Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Paid Bloggers

In response to a recent New York Times article on paid bloggers, visitors to this site should be aware that I am not affiliated in any way with Club Med or any of the products that I have mentioned on occasion, nor have I received compensation for any comments posted here.

This site is intended as a reference to prospective visitors to Club Med Punta Cana, particularly families with young children. The information featured here is based primarily on my experience and observations as a regular paying guest at Club Med.


Kudos to all the moms who run their own commercial or quasi-commercial blogs, and especially to the ones who acknowledge their product affialition.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Know Yourself and Your Child(ren)

We may not all be the uber-worry free and well-maintained "mom" pictured with her child on the beach in the Club Med brochures, but we sure want to enjoy a great beach vacation with our whole family, and the child care model provided by Club Med at Punta Cana (as well as Ixtapa and Sandpiper) even allows moms of very small children to have a break, too! Many resorts have kids camps, but few have organized, systematic care for babies and toddlers.

Think carefully about you and your children, and your "goals" and expectations for vacation before you depart on this trip. Club Med Punta Cana provides a very good care setting for children, and the staff work very hard to care for and engage children of all ages. That said, parents should have realistic expectations - it would great if everyone adjust automatically and have a great time and parents could "be off duty" for a while themselves, but some kids either don't want to be left by parents (baby, toddler) or maybe just don't want to hang out with a group (older children).

Parent:
__Are you personally comfortable leaving your baby in group care or with a babysitter?
__Are you personally comfortable having your toddler in group care?
__Are you comfortable having your older children enroll in day camp?

Child/ren:
__Is your baby or toddler accustomed to being away from you at a stretch of time?
__Is your baby or toddler already in daycare at home?
__Does your child adjust well to new situations? (kids all ages)
__Does your child enjoy meeting new kids his/her age and trying new things?

My baby experience: Babysitter
When we first went in 2008, I was hopeful to enroll our 15-mo old in the Baby Club. However, Baby Club slots are quite limited, and our trip planning a bit last minute, so we did not have a slot. When we arrived, I saw that many in this age group seemed unhappy in spite of the many attentions of the GOs, and my husband and I realized that our child, who was not yet in daycare at home, probably would not have done well herself. In the end, we retained a resort babysitter for afternoons when she took naps and to stroll her around the grounds, feed her, and visit the Baby Club play area when she woke up. We arranged to have the same (Spanish-only speaking) sitter each day, and this worked very well - we had time to be "off duty", and our child could rest and have individual attention.

My toddler experience: Petit Club
This year, we enrolled our toddler in the Petit Club. At two, she is already in daycare in the US, and had already gone through the initial week-long "shock" transition (read: crying every day) of being left at daycare in the US. Once she got over it, she quickly warmed to her new teachers, classmates, and new activities. Before we left home and on the plane, we told her that she would go to school at the beach, and that she would have new teachers on our vacation. Generally, our child seems to be pretty out-going and jumps right into things, which turned out to be a good thing.

On Day One of drop-off at the Petit Club, many 2-3 year olds were crying or asking mom/dad not to go. The GOs told us that they could tell which little ones are already in daycare, as these kids went about their business checking out the toys and drawing activity; even I could see these kids already knew the drop-off routine, having "hardened" to it at home. Other children were very apprehensive about being left by their parents, and if this was their first time in a group care setting, I can certainly understand this. Some parents did not come back the next day, while other parents tried to leave their children again and hoped that they would adjust; in the end, I think this latter part depends on the child.

Drop-off transition is awful for parents trying to go to work, never mind on vacation, so I can understand why some parents chose not to try drop-off again. The GOs know what to expect and are very caring, but it doesn't really matter if you're in Punta Cana or Hometown, USA - transitioning toddlers will still cry!

Conclusion
Know yourself, and know your child. The child care/kid camp programming is really wonderful, but in spite of this your toddler, for example, may still not want to stay by him/herself, particularly if unaccustomed to being left with others. Don't be disappointed if your child/ren does not participate in the camps when you had thought they would. Be flexible to the situation and maintain an open mind - our daughter attended the Petit Club every day along with others, and she and her classmates seemed VERY happy (you can see the children on the grounds during the day), but if she had not enjoyed the experience, we were prepared to care for her exclusively ourselves and perhaps to have an occasional babysitter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Car Seats

According to the State Department's country profile for the Dominican Republic (dated June 22, 2009), there are no child car seat laws in the Dominican Republic - and hence Punta Cana. This does not mean that you should not bring a car seat on your trip, but it does mean that you may encounter a few more surprises in terms of some local driver experiences and habits if you do bring one.

Suggestions
1) Contact Club Med Punta Cana (or your resort, if you stumbled on this site and are going somewhere else) directly to ask what they normally recommend that parents do when traveling to Punta Cana, and if they can recommend a known transportation solution that *will* work with a car seat. Note that you may need to contact Club Med Punta Cana reception directly rather than calling sales/customer service in the US to find the answer to this very local question.

2) Find contact information for taxi companies prior to your trip (there are #s online, some even have websites), email them, and ask about using a car seat. Siutratural Tax Bavaro Punta Cana and Beron Taxi come up quickly in searches - note that I have *not* used these companies. Ask if their cars have LATCH. Confirm what make/model/year of vehicles their drivers usually use - if they don't address the LATCH question, the info about make/model/year may inform you more as to whether your car seat(s) will fit and if the car will have a LATCH system for familiar installation. You may pay more for a taxi if arranged this way (rather than getting one randomly on arrival at the airport - although the Siutratural rate to Club Med as "Hotel Club Med / Los Corales Punta Cana" listed on their site seemed fair, at $12, as we've paid $10 - but at least you'll be more informed and hopefully have a good outcome.

3) For random selection of a cab at the airport (there are plenty waiting), one parent could walk with the driver out to the parking area to check out the vehicle and see if the car seat would fit and are seat belts readily available, and then walk back quickly (it's not far) to get the parent/kid(s)/gear. No point in both parents and kid(s) going through hot parking lot with all the gear if you may not go with that driver/vehicle - you'll feel under more pressure to say "yes" to the driver if you've got everyone/thing assembled there.

4) Review your car seat instructions for non-LATCH installation to figure out how to install without using LATCH, in the event that the vehicle you get has seat belts but no LATCH system. In 2001, US law required car seats and most vehicle to begin featuring LATCH, but not all vehicles you'll encounter overseas were made in or made for export to the US. (If you can find your original instructions, try the manufacturer's web site.)

5) Bring your own car seat rather than relying on one provided (if you can find one) by a taxi or car rental company. If you don't want to lug your car seat on the plane and through the airport, you can check it and use the 1-lb CARES flight restraint system instead.

Additional things to consider
Type of vehicle you'll take from airport to village and back to airport
If you don't arrange for private transport ahead of time --

  • Tour-style bus/coach: You'd most likely take this type of bus (or coach) if you travel with a group, via air transport arranged by Club Med. I don't know how a car seat would work with this type of bus. Not to say that it wouldn't, but even in the States, car seats are not required in buses and suitable accomodations (such as provision of seat belts) are not required.

  • Taxi: Some taxis at the airport are not sedans - they are like a compact van. We took this type of taxis to/from the resort in both '08 and '09. In '08, I don't think the vehicle had seat belts readily accessible. In '09, it was a nicer vehicle that did have seat belts (so somewhat easier to install a car seat).

Type of car seat
Many infant car seats require a base, and parents are accustomed to installing the seat rear-facing. This type of installation may be more difficult in one of the compact van-type taxis (not sure about tour style bus). It's possible that some front-facing styles might work more easily (particularly booster seasts).

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

Please post and let others know your solution!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Complete Packing List

I'm posting my complete Punta Cana packing list for March 2009. This list is geared toward travel with a toddler, but many aspects will apply to children of other ages. The list covers most aspects of the trip, including plane travel, time at the resort, and time in the Mini Club. Please feel free to adapt this list to your own needs.
If you're in a rush, review Trip Essentials for a quick packing list of stuff you *must* bring (things that are more unique to this trip).
Please share your packing list/tips!

Packing List



Planning your family's trip to Club Med Punta Cana? More info here:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trip Essentials

What items do you *really* need to bring from home for your child? This is the quick list - I've also uploaded a complete packing list.

For All Kids:
__Bug spray/wipes (for evening use - see earlier post on this topic)
__Bathing suit

__Hat (bring two)
__Sandals kids can run safely in
__Shower shoes (shower tile floor is **very** slippery)
__Sunscreen (leave one at Petit/Mini Club with child's affairs)
__Thermometer

__OTC meds (Motrin, Tylenol, Benadryl), any RX meds

For Very Little Kids:
__Regular Diapers - bring more than you think you'll need
__Swim diapers - 2 per day

__Diaper disposal bags for room (no contained diaper trash can)
__Wipes (some for your room, separate container for Petit Club)
__Fold-up potty seat for use on plane, in room
__Formula, bottles, preferred feeding utensils, etc.

Optional But Good to Have:
__Bucket & shovel, water gun, etc.
__Extra bathing suit

__Hand sanitizer or wipes (for parent bag)
__Inflatable water toys (don't take much room, pump on site)
__Kid sunglasses
__Outfits change into for dinner (post play, beach, bath, etc.)

__White t-shirt for end-of-week Mini Club party, where kids can tie-dye a shirt

In theory, many of these items can be purchased at the resort. However, the resort store is really a boutique/gift shop, and these items are all sold at a premium, brands and sizes limited, and items can sell out.


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


What did you *absolutely* need and would bring next time?