Moms and dads are always pondering about what to pack for a long term stay in Granada. It’s hard to know what can be easily picked up when you arrive and what really requires some preplanning to have ready to go in the suitcase.
Most everything can be purchased in Nicaragua in some form or another. However, it is often not at the price you wanted to pay or the quality that you hoped to find. Shopping is also not the enjoyable experience that it is at home and there is no online retail to be had in Nicaragua.
For those reasons, I highly recommend doing any necessary shopping before you leave home and pay the extra luggage costs for additional baggage. Those fees will seem cheap in comparison to the time and money you will fork out if you wait to find it when you arrive to Nicaragua.
Here is my list of helpful items to purchase before you leave home:
No matter how many days you are staying in Nicaragua, please bring some favorite familiar toys for your kids. The same toys they like back home, they will like here, if not more.
When in doubt and it could reasonably go along with you, bring it. Pack your trading cards games, bags of Legos, dolls and action figures, water toys, and anything else that you feel would help them relax and engage playing on their own or with other kids they meet.
Daily clothes, shoes and school uniforms
Stock up on your kid’s daily wear before you leave. Clothes wear out quickly in Nicaragua and are not easily replaced. There are few quality clothing retailers in Managua and you will pay much more for these items than you will back home.
In Granada, children can wear shorts and skirts all year round and not be cold. But do pack a couple of warm items for trips into northern Nicaragua or for air-conditioned environments (mainly in Managua).
Buy your school uniforms in your home country. Yes, you could have uniforms made in Nicaragua but the fabrics are synthetic and the cuts are uncomfortable and often unflattering. Most schools in Nicaragua, private and public wear white shirts with navy pants, skirts or shorts and dark shoes.
On a side note, don’t forget to bring a thermal lunch box with accompanying Tupperware inside and water bottle for school. Most schools have lunch programs but you can never guarantee if your child is going to like the kind of food prepared. I send Aiden’s lunch packed everyday in a Roots insulated lunch box with a Bobble water bottle with built-in filter (Granada water is good and safe but tastes better filtered) or a Hydro insulated stainless steal bottle which keeps fluids colder.
With Granada weather you will be thankful for the thermal packaging to keep food and drinks at attractive temperatures at snack and lunch time (these items double down in usage for day’s outing on a volcano, at the beach or at Laguna de Apoyo).
Nicaragua widely offers affordable medicine that is easy to obtain without a doctor’s prescription. However, we struggle to find common over the counter medicines in liquid form that are palatable to my son who doesn’t yet take pills. Talk about bitter medicine! If you have a child that doesn’t swallow pills, you should stock up on ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and Benadryl in liquid form before you go.
Right before we moved to Nicaragua, I picked up a Kindle on a whim to see if it could keep us connected with a steady supply of books, and thank goodness I did.
We have relied heavily on our Kindle Paperwhite for new reading material. Aiden quickly outgrew our own library of books and the Kindles kept us right on track with his reading and mine. Before we left home, we connected the Kindles with our local library and continue to use that system to check out books for free.
Digital readers are also fantastic in a black out which happen in Granada about once or twice a month. When the lights and internet access go out at night, kids are relieved to have digital readers that provide light and entertainment to manage any stress from the darkness and boredom.
The right-sized life vest for your child
We brought a life vest to Nicaragua for Aiden that we have used over and over again here and in other countries. It fits him perfectly and we know that it is in good condition.
Having the right life jacket is particularly important if your kids are very young or small and you are not sure about size, quality, or condition of the jackets you can borrow.
Just the other day we went kayaking at Laguna de Apoyo during Semana Santa and all the life jackets had been taken, so it was great to have his own on hand.
While taking probiotics is always a good idea, having probiotics on hand on Nicaragua is a great idea. Unfortunately, at some point in your stay, it is likely that your child will feel that his or her digestive system is either out of balance or is just plain sick. If they are carrying around a parasite in your gut, they should take antibiotics to get rid of them.
However, after a round of antibiotics they will need probiotics to replace intestinal flora to digest food well. Probiotics at a Nicaraguan pharmacy are infinitely more expensive and inferior to brands in your home country. In addition, you will need probiotics that are made for children which carry different strains of flora at altered ratios than your adult variety.
Order a good probiotic bottle for each child in your family at home and have them ready to go. Even better, start giving them to your child now to boost their defenses by lining their gut with the good stuff.
If you are staying very long in Nicaragua and have kids that are still in diapers consider bringing cloth diapers for your child.
Diapers are more expensive here and greatly add to the waste of local landfills. Your home rental will have a washing machine and the Nicaragua sun will quickly dry any cloth diaper in a few hours.
Using a cloth diaper even just once a week adds up to 52 disposable diapers less a year!
Sunscreen, insect repellent, and anti-itch creams
Banana Boat sunscreen is available in Nicaragua but is extremely expensive at $12 a tube! Load up on your favorite sunblock from home and pack them well in Ziploc bags for the flight over. (I love Trader Joe’s spray-on sunscreen 50+ SPF; it seriously works where others seem to fail me at Laguna de Apoyo! ($6 for 6 oz).
‘Off’ insect repellent is also available at the supermarket but if you want a more natural product, be sure to pack it before you leave. Ditto on any anti-itch creams that help your kids deal with nagging mosquito bites. (Coconut oil works great on bug bites and as a second layer of sunscreen, which you can find at Pure Gym or the Garden Café in Granada).
What not to bring
Don’t worry about bringing school or art supplies. These items are readily available everywhere and it is fun to shop at Gonper in Granada for new supplies with your kids.
Heavy gear like a bike is also not needed, unfortunately! You will find few places where you feel that it is safe for your children to ride apart from the Malecon in front of Lake Cocibolca. There are places to rent bikes from several locations on Calle La Calzada, so if you feel like your family is missing a bike ride you can always pick up some bikes fairly cheaply for the day.