We often talk to families who are surprised that other than the bar tab the cost for Mom & Dad plus a 16, 13, 11 and 9 year old to travel will most likely be about the same as three adult couples.
Airfare, Transfers & Rental Cars
On airplanes anyone older than one year may require a seat assignment and usually pays the full adult fare.
The same applies for ground transportation in Costa Rica. Children take up a seat and most transfers, private or shared, are based on the price per seat so age doesn’t matter.
When renting a car you’ll need a seat with a seat belt for each passenger regardless of age so count all kids as adults when budgeting. In fact children under five years of age may have higher costs for transportation than adults. Typically there is an extra charge of $5-10 per day per child seat added to the cost of a rental car.
If you bring your own car seats you may need to pay for an upgrade to get a vehicle with the appropriate anchor points since not all budget models are equipped (check with your agency in advance).
Kid’s Discounts at Hotels and Lodges
In Costa Rica many hotels and lodges are free for up to two children ten years or younger when they are traveling with and occupying the same room as two adults.
Many accommodations in Costa Rica have family rooms which cost between 25% to 50% more but give you more space and sometimes separate bedrooms or bunk beds in an alcove around a corner. You’ll all share a bathroom, but at least you won’t be tripping over each other as often and you can keep an eye on young kids.
Activities & Adventures With Children
Generally if kids are old enough to participate (minimum ages for most active adventures are between 10 and 13) in things like rappelling, zip-lines, or rafting they pay the full adult price.
Some of the less demanding tours like nature cruises, coffee tours or wildlife watching walks may have discounts of 25% or more for children ten and under. National Parks and wildlife refuges typically offer discounts off of their entrance fees of about 50% for children and 25% for students with school ids.
Calculating the Budget
Teenagers Are Adults for Travel Budget Purposes
Although a few small discounts will be available for older kids, a realistic budget will count teenagers as adults for everything except alcoholic beverage consumption.
Children Ten and Under
As a rule of thumb budget about half to two thirds of the cost per adult for each child ten and under. Of course the cost goes down the more kids you stack in each room or bed and goes up if you have an adventurous nine year old who wants to ride the canopy zip-line five times or refuses to order off of the kids menu.
As mentioned previously, eleven and twelve year olds are in a gray area sometimes paying child prices and other times full price.