Our trip started five months ago, when I was seven months pregnant. My husband and I decided to book the flight to Cuba that early because we knew we would be super scared to do it once the baby arrives. So we did it! Moreover, we are happy we took that decision.
Below I will share a step-by-step guide how to travel to Cuba with your baby.
1. Before the Trip
We booked the hotels, taxi and flights working them out specifically around the baby’s routine. Even the layover was intentional to have a clean space to change diapers. Nevertheless, a perfect plan usually needs to be changed on the way, and this was not the exception.
Two days before the trip, we had a doctor’s appointment to confirm Mati was healthy and to request tips for the first aid kit for him. Hereere is the list she gave us, in case you want to compare it with yours:
- 10 Band-Aids;
- 10 sterile gauze pads of different sizes;
- Acetaminophen for kids under one year old;
- Enterogermina Oral Suspension (probiotic used to treat diarrhea);
- Electrolytes in powder;
- Microwave sterilized bags.
We also added Mucus Removal, nail clipper and some other useful gadgets.
2. At the airport
We left the house at 2:30am. Mati was so sleepy that he didn’t realize he was starting his very first trip. And to be fair with him, neither did we. The check-in was pretty easy. As you may imagine we over-packed, but when it’s your first trip to a Caribbean island with a three-months-old baby, you don’t want to miss anything… unfortunately we did forget some stuff anyway… but that story will come later. Anyway, we decided it was better to have more than less for this adventure. As he was so young we packed a stroller and a baby carrier for our safety first. After the check-in we were able to use it at the airport and bring it to the gate, which was really useful during the three hours that we have been waiting for the flight.
3. During the Flight
Baby Matias was practically an angel, but mostly because we followed a valuable tip from our friends who often fly with babies: to avoid the air pressure affecting the baby during landing and take-off, the baby can be breastfeeding or using the pacifier, so the suction will avoid the pain in his little head. We actually used both during the different flights and they work perfectly well. I will add that if it is possible for you, book the ticket pretty early during the morning or at night. This way the baby will be either sleepy or hungry and will be busy during the flight.
4. Finally, in CUBA
After taking two flights, one connection and two dirty diapers we finally arrived. One friend recommended us a local contact to coordinate the transportation and to be our tour guide in La Havana. He was on time waiting for us with a big smile and the best welcome we could ask: ‘Bienvenidos a Cuba chico’.
Danny explained to us that La Havana is divided into two parts, La Havana Vieja, which has all the historical buildings and is almost 500 years old, and La Havana Moderna, where the new city is with some of the iconic hotels.
We stayed at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, in La Havana Moderna, but just ten minutes away from our real goal: La Havana Vieja.
5. About the Hotel
The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is an iconic hotel in Cuba, almost like a museum. If you have the chance to stay here, we strongly recommend it, especially because it’s really kid-friendly. You can ask for a crib and use the microwave to sterilize baby’s utensils (which is incredibly uncommon in Cuba). Also, they give you 24 hours of internet, which is almost a luxury taking into account that all the other places sell 30 minutes of wifi for couple of dollars.
The location is pretty convenient, just in front of the pier or Malecon, and with a lot of local restaurants around. Also, it is just ten minutes away from La Havana Vieja, where all the iconic places are that you must see.
As soon as we arrived we left the bags and used the stroller to meet the city. At that point we realized the sidewalks were kind of old so if you hit the city with a baby we recommend you use a baby carrier instead. It is a hot city, so the stroller can be hot for the baby. On the other hand, the baby will be comfortable in there, and you can put all the bags in the stroller… so, it’s really up to you.
6. Visiting Varadero
Varadero has some of the most amazing beaches in the world with white sand and light blue sea – must visit!
We arranged the bus transportation the day before we left with a tourism operator called Cubatur. It only cost $25 per person, babies free of charge. They pick you up from the hotel in La Havana and drop you off in front of the hotel in Varadero. Another option is to request a private taxi that costs $90 approx. It’s a three-hour trip with no stops, so we tried to have patience and keep Matias busy, either with food, sleeping or games. One more time he was so easy-going and he barely cried during the trip.
During our stay, we were at Barcelo Solymar, an all-inclusive hotel in front of the ocean. Unfortunately, there was no microwave at the hotel, so it was a challenge for us. Though Matias was in a Caribbean paradise and barely noticed our worries lacking our pacifiers and breast pump bottles.
The food at the hotel was regular and the rooms, sadly, weren’t clean enough. So, even with the good price we got when we booked it, we don’t recommend this hotel, especially if you are travelling with kids. Instead we heard good recommendations of the Melia, and also of Airbnb’s options around.
The beach, ufff! That one is priceless and it’s the real reason we did the whole trip to Varadero, so we say that we were more than happy to spend a part of our time there.
One special thing we realized too late, was that the amazing Buena Vista Social Club, an internationally renowned Cuban band, plays every Wednesday in one of the famous clubs in Varadero, so if you are visiting the area, try to be there on Wednesday!!!
7. Last but not least, La Havana
Our fifth night in Cuba was in La Havana again. We came back from Varadero to spend one last night and see the things we missed, as well as to relax and take a ride to the airport with no rush the next day. We decided to see the Cañonazo, which is a cultural show on a 500 years old wall. It portraits an old tradition of announcing the official curfew for boats and ships to return to the harbor of La Havana.
Back in colonial times they closed the marine gates at 9pm to ensure that pirates and buccaneers could not enter the city and steal the gold and treasures stored by the Spanish fleet. The announcement of the curfew is carried out by firing an original cannon from those times. Anywhere in La Havana you will know that it is 9pm, as the Cañonazo will be heard throughout the city limits. During the first nights we could hear it from our hotel room, which really got us excited about seeing the actual ceremony.
Even though the main attraction is the firing of the cannon, the soldiers who carry out this tradition perform the entire ceremony as it was done back in the day. Especially if you are there with a local to tell you about the proceedings, this is very interesting to witness.
Also, the location where this event takes place EVERY DAY is amazing. You have to go to the other side of the water, a part that you can see from La Havana Vieja, and you arrive at a very different setting from anything you could have seen in Cuba. There are plenty open green spaces and you have to walk a while to get to the main entrance. The closer you get, the more of an ancient colonial feeling you will get. The long and imposing wall from an old fortress will make sure you are impressed. Crossing the bridge towards the inside of the walls could get you back in time even further as the construction has been kept almost intact.
Inside the walls you will walk the cobblestone streets now filled with little kiosks selling souvenirs and crafts of all sorts. A good tour guide could point out some of the points of interest like Che Guevara’s old office at the end of the street. The cobblestones are very nice to see, but not great to walk on with a stroller. There are some sidewalks that you can use, but you might want to consider using the baby carrier instead, even if it is a long walk altogether.
Once you reach the main area where the ceremony will be held you can spend some time looking around and taking some great panoramic pictures of La Havana Vieja and the Malecon. Consider arriving at the place around 8pm to park the car and walk to the ceremonial grounds. You can also arrive much earlier and make it a visit to the historical fortress, which is worth your time.
After the Cañonazo you can either leave right away and beat the multitude of people or take your time looking around and wait for them to leave before you. Either way, we guarantee you will already feel satisfied while going back.
8. Last night with a local family
Our last night we stayed at one Airbnb studio apartment with our local contact. Staying with locals is pretty common and safe, and 100% legal. In our case it was a nice and clean. Also, for an extra charge our host offered to us the transfer service to the airport.
The next day we packed our bags and Havana Club rum bottles with no rush, because the flight departure was in the evening. At that point, our last pacifier broke (we have packed three and all got broken). We panicked! We started to pray that the return flight would be quiet and Mati would behave well. But this is a story for another article.
Have a safe journey!
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