A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Printable


Traveling with your children is an unforgettable experience, no matter where you go. It is the chance to introduce your children to new cultures and environments, and to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

So, when the opportunity to take a girls only trip to Cuba came up, I knew it was one that I couldn't turn down. Just my mom, grandma, aunt, daughter and I - no boys allowed.

The last time I was in Cuba was almost 15 years ago, so I really don't remember a whole lot. However, the one thing I did know was that traveling with an infant this visit would definitely make it a much different trip.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

Now that the travel restrictions on Cuba have been lifted, those that have not previously been able to experience the country for themselves are keeping the destination in mind while preparing for their next vacation.

If you’re in need of a vacation, but one that is also family-friendly, a trip to Cuba is the perfect option. However, like any foreign destination, there are some important things to know before you go. 

Luckily, I'm here to help.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

Check out this comprehensive guide to traveling to Cuba with young children, which includes recommendations, personal experiences and a FREE complete packing guide printable (pdf).


Important notes about this guide:

  1. This guide is geared towards those traveling to Cuba with young children, specifically infant and toddler (and those that require a stroller and/or car seat).
  2. During our trip, we spent half of the week in a hotel and touring Havana independently and the other half at an all-inclusive resort in Varadero. Since these are two of the most popular cities, I am assuming that these tips also apply to the majority of the country. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

FOOD & DRINK


Formula-Fed Children
  • If your baby is drinking formula, bring the amount you need (plus extra). 
  • If you do not want to use bottled water to mix the powdered formula, bring premixed formula. 
  • If you happen to run out of formula, powdered formula (as well as pureed baby food) can be found for sale at a local super market (price unknown). 
  • Remember the standards are different in Cuba, so it is recommend to bring more than needed so that you do not run out.

For those babies drinking formula or breast milk, also see “water” below.


Children Eating Solids
  • Depending on what your baby is eating and where you are staying, there will be options. 
  • Resort and hotel restaurants/buffets have a wide variety of food to choose from - eggs, veggies, chicken, etc. It is often pretty plain and not a lot of seasoning is used, making it perfect for those that are just starting out with solids. 
  • While kept hot and chilled as required, buffet food does sit out for a few hours during meal time. If you are unsure of a particular item, do not feed it to your child. Instead, stick to fresh cooked items such as the pasta and omelette stations.
  • Local restaurants off hotel/resort grounds also offer a wide variety of food. Roast chicken is an extremely popular dish, and there almost always is rice and veggies on the menu as well.

Personal experience: My daughter was not yet at the stage of drinking whole milk, so finding and consuming whole milk was not something we experienced. However, I did see it available at both the hotel and resort.


High Chairs
  • High chairs are available at pretty much all of the restaurants/buffets, including the hotel, resort and independent restaurants. 
  • Not all high chairs come with trays. Be prepared for baby to eat off the table.  
  • High chairs are not thoroughly cleaned after each use. Pack disinfectant wipes (such as these ones) to clean prior to use. 
  • Bring a table food mat (such as this onefor baby to eat off of. It attaches to the table securely, and can be easily cleaned in between uses. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

Eating Utensils

  • If you require plastic bowls, cups and utensils, bring those from home. Only ceramic, glass and metal will be available at restaurants.
  • Bring your own non-cloth bib. One that catches food is recommended for easy clean up (such as this one).

Eating Times

  • If you are staying at a resort, keep in mind buffets open at specific times. [For example, the buffet at the resort we stayed at didn’t open until 6:30pm. Morley uses eats dinner at 5:30pm with bath time at 6:30pm. Not only did this require a bit of a shift in her schedule, but we also had to find something for her to snack on later in the afternoon.]
  • If dinner time will not fit your needs, most resorts also have a snack bar that is open 24 hours. Keep in mind snacks bars have limited menus. 
  • Most rooms have mini fridges, so you can always take some extra food from breakfast or lunch for your child to snack on throughout the day. Bring a small food storage container to fill with food from the buffet for them to eat at a later time.
  • Bringing your child’s favourite snacks from home or prepackaged pureed food will also help fill any feeding times. 

Potable Water

  • Bottled water can be purchased at the hotel or local market.  It is more expensive to purchase at the hotel, so if you have the option, visit a local super market.
  • While staying at a resort, the room mini fridge is usually refilled every other day. The fridge typically contains at least one large bottle of water. If the resort has a store, you will be able to purchase more bottled water there as well.
  • Bring an electric kettle (such as this one) with you to boil water for washing bottles. Most hotels and resorts have both two- and three-prong 110V outlets, but bring an adapter just in case.
  • Bring a small bottle of dish soap and a sponge and/or bottle brush for bottle cleaning.
  • Make sure to have lots of bottled water on hand for your children to drink. It is important they stay hydrated in the heat. If they drink from a sippy cup, bring one or two with you. 
  • To keep your child hydrated if they will not drink plain bottled water is to add a bit of sugar or fruit juice to make the water sweet.


Personal experience: I do not recommend using boiled water to mix formula. The water was extremely hard in Havana. After only a handful of uses, the kettle was lined with a thick layer of calcium and there was calcium “floaties” in the water.

DIAPERING

  • Normal diapers: When packing normal diapers, pack as many as you would typically need in that time frame, times two. There’s the possibility you may not use them all and then there’s also the possibility that your child may develop some tummy troubles and you will definitely use them. 
  • Swim diapers: If you plan to go in the water, aside from swim wear, you will also need swim diapers.
  • Wipes: Bring extra wipes. Like above, your child may develop tummy troubles and extra wipes will be needed. These can also be used to wipe off surfaces, like airplane tray tables and restaurant high chairs, before baby touches them.
  • Change tables: Change tables are few and far between. Often times, you will find yourself changing baby on the fly in the stroller or on a counter in the bathroom. Be sure you have a changing mat that you can put down for baby to lie on, or disinfect the surface before and after use.

Personal experience: Like a rookie, I ran out of normal diapers. Luckily, I was able to purchase a small bag in the resort store. A small pack of 20 cost around $4 CUC (approximately $6 CAD). While these were in no way the same quality as American and Canadian diapers, they did the job. The store also sold wipes and swim diapers. 

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Building access: Accessibility is not a huge consideration in Cuba like it is in Canada or the US. A lot of the buildings have stairs, with no elevators or ramps. 
  • Streets: Many of the side streets are a cobble-stone style and not paved, making them very uneven.
  • Street curbs: The street curbs are about twice as high as they are in North America, and there are no ramps at street crossings. 
  • Sidewalks: Sidewalks are cracked, uneven and often missing chunks of concrete.
  • Cross walks: Crossing the street is very different for pedestrians. There are red and green lights, but crosswalks are almost non-existent. People cross at their own risk, and often across multiple lanes of traffic.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

TRANSPORTATION

  • Car seat: Leave the car seat base at home. Unlike vehicles in North America, there are no buckles for a car seat base. If your child requires a car seat, you must use the seat belt to securely fasten it to the seat. 
  • Stroller: Consider the stroller that you bring. If your child is scheduled to take a nap while you are out touring, make sure the stroller is one that they can sleep comfortably in (i.e. one that reclines). It must also compact well for airplane and vehicle travel, be able to handle uneven streets, sidewalks and curbs and be light for potential carrying and lifting.  If you are taking taxis while out touring and your child requires a car seat, make sure your stroller is compatible with the car seat (i.e. it has an adapter to connect the two) so that you are not carrying the car seat as you walk around.
  • Coach bus: If you are taking a coach bus to and from the airport and resort, be aware that not all have seat belts. If you are not planning on taking taxis (i.e. only going between airport and resort or hotel on a coach bus) and are comfortable with it, leave the car seat and heavy duty stroller at home. Depending on your child’s age, bring a small umbrella stroller or infant carrier/sling instead.
  • Large groups: If you are traveling in a large party (i.e. 5 or more) and need to take a taxi, van taxis are available but rare. Be prepared to split up the group.
  • Vintage cars: If riding in a vintage car is on your Cuban bucket list, you will have to leave the little ones out. These cars do not have seat belts. Many are also convertibles.
  • Sun protection: If you are traveling in a vehicle, consider which side of the vehicle the sun will be shining on and, if possible, place your child on the opposite side to limit exposure.

Personal experience: We use a BOB Revolution Single Stroller and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat. The stroller has an adapter to secure the car seat to the stroller. Since we were taking taxis while touring Havana, we needed to bring the car seat. If we were not touring the city independently, I would not have brought the car seat on the trip.  I am, however, glad that I brought this stroller. It was easy to transport and heavy duty enough to withstand airplane abuse. streets and sidewalks of Havana and walks on the beach in Varadero.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

ENVIRONMENTAL

  • Temperature: Like any tropical destination, be aware of the temperature. In Cuba, it is hot during the day but can be cool in the morning and at night. Dress in layers. It is easier to remove a layer if you’re too hot, rather than add a layer you don’t have if you’re too cold.
  • Sun: Don’t forget the sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses for your child. If you will be pushing your child in a stroller, consider bringing a UV screen (such as this one) to put over the stroller.
  • Insects: If  you are visiting during mosquito season, bring child-friendly bug spray.
  • Smoking: Unlike in North America, smoking is allowed everywhere in Cuba, including hotel rooms, restaurants and stores. Many people smoke, especially cigars.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

SLEEPING

  • Cribs: Cribs can be found at most hotels and resorts. If one is required, let the hotel or resort know upon booking so that one can be reserved. The type of crib provided is typically a travel crib/pack-and-play. For baby’s safety, bring your own crib sheet.
  • Insects: If you are visiting during mosquito season, bring a mosquito mesh that can be fit over the crib at night. This can also be used over the stroller during the day and/or night.
  • Air conditioning: Most hotels and resorts usually have the AC pumping. Luckily, most also have individual room controls to turn it off or down when needed. Be sure to dress your child appropriately during the night, especially if you plan to keep the AC running. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

MEDICAL

  • Vaccinations: Pay a visit to your family doctor before you leave. You and your children may require vaccinations.
  • Medical attention: If needed, doctors and clinics are available for a fee. Before you go, check that your medical insurance covers out of country.  
  • First aid kit: Bring a full stocked first aid kit. Pharmacies are available, but the selection of products is not the same as in North America. In your first aid kit, include an easy-to-read thermometer, extra pain reliever (both adult and children), allergy medication (both adult and children), alcohol-based hand sanitizer, antiseptic wound cleaner and tweezers.

TIPPING

  • While money is appreciated for tips, so are specific items that are hard to come by or expensive in Cuba. 
  • The most appreciated are hygiene products such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, panty hose and sanitary napkins, and children’s clothing and shoes.
  • Before you go, or even when you are packing to leave Cuba, if you have any clothes no longer in use by your child, leave them for a hostess, waitress, housekeeper or someone else you meet during your stay. 

Personal experience 1: I brought a bunch of Morley’s gently used onesies and pants to leave for the housekeepers. However, during our stay at the resort, we met a hostess in the buffet that was pregnant with her first child, a girl. I ended up giving her the big bag of clothes and she was very grateful. 

Personal experience 2: While touring Havana, I had several women come up to me and ask if I could spare anything for their families. I was not prepared for this, so the answer was always no. Scams are present in Cuba, so this could be one and I was targeted because I had a little one in tow.


CUSTOMER SERVICE


Customer service in Cuba differs greatly from what you would expect in other places of the world, including North America. This can be attributed to a number of things, including low wages for workers. When you visit, you must be patient as well as keep an open mind. You may not get anything or go anywhere fast, but that's ok. Sit back and relax, you're on vacation after all. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

FINAL THOUGHTS


I will admit, prior to our visit to Cuba, I was a bit nervous. Rightfully so with visiting a foreign  country, let alone with a 10 month old. I stressed over things like packing enough clothes, what she would eat and how I would wash her bottles. Turns out, once we got to Cuba, all of the stress was for nothing. I quickly found out that I had overpacked, there was a lot on the menu that she could eat and washing bottles was not as difficult as I thought it would be, among other things. 

At no point during our travels did we feel unsafe. Hassling in the streets and on the beach is limited, and easy to avoid. The Cuban people are extremely friendly and laid back, especially if you have children in tow. They love babies, and every single person we came across in our travels quickly became my daughter's favourite, stopping to talk and ogle over her.  

Bottom line - Cuba is a beautiful and colourful country filled with culture, history and fabulous beaches. It is also a country I highly recommend adding to your "must see" list, even with young children in tow.


To help you plan for your trip, check out this FREE Complete Packing Guide Printable (PDF).

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable



*Please note, this a recommended guide based on our experience and does not included required clothing or other attire. There may be items included on this list that you do not need and those not included that you will need. Plan accordingly. 

Stay tuned for a guide to visiting an all-inclusive resort with your little one!


Have you visited Cuba with your little ones? See something missing from the guide? Have more questions? Leave a comment below or email me at toandfro21@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!


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