Destination: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Travel time: 4 hours from Philadelphia to Punta Cana Where we stayed: The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Royal Length of stay: 6 days, 5 nights
Do you ever have one of those moments when you return to a place that you’ve been to before? A feeling of familiarity and memories of happy times? As a teenager, I went to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with my parents several times. A few weeks ago, Julian and I took our own little family on a trip to the same area I used to travel to as a kid. We booked our flight on a Friday and three days later, we were on a plane to Dominican Republic.
Although the day before our flight was utter chaos, my overall feeling was that the trip was a success. Is there anything better than spontaneous travel? I find it so romantic that we’re able to do this seven years into our marriage, two kids in tow, still maintaining that sense of adventure we established from the very beginning. The night before our flight, I saw the scene playing out as though I was watching a comedy-packing until 3am, double-checking we had unexpired passports, sneaking into the kids’ room in the middle of the night and packing their clothes in the dark. As we both rushed to get our family of four ready for an international flight, we looked at each other and both thought, “this better be worth it.” And it was. More on that later.
first passport stamp
This was Dylan’s first passport stamp so it was an an exciting trip for our family. We’ve previously traveled to Hollywood and Clearwater Beach, Florida with both kids but this would be the first international flight we ventured on as a family of four. Our requirements were that we needed a warm beach destination that was kid-friendly with direct flights available. Check, check, and check. I’m happy to report back that the weather was amazing, the food was fantastic and the people were so kind. The ocean was calm with minimal waves and warm water so the kids were happy to go swimming and incessantly asked to go to the ocean.
Traveling together as a family has been an incredible experience and in my opinion worth all the times that things didn’t go our way. I wanted to write about our trip to Dominican Republic in case you’re also considering a family trip or wondering about the best places to go with a baby and/or a toddler!
How to get to Punta Cana
We had a direct flight from Philadelphia to Punta Cana airport and timed it so we would fly during the kids’ naps. They ended up napping for about 30-45 minutes so not as long as I anticipated but I’ll take it. We flew American and the flight was about four hours. If you’re traveling with a baby and/or a toddler, these are some of the essentials we brought along to make everyone’s lives easier.
When we landed in Punta Cana, we went through customs and picked up our luggage. Our hotel was about 25 minutes from the airport so we used a shuttle. We had a pre-booked private shuttle pick us up with a car seat included. This was the first time we didn’t travel with both car seats. For the flight, Dylan was a lap infant since he’s under two years old and Perry used an FAA-approved child harness. In the shuttle, Dylan was in the shuttle car seat and Perry had her seat belt on. We’ve now traveled with car seats and without and it always depended on our travel circumstances. I suggest doing your research and deciding what you’re comfortable with!
I recommend booking ground transportation ahead of time because there will be a ton of people trying to get you to use their shuttle or taxi. To err on the safe side, I like to have everything reserved in advance. Thankfully, Julian took care of transportation logistics in advance. Well, as advanced as you can get considering we booked three days before the scheduled flight.
Where we stayed
We stayed at The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Royal based on a recommendation from a friend. The resort is very child-friendly but not in a cheesy way that makes you want to run in the opposite direction. Everyone was so kind and attentive to anything we needed so we could focus less on logistics and more on having a wonderful time. The beach was beautiful and the beds by the pool were really cool and included in the stay. We tried to get the kids to nap there but they weren’t having it.
We booked a suite and had both cribs in the main living room area. It was more expensive but worth it in my opinion because we could put the kids to bed and then close the door and continue to hang out in another room.
J and I were hesitant about the food because in the past, we’ve found that all-inclusive vacations have an abundance of food but the quality is sometimes lacking. I’m happy to note that the food was delicious. The Reserve is a separate area of the hotel that is more family-focused. The kids’ club is located there and there is a great baby pool. Of note, if you’re staying at the Reserve, you have access to the entire hotel.
We ate at both The Reserve and Paradisus Palma Royal and enjoyed both buffets. If you’re looking for a variety of options and different cuisines, you’ll most likely enjoy the main area (Paradisus Palma Royal) but fair warning, it can get really crowded. I didn’t mind the crowds because the Paella was delicious and only available at the main hotel. There are also restaurants scattered throughout the grounds, such as Italian, Mediterranean, Teppanyaki and others. Here are some highlights we liked and disliked about The Reserve.
♥ It’s more peaceful in my opinion because it didn’t get as crowded as the main hotel at times.
♥ The kids’ club is located here but to be honest, we didn’t really use it.
♥ Our concierge handled dinner reservations for the week. We’re not really concierge type people and prefer to take care of these things ourselves but it was helpful when we were running late. He was able to move things around and ensure we had seats at the table. Keep in mind that some restaurants are closed on random days so take a look in advance. Also, walk-ins aren’t customary so make your reservations for the week the day you check in.
♥ When you stay at the Reserve, you have access to any restaurants in the main hotel as well.
♥ There is about a ten minute walk to the beach, however there are golf carts that can take you back and forth. We preferred the walk and had Dylan nap on the way over to the Beach. We took the golf cart a few times and the kids were really into it. The morning walks were a nice part of our day.
♥ The buffet is smaller with a more limited selection, although the quality of the food is great.
♥ More expensive
What I wore
It felt so nice to give my winter wardrobe a break for a brief period of time. I mostly wore denim shorts and t-shirts and loved every minute of it. I opted to throw on a dress and flat sandals on most nights to get ready quickly. It was a family vacation so I didn’t wear anything too crazy (and only wore heels one night!). Here are the outfits I wore in order:
We truly had a wonderful time in Punta Cana. It was the perfect destination for some quality family time. It was everything we needed to get away from the business of the holidays. We can’t wait to go back for round two!
If you’re interested in some behind the scenes footage from our trip, I saved my Instagram stories in the DR Trip highlight. I hope this was helpful as you’re planning your next vacation. Thanks so much for reading and following along! Perhaps I’ll see you on the plane one day surrounded by bags and kids? xo, Tanya