With most American workers having limited vacation time, I believe you have to take advantage of all opportunities given to travel. So of course taking a trip while on maternity leave was a must for me. Kennedy was 10 weeks when we embarked on this trip and Jordyn was 23 months.
We decided on Colombia because 1. JetBlue had an amazing deal, $75 each way 2. The flight wasn't that long, under 3hrs and 3. Colombia is pretty inexpensive as far as accommodations, food and tours.
Day 1- Checking-In and Boca Grande
Our flight from Ft. Lauderdale left at 12:30PM and we arrived in Cartagena at 2:30PM, gaining 1hr due to the time difference. You de-board on the tarmac, having to walk down the stairs on the plane. We gate checked Jordyn's stroller in Ft. Lauderdale but they sent it to baggage claim upon arrival. Luckily for us we got through immigration and customs rather quickly because all I envisioned was either a super energetic Jordyn running all around the customs area as she wasn't confined to her stroller or a completely tired Jordyn that didn't want to walk and we would be left holding her the entire time. I had Kennedy in the carrier as usual.
We booked our Cartagena Airbnb within the "walled city" and the airport is literally 10mins away, a $5-$7USD taxi ride. We traveled with Kennedy's infant car seat but the cab didn't have seat belts in the backseat so I kept her in the carrier. Unfortunately not one cab we got into the entire trip both in Cartagena and Medellin had seat belts! We still used her car seat to snap into the stroller so it wasn't a complete waste of lugging it with us. During our trip we didn't see the benefit of renting a car for our itinerary but if you do not feel comfortable not having your child not in a car seat that seems to be the only way, unless you don't leave the area you are staying in and walk everywhere. Of course I didn't want her to not be in her car seat but when traveling the world these are some of the things you face.
We got settled in and headed to Boca Grande, the South Beach of Colombia, for dinner. We took a cab there and I brought along our double stroller, Contours Option. We asked the cab driver to drop us to a good restaurant and he did, but unfortunately writing down the name slipped my mind, sorry! We walked around after dinner and I wish I had put Kennedy in the carrier and pushed Jordyn in her umbrella stroller. The sidewalks are uneven and narrow and it was difficult to navigate with the double stroller.
When deciding where to stay in Cartagena we were contemplating between Boca Grande and the Walled City, and let's just say I was very happy we chose the later. Boca Grande was okay, just not my scene for this trip. There are tons of casinos but to me there didn't seem to be much else other than night life.
Day Two- Totumo Volcano Tour
Thursday morning we were booked for the Totumo Volcano Tour through This Is Cartagena Tours. The tour was $30USD per person and included lunch, grilled chicken and coco rice or fried fish and coco rice. We took Jordyn on the tour, they didn't charge me for her, and my mom stayed in Cartagena with Kennedy as she wasn't interested in going in the Volcano. The tour picked us up from our Airbnb and made a few other pickups before we headed to Totumo, about a 2hr drive. When you arrive there is a covered room with lockers to put your belongings. Our group was assigned a photographer- you give him your phone or camera and he takes about 50 pictures of you before, during, and after your descent down the volcano. With so many people I was unsure he would use the correct camera on each group but he did a great job.
You leave your shoes at the bottom of the volcano and walk up the wooden stairs barefoot. When you get to the top you see how steep the climb down is and I started thinking to myself this might not be such a great idea because I am terrified of heights. There also isn't much space up there and no security railings to prevent you from falling off the side so having Jordyn with us caused me a little anxiety making sure she was safe, we held her in our arms the entire time we waited to climb down. There was no way I would of felt comfortable holding her in my arms to climb down so my dad did. There was another lady with a toddler and she was alone and didn't feel comfortable either but one of the workers carried him down for her, so they are definitely helpful.
When you get down there you are given a 5min massage, I read about this and had decided before I didn't want one, but they don't really give you an option. They say you can't sink and I have to say you do just seem to automatically float in the mud. I held my head up as to not get my hair filled with mud and Jordyn laid/sat on top of me and I still didn't sink. When you are done with your massage they push you off to the side until it's your turn to climb up. The climb up is much scarier than the climb down as this ladder is filled with mud from everyone who has climbed before you. They do there best to get as much mud off your feet and hands before you go up but it would be impossible to get you squeaky clean. My dad was a pro getting Jordyn up but I still had those uncontrollable nervous mom thoughts.
After you get down from the Volcano you walk over to a lake area where there are women to wash you off. I hope you aren't shy because they dig ALL in your swimsuit to get every bit of dirt out. I definitely know some people saw my boobs, I'm still shamefully wondering if one of them was my dad....
When you go back to get your belongings and dry off the staff that gave you the massage and cleaned you up come up for their payment. Bring small bills and coins because they DO NOT give change. The tour company provided watermelon for a snack and then we were off to lunch at the beach.
In hindsight my mom could of came along and just not went in the Volcano, there was actually a lady on our tour who did just that. When I inquired about the tour they said it would be really hot and no place for her to sit while we were at the Volcano but that proved to be untrue as there is the covered area where the lockers and snack shop were. You live and you learn!
Day Three- Walled City, Getsemani, and Dinner at Carmen
Back in Cartagena we took this day to explore the walled city, with no real agenda besides dinner reservations, we just walked around. This was a great day for the double stroller as we didn't plan on going back to the Airbnb for Jordyn's nap. All the colorful houses and buildings are just so beautiful and eye captivating and we enjoyed just seeing those. There are many squared in the walled city with people performing traditional dances and other acts and we caught a few. We looked through shops, checked out the viewpoints overlooking the ocean, and did the tour at the Emerald Tour at JC Emeralds. They didn't try to pressure us into buying anything at all which I really liked. As the tour was ending Kennedy began to fuss because she was hungry. It was so hot and humid outside and before I could even ask the sales lady offered me to sit at a chair near the front door to nurse her so we could be comfortable in the AC, thank you to her!!
We headed to Carmen for dinner, supposedly one of the best restaurants in Cartagena. When I made the reservation online, they give you the option of requesting an area of the restaurant, of course I requested the roof as the sunset view is apparently amazing. I am so glad I did, the roof is very small and can only seat about 6-8 people so we had it all to ourselves! This was great for the kids as I didn't have to worry about them disturbing anyone at such a fancy place. Jordyn was able to roam around as she pleased and we played music and she danced the night away. The sunset was everything they said it would be and more :-). I'm not really into fancy restaurants since I am a picky eater, the food was good but I still think it's a little overpriced but the atmosphere and trying something I usually wouldn't have made it worth it for me.
Day Four Playa Blanca
Prior to heading to Colombia I did research on the tours and read nothing but horror stories on the fast boats that do the island tours. From what I read I didn't think I would want to go that route if it was just me so I definitely wasn't going to make that decision with the kids in tow. I found a tour that drives straight to the beach through Mamalenna Tours but they became unresponsive after my initial inquiry. While exploring the Walled City the day before we wanted to go to the beach we booked our trip at one of the tour storefronts through Backpackers Cartagena. We chose to go on Monday to avoid the busy weekend that's filled with both tourists and locals. We picked the afternoon tour as we wouldn't have to wake up early and rush to have breakfast to make it out, we were very happy with this decision.
The tour picked us up from our Airbnb and it took about 1hr 15mins to get to the beach. We were in an air-conditioned van and it was the 5 of us and one other person. When we arrived at the beach our "tour guide" met us to walk us to their section of the beach and asked us what we wanted for lunch and what time we wanted to eat. They had a full bar, tables and chairs, lounge chairs, and hammocks (in the shade). They had restrooms right there that were clean and convenient. You could opt to stay overnight in their little tree house type accommodations if you wished. The tour was scheduled for 12-7pm but after 3hrs and no nap on the way there, Jordyn began to get a bit cranky. We asked our guide about going back with the earlier tour but the other person in our group was ready to go too so we all left. The water was crystal clear and warm and we had a great time!
Day Five- Head back to Fort Lauderdale
We had breakfast, walked around some more, had lunch and headed to the airport.
We really enjoyed our time in Colombia and definitely recommend it. If you have any questions or need more details on something mentioned here don't hesitate to shoot me an email!