11 Tips to Guarantee a Successful First Trip to Punta Cana, DR

Punta Cana Series – Post 2

In post one of our Punta Cana series, we shared with you some fab pics from our trip earlier this year. Hopefully, that was enough to convince you to book your trip (I mean it is paradise…), but whether it was or wasn’t, there are some things you should know before you go! Trust me – learning these ahead of time will definitely save you some headaches once you get there!

Before You Go

  • If you value your time, book your trip through a travel agent. We used Beach Bum Vacations (ask for Sue!) and I’m so glad we did! Sue was able to give us the 411 on all things Punta Cana, as well as multiple options on where to stay. She did the research. We reviewed and picked the place we thought was the best fit for us. She saved us hours of research! You can’t go wrong using a good travel agent. They will plan and schedule everything and they usually have good relationships with the resorts, which may score you some extra friendly treatment and/or upgrades in your accommodations. I was treated to a $50 credit to the resort’s spa – woot-woot! (If you’d rather book the trip on your own, no worries, any of the major travel sites has you covered!)
  • Pre-purchase Tourism cards! They cost $10. You will need one for each person in your party. These cards are a tax the Dominican Republic charges tourist. They are required, so you can’t get around it. You can preorder these online. I highly recommend doing so – already having them when you arrive in the Dominican will reduce your wait time getting through immigration and customs.
  • If you want to enjoy the different cuisines and dining options at your resort, be sure to review the clothing requirements for each restaurant you plan to visit. Every single restaurant at our resort (I think there were 6 ) had a “dinner casual” dress code. Neither shorts or sandals were allowed for the guys. Consequently, since I didn’t remember to check their requirements, we ended up having to order room service every night because I neglected to pack long pants and closed-toe shoes for the hubby. Bummer…. 🙁
  • Arrange for a private car/van transfer to deliver you to your resort. It is worth the extra money and you won’t regret it. (More on this below.)

    Make your list and check it twice!

Getting There

  • Arrive at the airport early! Not early, like you’re flying to Vegas. Early, early! This is considered an international flight! Check-in can take longer. We arrived 2 1/2 hours early and only had about a 45-minute wait before boarding the plane.
  • If you are taking a chartered flight to paradise, congratulations – your flight will be non-stop but you will be doing airport check-in the old school way. No kiosks. No self-tagging your bags. Rewind 15 years and you’re once again weaving through the aisles that have the pulley strap things connecting them (you know…the ones the kids always like to play with). I did not expect this and was really glad we arrived extra early because check in the old school way takes a while…know what I’m sayin’?
  • Be prepared to wait! If you’re a frequent flyer who’s used to zipping through the check-in part of traveling, you won’t be, so don’t expect it. Again, if you don’t remember how check-in used to be, here’s a reminder – you will be lugging your luggage up to the check-in counter; standing there while they look you up in the system; still standing there while they check your passport; still standing while they print your ticket…you get the idea. And on behalf of all your fellow travelers, please be patient. No one likes standing in line. No one REALLY likes standing in line with the huffy, “I shouldn’t have to wait” traveler – You know who you are.
  • Your flight is likely to be at full capacity!  Ours was PACKED! And boy were people excited. It was basically a party on the plane. (This introvert was cringing.) So if crowds and noise aren’t your thing, the flight there may be a bit uncomfortable for you. Try to keep calm. Listen to some music. Read a book. If you have noise-canceling headphones, take them with you…they help a lot.

    Safety first! Getting settled in for our flight.

Arrival

  • The Punta Cana airport is beautiful and classic Caribbean with its thatched roofs, but also small. What does that mean for you? You will deplane on the tarmac, not in an air-conditioned ramp connected to the terminal. It will be hot! Strap on your sunglasses if you have them with you. You will be waiting on the tarmac several minutes before a large shuttle bus comes to pick you up. Any carry-on luggage you have with you will need to be carted onto the bus. It will be crowded and possibly smelly (don’t act surprised…you’ve just gotten off a plane packed with people who also just baked in the heat for who knows how long before the bus came…you can’t help but sweat).

    We’ve arrived! Check out the open air, thatched roof airport terminal – It doesn’t get any more Caribbean than that!
  • Once delivered to the terminal, there will be a mad rush to enter the building and get in line for customs and immigration. The good news – you’re finally back in air conditioning! The bad news – you have a lot more waiting to do.

    It feels a lot like this.
  • This is the point in time where you will need to get out your passport and the entry documents you filled out on the plane. You will turn these over to the officials who will check them accordingly. Once clear, you’ll head to baggage claim and then outside to where all the cabs and private cars are.
    • Word of Caution #1 – To get outside, you have to go through an open area where there will be lots of people hollering (yes, that’s still a word :)) asking you to sign up for tours or excursions, trying to help you with your bags, asking if you need a ride, etc. If you truly need the services of one of these people, by all means, negotiate with them. If not, politely ignore them and go about your business.

Getting to Your Resort

  • Hopefully, you took my advice above and have already arranged for a private transfer to your resort. If so, you will need to locate the agency you booked your reservation with (ours was Amstar and was arranged by Beach Bum). There will be several agencies with desks along the outer perimeter of this open area. Find yours, then go to the desk to check in. Once your reservation is confirmed, a rep will lead you to your ride.
    • I can’t say enough about having a private van to ride to the resort in. By the time you get to Punta Cana, you will be tired, hungry, and probably grumpy. And if you’re not, your kids will be (we still love them, wink). With a private transfer, you don’t have to wait for anyone else that may be assigned to your party before leaving for the resort. You simply check in, follow the rep to your assigned car, meet your driver (who may not speak English), hop in, and relax. Depending on where your resort is, you may even have time to take a quick nap!
    • Word of Caution #2 – How do I say this? The drive to your resort may resemble a thrill ride, eek. Even if you’re used to aggressive drivers (or you are one yourself, hee hee) the experience of driving in the Dominican can be an adventure itself! They drive FAST. And no one is very patient. There were motorcycles zipping along the berm of the highway. Our van was in the middle of a 4-lane highway trying to cross when we got passed on the right side by a car who was also wanting to cross, yikes! You will see many things different from what you’re used to seeing in the States – but isn’t that part of the beauty of traveling – to experience something new? I never felt unsafe – our driver knew what he was doing – but it was certainly a surprise I hadn’t expected. (Don’t forget to tip!)

      Your van will be nicer than this one – although this one is pretty cool too.

So that’s it for now! You’re all prepared to plan your trip!

In our next installment, we’ll give you a peek inside the resort we stayed at, the Royalton Punta Cana. Was it family friendly? How did the accommodations fit our daughter with special needs? Would we return? We’ll talk about all that and more!

Until next time! Safe travels!

T

50 COMMENTS

  1. Amanda | 8th Oct 17

    Dominican Republic is high on my list of places to see! My brother might be getting married there in the spring of 2019. I can’t wait!

    • Tiffany | 9th Oct 17

      Oooh! Fun. Our resort hosted 5-6 weddings just in the 6 days we were there! So beautiful!

  2. Melissa | 7th Oct 17

    Omg I want to go!!! Great tips

    • Tiffany | 7th Oct 17

      Thank you Melissa! Add it to your travel bucket list!

  3. Cerin | 6th Oct 17

    I have heard nothing but great things about the DR. Definitely on my bucket list! 🙂

    • Tiffany | 7th Oct 17

      Hi Cerin- Enjoy if you go! We are excited to go back next year.

  4. Kellee Anderson | 6th Oct 17

    I love the advice about booking a driver/transfer. I learned the hard way, I once had to wait over 1 hour and 45 minutes for a ride in a small town in Sweden.

    • Tiffany | 7th Oct 17

      Oh my goodness, that’s a long wait! I would love to visit Sweden…one day, hopefully!

  5. Christy | 6th Oct 17

    I have wanted to visit there!! Thanks for the tips.

    • Tiffany | 7th Oct 17

      You’re so welcome! If you do, enjoy! And let me know how it goes! 🙂

  6. Alisha | 6th Oct 17

    This is great information! Some friends of mine want to Punta Cana as well and LOVED it there!

    • Tiffany | 7th Oct 17

      That’s awesome! I bet they came back with some awesome pics!

  7. Kim | 6th Oct 17

    Great tips, it looks beautiful! I would love to visit one day!

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      Thank you! And it really was…I didn’t want to move from my lounge chair under the palapa!

  8. Marialena | 6th Oct 17

    Oh that’s so useful information! thanks for sharing!

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      You’re welcome!

  9. kiersten | 6th Oct 17

    This is full of great advice – I feel like I would know exactly what to expect traveling there! This is definitely a keeper in case we are ever lucky enough to travel to Punta Cana!

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      Yay! Happy to hear that! That’s what I was going for! The unexpected always give me anxiety when I travel. Happy I can help ease that for other travelers. 🙂

  10. Jacqueline Marie | 6th Oct 17

    Great advice! I would have never known most of what you shared, especially about the restaurants! Great suggestions!

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      Thanks Jacqueline! We missed out on sooo much yummy food. Even the buffet restaurant required pants and shoes for dinner! Not one ultra-casual dining option. 🙁

  11. Christina | 5th Oct 17

    Always wanted to go there! Thank for the tips they are great I’ll be sure to ask for sue when we decided idea to go there.

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      Great! Sue is fabulous! She hooked us up with lots of helpful info and a great deal! And, she really took the time to get to know our family and used that info to help find resorts she thought would be a good fit.

  12. Clair Cook | 5th Oct 17

    Great information! I wish I had this 8 years ago when we went to Punta Cana for our honeymoon. It would have made our trip even more of a breeze and less stressful 😊

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      What a fabulous honeymoon! Have you been back since then? We were hearing that a lot has changed in the past several years…better roads, etc. (They made the roads better so they could drive faster, ha ha!)

  13. Jodie | 5th Oct 17

    Great tips! I would love to travel more.

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      Hi Jodie – I know. It’s hard. Especially with the family, jobs, MONEY! Ugh… My mom gets on me about not saving the money we spend when we travel but to me it’s worth it. I don’t want to look back and have regrets about not doing things we love. Best of luck to you! Even if you take a local day trip….get out and explore! 🙂

  14. Sheree | Healthy Life, Happier Life | 5th Oct 17

    Excellent information! I’ll need to bookmark your post so I have all your great tips for when I travel to Punta Cana. 😊

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      Hi Sheree! Are you visiting soon? We’re going back next year but to a different part of the island. Will be interesting to see what is similar versus different.

  15. Julie | 5th Oct 17

    This place looks like heaven!! I went to St. Thomas a while back. The Caribbean is so beautiful!

    • Tiffany | 6th Oct 17

      Ooooh! I’d love to visit there too…would like to move there actually, but the cost of living, sigh……

  16. Amanda | 5th Oct 17

    We were going to go to Punta Cana for our honeymoon, but decided on Jamaica instead. We love to travel! Thanks for these tips

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Hi Amanda – You’re so welcome! Jamaica is on our list too. 🙂 Hey mon’!

  17. Gina | 5th Oct 17

    I have been really wanting to check out DR. I never knew about the tourism cards, so much of this is really useful info! Thanks for sharing!

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Hi Gina! Happy to! I love to travel but it does cause me a fair amount of anxiety…basically, the unknown aspects of it (I like my comfort zone)…so it only feels right to pay it forward (:)) by sharing what we learned to help others have fewer surprises during their trip!

  18. Jess | 5th Oct 17

    I’ve been to the Dominican. All of your tips are well worth listening to. Really good advice!

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Thanks Jess… Since you’ve been, anything else to add? We go again next year but to La Romana…really looking forward to it!

  19. Bekah S | 5th Oct 17

    This is wonderful advice! Makes me want to book a trip and have an adventure!

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Yes! You must, LOL! If you do, let me know how it goes!

  20. Nicolette | 5th Oct 17

    These are great tips, especially about the tourism cards & appropriate clothing. Looks like you had a beautiful vacation!

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Thanks Nicolette, we really did! So glad my “lessons learned” can help! There will be more tips in the next review. 🙂

  21. Stacey | 5th Oct 17

    What an adventure getting to your hotel! This looks like a beautiful place to visit. Your daughter is adorable! I’ll be looking for the next part of your adventure soon!

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Awww, thank you! She does take a pretty cute pic, not that I’m playing favorites or anything. 🙂 It was harrowing, to say the least! Made the trip memorable, LOL!

  22. Wonderseekersblog | 5th Oct 17

    Need to go there 😍 Thanks for sharing this post .

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      You are most welcome! Let us know how you like it if you end up going!

  23. Beverly Moran | 5th Oct 17

    It looks really beautiful there and your advice was spot on and very useful. Thanks!

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Hi Beverly! Thank you…glad you found it helpful! We already booked our return trip for next year!

  24. Cait | 5th Oct 17

    i have always wanted to go hear and what great tips you have! thanks for making it a must see now ha!

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      LOL! Thank you and yes, plan it now! 🙂

  25. Kara | 5th Oct 17

    Great tips for Punta Cana! I have never been myself, but it’s on my short list of places to see 🙂

    • Tiffany | 5th Oct 17

      Hi Kara! If you love the beach, it’s definitely a must. It was our first trip and we just loved it!

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