Tips for Traveling to Cuba with Kids

Have you been thinking about getting away to a tropical location only to find yourself wondering if it is the best idea because your children are still young? Our daughters are four and a half years, and 20 months old and we just arrived back from a wonderful week away in beautiful Varadero, Cuba. Our trip consisted of a lot of laughs and some lessons learned, but in the end, if you are able to go, I recommend you do.

Tips for taking your kids on a family vacation to Cuba, or other Caribbean destination
We stayed at Memories Resort in Varadero, Cuba which is a family-friendly resort that offered so many activities that we didn’t have enough time to do everything we wanted in one week.

I have listed some tips along with suggestions of what to pack to help make your trip a memorable one — in a good way!

Spread Your Stuff Around and Carry Your Important Items With You
My sister and brother-in-law joined us a couple of days after we arrived (they flew in from a different city). On their arrival, my sister’s luggage was lost and was not recovered for a few days. When packing, make sure you place an outfit or two in a different suitcase so if one is lost, everyone in the family can at least grab some clothes to wear from the luggage that shows up.

We were told that delayed and lost luggage is not uncommon, so plan ahead in case it happens to you.

If you are traveling with something that you definitely need on your arrival, such as medications, diapers, camera, etc, pack it in your carry-on so that you know it will get there when you do.

Stick With What Your Kids Are Used To
I learned this lesson the hard way. Our youngest has a certain type of cup that she drinks out of at home. I thought that I would replace it with a nice thermal cup for the trip to keep her drinks cold, longer. Awesome idea, right?

Wrong!

Our youngest almost refused to drink from it which really limited her intake of liquids. It wasn’t until she showed an interest in my husband’s Gatorade bottle that we were saved. From then on, all of her drinks were transferred to our used Gatorade bottle so she would drink them.

Lesson learned. If your kids are partial to a cup, toy, bowl, etc. Try to make room for it. They are going to be experiencing a lot of change during the week as it is. Let them keep what they know and love.

Pack light, for you
Restrictions on the weight that you can fly with vary between airlines and are often less when you head down south, so know what you are allowed before you pack. If you can pack on the light side for yourself, you leave more space and weight to bring down some items that your kids may appreciate and need.

I ended up combining a face moisturizer, face SPF and foundation in to one little bottle when I visited London Drugs and found out about Marcelle BB Cream Anti-Aging with SPF20. I didn’t end up packing any makeup, and for us, most nights we turned in early without regret as we were so tired from the day’s activities. Although I wasn’t very tanned, I chose the medium-dark tinted cream as I tanned in a couple of days and the foundation was perfect for my skin tone.

Pack Extra Clothes for Kids
Kids will go through clothes quickly on vacation. Between the possibility of getting sick, which happened to us, playing in the sand and water, and running around exploring, you will either need to pack extra or do laundry.

You can also pack some clothes that your children may be close to growing out of to give away. Our daughter is 20 months old and she is ‘just’ fitting in to her 18 month-old clothes. We took some of her 18 month-old (last) summer clothes down and ended up giving some away to locals who were really thankful for them. As a matter of fact, when we were approached on the beach and offered items like big shells, hats, etc, they asked for kids clothes first before money.

Keeping Your Kids Occupied
We packed extremely light in the toy and book area and, if we went back, I would probably limit it to less books and colouring books because the girls were so tired at the end of the day that they just fell asleep.

When we woke up in the mornings, the first thing our girls would do is walk out on our balcony to see what kind of day it was going to be. Then, our youngest ran back in to the room, promptly picked up our shoes and pointed at the door. Our resort had so many activities that we were rarely in the room. If you are planning on doing a lot with your kids, then toys may not be necessary, as they weren’t for us.

Our daughter’s two favorite items were a digital underwater camera we picked up at London Drugs and plastic baggies (Ziploc, etc). With the Olypmus TG-320 Digital Camera, we spent our days taking fun pictures in the water and our daughter loved that it was sturdy enough for her to use it as well. We also bought a float-able strap to attach to the camera in case it was lost in the pool or the ocean. The camera did end up getting moisture inside of the screen, flash and main window after about five days of use. Thanks to London Drugs’ great return and exchange policy, I will be going back to exchange the camera shortly. I will say that it took great photos and some of my favorite shots were taken in the water.

Here is my favorite photo as well as some close seconds we took with the camera. These photos are completely unedited. You can click on the smaller images to see a larger view.

My favorite shot taken with the Olympus underwater camera. In the pool with half underwater and half above.

My favorite shot taken with the Olympus underwater camera. In the pool with half underwater and half above.

As for the bags, they used them to collect ‘treasures’ including shells, sand, seaweed, coconut seeds,and flower petals that had fallen off the bushes. They brought their collections back and looked at their collection and when the trip was over, we returned everything to their spots. They never tired of them and our oldest always said “Remember the bags.” when we headed out anywhere.

Other than this, we brought some stack-able cups that were great for both playing in the room, and making sand castles. We also brought along AquaDoodle which makes designs with a pen that uses water.

Pack a Medicine Cabinet
We packed anything we would possibly need for health issues that would arise while in Cuba as access to some items will be difficult, if not, impossible to get on short notice. In the pack we included Infants, Children’s and Adult Tylenol, prescribed medications, Tums, Lactaid, bandages, gauze, small scissors, tweezers, diaper rash cream, small instant ice pack, vitamins, thermometer and some other items.

At the local store in our resort, they had an okay selection of food items, but nothing to do with health issues or relief at all so make sure you bring it with you.

Also note, one bottle of sunscreen for your family for the week is not enough. Pack extras as you will be reapplying every few hours. Our daughters have skin sensitivities so we brought them a great-quality, kids sunscreen (Vichy, Capital Soleil SPF 50 for Children, London Drugs), then we brought 4 bottles of Neutrogena sunscreen for us.

Trial Sizes Travel Well
To lighten our load, we brought trial sizes of many items. This way, you are not using up your suitcase space on something you will just be bringing home. We used the items we went with and came back a lot lighter. You can collect trial sizes of many products through various offers, mail outs, or by signing up for them in Canada at P&G Brand Sampler when they become available.

We packed trial sizes of toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, tide laundry detergent (sink use), tums, Q-Tips, wipes, etc. I was able to split my trial-sized shampoo up and give some bottles to my sister who was staying near by but in a different building than we were.

I would recommend taking along the trial sizes of Tide detergent for sink use if you can find it. It came in a pack of three small packets and worked well for my sister’s use. Clothes get sweaty and moist fast because of the humidity. We ended up sending out our  family’s clothes to get them laundered because our youngest was sick for a day and I honestly didn’t want to deal with the cleaning and the smell, plus we put all of our laundry together so it all smelled. The bill for 50 items came to $70 CUC, which is about $70 CAD and the items were returned the next day.

Take a Stroller if You Can
This was one of my favorite items to take along. We ended up taking the Joovy Ultralight Stand-on Double Stroller that I reviewed on this site in 2011 along with the Caboose Too Seat attachment. Granted, you can’t take a stroller on the beach, but our resort had many pools to swim in, paths to walk and activities to do and this really helped us get around, especially when both girls became tired. We also took it with us in to Varadero when we went shopping and it came in handy as, with the attachment, both seats reclined and both of our girls were able to sleep either at the same time, or on their own.

Heading back to our block of rooms after dinner. We could move faster at night when our girls got tired and just wanted to look around.

Heading back to our block of rooms after dinner. We could move faster at night when our girls got tired and just wanted to look around.

Shopping in Varadero. Our youngest fell asleep for over an hour and we were able to easily stroll around.

Shopping in Varadero. Our youngest fell asleep for over an hour and we were able to easily stroll around. My husband with our brother-in-law.

Lastly, our flight home left at 3:00am and we flew overnight. Our girls fell asleep in my sister and brother-in-law’s room, then when it came time to go, we carried them down the stairs, plunked them in their reclined seats in the stroller and pushed them up to the front as they slept to wait for our bus to pick us up and take us to the airport.

Pack Some Snacks, But Know This…*
With young kids, you tend to turn in earlier. Some resorts will have very little or ‘treat snack’ options like potato chips, etc. So if you are planning a night out on the balcony, you may want to pack something for yourself. To avoid the explosion of potato chips when the plane pressurized, we chose Pringles because of how they are packaged. We aren’t chip eaters at home, but were thankful we had them.

Other food items that we packed were granola bars (high in fibre), Banana Nut Cheerios, Skim Milk Powder, Gatorade powder.

*Warning: Cuba is very humid. make sure you seal up anything that you open. The top layers of Cheerios in the box became pretty moist when it was left open over night. You can fix this by packing plastic bags to seal up anything you need.

Our Experience
We loved our time in Varadero and at the resort and we are glad we went. Five out of six of us fell sick during the trip from various things and not at the same time (reaction to medication, too much sun, etc), but we weren’t sick for more than a day and for some of us, it was fairly mild.

We would go again in a heartbeat if we could make it work and are already planning where to go next with our girls.

Have Fun
Cuba is gorgeous and the people are so friendly. The Cuban people love kids and our kids loved the attention they received. At the end of the trip, no one wanted to get back on the plane to fly home.

That could have something to do with the -24°C weather in Edmonton though.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2013 and has been updated for accuracy.

Disclosure: In facilitating this post, I received some items from London Drugs, and Procter & Gamble. In addition, although we paid for our own flight and resort stay, I received an upgrade to The Diamond Club membership and an Oceanfront room to facilitate a future post for Memories Resort, Varadero, Cuba. I received the stroller from Joovy for a previous review, but received no additional compensation for this post. All opinions are my own and this post was written and published without prior approval from anyone.

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
Found in Travel, Winter
29 comments… add one
  • Sharon Dec 30, 2016, 11:11 am

    Thanks for the tips Sheri. We are travelling to Varadero on Jan 23 with our son, daughter-in-law and 2 grandkids age 2 and 4. We are a little apprehensive about the flight and transport if we did take the kids into Varadero. Did you take a car seat on the plane for your youngest. Our little guys is very squirmy and is used to sitting in one, but not just with a lap belt so not sure what to do. If we head to Varadero we will likely grab the bus ( hubby and I were there before) but possibly a cab back. Suggestions?

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Jan 2, 2017, 10:00 pm

      Hi Sharon. Thanks for your question. Our kids were about the same age. We ended up not taking a car seat on the plane, but our daughter was not on the squirmy side. If you have a durable car seat that is easy to travel with I would say take it to be on the safe side but make sure you contact your airline ahead of time to make sure it is allowed and find out if there are any additional charges. As for attaching it in the cab or on the bus, you most likely won’t be able to as they probably don’t have the parts to attach it to (many of the cars in Varadero are vintage and car seats were not a priority in the years they were originally made). If it is more of a comfort thing for your grandson, then he can still ride in it, you may just have to jimmy the seat belt to hold him in. Have a fabulous vacation.

  • Brandy Mitchell Sep 30, 2016, 12:14 pm

    Wondering if you flew into Havana and the drove to Vardero? I’m thinking of going to Cuba in January with my 5 & 3 year olds. We are flying from Detroit

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Sep 30, 2016, 1:43 pm

      Hi Brandy, we flew into Varadero and did not end up seeing Havana. We would have loved to go, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us that time. Have a wonderful trip.

  • Ryan Jan 17, 2016, 5:28 pm

    Great post! We are travelling with our almost one year old. She has been exclusively breast fed up to this point; however, we are starting to introduce homogenized milk (she refuses formula). Any experience with bringing pumped breast milk or drinking the milk down there?

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Jan 21, 2016, 9:52 pm

      Our daughter was one and a half when we went. The employees had some milk on hand, but probably not as much as you would need for all day and night. Double check with the resort you are staying at though as things may have changed in the 3 years since we’ve been there. We did bring our own powdered milk but our daughter just opted to drink bottled water and milk when we got it for her.

  • Cara Nov 14, 2015, 8:59 am

    We are planning a trip to Cuba early next year. What would you suggest for car seats? My 4 yo is still in a 5 point harness seat and my 6 yo is in a booster. Should I bring them along?

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Nov 15, 2015, 10:59 pm

      Hi Cara, It really depends on what you will be doing. We were picked up at the airport by a bus shuttle and we stayed around the resort with two trips out. You can usually catch the bus into town so I don’t recommend bringing your car seats. The down side to bringing them is that you are responsible for carrying them around in addition to everything else. So if you take a taxi into town, you have to carry them around the town with you while you walk (and note, most taxis are vintage 1950 cars with no car seat hook ups). If you take the bus, there is nowhere to hook your car seats up to anyway. We sat with our kids on our laps.

  • Lindsay Feb 26, 2015, 8:59 pm

    Hi – great post! I am wondering….what are your thoughts on bringing a 7 mos old? Also, I have read that you are not able to bring food (ie. Formula, baby food, cereal etc.) but I see you brought food….did you have any hassles?

    Thanks,

    Lindsay

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Feb 26, 2015, 9:27 pm

      Hi Lindsay – We didn’t have any problem with the type of food we brought. I believe that you can bring some as long as it is not fruits / vegetables, etc, and not for sale/giveaway. If you are bringing enough for your baby for the duration of your time there, you are fine. Please double check with the airline though as our girls would have still been fine if everything was confiscated. You will definitely want to double check on the food though as bringing your 7mo would kind of hinge on that. It also depends where they are in their solid foods. Since milk is a big factor, breast-feeding isn’t an issue, but bottle feeding may require you to bring the milk (or baby formula) in powder form and asking if you can have some extra bottles of water in your room (or if they sell them on site). Again, you would need to verify it can be brought in. We had no hassles, but they never asked or checked our luggage. I saw some babies while I was there so I’m sure there are no problems, but double check for piece of mind.

  • Andrea May 15, 2014, 1:04 pm

    Thanks for your post. Was wondering if your children stayed with you the entire trip or did you use their kid programs?

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry May 21, 2014, 2:20 pm

      Hi Andrea, Our girls stayed with us this time since it was our first big trip together. We also had my sister and brother-in-law along with us in a different room so it was different for us. If we went again, we look more closely at the drop off option.

  • Kristin Feb 2, 2014, 7:52 am

    Awesome post! Did you purchase your kids both their own seats on the plane, or did your 20 month old sit in your lap? We are headed to Varadero at the end of March, and my son will be sitting in our laps, but we have been told to bring his car seat for the trip on the bus from the airport to the resort and back. Is this something you have experience with?

    I don’t want to lug a big carseat to Cuba if I’m not going to be able to use it :D

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Feb 3, 2014, 3:41 pm

      Hi Kristin,

      We did not purchase a seat for our youngest and once the plane was in the air, both girls sat between us. It was snug, but we made it. We did not bring our car seat. I was too worried about possible unseen damage that could happen to the seat just getting tossed around in cargo. I didn’t want to lug it all that way for a 20 minute bus ride to the hotel and back and I didn’t see anyone else with car seats either. The bus was very safe and comfortable. I hope this helps. Have a great trip.

  • Jenn Jan 15, 2014, 12:48 pm

    Great tips…thanks!

    Mind if I ask how you got your stroller down there? Did they allow you to gate check it? If so, did you have a bag for it?

    We can’t figure out the best way to get our sit and stand down there for our two little ones.

    Thanks!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Jan 17, 2014, 11:14 am

      We had our double stroller and it folded flat enough that we just took it to the plane and checked it at the gate. I didn’t have a bag for it and it arrived fine. Minor dirt, but we get it dirtier daily. The stroller dimensions should be on the Sunwing website. Have a fabulous time.

  • yamila Dec 29, 2013, 6:55 pm

    Hi. Just came across your blog and so thankful of it! I am cuban but raised in florida. We wanted to go visit my family in cuba beginning of 2014 with our kids. I am a lite nervous not knowing what to expect food wise. My kids eat everything and I don’t know how the restaurant s are over there. I really wouldn’t want them to get sick. How dis you guys get sick? If you dont mind me asking. Any other tips would be appreciated :)

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Dec 29, 2013, 10:39 pm

      Hi Yamila, For those of us that got sick. My youngest daughter (1.5 yrs at the time) gets motion sickness and the plane and transfer to the hotel at 2:30 in the morning just did her in. For me, it was because I took an OTC medication that I have since found out that I can not take. My husband, sister and brother-in-law were sick for one day. We have no idea how as I’m not sure if they ate the same thing. I was at the same buffet with them as was my oldest (4 yrs at the time) and youngest and we were not sick after. It could be something isolated, but for them it lasted under a day. I took our girls to their pediatrician before we left and asked for a prescription of anything that would help the most common afflictions down there and he gave me prescriptions for traveler’s diarrhea (we didn’t end up needing it for either of our girls, but it was nice to have just in case). Have a wonderful time and let me know if you have any questions.

  • gingermommy Mar 19, 2013, 10:42 am

    Such great tips. Friends of ours just got back from Cuba. Hoping to go myself one day :)

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Jun 27, 2013, 11:15 pm

      Go. It was never on my list of places to see, but I am so thankful that it was on my husband’s.

  • gingermommy Jan 26, 2013, 10:26 am

    This is great! Thanks for sharing, we are starting to travel more and these tips will be handy

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Jan 27, 2013, 3:03 pm

      Thanks for commenting. I’m glad I could help with what worked and what didn’t. We already want to go again.

  • Tenille Jan 25, 2013, 5:39 pm

    Great idea to use P&G Brandsaver for all the trial sizes you can get for free! Smart idea for traveling indeed!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Jan 27, 2013, 3:06 pm

      It really helps to stock up on them and they are usually the perfect size for about a weeks worth of product. If you travel a lot, grabbing shampoos and conditioners from hotel rooms is another great idea.

  • Julia Jan 25, 2013, 3:10 pm

    Great suggestions for traveling with kids. Looks like the trip was a blast and I love the shots taken with the waterproof camera!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Jan 27, 2013, 3:07 pm

      Thanks Julia. Those were my favorite shots because you can’t easily take them with regular cameras without the fear of it getting damaged.

  • Jody @ Mommy Moment Jan 25, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Those are some great tips, I like that you say to pack light for yourself and pack extra cloths for the kids. I am going to keep this post handy in case we make a trip somewhere warm with the kids.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Jan 27, 2013, 3:03 pm

      Thanks Jody. As adults, we can (usually) adapt easier to traveling with less and this worked well for us. Our girls felt more cool than we did in the evenings, and needed more ‘wardrobe’ changes to be comfortable. Plus, there was sand everywhere… but we loved it.

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