My nine-year-old daughter Rosa loves a countdown chart. Twenty-five days until Christmas, 14 days to her birthday, a month to gymnastics camp… you get the picture. But her countdown to Costa Rica smashed all her records: 100 days to cross out until the most thrilling adventure of her life!
I think we all love to have some travel planned. It’s a marker in the calendar, and the anticipation of incredible experiences to come is very much part of travel’s allure.
We had done our homework so we knew that Costa Rica was a natural paradise: lush, green with the promise of turtles, three-toed sloths and exotic bird life.
Rosa and Jack (aged 11) absolutely love animals and the thought that he was going to spend his 12th birthday at Monteverde National Park, high in the cloud forest, was beyond exciting.
Would this trip create budding zoologists? What impact would Costa Rica have on their sponge-like characters? The promise of exposure to so many new experiences was, for us as parents, the main reason we booked an Intrepid family trip to Costa Rica.
The educational value of our trip to Costa Rica was everything I had hoped for. You ask my kids their highlights of the trip and they’ll recount the stormy night on the Caribbean beaches of Tortuguero where we saw green turtles laying their eggs.
They will mention the thrilling jungle river boat rides, cheeky, breakfast-stealing monkeys, white-water rafting, zip lining 1,000m through the canopy at Monteverde, swimming in the warm clear sea at Manuel Antonio National Park… Every day a new and wonderful experience unfolded. It was all so very different to life at home in England.
But by the end of the trip, there was a different reason why I became convinced this was the best holiday decision I had made in my life. The most surprising and enduring highlight was the incredible friendships that developed between the eight children.
Aged six to 13, they bonded on the first day, pronounced themselves best friends and bagged girls’ and boys’ areas on the bus for the journeys to come.
On day two, the girls were walking hand in hand through the sandy ‘streets’ of Tortuguero while the boys were vying for the day’s funniest photo! Us adults? Well, we bonded over a few beers at the pool bar and congratulated ourselves at our choice of holiday.
The friendships have turned out to be lasting. We’ve already met up twice with two of the families who live in the UK. The girls bought pretty flower print dresses in Costa Rica, which they wore again when they met up back home.
But there is a real ‘problem’ with such an incredible trip: the kids want to do the same trip, with the same families, every year! I can see another record-breaking countdown chart on its way!