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Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands In Switzerland the kids have 2 weeks vacation in February. The last few years we always traveled to Miami and enjoyed it very much. After going there quite a few times, it got quite boring. We have done all the attractions more than once and I wanted to try something new. I wanted a place with kosher food, warm weather and stuff to do with the kids. I checked a few options and decided, let's try panama

I looked for some cheap tickets from Europe and found a good rate from zrh via cdg with air France. When I travel with the kids, I fly economy (us airways days are over, I used them through trackitback to fly with kids business to Hawaii and Asia) but always pay the extra money for first row seats. I do need a little extra space and this makes the flight manageable, even in economy. Air France had a good rate in premium economy, that wasn't much more after buying premium seats in economy, so I booked that.

Advantages of air france:
When traveling with kids (we habe 6 boys age 2-12) I make sure that the travel is as easy possible, so that my dear wife will want to come along on these trips in the future. Air France only left at 10:40, so this made the stress in the morning easier. The other airlines that fly from Europe (lh, klm, ob) would have been much earlier. Also af premium economy gives premium access to premium economy, so business class check in, no wait by security. On the way back, they had a late 21:10 departure from pty, so the kids would sleep easy

So I had 10 days in panama, sun-wed and had to arrange a program for that time. My plan was to stay the first week in panama city and do all the activities and spend the second week at the beach relaxing somewhere. I checked a few hotels and the sortis had the best deal: 1 bedroom suite (separate living room, small kitchen and 2 bathrooms) for 240 dollars a night. That included 60 dollars spending money at the hotel daily. I decided to book 2 of these suites, that would be perfect for us. I kept on checking on the rate until departure and it lowered to 165 dollars a night. I booked it through (every 10 night free) and some cashback, so I got the rate down to 145 usd a night. What a amazing rate for 90 m2 suite in a 5 star hotel. Beats crazy prices in miami. The hotel also had a kosher sushi restaurant in the lobby, so it was a no brainer. The only minus, it's a 25min walk from the Jewish area and is not in the eiruv (more on that later)

As I have older boys I wanted to spend the second week somewhere at the beach, but not have bumper to bumper traffic at the pool. The easiest option would have been the le meridien outside Panama city, that is on the beach. I didn't consider it, as the beach didn't seem to get a good review and the znius aspect at the pool wasn't to good.
I looked at quite a few villas along the coast, that had nice pools and beach access, but couldn't decide which one and kept on pushing it off. By the time I wanted to book one, all were taken. So I went back to a crazy idea I had: San blas islands. If you read about San blas, you will see its 100s of small islands along the coast of Panama that look stunning. White sand, secluded beaches, amazing water… basically a second Maldives.
The only problem, you can't find any decent accommodation and with 6 kids I couldn't sleep in a hut on the beach without electricity. This left us with one option: chartering a boat. Sounds crazy with 6 kids, but looking at these amazing pictures, I really wanted to make it happen. I reached out to a few companies that offer it and found the perfect boat. A beautiful Catamaran with 4 bedrooms. It was quite expensive (about 1200 a night) but it had a crew of 3 and gave us enough room comfortably for our family. I decided to book it for 2 nights and spend the last night before our flight back in panama city. Normally these charters come with food, I got a 10% discount, telling them I will bring my own food. I also arranged check in and check out at 15:00 afternoon and not at 9 in the morning. This gave us enough time to shop Sunday morning for food and make the drive to San Blas without getting up early.
The only way to get to San Blas, take a 4x4 for about 2 hour drive from Panama city. I contacted a few companies that offered transportation and all only had 7 seaters. They offered to squeeze us in, but I didn't want to be stuck for 2 hours on 6 seats (driver 1 seat) only other option was to take 2 suv or rent my own car. I did have to go shopping that morning and not being depended on a transport company seemed like the better deal. I checked prices and avis had a luxury 7 seater suv for 230 usd for 3 days incl insurance, so I went for that. Pick up was a 5 min drive from the hotel

Flights booked. Accommodations booked.

 Just needed to arrange the tours for the first week. Landing Sunday at 7pm meant the kids would be very tired and I didn't want to stress the first day, so I left Monday empty to explore on our own pace. Friday erev shabbes, I wanted a little time to relax and get us food for shabbes, so this left tue,wed,thu to explore. After reading the previous trip reports on Ddf, I decided to book with Soray from therealpanamatours. Let me just say this in advance, she was amazing! I contacted her through whatsapp and told her the 3 tours I wanted to do
-embera village tour
-st Anton valley day trip
-Panama canal and lake gatun

We arranged these three tours for tue-thu. She was so easy to deal with and communication was top. I also booked her to pick us up from airport with a mini bus for 45 usd

All planning done….

Next: actual trip

February 18, 2018, 02:01:54 AM