Child-friendly travel: Cuba at child height is written by Iben Lindemark
Authentic experiences with children as guides
There are many paths to authentic travel experiences. Before we had children, we focused on traveling primitively and to places where other tourists did not come. Then we had children and changed travel style so that the trips became more child-friendly.
We thought this would cause us to miss out on the most exciting part of travel, but we soon found out that we were wrong: children are great guides to authentic experiences, and Cuba really rhymes with kid-friendly travel.
Child-friendly travel means traveling on the children's terms
Traveling with four children presents quite a few challenges, but even more opportunities.
We have long since recognized that we must travel on the children's terms, because if they do not enjoy the trip, it will not be any pleasure for us either. It has opened up completely new perspectives on travelling, because you can really learn a lot from the children when it comes to adapting to the surroundings and experiencing other countries on their terms.
A travel story for children
Earlier this year we were in Cuba, which offers many magnificent experiences that have already been described by others. Therefore, this travelogue takes its starting point from the small experiences, namely those at the height of children, which can give a picture of what Cuba is.
Because there are many places in Cuba that are aimed at children and families with children, but they are in such a condition that very few tourists choose to spend time there. For us, on the other hand, it was the places that made the most impression on us, because we met the Cubans on their home turf.
Children adapt to the circumstances
Cubans are incredibly fond of children, and there are no limits to what they will do to please the children.
We lived privately in particular house, and it's a fantastic opportunity to get a little closer to the Cubans. As many toys were always found as they could scrape together, so the children had a great time. For them, it meant nothing that there was sometimes a lack of water and electricity, that the rooms were primitive, and that the toilet paper had to go in the bin instead of in the toilet.
For them, it was just important to feel welcome.
On a fun trip with 'everything' that comes with it
One day the children thought that they would like to go to the funfair, because that's what you "have to" do when you're on holiday.
So we asked ourselves and eventually found a small fairground where there were various amusements. However, it wasn't until we had bought tickets and the children were going to try the things that we realized that most rides didn't work at all.
In fact, there were only three amusements that worked: A bouncy cushion, a trampoline and a carousel, which, by the way, is pushed around manually. Although it is far from western fairground standards, the children immediately accepted that this is what a Cuban fairground is like, and they ended up having a really nice afternoon together with the Cuban children.
The zoo where the lions eat cabbage
Another day we visited the zoo, which had clearly also seen better days, because both animals and enclosures looked shabby.
We were even told that the lions – as the only ones in the world – had learned to eat cabbage, because they could only afford to have meat once a week. Whether it's a hoax or not, it's hard to tell, but it's definitely the most run-down zoo we've ever visited. But the children just loved seeing animals, and when you could also buy lollipops in there, they were overjoyed.
Chewing gum project
It is not that easy to buy into Cuba.
At times it was not possible to collect bottled water at all, and even though we drove out to Havana's most well-stocked supermarket, they didn't have much else but tinned food, frozen meat, detergent and various drinks on the shelves.
So when the children felt like something specific, such as lollipops or chewing gum, it could take a long time to find, and we had to go around many shops before we might succeed. Along the way, we got an understanding of how few items you can buy in Cuba, and how happy the children are to get a piece of chewing gum when it is not as easy to get hold of as in Denmark.
Child-friendly trips to Cuba: One big hunt
I would actually describe our visit to Cuba as one big hunt, because nothing is easily accessible.
After all, we are used to that google us for all information, but in Cuba it is rare to have access to the internet, very few places have a website, and many pages are also blocked.
Invaluable help from host families
In Cuba, all appointments are still handled by telephone, and not least because of this, our host families were an invaluable help. They spent a lot of time fulfilling the children's wishes: When the children came up with the idea that they wanted to go to the circus, our host father immediately started calling around to find out if there was a circus in Havana.
When it was confirmed, he drove all the way out to the circus to find out when there was a performance - which there was this coming weekend. On Saturday he also offered to drive out and buy tickets for us so we were sure to get a seat.
The performance itself was more of a show than an actual circus, as it mostly consisted of dance and acrobatics – and then, of course, a clown.
There were no animals, on the other hand, because they couldn't afford to feed them, but the children didn't care, because they were just excited to be in the circus.
Extremely helpful locals provide child-friendly trips.
When we needed something to eat later, we sat down at a sidewalk cafe, where there were also a few tilting machines with animals and cars that you could sit on and which moved when you put money in them.
We were out of coins though, so our kids just stood and watched the Cuban kids try. Before we could change money, the other kids had our kids sit on the machines and put some of their own money in so the machines would start, even though they clearly didn't have much money themselves.
That way, we were once again reminded of how hospitable and helpful Cubans are, and how natural it is for both children and adults to share and consider others.
This is probably also why our children have subsequently spoken so warmly of Cuba, and want to return there so much. When we ask what they liked best about Cuba, they answer: "all of it" - and I can only agree with them. Cuba rhymes with child-friendly travel.
Child-friendly travel and child-friendly travel
Cuba is a great experience to visit for both children and adults, and the Cubans are probably the most child-friendly people we have met to date, so we can clearly recommend the country to other families with children.
There are many interesting places to see, but the distances are great, and although in theory you can see the whole island in three weeks, you will spend a large part of the time on transport.
We didn't plan the route in advance, but ended up choosing to visit only Havana, Trinidad and Santa Clara.
Bo i particular houses
We stayed exclusively in casas particulares and it worked perfectly with children.
We paid 50 CUC (325 kroner) per person everywhere. night for two rooms with room for all six of us. In addition, the breakfast was 5 CUC (33 kroner) per person who was worth all the money.
Use the host family's network
We got the host families to book the next accommodation as well as a car with a driver to drive us on to the next destination, and it worked really well.
Access to the internet is very limited in Cuba, and only a few tourist attractions and services have a website, but on the other hand, all Cubans are very helpful and do their utmost to provide the information you need.
Child-friendly travel: Remember the most important things from home
It can be difficult to get hold of all the necessities, as due to the US embargo, it is difficult for Cubans to import a number of goods. Therefore, bring the most important things from home. We also brought various gifts for both children and adults that we met on our way and they brought happiness everywhere. In addition, we left things like shampoo, panodils, toilet paper, children's clothes and other necessities with the host families, as it is very expensive for them to buy.