Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mini Club Impressions, March 7-14

Just back from a fabulous stay at Club Med Punta Cana. Already wishing that everything at home was as close as the beach there and as beautiful... I would go back tomorrow if I could!!!

This post will have many child-centric comments for visitors with young children. (Read my Trip Impressions if you aren’t interested in kiddie stuff.)


We visited Punta Cana in March 2008 with our 15-month old, and really looked forward to returning this year now that she is just over two. In 2008, we did not use the organized childcare facilities provided by Club Med, as we signed up too late to get into the limited-space infant care group. This turned out to be a good thing, as our child was not yet in daycare at home, and would have had a difficult adjustment. Once there, we did reserve for the babysitting service each afternoon (see pricing for babysitting). The same babysitter joined us just prior to naptime, and who stayed with our child through her nap and took her around the grounds and to play at the Mini Club during the afternoon. The babysitters only speak Spanish, but we asked another G.O. to help translate specifics for us (care at 15 months is not terribly complicated after all). Our child seemed very happy with the babysitter, and other guests and G.O.s told us where they had seen her being strolled on the grounds.

We speak French (although our child does not really – this trip helped her pick some up), so Punta Cana is really not a trip to the Dominican in the true sense for us, but most of the G.O.s we met also spoke English (and often Spanish as well).

Please note that you do NOT need to speak French or Spanish to enjoy a stay at this resort. It helps if you remain alert to the name tag pins worn by each G.O. displaying country flags that correspond to the language that particular employee speaks, and of course it always helps if you make a small effort to say thank you or a greeting in Spanish or French.

This year we enrolled our now two-year old in the Petit Club program for two and three-year olds at the time we made our reservations. The Petit Club program has an additional fee, but the spaces are not really limited as they are with the infant program.

Petit Club Impressions

Background: Our two-year old is in daycare in the U.S. and is accustomed to being away from her parents and to playing in groups. Other very young children who are not in daycare or who have not yet started nursery school may find the initial separation from mom and dad difficult (it took our own child two weeks to fully settle into the daycare routine in the US). Some parents of these children left their children only part of the day, or did not send them every day. We sent our daughter to the program from Sunday through Friday, and she had an amazing time. She is still asking for some of the G.O.s now that we are home!!!

OK, now that the disclaimer is out the way -- the Petit Club is AWESOME!!!!!!!! The G.O.s are terrific. They are caring, tolerant, and enthusiastic, and they will do their very best to help your young one take advantage of his or her vacation. Some of the awesome Petit Club G.O.s we met in connection with the two-year olds include Diana, Virginie, Emmanuella, Sophie, Gerline, Lilli, Alina, Blanchard, Wilson, Fausto, and Alex. Some of the Baby Club G.O.s we met include Mirlande (who we had met during our 2008 trip), Louise, and Kate. I can’t say enough positive things about these folks who are really dedicated to making your child’s stay enjoyable.

Unlike regular daycare pre-school, where children do go outside, but more for "recess", young children in the Petit Club are able to spend a good deal of time in the fresh air and in different parts of the club grounds. Many of the Mini Club play areas are covered in a circus tent-like fashion to block the sun, and the enclosed grounds are fairly extensive. The Mini Club has a variety of pools so that even two-year olds can have a pool experience, and there is also a large covered and gated hut on the beach so super-mobile little ones can play in the sand in a secure manner and avoid the sun. (For older children, the Mini Club includes even better pools, covered small-scale tennis court, and basketball court. Full-size stuff for teens is available in other areas of the resort.) The main parts of the day that resemble standard cold weather climate daycare are snacks, lunch, and nap!

I scanned in the Mini Club programming brochure so you can get an idea of how days are planned by age.

The Petit Club G.O.s engaged parents by inviting parents to pick-up time events such as a Parent Cocktail/Pool Party, Baby Olympics, a Petit Club “Show” (featuring your child on-stage in costume), and an end-of-week all-Mini Club celebration that was a little like a large birthday party (with snacks instead of cake) featuring games, tie-dye, lots of music, and lots of fun. Parents are not obligated to attend any of these, but the events are by no means burdensome, and provide you the opportunity to see the kids in action with their caregivers and for you to get some great photos, too.

The Mini Club G.O.s are very good about applying sunscreen for young ones and making sure that kids wear hats when outside. Our child is just as pale as before we left (and she is the most fair in all our photos!).

The evening can be an added high point for your child if they can stay up. We are very structured at home, but on vacation we were “bad” parents and let our daughter stay up to see two shows that went well past her normal 7:30 bedtime (we figured she is on vacation, too). Parents can drop their children off with the Mini Club G.O.s to watch these shows or can stay to watch themselves. Our daughter was absolutely enthralled with the Pirates & Princess Show and the Magic Show, post-show dancing and crazy signs, and I think the last evening Mini Club Disco made her stay. We’re home now, and she went right back to her regular schedule without any issues, as there are no “shows” at home!

Some parents complain, quite understandably, that the evening meal is served too late (starting at 7PM) for very young ones. We usually took an extra boxed cereal from the buffet for a late-day snack, and you can always get (cows) milk or juice at the bars, or milk from the 24-hour-access Baby Bottle Room connected to the Mini Club.

We did try the Pajama Club (group babysitting in the evening - see pricing for the Pajama Club) one evening. This was a success for us, and I would try it again in the future. (The really young children go to sleep right away.)

Even though some kids (2-3 year olds) cry at drop-off because camp/daycare is new to them, when we saw the little ones on the grounds going for walks, singing songs, playing at the covered and enclosed beach hut, etc., they seemed engaged and happy!

Planning your family's stay at Club Med Punta Cana? More info here:

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