Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dress Code, Daily Themes, and Activities, February 2010

Here are photos of the daily activities and dress code for the week we were there this year. I'm putting the dress code info directly below so you don't have to read the agenda for each day if that's all you're interested in!

Dress Code
Saturday: Jeans and white
Sunday: White and pink
Monday: Beige and white
Tuesday: Elegant blank
Wednesday: Casual elegant
Thursday: Blue and white (boys), red and white (girls)
Friday: Very elegant

Click on photos to launch/enlarge to see daily activities (type and time offered). Note that these activities are posted outside the two restaurants. Apologies for the funny image quality.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Baby Proofing Update

This year we visited with our more mobile child, and after reading two reviews where young children locked themselves in the bathroom, I wrote in a pre-trip post that I would try to pay more attention to the layout with respect to hazards. Note that I'm not actively endorsing brands or products here; any links are intended as examples of what I mean.

Overall, I didn't find our room to be problematic, although I was glad to have been alerted to the potential for bathroom lockouts.

Electrical outlets: Probably lower risk than at home. There are few outlets generally, and most of them are in use or obscured by furniture. Some of the outlets are at the same height as a table. (These comments do not apply to the Suites, just to Club/Club Family/Deluxe rooms.) Due to the limited number of outlets, if you plan to bring lots of things that require frequent recharging (i.e. more than two things), I would bring a power strip. The outlets work with North American devices.

Drapes: No cords. The drapes are likely to be hung two on a rail, with one that is more transparent for privacy only, and one that is a light blocker. They move back and forth with plastic "sticks" that are at parent height only.

In-Room Door Locks: Most in-room doors have "push button" locks. This includes doors leading to the bathroom, lavatory (which may be separate from the bathroom in some cases), closet/luggage "room", and doors separating parent and child room in Deluxe and Club Family rooms. I tested the locks and they really do work - i.e. a parent cannot unlock the door if you are on the outside and a child is on the inside.
Potential solutions:
1) Door knob covers
2) Door stops
3) Finger pinch guard (foam "u-shaped" things)
4) Throwing bath towel over the doors in question

I have a plastic door knob cover at home that obscures the push button lock but frankly I found it hard to undo to actually get over a door knob, so did not bring those. I did bring door stops and finger pinch guard foam things that are u-shaped, since I wasn't sure which would work best. I used the door stops on doors that we always wanted open, and the finger pinch foam things on the bathroom door. Both worked well, although the finger pinch product would be least accessible to a curious little one, and still allows you to close the door almost all the way. I wasn't familiar with the finger pinch guard product prior to this trip, but will keep both it and the door stops on hand for future hotel stays. I think the bath towel solution would have also worked fine - you just have to remember to hang some over the top of all doors (such as lavatory, bathroom, luggage/closet room) - potentially 3 in a Club room or Club Family room, and more in a Deluxe - and to proactively replace them if they are removed by housekeeping. (You might also need to request more towels in order to successfully carry out this latter approach!)

Porch Door Lock(s): This year our room had two porch doors, one through the parents' room and one through the child's room. I had read about issues with children who figured out how to open the door on their own (it wouldn't be too hard) and who ventured out onto the porch. These door handles are lever style, and while I did look into safety items for lever style handles, few had good reviews (one even involved dismantling the door hardware?!), so I decided to skip it. When we got there, I explained firmly to our child that she was not to open the door by herself. We also positioned our balcony table against the porch door that was more accessible to our child to provide a limited physical deterrent in the event that she tried to open the door. Fortunately, we had no issues here, but it's something to be aware of.

Closets: We had a lot of closet space, but were careful to keep the closets closed when not in use, mainly to prevent curious hands from getting pinched. The doors were fairly large and were not super easy for me to open when both were shut, so I was not worried about a little one opening them.

Corners: There will be at least one in-room table with high corners, and two bedside tables with lower corners. In addition, the rectangular wooden bed frames also have corners when they are not obscured by bedding.

Shower: The shower floor did not seem as wildly slippery as in 2008, when we had a room that was recently redone. We all still used shower slippers as a precaution.

Bathroom sinks: These sinks are fairly high if you have a toddler who can wash his hands independently at home. I requested a stool ahead of time but did not get one. The counter supporting the sinks is about 32" off the ground. The sinks themselves start about four inches into the counter, so it's a good ways to lean in for a little one. We wound up using the stool that went with the desk for teeth brushing, but that required 100% parental support and supervision, as it was really quite high and unsafe if alone (I just couldn't hold my kid up the whole time for teeth brushing!).

Toilet: May be located in same room with sinks/shower or may be in a separate closet size lavatory. I brought a small inexpensive plastic stool along (and left it behind) that was great for the potty but only barely high enough for hand washing and did not provide enough height for teeth brushing. Note that potty seats (the type that fit over the adult seat) are not provided by Club Med, but you can find folding travel potty seats pretty easily if you think you need this type of thing.

Appliances: TV(s) are wall-mounted, so unlikely to be an issue. Each room should have a mini bar type fridge that will be toddler height, and also a coffee maker on the writing desk. The parent's room should also have a clock radio that includes an iPod dock.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Baby Bottle Room

AKA Baby Feeding Room or Biberonnerie,this 24-hour code access room is part of the Mini Club complex, located on the Baby Club Med side. Parents should be given the code upon arrival/check-in, but if not, just ask.

The room is designed something like a small basic kitchen minus stove, and has lots of cabinets, a sink, paper towels, dish soap, dish drying racks (for bottles, etc.), bottle sterilizer, refrigerator, drinking water dispenser, and (I think) microwave. It's a good place to come to clean bottles and sippy cups with real dishwashing soap, as opposed to trying to clean in your hotel room with shower gel or shampoo!

In 2008: The fridge contained several types of UHT milk (whole, and others, and also soy milk), as well as small yogurts, and individually wrapped servings of hydroxide/Oreo type cookies (in fridge so cookie filling does not melt in heat, perhaps). The cabinets also contained lots of boxed dry cereals.

In 2009: The room was more sparsely stocked - the fridge had milk, but only one type, and no cookies or yogurt. There were only a few cereals (in varieties I suspect most kids would not like), and these were quickly gone.

In 2010: The village seemed to have a number of families with young children, but the baby bottle room seemed quite well-stocked - several varieties of milk (including soy) and yogurt in the fridge, some powdered baby formula, and a selection of jarred baby food and individual boxed cereals in the cupboards.

Bottom Line: This is a very good place to come for milk when restaurants and bars are not open (or if you are not in close proximity to those), and to wash your child's cups/bottles, etc. with real soap in a non-bathroom environment. You might also be able to find snacks here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Babyproofing Your Room

Now that we're going back to Club Med Punta Cana and our child is slightly older and able to reach more things, like door locks, I'm thinking more about room safety. Note that I don't think the rooms are significantly more "risky" than any other hotel room - they seem fairly typical to me in that regard.

Update: See additional post-trip babyproofing comments as well.

Deliciousbaby has some great tips on babyproofing your hotel room without packing the entire safety department of a baby products store. We'll definitely be bringing duct tape!

Club Family and Deluxe Room Info
We haven't tried the new family suites so not sure what issues these room may pose for curious little ones. The following relates to the Club Family and Deluxe Rooms, and is drawn from memory. I'll update this post after our next trip.

Layout: Room layout includes a lavatory that is in a separate room from the sinks and shower/tub. There is also a large luggage room. Room will most likely include a porch, and door leading to it, covered by long drapes. Several tables with pointy corners.

Locks: Two guests recently reported on Tripadvisor that their kids locked themselves in the bathroom (read more here and here), so while we will also just be vigilant and explain about the locks, we are also bringing duct tape (as recommended in the Deliciousbaby post). Bathroom door locks weren't a risk on our previous trips as we were still in the diaper stage and our child wasn't tall enough to reach the door knobs and turn them, but I can see this might pose an issue for this trip. The door knobs for the luggage/closet room, lavatory, and bathroom are all round with buttons that depress in; I've looked at various door knob covers (and own one type that I'm not happy with) so I'm bringing door stops and duct tape. The door to the porch is lever style. It does lock, but I'm pretty sure it could be undone. Some parents have complained about their small kids being able to open this lever door and get out on the porch.
Photo of door knobs - lavatory door knob to the right

Outlets: The electrical outlets are US-standard size, so you can bring outlet covers from the States or use duct tape. My primary impression is that outlets were actually rather limited and less of a risk than at home; we may bring a powerstrip to help on that front (for camera, phone, laptop).

Corners: Plenty of corners. There are bedside tables, a table for the coffee maker, and, depending on your room, a writing desk.
Table with coffee maker:

Floor Surfaces: Floors are tile -- so hard, but cool. The shower floor is a different type of tile or "wood" that we all found quite slippery. We take extra precaution with our child in the shower, and everyone wears flip flops/shower shoes.

Club Family Bathroom (with baby tub that we requested):

Overall, the layout for the Club Family room was simpler - the Deluxe room was more spacious, but had two separate bedrooms and many doors (including two doors that separated the master bedroom from the extra bedroom), all of which locked.

This post is not intended to make you panic - the rooms are no better or worse than most hotel rooms, but I'll try to take some pictures and post them for folks who have very active kids.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Feeding Your Kids

The following posts cover some of the convenient features of Club Med Punta Cana (Baby Bottle Room, Baby Corner) and logistics related to feeding your kids (Buffet with Baby, Food in Between Meals) during your stay.

Babies and Toddlers

Kids All Ages

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keeping Kids Happy: Food Between Meals

If you child participates in the Baby Club, Petit Club, or Mini Club, you will take them to breakfast, and then they will have AM/PM snacks, and lunch as part of their day program. Older children who do the Pyjama Club can have dinner with their GOs, too. However, regardless of age, dinner does not start until fairly late by US standards, and certainly late by little kid standards, particularly when those kids have had a full day outside and not vegetating in front of a TV, etc. We found that we needed to provide a beverage and snack between kids' programs pick-up and dinner time for our 15 month and (later) 2 yr old, and I've read other parents' comments that older kids are hungry before dinner, too. If your child does not participate in any programs, you'll have them for an "AM" snack, afternoon snack, and the pre-dinner witching hour when everyone seems to have low blood sugar. So what to do?

Tips to Keep Kids' Hunger at Bay Between Meals:

(Note that these are not in a particular order - select an approach that fits your needs/style.)

__Bring wrapped snacks from home (such as snack bars, or large resealable bag of favorite dry snack/cereal and small bags to dispense into)
__Take 'contained' (wrapped) snacks from the breakfast buffet that will not attract bugs in your bag or room, such as bananas and boxed cereals
__Go to the all-day Celeste beach-side cafe and order something simple, like a quesedilla (note that the limited cafe menu is not particularly geared toward children - no 'kiddie meals' but there are a few things on it that children will most likely eat)

__Ask the bartender for juice or milk for bottle/sippy. In 2009, the bartender actually went back behind the bar and dug up an apple juice drink box!
__Check out the Baby Bottle Room - you should be able to get milk here (bring your own cup/bottle), and possibly snacks (but don't count on snacks)

After everyone was cleaned up and ready for the evening after a day playing or at the beach, we usually went to the main bar and hung out until dinner. We got our daughter juice or milk from the bar for her bottle or sippy, and gave her some boxed cereal to munch on while she hung out with us. Since she was younger, we just didn't want to get her set up to eat at the Celeste cafe, and go through the motions of a meal, only to drag her off to yet *another* sit down meal when the restaurants opened.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mealtime: Buffet with Baby

We really enjoyed the food during our stays!! There are many comments on Club Med food on other sites, so I won't replicate them. This post is more about logistics.

Eating buffet with a very small child means that most likely one parent stays and supervises while the other parent gets food. If you are alone, and find a GO present in the Baby Corner, ask him/her to watch your child while you navigate the buffet. (This isn't something that I would normally do in a restaurant at home, of course, but I would have no problem doing it provided that the GO was 'on duty' in the Baby Corner and the child wouldn't flip out if you step away to the buffet for 3 minutes.)

Milk: The milk provided at Punta Cana in the Baby Corner and in the Baby Bottle Room (Biberonnerie) is UHT. This type of milk is common in Europe, and in the US is becoming more common for drink box milk (usually flavored), as it does not require refrigeration until opened. Different types of UHT milk (whole, reduced fat, etc.) may be available. In 2008, I noticed more types of milk, and even soy milk, whereas in 2009, I found mostly whole milk, although the buffet cheese sections did have some reduced fat milk.

Food: The buffets are huge and you should always be able to find something that you children will eat, regardless of their age. Bland, familiar staples such as pasta, bread (many delicious kinds), rice, yogurt, and bananas are available every day, and pizza and "kid friendly" chicken are also 'regulars.' Of course, if your children are more venturesome, there's a very **wide** range of things to choose from at each meal that you all will enjoy.

Comment on Samana: Since Samana was renovated in 2008, the table surfaces on the main floor (as opposed to Baby Corner - don't recall what those are) are a kind of marble-type material. This probably isn't the best kind of tabletop for very small kids who still want to bang silverware, plates, etc. -- very loud, and also somewhat slippery if there is any liquid at all on the table. So I would definitely consider the Baby Corner if your child is at a specific stage when eating in Samana. The tables at Hispaniola are a more kid-friendly surface. Post-renovation, Hispaniola is also more low-key, while Samana is slightly more formal.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mealtime at Baby Corner

Baby Corner is a section in each of the two restaurants, Hispaniola and Samana, for GMs (guests) with young children. In addition to regular table seating, a number of high chairs are readily available, and parents have access right there to a small refrigerator filled with a variety of jarred baby foods and milk; a blender; a microwave; a bottle warmer; and plastic bowls and plates, as well as standard utensils and lots of napkins. Note that GMs with children are by no means required to sit in Baby Corner; rather, the Baby Corner sections are provided as a convenience for families, and also as a courtesy to other diners if your little one is really fussy. High chairs are boosters are also available for other parts of the restaurants if you choose not to sit in the Baby Corner section.

A GO is often present in the Baby Corner - he/she can answer questions you may have about the facilities, generally assist or find things you need, and they can help watch and/or distract your child if necessary. (Rose was a wonderful Baby Corner 'animateur' in '08 -- it's great when someone else can bring out a smile in your child!)

We ate some meals in the Baby Corner in the Samana restaurant when our child was 15 months. We found it a relaxing option, and would definitely recommend, particularly if you know your child is tired, or going through a messy eating stage.

Assuming our 15 month old was up to it, we did try to eat at least one meal a day in the main parts of Hispaniola - she enjoyed meeting other GMs as well, and frankly did a better job eating when others were present. Amazingly, other GMs actually did come and sit with us even though we had a small child!

Things you may want to bring if your child is still in the high chair stage:
__Disposable bibs or a plastic/rubber bib that rinses easily (avoid work on vacation washing bibs - and you won't want a regular bib with food particles on it in your room, as it may attract bugs)
__Child-size utensils for baby/toddler (did not find these in '08 or '09)
__1-2 small, child-size plastic bowls (the plastic bowls provided are more like adult size cereal bowls)
__Disinfectant wipes for high chairs (the high chairs were often sticky)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

GOs: Language & Badges

The staff, or G.O.s, at Punta Cana - as with most G.O.s at other Club Meds - are multilingual: at Punta Cana, the GOs predominantly speak English, French, Spanish, and even some Portuguese and Italian (and possibly other languages). GMs (Club Med guests) who only speak one language should not feel intimidated. GOs are accustomed to interacting with guests from all over the world. For example, it's possible to take a completely bilingual windsurfing lesson, where the instructor casually moves between two languages while keeping everyone engaged.

How can you tell who speaks which languages? Look at the GO's name badge/nametag. Each badge features a name, as well as the flags of the countries for the languages that that GO speaks. Here's an example, courtesy of Tito, who livens up the main bar. Be sure to say hi if you see him!

From this badge, you can tell that Tito speaks French, Spanish, and English. The GOs you'll meet at the Mini Club, Petit Club, and Baby Club will all have badges like this, so keep your eyes open when you introduce yourself at drop-off. If you have questions, it's also helpful to look at the badge to gauge if you have the right audience for your concern.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Travel with Kids

Worried about just getting to Punta Cana with your kids? The good thing is that, once you get there, the ground transfer from the airport is fast - only 10 minutes on local roads.

Don't forget to review
TSA guidelines for travel prior to your departure to be up to date on any changes in procedures or restrictions that you should be aware of in relation to your family flight planning (things can change quite quickly, as we all know). TSA also maintains a blog, which sometimes features useful information if you are planning an upcoming trip.

To cope with flying with children, I highly recommend the following Delicious Baby posts on
- Flying with babies, toddlers, and kids
- 10 tips for keeping a child busy on a plane
- Travel toys (recommendations by age range)

Thanks, Debbie!