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Showing posts with label all-inclusive. Show all posts
Showing posts with label all-inclusive. Show all posts

Sep 12, 2016

How We Survived (Enjoyed) A Family Trip To Mexico

How We Survived (Enjoyed) A Family Trip To Mexico

Zika Virus
Mexico Travel Warning prediction of thunderstorms every day of the week

None of these things stopped us from going and enjoying our trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico

Feb 25, 2016

Family Trip To DR With A Toddler - A Week Without A Screen!

Family Trip To DR With A Toddler - A Week Without A Screen!

Earlier in the month we traveled to Dominican Republic and one of its all-inclusive resorts. We like these as you get there put your bags down and you are good for the rest of the trip. You know 99% of the cost of the vacation already. Most of the activities and outings are pre-planned. Just need to carry your key card around and nothing else. Drinks, food, beach towels and chairs, all are included.

We have been to this resort before. And that was a major consideration when we were planning our second vacation with a toddler. Knowing the layout of the resort, where the food is and what kind of restaurants and meals offered, made the week a lot easier. And since we did not have to run around to find places, we got the vacation started earlier.
This is quite different from one of the cruises we were on. We were on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. Usually it takes me about a day to orient myself and be able to navigate without a map. On this ship, it took me 3 days to figure out where the restaurants, entertainment and the pools were. And even then, we ended up going the wrong way a couple of times. While the trip was nice overall, the layout made it a bit more stressful than needed to be.

The resort has changed a bit since last we were there. Less structurally, though there were some small rearrangements, but more in terms of clientele. The vacationers were mostly families with kids and seniors. There were plenty of those before, though this time these two groups made up around 98% of the population.

Traveling with toddler, even in all-inclusive, adds on a few things to consider and to plan out. After two days, we figured out the schedule and balance between food, swimming, napping, more swimming, entertainment and sleep. The first days were test and trial, but once kiddo got comfortable and we stuck to the schedule, it was smooth sailing.

We lucked out with the week we were vacationing at the resort. On our last supper there, it was a crazy time. New arrivals came to the buffet like vultures. They were lining up for food 10 or more deep, grabbing everything and then some and also grumbling. We were actually glad we had only breakfast the next day and then we are off.

At the resort, they charged extra for weighing your bags before departure. We were very glad that we brought our own digital luggage scale to save money at the airport and also ended up saving it at the hotel also.

No Worries, It's All Inclusive Here

Aruba - First Family Trip South - Summer Continued

Travel Gadgets & Travel Hacks

Razor Travel Hack
On this trip I tried out a shaving razor hack (see pic below). I have a travel case for it but it is bulky and plastic, making it hard to pack and takes up too much space. Instead you put a clip on top of the razor to cover up the blade so it does not catch on anything, and then you can stick it anywhere. I placed it within my grooming pack with all other stuff for easy and convenient storage.
Travel hack = works!

Right before the trip we bought the DRY PAK Waterproof Wallet. The previous one I was using fell apart and we needed a waterproof container to hold our room card. It had decent reviews on Amazon. However, was not great in execution. The card was not dry after just first use. The inside was damp and visibly wet. The pocket was sealed as supposed to with the latches fully engaged. While it was better then using a zip lock bag or just having the card in the swimsuit pocket, it didn't work as described. I filled it with water to rinse after first use and found out why it didn't work - there was a whole in the pocket.
After the trip I contacted Amazon and seller describing what happened with the product. Without hesitation, they sent out a new pocket within a day. That was a superb experience and look forward to trying it out again.

Selfie Stick
The selfie sticks were more prominent during this trip then any other one we have taken. They were on the beach and all over the resort. People were taking their sticks and phones right into the ocean. I really hoped that they had some kind of waterproof protection on their phones or phones that are at the least water resistant

What would want, like to have, on next trip:
Gotenna, or similar communication device


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Feb 22, 2016

Family Trip to DR - What To Pack

Family Trip to DR - What To Pack
A post contributed by my wife who does all of the packings for our trips ;)

We recently came back from our 2nd international beach trip with our toddler. A friend is now going with her 2-year-old and as I started putting the list together for her of things to take along, I thought I’d share it with other parents who are probably scratching their heads at the multitude of options available and which ones to really splurge on. So, here goes. I’ve only included items we TRULY used on the trip.

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For the plane:
with toddler on airplane

TIP: Some folks say to wrap little gifts. Keeping in mind all security regulations, we decided to put all her travel gear, in her own little tiny backpack!

Can’t say enough about it, it works as a little leash and as a backpack. We fit so much in it, I was amazed it didn’t pop!
Melissa and Doug on the Go Magicolor -
These markers are awesome because they only draw on paper, unlike crayons that were ALL over us :)
Vinyl Light Up Spike Balls -
They have spikes and don’t roll too far but are perfect for wearing her out before the flight
Let's go Play Set – Phone and Car Keys
Kept her occupied for hours – beware the car keys are LOUD, don’t bring it on the plane
Disney Sofia Play Camera
There are little photos that pop up and a flash goes off – worked well to distract her during the decent
KidsGear Wired Headphones
These are great when they have their cartoons dosage (aka when nothing else is distracting them)
Mophie Pack
Can’t forget this in case the phone dies!
Dum Dums Lolipops
If your kiddo doesn’t want to drink water, have these handy for take off and landing – safe for kids, lots of flavors – we tried a bunch and landed on…POPCORN of all things – the one she loved best
Also good to have on hand in case of ear issues like swimmers ear
Fisher Price Doodle Pro Trip
Great for the artist and NO mess – HINT, if you take magnets, it will stick and make designs on the board

At The Beach:

Kid’s Sunscreen
we love:
Sunshade – it’s a must – under 2 lb and becomes huge. Like a little playhouse that’s protected from harmful rays, harsh sun and has ventilation:
Rashguards: - cute and comfy – guarantee the baby won’t burn the shoulders and back which are most sensitive to exposed sun – we didn’t bring any traditional swimsuits – they either do not cover or are impossible to take off if your little one is not potty trained
Swim diapers: Save on space and get swim diapers instead of disposable. Not recommended if your child tends to go #2 in diapers
Swim hat with TIES: - after our trip to Aruba, we learned that cute frilly hats with no ties, tend to fly away quite quickly. From now on, only these and only with ties. Max sun protection on the ears, nose and neck and still look cute
Puddle Jumper: Yes, floaties by themselves are cute, but this keeps the child above the water at all times and gives them mobility and freedom to swin on their own – she wore it every day to the ocean
Swim shoes: - little feet are very sensitive and even the softest sand may have a sharp seashell, we don’t take chances. Get those with a strap, the pull ones are too hard to put on
Baby Powder: You will thank me later! It takes off all the wet sand so you can reapply sunscreen without issue!
Toys, toys and more toys! and aka FREE BABYSITTER - bring tons of shapes, shovels, and buckets – guaranteed 30 min of peace ;)
Towel holders: We discovered this on the windy beaches of Aruba and have been using them ever since
Sunglasses: In the water, on the way to lunch, she always wore shades. Go for something lightweight and comfortable

On the go:

: - this one is a good size, has a handle and keeps her water cold. There are also not too many pieces to clean and I haven’t seen it mold, even after 4 months of use
Stroller: - before purchasing this travel stroller, I compared models of Mclaren and Uppababy. Construction wise, sunshade and reclining features were all the same. The price difference was HUGE. This one is only $79!
5 Reasons to Love Travel with a Stroller

TIP: Use a large garbage bag and top it off with a bright laundry bag to pack it up at gate check! Works like a charm ;)

Stroller Sun Shade: - universal and provides a lot more shade. There are also two pockets, maximizing space for everything you need
Space Bags: People always ask me how I can pack so much in so little space. I use the vacuum bags, for EVERYTHING! I don’t like rolling clothes, I fold everything and then place them in space bags of different sizes, then work my way through the bag like a jigsaw puzzle
Best on the go beach bag/diaper bag:
This bag has a separate compartment for a cooler which has helped us organize and ensure everything is temperature regulated (formula, milk, snacks, even meds). It also comes in handy when TSA looks through it. The top part has a mesh lining so you can see everything. Beach towels, blankets, toys have all resided there within easy reach. No need to rummage through the whole bag. There are two exterior pockets which I've used for sanitizer, tissues, and pacifiers.
I LOVE this bag. It is the only diaper bag we used.

For the mom and dad:

My husband and I have been traveling for 12 years together and I have traveled a lot of Europe before that. We’ve picked up a few items that we never leave home without. We’ve added to our arsenal over the years, below are the top 5 that are musts:
Scarf with Pocket: - its really great especially if you don’t have pockets! Held my phone, lollipops, gum, even passports! Love it
Travel Pillow Hoodie: - my husband loves his pillow and he hates touching the headrests. This is the perfect solution for him
Belt with hidden pocket: - this is perfect for some emergency cash and it’s a nice looking belt as well
Socks with hidden pockets: – I have been traveling with socks like these since my college days. They are so comfy and have pockets.

TIP: Plan how much money you will be taking and then divide amongst different places. Never put all of your money into one place (like a wallet)

Tech Glimpse:

Camera Bag: - I absolutely LOVE this bag. We have a ton of travel gadgets that we take with us, this bag can fit everything and then expand to take on even more.
Water Camera: Great investment, a piece of mind. We’ve used it in hot tubs in freezing temps, scorching hot beaches and even in the tub to take videos of our kiddo splashing around
GoPro: Our newer addition (post baby) and it is amazing. The quality is great and it is very easy to use
Joby: - It’s better than a selfie stick, it's sturdy, can stand on many surfaces and wrap around poles and rails
Belkin Surge Protector - we were able to charge multiple gadgets via one and only easily accessible outlet in the room
Kindle - we both had our Kindles with us and we actually were able to read them at the beach while the kiddo played in the sand

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Oct 19, 2015

Aruba - First Family Trip South - Summer Continued

Aruba - First Family Trip South - Summer Continued

This was our first trip to Aruba. It was also a first trip south on a week-long vacation for our kid. When planning this getaway we wanted a one-stop place with the least hassle for us. This one of many reasons we have chosen to stay at the all-inclusive resort. The package we got through our travel agent included a non-stop flight and transportation from and to the airport and Tamarijn Aruba.
At the resort, all meals and drinks are included. This was great for traveling with the toddler that can be picky about what she wants to eat. You can get or order just about anything and they will have it done. Tamarijn resort is actually known to be more family-friendly than most. And we were able to order plain chicken and veal as well as pasta every day. The selection of food for us was great as well. And they also do not water down their alcoholic beverages. With all these included, we did not have to think about where we going to eat or how to get there and what type of food and service we would get with a child.

While those are great pluses for the resort, their services throughout the hotel were not so great. The bell boy service leaves a lot to be desired. It was slow to not existent. When we first arrived there was no one in the lobby to greet us or take our bags even though we were arriving at a provided coach services. Even after checking in at the front desk we had to request and wait for someone to take our bags to the room. Usually, that would not be too big of an issue since we would have a couple of carry-ons and shoulder bags. But this time we had a lot more large bags and one tired and cranky toddler.

At breakfast and lunchtime, we received quite an inattentive service. It did get better over time and we also found out why some tables got immediate services and others didn't. Tips. I get that in regular restaurants tips are part of the experience and provided much-needed income to the wait staff. However, when you are at an all-inclusive resort you have already paid a large sum to have all of that taken care of ahead of time. One of the main reasons we chose to be there was so that we can leave our wallets behind and take only camera and room keys. This seems to elude a lot of 'regulars' as they continue to tip on top of that at every meal.

One of the benefits of Tamarijn hotel was the large number of specialty restaurants on premises. Again giving us plenty of choice with little travel. During dinner at these restaurant, unfortunately, we also experienced very slow service. At a couple of places it took over an hour for our food to come. A hungry and short fused toddler did't want any of it. Out came our snacks and iPhone with cartoons and games pre-loaded. Which was a savior during the meals and also flights.

With all this you would think we did not have that much of a great holiday. But we did. These things not withstanding, it was a good time had by all.

The rooms are all ocean facing. Can hear the ocean at night. Which is great to fall asleep to and wake up. The ocean was clear once you get in a few feet. The weather also got better after a couple of days where it was hot during the day but not as humid, and cool nights. On one of the nights it was very clear and we were able to see the Blood Moon/Lunar Eclipse perfectly in the sky.

There are Pelicans flying overhead constantly diving into water after fish. They are followed by seagulls that pick up left overs. And there are a lot of fish. In the evening they start jumping out of the water. One of the day's one of them flew so close it slapped my cheek. There were quite a few folk with snorkeling gear swimming around.


As some reviews on Tripadvisor have mentioned, the beach is eroding. The middle portion of the hotel strip is ok for now, though the further edge has no send left, just bare rocks.  The hotel avoids mentioning it to arrivals when booking rooms.
If in the area bring swim shoes, since that is the only way to get into water. It is very rocky at the shore and in the water. Save your toes and enjoy swimming much more with a pair of water shoes.

Also there is a pipe in the middle of the water. And no sign of any sorts to let folks know about it. Ran over it with my knee while holding on to the kid. All ended alright. But that is a terrible set up.

To get away from the rocks and pipes in the waters by our hotel we took a trip to Eagle Beach in search of a better beach. It was much better. It was all send walking in and in the water. And the water was clear to the bottom. We had a great day swimming, relaxing, and for some us, napping on the beach. We saw a guy on what looked like hydro skates. He was doing flyboarding, similar to the guy on the show "America Got Talent". And them some other folks trying it out.

We were pleasantly surprised on last few days of our stay with a Cirque de solei type of circus show. It was very good with fun entertainment and great acrobatic acts. Another show that we all enjoyed the synchronized swimming. It was performed by the local swim team and it was well done with good music and moves. Kiddo loved it.

As we found out on the way back to get out of Aruba is quite a task. You have to pass two customs AND two full security checkpoints. And I mean taking your shoes and everything else and putting everything on the conveyor belt for the second time. And the kicker, when you first check in and drop off your luggage, you are not done with it. You pick it up before going through the second checkpoint of customs and security. By the end, we were exhausted since its a bit more hassle to do it with a kid and more bags. On the plus side, when we arrived back home we did not need to go through customs. Straight to the baggage claim and taxi.

Coming up next:
Aruba - First Family Trip South - Gadgets and Accessories

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