Escaping the dreary gray skies of a North American winter to the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean is the tropical dream. Along with our 4-year-old daughter, my husband and I realized that it was time to turn this dream into a reality. We started planning our family vacation to Punta Cana the first night our Ohio town experienced freezing temperatures.
But with so many destinations to choose from—each with different cultures, influences, landscapes, and experiences—planning for the trip quickly felt overwhelming.
Family photo on vacation
After the past year, we were due for a splurge on an all-inclusive, family-friendly resort in the Dominican Republic, and Punta Cana was the place to go. We chose to work with a AAA Travel Advisor, Donna Smith, to find our ideal resort. Whether you wish to visit the Caribbean on a budget or enjoy a more luxurious retreat, a Travel Advisor can assist in booking the perfect accommodations, transfers, and flights.
Planning an international trip with a child can leave one with more questions than answers. Donna guided us every step of the way, ensuring that our family was confident, comfortable, and prepared. She handled every detail, including ensuring that our passports were valid and in-date, discussing travel protocols, and selecting seats together for the whole family on our flights.
We had additional peace of mind by obtaining travel insurance, again through Donna, since we were planning on travel during a pandemic. Of note, I recommend reading all travel documents thoroughly and keeping them all together so that you can quickly reference them during your trip, if needed.
Cheers with father and daughter
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IF YOU’RE TRAVELING NOW
Recognize that travel policies can and have changed overnight. As such, keep a steady and close eye on the policies of the countries you’re planning to visit and review Travel Advisories from the State Department for the most up-to-date and complete information. There were no requirements other than a valid passport to enter the Dominican Republic. However, a negative test, obtained no more than one day before travel back home, was required for all travelers returning to the United States.
While traveling, a best practice is to complete required forms before traveling, such as e-ticket immigration forms for each traveler and required health surveys. Fortunately, as of our travel date, all of these forms are available online and can be completed electronically. Completing forms and requirements in advance will reduce unnecessary frustration and anxiety during your trip, and ensure a smooth experience at your destination.
If you are like me, you'll be grateful that your transfers were pre-booked and ready for you at your arrival. Booking transfers in advance will ensure you have a dedicated, reliable, and efficient means of transportation from the airport to your resort. It's just one less thing to think about when you arrive in paradise. The airport transfer area is busy with many local drivers eagerly vying for your business. If you have a pre-booked transfer, kindly decline their offers and find your driver or company. It seemed to us that the primary mode of communication with all drivers in the Dominican Republic was through a third-party chat service, like WhatsApp.
Ensure you know how to connect with your transfer drivers and company before you arrive. Of note, there is free, public Wi-Fi at the airport. Finally, make sure you use the restrooms at the airport before you hop on your transfer, as many resorts are over 30 minutes from the airport.
Enjoying the beach life and all that comes with it
THE BOTTOM LINE
While you can plan an international family escape on your own, there are a lot of variables these days. A AAA Travel Advisor can help guide you to making the best decisions about your trip and handle all of the stressful details, so you can focus on making memories with your family.
All photo courtesy of Stephanie Taleghani