Travelling with kids (and babies)
Dominican Republic with a baby is gorgeously summed up in Bob’s Marley’s tropical mix.
Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Each by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you-ou-ou: “
‘Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.’
Of course, provided you keep a constant mental note of baby’s meals, diapers, naps, activities and you organize yourself accordingly J So here’s Dominican Republic with a baby!
Our love for the Caribbean started many years ago, with Cuba, magic lands where lack of gourmet cuisine was gracefully compensated by crystal turquoise waters, white sand, good diving, great rum, mad people, dancing & social scene. Caribbean with the baby however involves less excitement with late nights in Havana and more predictability than casa particulars could offer, so we settled for as easy as it gets 12 days All Inclusive Dominican Republic with a baby.
Never attempted All Inclusive holidays before, so initial personal reactions included the shock of seeing the sheer enormity food quantities at the World buffet to the pleasant discovery of bubbles at breakfast. On the last point however, our breakfasts were on the very early side, 7ish am and with a very playful baby, so Mimosas didn’t look like quite right. 10am by the pool seemed to be more appropriate to have a first beer, especially with our Brits and Scandinavian friends, parents hydrating carefully while babes splashing and yelling happily in the pool.
Baby routines in the Caribbean: If travelling East may be more difficult for grownups, it’s certainly ok within 4 hours difference for babies. For few days you may even get the impression of being on a proper grown up holiday, where little ones could wake up as late as 11am! J travelling West is though a very different story and keeping the same UK times and routines not appealing, waking up 3am in the dark to play and feed baby certainly not on any mum’s wish list. Common sense dictates to fool your baby into taking an extra nap, keep him in the light and distracted that his 12 hours day becomes exceptionally longer, hoping you could bathe and put him to sleep closer to 6:30 Caribbean time (GMT +4/5 depending on European summer time). With a bit of luck 4am will be cuddles and rocking only and fully adjusting to the local time very likely happening 3-4 days.
Having read extensively baby friendly sleep literature, we had the luck of baby sleeping 7pm-7am just before 6 months. Surely though 4/5 hours difference disrupted his good old habits and first night we had a feed at 5am with a couple of nights following cuddles and rocking around the same time. That’s especially the case if baby has his/her own room at home and now you are sharing it. But hey, it’s holiday, and the Caribbean and a bit of rocking while all still quite asleep didn’t kill anyone!
So we happily settled for the following, all below Caribbean time:
– 6:30am, nappy change, full bottle (or breastfeed if the bar’s still open)
– 7:30am, family breakfast, baby experimenting with tropical fruits and the waiter’s patience. Yes, the mess around the highchair at its maximum, parents very pleased not to be home.
– 8:30/9am, morning nap, sometimes parents, surely baby.
– 9:30am, socializing by the beach or at the pool, couple of baby dips, lots of pictures, splashing, diving, grooving, cooling.
– 11:30am, lunch by the pool, including mashed baby friendly protein sourced at breakfast and bits and pieces of fruit. And of course lots of water and a bit of juice.
– 12am, getting seriously hot, milk served in the room or in the shade of a breezy restaurant. Middday nap for baby, bubbles and lunch for parents.
– 2pm, well, that’s a difficult one, heat is raving on Bahiyabe beach. Tried one day to put baby on towel to play outside but surely in the shade, the hyperactive bundle of joy was sitting lethargic and dreamy on the pillow. So most days settled for Aircon before 4pm, toys and stuff inside.
– 4-5pm, 30min nap ideally for baby, the day is long and too exciting in the Caribbean.
– 5:30pm, baby rice or banana + more tropical fruit. Little trip on the beach to watch volleyball and the sun going down.
– 6:15pm, another bath, this time round much warmer and more splashes, followed by massage and bottle 6:35, by 7pm baby sleeping solidly.
Parents treats in the Caribbean. Another advantage of All Inclusive holidays are the wide range of activities conveniently located next to you. So with a father willing to chill (and drink beer) at the various baby naps, mum could happily enjoy yoga and stretching on the beach, salsa classes, massage, spa and so on. I managed to attend quite a few, certainly a refreshing break as well as doing wonders for my battered back.
On top of that I managed also to squeeze in few more energetic classes of aerobics, aqua gym and even horse riding, all in all reducing a bit the guilt of gulping so many churros with chocolate or croissants at breakfast.
With babysitting services good and at hand, parents also escaped for a diving trip half day and a couple of hours to check the bay area by sea and a funny pedalo. In hindsight now I wish we took couple of other diving trips, on the other hand, by the time you properly understand the baby’s adapting to the current time zone and get to meet the nannies, the 12 days break were nearing the end.
The evenings. With a baby sleeping before 7pm, parents went wild most of the evenings. As wild of course as you go knowing you will wake up 6:30am the latest the following day. Winding down on the terrace with cocktails or bubbles, we would get ready after for a restaurant trip. With 7 restaurants to choose from, we have been spoilt for choice between average Italian meals, atmospheric Mexicans, ok-ish Asian and sea grills.
We tried for most of the evenings to be relatively quiet and managed to keep a sleepy baby in the pram next to the dinner table, with the exception of last night, where the enthusiasm of 3 pairs of parents sipping wine woke up all 3 sleeping bunnies. Ours probably by far the most disturbed, however got back to a goodnight sleep once we were back in the room after some cuddles and rocking.
Resort. Having booked 3 days before the actual trip, we had to make a quick decision based on the availability, family friendliness and reasonable value for money. We ended up with Dreams La Romana, Bayahibe. On the south side of the Dominican Republic, it fronts the Caribbean waters, calmer and quite baby dipping friendly.
The grounds are very green and pretty manicured, nice touches including flamingos, eco garden next to the spa, hammocks next to the sea in a quiet corner, massage pavilions spread around. The standard room are however disappointing and tired, quite a surprise as the hotel advertises mostly the preferred rooms. After a first evening full of adventures and nerve wrecking surprises, we decided to pay the extra and upgrade to a suite, where we felt more at ease in terms of space and better organizing ourselves and baby.
The key elements of keeping a baby happy went badly wrong at arrival, more precisely:
– Baby cot. Of course we did require a babycot as soon as we booked, as any parent would do. Trouble was, when we arrived it wasn’t there, then arrived 1 hour after, dirty and without bedsheets. Of course we had our own bedsheets for baby just in case, but all the telephone calls at the wrong time of the evening have been disruptive and annoying.
– Kettle or coffee maker. Same story, required one as soon as we booked, it only made it after 24 hours. Had couple of furious trips to various restaurants to fetch boiled water and to prepare the baby formula, including one 4am Dominican time, of course the equivalent of the British morning.
– Caribbean pace and outcome. The staff is very friendly, well intended and surely, there’s no sense of urgency. Of course it’s totally cultural and I do understand over 30 degrees, life flows differently. Whilst I would have loved to embrace it more, our baby had the good old habit of reminding us, he really likes to stick to his timetables. Especially when it comes to food and sleep. And as you couldn’t foresee by any means the room service delivery or the outcome, we ended up at sourcing ourselves bananas, avocados, other tropical fruits and juices each morning, stocking them in the fridge and then mashing it closer to the meals. It proved quite a good solution as we were then flexible in terms of surroundings and our dumpling enjoyed his meals by the beach, pool, lounge, own terrace and so. It also proved safer as again, room service delivery tended to be quite stubborn in terms of cuisine, no matter how many times you asked for no sauce as the fish is for the baby, somebody in the kitchen decided differently. My overwhelming conclusion has been to rely mostly on breakfast buffet and always have a back-up plan.
Flights. The only direct direct flight to Punta Cana proved to be Thomson. I say direct direct, as BA stops in Antigua, adding an extra hour and a half to already quite a long flight. The Dreamliner sounded mesmerizing with the extra leg room and latest gadgets, one little detail however essential to all parents, there’s no carrycot space. Having flew BA couple of times, we took this amazing service/ feature for granted. On the way to Punta Cana the absence of a babycot space was fine, our baby getting to know all the friendly people in the pain and all corners. The generous legroom also meant that at baby’s naps parents could have lunch, we even managed to enjoy some prosecco and watch two movies! Flight back however proved much more painful than initially expected. While Thomson team have been great and allocated the baby a spare seat between the parents, our baby wouldn’t settle for the car seat after 10pm. After 3 hours of sleeping tightly in the car seat, he kept moaning for extra space. I ended up in holding him for most of the flight, wide awake not to drop him. And father rocking him from time to time as he couldn’t quite grasp what happened with his comfortable bed.
Transfers. A a tailored self booked holiday inconveniently misses reps welcoming and transferring you to your resort. After an eventful landing with loud Dominican band welcoming us and waking up a disoriented baby, the madness continued with no ATM in the airport and the usual haggling with the local drivers. After the Thomson bus declined to transfer us, we ended up with a local driver taking us to a nearby ATM facility – at least the baby was content with the extra space and exotic landscapes.
For more Caribbean inspiration, best islands with kids, best without, our favourites for sailing and our tips for diving, head to our article Which Caribbean island is right for you?