The mellow pace of life, vibrant ambiance and a sheer number of attractions make Havana a brilliant destination to travel to with the kids in tow. Where else can they scramble over a 500-year-old castle in the morning and delve beneath the waves on a snorkeling trip in the afternoon? That said, the Cuban capital isn’t your everyday family vacation destination, so what do you need to know to ensure a successful and happy break? Here are our expert tips!
Be downtime ready
Travel anywhere in the world and you’re going to face downtime. From having to arrive at the airport in plenty of time to board your outward flight, to have a couple of spare hours before dinner one night. It’s always wise to have something you know will keep the kids entertained during these times. Cuba’s (limited) Spanish-language television options might work for a little while if you’re in your hotel or casa particular, but when out and about you’re going to have to rely on books, travel games, or the library of TV shows you might have on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Making things a little more complicated, Cuba has a restricted number of WiFi hotspots compared to home, and speeds won’t be anywhere near what you’re used to either. What does this mean for travelers with kids? It means it’s even more important to have a good stock of entertainment ready downloaded on to devices before you land in Cuba. It’s also advisable to warn family members that Facebook and Instagram won’t be the constant companions they are at home!
Havana isn’t the sort of destination where you can risk leaving the second bottle of sun cream at home on the assumption you can buy more when you’re there. We’d definitely advise taking items you know you’re going to need with you, in quantities that will last your whole trip.
The fact of the matter is that the sorts of grocery stores – packed with a huge range of goods – don’t exist in Cuba. As a result, you should bring with you anything the family considers a necessity. This goes for medicines you might need, asthma inhalers, and even diapers. Having a bundle of your kids’ favorite snacks is also a good idea, particularly if you know they can be picky eaters.
Consider opting for a tailor-made Cuba tour
You might not be the world’s biggest fans of organized tours you’ve been on in the past, however, a tailor-made Cuba tour is different. Being tailor-made – the clue’s in the name – means you won’t be dragged off to sights you’re not interested in or having to endure long visits that make the kids go stir crazy. Quite the opposite! Tailor-made Cuba tours are created just for you and can incorporate lots of child-friendly things to do, from having fun in the local playground and visiting a traditional Havana ice cream parlor, to spending time on the many fantastic beaches around the capital.
Exploring all the Cuban capital has to offer on a tailor-made Cuba tour also makes the times when your kids might get bored immediately obvious before it happens, giving you the chance to slot in another activity!
Why not make the fact that Spanish is Cuba’s lingua franca a way of getting the kids excited about learning another language? You could even get them going before you leave home with an app such as Babbel.
There are a growing number of Cubans who can speak good English, especially in the younger generations. But there’s nothing quite like being able to converse in a country’s mother tongue, even if it is just to say ‘how much is…?’ or ‘Please may I have…’. You’ll feel much less like a tourist, and experience much more of authentic Cuba, while your kids will be developing and improving all sorts of skills, from confidence-building and problem-solving to picking up new words that come from Spanish, such as plaza or salsa.
Embrace the Cuban way of life
In many ways a very traditional country, despite the communist revolution of the late 1950s, Cubans still place huge importance on family. The family remains central to life on the island, even in Havana, and you’ll often find several generations still living together – for the most part harmoniously.
This all means that you and your children will be welcomed with open arms. Don’t be surprised if your kids (particularly younger ones) are given sweets, swept up onto the lap of a grandma sitting outside her home, or encouraged to get involved in a game of some sort in a square or park. It’s all very refreshing to see such inclusivity for all ages of the family and goes a long way to countering the reputation of the country on the international stage.
Heading to Cuba with the kids isn’t something to be feared. On the contrary, Havana is a city that welcomes families and having read our top tips, you’ll be well prepared for anything the Cuban capital can through at you!