I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive about taking my two year old son to a third world country. It is hard enough getting around and communicating in another language by yourself and then when you take a toddler with you, it makes it that much more difficult. However, I was pleasantly surprised how easy the trip went although we did have the occasional hiccup. We planned ahead on some things and there were other things that we wished we had known before we went to Nicaragua. It is those things that we had to improvise and it became learning tools for us for when we plan our next trip.
With any trip, it all begins with packing your luggage. Since we didn’t have pay luggage fees since it was an international trip, we took the max amount of luggage, four bags. Since our two year old child still wore diapers, we had to pack smartly. Instead of bringing ten days of diapers with us, we brought enough just to get us to Nicaragua. Once we were in the country, we went to the nearest grocery store and bought diapers, baby wipes, etc. to last us on our trip. I was expecting to get some local generic brand, but was impressed to find Pampers at an even cheaper cost than in the US. By packing this way, it allowed us not to have to fill up a whole suitcase full of diapers and allowed us to have room in our luggage to bring back souvenirs.
We used the same concept for his food. Although he usually eats what we order at the restaurant, there are those times when we need a back up plan. We brought some pre-packaged meals for when our food choices does not suit him. We used the grocery store to stock up on fruits and snacks, since bananas are his favorite food for breakfast and cookies will always calm a crying baby. Nicaragua has some American fast food restaurants such as McDonalds for those times when only chicken nuggets and French fries will satisfy him. Nicaragua has a chain of restaurants located in most of the major cities called Tip Top. It is Nicaragua’s answer to KFC and Popeye’s. There are over 20 Tip Tops in the country (13 just in Managua) compared to only one McDonalds that I saw.
We brought our own car seat which was a good thing because I don’t think Nicaragua has many child safety laws. I noticed two people on a motorcycle with the baby wedged in between. I reserved my vehicle with Budget and I was never given the opportunity to reserve a car seat. Whether they don’t supply them or you have to call specifically to reserve one, I cannot say. The one thing we did not bring was a stroller since it would have to be checked thereby counting as one of our luggage items and also we didn’t think we would need it. We were wrong because I was tired of holding my son after the first day. Across the street from our hotel was a mall and we were hoping to find a baby store where we could purchase a cheap umbrella stroller. We found a thrift store that had used strollers for sale. We bought one for $15 and it was well worth the money. On our last night in Nicaragua, we left it at the hotel where it will probably be donated to the same thrift store we purchased it from.
One thing we did not plan for or I guess you can say we took for granted was the availability of milk. On our first night in Managua, we stopped in at a restaurant for dinner and we ordered a glass of milk for our son. The milk was served at room temperature and it didn’t taste like milk we were used to in the US. Believing that it was just a freak incident, the next day we ordered milk again this time specifically ordering it frio, or cold. They looked at us like we had two heads. We never found cold milk anywhere in Nicaragua, even in a convenience store. The only reason I can think of is that the milk is not pasteurized. So to prevent my son from dehydrating and to make sure he was getting some nutrients, we gave him a juice/water mixture. We were able to find Gatorade or the equivalent and mixed it with water, so he got some electrolytes and kept hydrated.
The only other issue we had was reserving a crib at the different hotels. We solved this problem by staying at American brand hotels (Crowne Plaza, Best Western), however, there were those that did not have cribs. The only hotel we encountered this problem was at the Hotel Casablanca in San Juan del Sur. We were told that no one had cribs anywhere in the town. I guess the beach is no place to bring a toddler.
Traveling internationally, especially to a third world country, with a child was a learning experience. It made us learn to be patient and when we encountered a problem, it forced us to find a solution.