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Your Perfect Long Weekend Guide in Havana, Cuba With Kids

I've been begging Matt to take me to Cuba for years.  I don't know if it's because it is so un-commercialized, or knowing Cuba was like a time capsule stuck in the 1950s, or the fact that Cuba is so tropical... I had to go!!! :)



Visiting Cuba is different from visiting other Caribbean islands because of US regulations.  We couldn't just book a resort and sit on the beach for the trip...  That isn't our style anyway. ;-)  Our purpose for travel was to "support the Cuban people".  This is one of the 11 categorized authorized purposes for travel to Cuba according to US regulations.  Fortunately, Matt did a TON of research about this to make sure that we were following what was and wasn't allowed so that we wouldn't have to worry about being detained at the boarder when we returned! Lol!  If you are American and interested in going to Cuba, here is a great reference for current regulations by the US Department of the Treasury.  The laws are constantly changing, so make sure you check this site before you book your tickets so that you can be sure that you are following the right procedures for travel.

A few things you should know about Cuba:
1. Internet is SCARCE!  That's right... if you need to stay connected to the internet 24/7, Cuba is not the place for you.  There are specific WIFI zones around Cuba where you can access internet using a prepaid internet card (like our old fashioned calling card).  I probably used a total of 3 hours of internet the entire time we were there.  I thought it would be difficult for me because I do love staying connected to the world... but I have to say it was SO liberating!!!  Matt and I both were shocked how well I did, lol!!!!  Sometimes it's good to disconnect from the world for a few days, right?

2.  Yes, you will see old cars EVERYWHERE!  We didn't expect to see so many old cars, but really, most of the cars were classics!!!  It really felt like we were walking around 1950 and I was amazed at how well cared for most of the cars were!  Of course we had to ride in as many old cars as we could!  We took a red convertible (Dylan's favorite color!☺) from Vedado back to old Havana for $10, which was TOTALLY worth it.  And we rented another classic car to see the beach for a few hours; which cost us about $30 one way.
3. The people are so hospitable.  We felt sooo welcomed by the Cuban people!  Originally, I was nervous to even tell them we were American because I wasn't sure how they viewed our country, but everyone welcomed us and our kids with open arms!!  We did experience a few people who would talk to us for a while and then ask for a favor, ie: buy their baby some milk or give them our extra baby clothes... but we never felt uncomfortable by the people, or like we were being put in a dangerous situation.  People would even stop us and tell us they saw us at their restaurant or shopping at their store from the day before!  (I guess we stood out a little bit, lol!)  We loved the culture of the people and seeing EVERYONE out and about walking on the street and having fun... kids playing ball, people playing music and dancing, smoking cigars (men and women alike) and enjoying a laid back lifestyle.


4. Cuba is HOT.  We were there in March and I can't even imagine being there in the summer.  We noticed that air conditioning was really hard to find in any shops or restaurants, so we rarely got relief from the heat.  It wasn't even super hot... high 80sF, but our bodies are so not used to that temperature, especially since we weren't just lying around the beach or pool but exploring the city!  I'm so glad Matt made sure that our accommodations were all air conditioned because I don't know how we would have survived! lol!

5. It is extremely difficult to buy "snacks".  Maybe it was just us, but we had such a hard time finding shops to buy snacks for the boys!  This was the first time I ever wished I had packed more snacky type foods for the boys... you know, like trail mix, squeezes, granola bars, etc.  Normally when we travel, the boys snack on local grocery items, like carrots and hummus and a yogurt, but we never once found a store that sold those items!  We ended up just buying a little bag of cookie/crackers for over $4 each day so the boys would have something to snack on while we walked.  I was shocked how expensive the packaged food was and I wonder if it is because they are imported?  If you know, please comment below! :)

ACCOMMODATIONS:
We stayed at three different places during our four night stay in Cuba.  It meant that we had to move around a bit, but like I've said in the past, we LOVE experiencing multiple accommodations because it is fun to have a change of scenery, eat a different style breakfast, and interact with different locals.  We stayed at two Airbnb's and one approved hotel: Hotel Sevilla.
Airbnb: Mayari Havana
We were SO excited to stay at Mayari Havana because of the great location... right in the heart of Old Havana!  This gorgeous 2 bedroom apartment and full functioning kitchen was perfect for our family!  We were greeted by a friend of the host, who showed us how to use the AC, coffee maker, stove and oven.  She even gave us a smart phone to use during our stay in case any problem should arise, we could contact her immediately for help!  The fridge was stocked with a bunch of water bottles, milk and cookies for the boys, and even a few beers and sodas, complimentary for our stay.  Breakfast was included, and the next morning our host's friend and a cook came in and made us the biggest and yummiest Cuban breakfast... eggs, cheese, fresh local fruit, bruchetta, toast, cereal for the boys, fresh juice, you name it!!!  It was sooo nice to stay in a spacious Airbnb, but still have the same perks a boutique hotel would offer... especially not having to clean anything, in fact our host made that very clear... we didn't have to lift a finger the entire time we were there!  I think my favorite part about this Airbnb was the patio.  Although small, we were able sit our there sipping a mojito Matt bought across the street and watch all the night action while our boys were sound asleep in their room.



Airbnb: US Legal, Old Havana, 2 bedroom , Ocean View, Malecon
The biggest draw to us choosing this Airbnb was the owner, Carlos.  Even before we booked his appartment, he offered us so much advice and help with planning our trip that we just HAD to pick him!  And I'm so glad we did.  The apartment was PERFECT for our family!!  Two bedrooms, a full kitchen, dining area and living room and two AMAZING patios overlooking the Havana Harbor.  The boys loved that he had Ice Age prerecorded for some downtime in the morning when Matt and I were getting ready and we LOVED sitting out on the patio and watching the sunrise.  My favorite memory of this Airbnb was Dylan standing outside our bedroom patio and calling out to a few old men sitting on their patio across the street saying "do you have any diapers?" and then laughing hysterically! Lol!  Gotta love toddler potty humor.
Although breakfast wasn't included in our stay, the lady who cleaned the apartment each day, was available to also come in and make us breakfast for only $7 per person (kids were free!) so we decided to use her the first day and it was so nice!!  She arrived before any of us were even awake, and made a delicious egg breakfast with toast, fresh fruit and juice.  It was so fun to have her in our home and she spent the whole morning playing with the boys and talking to them in Spanish because she didn't speak any English.  My boys were so amused and loved playing peekaboo and showing her their toy cars!

Hotel Sevilla
We wanted to book an actual hotel our last day in Cuba, mostly because it was Monday and Matt knew he would probably need to check into work.  This particular hotel was in a WIFI zone and internet cards could be purchased by hotel guests for only $1 per hour and the internet speed was pretty fast.  Also, Hotel Sevilla is one of the few hotels approved on the US Department of  the Treasury website.  It was great.  Continuous live music in the lobby, breakfast included, an amazing pool (that was shallow enough everywhere for Dylan to touch, so we didn't have to go in with him the entire time) and great snacks by the pool & lobby.  We had so much fun and would definitely recommend this hotel!  Our only complaint was that the rooms were very outdated... however this is not uncommon in Cuba and we were only in our room to sleep, so it didn't bother us at all.

This post is only touching a small part of our experience in Cuba.  Stay tuned for our "Top 5 Attractions in Cuba"! ☺

Comments

  1. Wow it all looks so interesting! I love all the old cars!

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    1. So interesting! Seeing all the old cars is the main reason I wanted to go!!!

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  2. Great guide! Cuba is such a great travel destination. I've been there last summer and I can tell you it was sooooo hot.

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    1. Oh yes, I bet! We were actually talking about that while we were there... I can't even imagine going there in the summer... HOWEVER, Cuba is the perfect destination during the winter months!

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  3. I am assuming you visited independently. I will need to check out the link you provide containing the current regulations. Some people say it is fine to book a flight and go and others say it is necessary to use a tour operator. I will like to take a look at the possibilities since I am interesting in visiting (but tours are out of my budget).

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    1. Yes! We booked independently and had no trouble booking the flight with the proper documentation! Let me know if you have more questions.. I'd be happy to help!!

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  4. Omg, your little guy is really adorable! He is a perfect model and he seemed he had a great time in Havana. Cuba is amazing but I don't know when can I visit the country. Hopefully in the future. :-)

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    1. Thank you Joy! He's a keeper! ;-) We really did have a fantastic time in Cuba! I hope you can go!!

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  5. Wow! Great post! Cuba is right at the top of my bucket list. It’s such a good idea to stay at different places throughout your stay in the city. I am definitely going to try this on my next trip. Thank you for the inspiration :)

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    1. Yay! I hope you can go! You will love Cuba!!

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  6. I am glad your dream finally came true and you visited Cuba. Sounds like you had an awesome time, and how special you could share this experience with your family! :)

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it is so wonderful to have these memories together as a family. No other way I'd want to spend our money! <3

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  7. Everything you mentioned is spot on! I went in May and it was so HOT it was ridiculous, we had in the airbnb but of course not outside. I brought snacks with me because I knew that there were no 7 Elevens (LOL ) I also thought it was going to be bad with no internet but it was great to not spend so much time on social media for a week.

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    1. Oh you are so smart to bring snacks.. I really wish I had brought more!!! I totally agree with you about the whole internet thing... and my husband especially loved it! lol!!!!!

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  8. Loved this! We are already planning our trip!

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    1. Hooray Kimberly! Let me know if you need any help! I would highly recommend any of our accommodations!!!

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