the stroller to the gate.We use the stroller even now on our trips.

Ours is a semi-reclining compact stroller ( a Baby Jogger City Mini), that can carry diaper bag and my purse as well as one more hand bag if necessary. If Varun was asleep, I could simply recline him and let him sleep. If he was awake or refused to sit in, I put all the hand carry in it and push it easily. It’s easy to fold and unfold and folds down flat for easier gate check. It fits in our sedan’s trunk well for road trips.

5. Keep extra clothes (for you and the baby)

Again, a no brainer. On our first trip we carried a diaper and a onsie¬†for each hour of travel time ( door to door). Between spitups, throwup’s, exploding poops and food stains, we have had to change clothes often and used up all the clothes. But now its down to 2-3 pairs of clothes and diapers. A shawl or scarf helps me cover up when messes occur on my shirt.

6. A handy Diaper bag

You need a good diaper bag that can carry all the above, sits comfortably on you and on the stroller and has several compartments to hold food, toys, snacks, clothes, diapers and wipes, is wipe-able and works for both of you. Oh, and it has to be accessible while moving/chasing a toddler. Diaper Dude fits our need perfectly.

7. Burn energy

Before getting on the flight, let your toddler run around. Chase him around. Let him push the bags/stroller etc. This will tire him out. Then get him something to eat once on boarded and pretty sure he will crash once you start cruising.

8. Keep tissues and wipes handy

We wipe down spills, food dribbles, sticky hands and feet etc. Also helps to wipe down play area toys. I loved that Emirates airlines gave us a box of facial tissues when we boarded the flight. One for each flight. One less thing to carry on. Small hand sanitizer bottles help as well.

9.  Dont forget trash bags

Needless to add, keep a large trash bag or ziplock handy for the wipes, tissues, wrappers, juice boxes, wet clothes, soiled diapers etc. Super useful to contain the mess and keep your diaper bag dry.

These are our on-flight/car tips.¬† Toddlers don’t need to be prepared to travel. Parents do ūüôā

Stay tuned for how we pack for the trip Рfrom medicines, toys and snacks for return trip, bottle washing tips etc.

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