Do you want to go to Punta Cana? Grab my packing list at the end!


Before I go into all the details of Punta Cana, I want to talk to you about why you should want to go there and use our firm to book it for you.  This is specifically meant for the person who would use BWI as their airport and there are a lot of you.  Every time I board a Southwest flight to Punta Cana, they are packed and with good reason!

Flights are under 4 hours, many times only 3.5 hours and you are in a beautiful tropical destination in the Carribean. Southwest has a great reputation for customer service and the free bags are a major plus. The best part is also that it is a DIRECT flight so there is not much time sitting around an airport. 

There are two ways to get the best pricing to Punta Cana: the first one is too book very early.  At least a year out to get early bird rates on your resort and then book airfare separately when they become available. But that is not what I want to focus on.  The next way is to book within 1- 12months out and be flexible with your dates and resorts.  If you do this, you have the potential to save hundreds of dollars on your vacation!

How do we accomplish the latter?  Through chartered air.  Lets Wander Travel works with several tour operators who purchase all the seats on one direct flight a day to Punta Cana.  By doing so, they get a reduced price and pass these savings on and this direct flight always has perfect timing.  You arrive in Punta Cana right around lunch and you leave Punta Cana right after lunch.  Perfect timing and you are home in time for dinner. 
 
The flights can fill up quickly but if you are flexible with your dates you can stay at little as 2 days or as long as 15.  I have seen savings as high $800 down to just a few dollars.  But you should at least try by requesting a no-obligation quote.

There are certain times of year where Punta Cana is more expensive no matter what.  Those times are typically Christmas and New Years and the entire month of February. Some of the best deals to be had are late summer through Thanksgiving though you run the risk of bad weather because of hurricane season.  

There is also a dramatic price difference between resorts in Punta Cana, though all the beaches are beautiful.  If you are looking for value, be sure to mention that to me and I will only pick places that fit your criteria.  If you want luxury we can also provide those choices while saving you as much money as possible!  But more importantly, give you a great location to create some forever memories. 


 

 

Why go to an All-Inclusive resort?

Do you ever come home from a vacation and feel like you need a vacation? This would be the number reason why you should consider going to an all-inclusive resort. Those who go on a regular basis already know this fact.  It's nice to be waited on (especially if you have butler service) all your meals served to you and drinks are plentiful. If you are typically the family planner and doer of a vacation, you will really appreciate this aspect. You just have to show up!

I've heard people complain that they think they would be bored at an All-Inclusive would be boring after a couple of days.  But let me tell you some of the things I have done at All-Inclusive resorts....besides lay on the beach and drink umbrella drinks.

-Tennis Lessons
-Foam Party in the pool
-Wine Tasting
-Cigar rolling class
-Yoga on the beach
-Danced all night
-Catamaran booze cruise
-Kitesurfing class
-Stand up Paddleboard
-Snorkeling
-Trapeze school
-Scuba certifications
-Ziplining

And this list can go on and on as I've barely scratched the surface.  The key is to match you with the right resort so you can experience these things either on or off-site. 

It's a nice feeling knowing that once I arrive all my food, drinks and entertainment have already been paid for and I just have to come ready to mingle and have a great time. And as the family planner, I will get some true rest and relaxation while also creating some great memories. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in the local culture via an excursion if that is important to you. The Dominicans are known for their chocolate, cigars, coconut oil and a few other fun things that you wouldn't know otherwise unless you leave your resort.

If you are interested in a payment plan, be sure to book with your travel firm early!  I look forward to hearing from you so I can set you up on one of the BEST vacations.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

 The Dominican Republic (DR) can be an affordable, relaxing getaway or a huge beach party with late night dancing and club entertainment and plenty of luxury.  It is a great place for families, groups, honeymoon couples or even singles. It is easy to see why it is a mecca for tourists when it is just as easy as showing up and the good time is literally waiting for you. Visiting for as little as 4 days to 10+ days is easily doable and there is plenty entertainment. 



Having been to the DR many times, I look forward to it each and every time. I have visited several resorts and entertained several excursions so I can bring back this information to you.  There is no ONE perfect resort that I recommend to everyone because different people have different expectations from their vacation (though there are resorts that I would recommend to no one).  I take the time and expense to visit several sites so I can see how resorts match up to my clients wants and personality.

*you want the softest beach with no waves, no problem.
*you want top shelf alcohol, no problem.
*children programs most important? No problem.
*how about peace and quiet? Well, there is a perfect resort for that also.

Navigating the Airport

The Punta Cana airport is very small which makes navigating it very simple. It also is all open with a thatched roof and very unlike most airports. Your airplane will land and typically both the front door and back door will be opened so you can deplane very quickly. Depending on where you land, you will either take a short bus ride to the terminal or simply walk.  Right away you will step into a line where you must pay a tourist tax of $10 per person IN CASH and there is no ATM. BE PREPARED!

HOT TIP: You can prepay this and skip this line entirely! Here is the link (it can be buggy sometimes). 

If you pre-purchase this and print your receipt, you can skip the first line. Just go to the right of everyone else when you first enter the airport terminal.  There will not be many people in that line at all, in fact, you might be the only one.

From there you get front of the line privileges when going through Customs to get your passport stamped and paperwork turned in that you received on the plane.  This paperwork will record your names and passport information along with your resort and address. Keep all your documents and paperwork within reach while flying and getting through Customs to ensure a smooth process. As your travel consultant, I will always send these items have a large envelope to keep all together. 

Once you are through customs you will now retrieve your luggage.

 IMPORTANT: When you checked your luggage in Stateside, they labeled them with a sticker that has your name on it and a copy of this same sticker is given to you with your boarding pass. It is imperative that you keep these stickers with you in order to retrieve your luggage in the DR. There will be an attendant guarding all the baggage and checking all the luggage stickers to ensure that they match names. 

From there, a local porter will usually snatch (and I mean this in the nicest way possible) your suitcases from you and ask you how you are getting to your resort and the name of it. 

This could be your first chance to tip or if you don’t want that extra help, you have to be firm and say no. I prefer to pay a couple of bucks and tell them where I am going. If you have transfers already arranged tell them to take you that particular company. If not, ask them to take you to get a taxi.  When you return to the airport, these same people will be there to help you unload your suitcases and get you checked in. Keep a few bucks for that occasion.

Checking Into Your Resort

Keep all your paperwork close at hand once again because upon check-in your resort will want to know your departing flight information to ensure you reach the airport in a timely manner. This is also the time to ask for any extras that you want. Rooms are not assigned until you check in so I have asked that I be as close to possible to the beach (if that is important to you). If traveling with others and checking in at the same time, ask that you be near one another. But don't leave the front desk until you are reasonably sure that you are getting what you want and paid for. 

Hot tip- Every once in awhile during the busiest seasons, there may not be clean rooms available yet. Do not let this slow you down. Ask that your bags be watched and walk around the resort. Go have something to eat. Visit the bars. Grab your swimsuit, change in the lobby restroom and head to the pool or beach. Use all your time wisely and don’t let this be a hurdle on your hard earned vacation.  Tip the concierge to hold your suitcases for you if necessary.
  
Word of Caution: Most resorts have a vacation club/timeshare aspect to them. It is their goal to have every guest sit through a presentation and convince you to purchase.  But they are never straightforward telling you that you are signing up for a high pressured sales presentation. They might tell you that you will get a free meal in one of the premium restaurants or some other extra amenity. That will be your first clue. They try and get you right after you check in to set up an appointment for this 'free whatever'. But what happens when you go to this meeting is you have to sit through a sales pitch that can take up to 3 hours. If you know about it beforehand you will easily pick up on what is going on.  I firmly decline the invitation and state I am not interested in any type of vacation club. They are also not interested in wasting their time, so it works out well.

Typical Resort Day

Depending on how big the resort is, it can take a day or two to get oriented to the layout and the schedule. Typically the beach and pools open fairly early. All the bars that are near those areas open up too. But as the day progresses the beach and pools and amenities near them close as the day gets closer to dinner. What the resort is trying to go is to get everyone moving towards the dining locations because lifeguards are done for the day. 
 
Here is my typical day at a resort:

*Rise and have a cup of coffee in the room and head to breakfast. Pick a place    because there are usually several.
*Go back to the room and get on my bathing suit and head to the beach
*Have lunch at a restaurant near the beach
*Go to the pool and have a few drinks and get all the salt off me with a swim
*Head back to the room to shower and get dressed for dinner
*Dinner
*Go to the nightly entertainment show or just visit with family and friends
*Drinks at the bar
*Dancing 
*Bed

While at the beach and or pool I am doing plenty of swimming, reading, napping, social media, etc. Whatever makes me happy. You can also add in the spa or if you have children, their activities which are plenty, so you will probably spend some time following them around. 

Highly Recommended: If you plan on staying 5 days or longer, you should get off the resort via an excursion. These are easily purchased at your resort and if you pay in cash, sometimes they will give a discount. There are a couple I highly recommend to include a cultural type excursion where you can see how the average Dominican lives and what they do for their livelihood. It's an all-day tour and really enlightening and educational. This is also where you can share the school supplies your brought.  A zip lining trip in the mountainous jungles is also really fun, very safe and well organized. Another excursion that I would recommend would be a catamaran type trip where you can see the island from the sea and perhaps go snorkeling in a choice location.
All excursions are a great way to break up your time and really make some great memories with your family and friends.  

Last Day at Your Resort

If you have transfers pre-arranged at some point during your visit you will need to connect with that particular company and determine the time they are going to pick you and take you to the airport. Depending on how far your resort is from the airport will determine the time of your transfer. Generally, you need to leave your resort 2-3 hours from your flight time.


As your travel agent, I will do everything in my power to arrange your flight for late afternoon so you can enjoy your last day. Unless you have late check-out you will need to vacate your room by 11 or noon, depending, but you may not have to leave the resort until several hours later. Here is where a little pre-planning will help so you can get the most out of your last day. 

The front desk will call arrange a time to come pick up your suitcases and take them to the lobby where they will stay until it’s time to leave. If you haven’t heard from them the day before you leave, call them and arrange it.  I always ask that the time for suitcase pickup be the same as check out.  So if check-out is at noon ask for your suitcases to be picked up then. 

Here is how I work my last day. When I first get up, I will get breakfast and head straight to the beach to make sure I get my last swim in. When I’m about an hour out from my suitcases being picked up, I head back to the room, get showered and packed. I will wear my tropical clothing or even take a bathing suit and an extra outfit with me in my beach bag and purse. I may go to the pool or just lay in the shade with a book those last few hours I have to enjoy the resort before I head to the lobby to get to catch my ride to the airport.  I shove my beach bag back in my suitcase and keep out my extra outfit if I am heading back to cold weather. 

At the Punta Cana airport or the airport stateside, I will change my clothes in the bathroom so I am more appropriately dressed for the weather back home.  These few extra steps will ensure you get the most out of your time but are still comfortable getting home.

The Punta Cana airport is very small, loud and not very comfortable so you don’t want to have to spend much time there.  You will go thru a customs line again here and there is a small chance they will ask you for your tourist tax receipt.  

Do not get rid of those documents when you get them upon arrival (or purchased online) because it could result in a fine.  As your agent, I will always send you a large envelope with all your documents, you could easily use this envelope the entire trip to keep all your paperwork in order. And it will make your travel days so much easier.

Last Minute Miscellaneous 

Water: It is my recommendation to not drink the tap water while you are in the D.R. While I wouldn’t call the water bad, it does have bacteria strains that we are not used to. This means you need to use bottled water to brush your teeth and be very careful in the shower to not swallow any extra water or gargle.  All resorts are very liberal with water bottles but I would not hesitate to bring an extra one out of your room to dinner. I would want to make sure that the water in my fancy glass at my meals actually does come from a bottle. 

Please avoid salads and food items that need to be washed before you can eat it for this same reason. If you have a sensitive stomach it’s just not worth the risk.  If you do have an easily upset stomach, consider taking probiotics before and during your trip as an extra precaution.  In fact, this would be smart even if you don't because it helps build up your good bacteria to fight off the unknowns.  Don't let this tip scare you, it's just ensuring that your vacation will not be ruined by something that is preventable.

First Aid/Medicine Kit


This is always a good idea no matter where you travel, but let me tell you what is in mine.  Finding the medicines we are used to in a foreign country is not going to happen easily, but just a little bit of pre-planning can prevent a disaster. Here is what I put in my bag.

-Motrin
-Benadryl 
-Cold medicine
-Cough drops
-Indigestion meds
-Upset stomachs meds like Pepcid
-Ear drops for swimmer's ear
-Electrolyte powder that can go into a water bottle in case of heavy drinking 
-Bug Bite itch cream
-Aloe Vera for sunburns
-Couple of band-aids

BEST TIME TO VISIT
The weather is great all year round. In fact if you see rain and clouds on your weather app I would not give it much thought because a rainstorm in the Caribbean is much different than in the States. It's usually short in duration though it can be powerful.  Personally, I feel February is the most amazing time to visit. It is very cold here in the US and a week of sun can do your soul so much good. School is still in so families with children will be at a minimum. It is also before Easter so you won’t be overrun with Spring Breakers or the rules the D.R. has concerning celebrating Easter.  Another great time especially if you are trying to go as inexpensive as possible would be October. You risk rough waters because of hurricane season, but it would be a chance I was willing to take, especially with the option of insurance.

SOUVENIRS


I really appreciate souvenirs that are expendable or utilitarian in nature and the DR does not disappoint. If you on a culture type of excursion you will have plenty of opportunities to purchase these kinds of items. A very popular souvenir would be the drink Mamajana which is a wine, honey and tree bark concoction that is said to have healing qualities. 

The Caribbean, in general, is known for its rum and that is always fun to bring home. They also have really delicious rum cakes! Be sure to pack some extra Ziplocs bags to prevent any leaks on the way home.

Some other fun things to pick up are chocolate, cocoa powder and coffee. If you are prepared to pack liquids, vanilla extract and coconut oil are good choices also. 

The DR is known for this beautiful blue stone called Larimar. It is only found naturally here so it makes an excellent keepsake. Dominicans make beautiful jewelry from it and I have even seen beads that can be added to a charm bracelet. 

And of course, the most popular is a Christmas ornament. It’s always fun to decorate your tree and with every ornament, you have plenty of great memories attached to it.

My hope is that you go to the DR with an open mind and enjoy their beautiful beaches, their rice, beans, chicken, and plantains, language and culture. Traveling should make you appreciate where you came from and open your mind to how the rest of the world lives. Go be adventurous. It really does fundamentally change who you are. 

 

Punta Cana Packing List

Beach pictures hat

And bonus video: Best resorts in Punta Cana, along with a few other trips and tricks

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About Lets Wander Travel

The reason Lets Wander Travel exists is to help create memories that slow down time. 

The easiest way to reach me is at info@LetsWanderTravel.com

Have you been dying to get to Punta Cana where the beaches have the finest white sands and the water is some of the bluest in the Caribbean?

Where are you going to create the best memories for your family?

Are you overwhelmed with all the choices you have to pick from? Punta Cana is a tourist attraction for a reason!

Have you read all the reviews online and wonder who can trust?

You work so hard to get a few weeks off a year and you want to make sure you pick the right place at the right time so you can achieve your dream vacation.

You value your time and just need expert advice based on your personal preferences. 

You just want to come back home feeling like you’ve been on the best vacation and you can easily recommend it to others.

Lets Wander Travel’s ultimate goal is to help as many clients as possible achieve their dream vacation by matching their clients wants, needs and personality to the right location, resort, cruise, etc. 

WHY?
We Create The Memories That Slow Down Time