Thursday, February 27, 2014

traveling in Belize with small children

I think at this point I can say I know something about this topic, right?

First, let's start with the good stuff. The most important thing to remember when you are hauling little kids around Belize is that, pretty much across the board, Belizeans love kids.  When your toddler is fussing, rather then getting dirty looks from those around you, someone is more likely to hand your baby a cookie with a smile and an encouraging word. (This has actually happened to me several times).   Don’t be surprised if grannies come up to you and ask if they can hold your baby for a bit.  At the parish I have gone to for years, there are still kids that I am not quite sure who their parents are, because during Mass they are passed around from person to person, with everyone getting a chance to fuss over them a bit.

That being said, it is also important to understand that Belize’s standards of hygiene and safety are very different then places like the states.  For example, there is no law requiring car seat use, or even seat belt use in the back seats.  Water and food-born parasites are extremely common here, so extra caution should be taken with young eaters. There are few conveniences like shopping carts or parking lots, and most of all, it is HOT.

So how do I do it?  Sheer determination to get out of the house, preplanning, and a method.

First, car seats.  I use them, but most other people don't, and like I said that is not against the law. Rental companies here mostly do rent car seats, but I wouldn’t count on it being a nice new model.  If you will be in Belize a while, it is worth it to buy a car seat. New car seats are extremely expensive and hard to find, but there are a few places that sell used car seats for between $50-70 Bz.  The Boundary store in Orange walk usually has the biggest selection.  If you plan on picking up a used seat, do your research before hand to know the best models and what parts should be included, because if there is a strap missing or it is a 3 point harness instead of 5, it is up to you to know that.

I try to avoid situations in which I do not drive my own car or have a car seat, but sometimes it happens.  If I have to ride in a taxi or bus or water taxi with no car seat, I strap a baby in my front carrier and then use the lap seatbelt for myself (if there is one).  I figure it’s better then just holding her in my lap even though it’s far from ideal.

When I have all the kiddos with me, I only go to the few grocery stores that have carts.  Using a stroller inside isn't practical, cause the aisles are often narrow or filled with boxes.  I  also like to park in the new lot behind the welcome center in Cayo, which allows me to use a stroller because it has sidewalks straight to the market. However, there are a few places in Belize that are stroller friendly. Sidewalks are fairly rare-- even on part of Burns Ave, the center street in Cayo, there are no sidewalks so I have to push the stroller in the street while avoiding potholes.  Not fun. Those big-wheel jogging strollers can come in handy over rough roads but are nearly impossible to find here. I also have a baby backpack with an attached leash for my toddler in case we need to walk along busy streets. 

As for supplies, diapers and wipes are easy to find anywhere.  If your little one is potty training or newly potty trained, consider going back to diapers for a bit when you are out.  Public toilets are few and far between here, and some of those are so disgusting that I would never take a child in.  Always carry wipes, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper, because many restrooms will not have toilet paper or hand soap.  You won't find changing tables anywhere, so bring a changing pad with you.  

If your baby is on a special formula, bring it because formula selection is limited to about 5 kinds, mostly nestle.  Healthy snacks can also be a challenge.  You won’t find prettily packaged toddler organic snacks here.  When we are out and about, I stick to crackers, cheerios, and small boxes of raisins.  I try and bring water with me for the kiddos, but all grocery stores sell bottled water if I forget.  

I think that is about it.  When I bring people with me, they are always surprised at how exhausting it can be.  Most of this is just due to the heat-- imagine moving babies from car seats to strollers to carriers and back when it is 90 degrees outside, then repeat 4 more times because there is no mega store where one stop has everything.  And by the way, there is no AC anywhere.  Bringing help is great, and being reasonable about how much time things will take and how much the kiddos can handle is essential.  


  1. Excellent post, as usual ;) Good information for those with little ones, especially for those coming from developed countries and might not realize the challenges parents of young children face. Don't know how you you do it, but clearly you are doing it very well.

  2. We are traveling to Belize in the end of March with a 2 and 4 year old. Do you know if most hotels, lodges, cabins, etc... have some type of beds for lil ones? A crib for my 2 year old or something like a pack'n'play?

    1. Hi Claudia,
      Some resorts do have pack and plays or cribs (we have used them once or twice). Best to call/ email and ask before hand.


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