6 April 2011

Hola Dominicana!

March 2007 (DR trip, Part I)

My world had changed and was continuing to do so.  Recently single, I was in search of nothing that seemed as it was.  A defining era in my life (challenging, evolving and necessary)...who was "Heidi" and what did she want.  Aside from wanting happiness and to live life, at the time, I could only come up with an endless list of things I didn't want. 

Having just experienced Boston, maybe that's what I need, another vacation?! Just the girls, off to an all inclusive 4* resort, on a direct flight to the Caribbean for seven full days.  YEAH, I want that!

Of course, when asked if I'd be interested in something like this, I was excited about the idea, but honestly, I had no clue.  Before this, I had only taken a day off here and there (and very likely I stayed home or close to it). I’d never taken a full weeks' vacation all at once and certainly not for my own leisure. 

Travel for fun?!  People do this?  I guess so!  ;)  My cousin Quinn, being a travel agent, plans these things for people all the time.  Guess it was finally our turn.  I know I've thanked Quinn over and over for introducing me to travel, but I don't know if she realizes the impact that these comings and goings have had on my life, the very transformation of 'Heidi on vacation', to Holiday Heidi. (Thanks Quinnifer).

Some resorts will charge you extra for traveling solo (or when requesting more than 2 persons) but in some cases there's no increase (as was the case this time around). So, during the final stages of planning, I talked Quinn into bringing along a third travel pal, my long time high school friend, Terri.  :)  We confirmed our vacation with Transat Holidays.  We'd be staying at the Occidental Grand Puerto Plata (currently Barcelo).  We read Trip Advisor and viewed the pics just about every day from pre-planning to departure.  This place had it all!

When planning a trip, it's important that everyone gets everything they need out of their vacation.  Most travel companions will likely want a lot of the same things, but don't count on everything being the same.  Right from day one (after the dates were selected), we discussed resort options: restaurants, beaches, activities, excursions, pools, bars, discos and what was important, when did they open/close, how many were there, how often could we visit, how much extra did they cost etc.  I tend to want more night life and adventure, while Quinn prefers more rest and relaxation and we've proven time and time again that we can return home after our vacation completely satisfied.

Remember that when traveling with other people, a fair bit of comprise, consideration and acceptance goes into having two people share a space for any stretch of time, especially if you aren't pre-vacation friends. This advice is good for when you're traveling as a pair or in a group of 30.  They say 'three's company' and it's true.  The balance of this became evident once we were on vacation when there was always one of the three that would take an interest in doing what one of us were up to (great for companionship and/or great for alone time and eliminates safety concerns of some solo adventures).  We often did things in a little pack  (bonus).  One thing I'd recommend would be to spend time together, if possible, before you book your shared vacation (compatibility is more important than having many of the same interests).

So here we are, three single gals planning our first all inclusive Caribbean vacation.  Pumped!! Oh my dear Quinn!  Having experience with this type of thing, I pretty much drove her crazy (just like I did pre-Boston, but this time it seemed like we were venturing really far away and I was so curious of the unknown).  One thing that I found absolutely beneficial was the packing list she had sent me. What an ideal thing to use for the first time traveller (google search this:  packing list for Dominican or anywhere you're going to and that should get you started).

During the planning stages and definitely before departure, be sure to know the currency of the Country you're visiting (most prefer USD over CAD and some won't accept either of those, only their own).  Find out if there's any type of entry visa.  Make an appointment to get vaccines (protection against Hepatitis A and B and a tetanus shot are must haves) for any illnesses that are preventable. 

If all travellers aren't from the same household, talk about the things you're packing so that you're not packing double of things you could share. Bring along a few key phrases in the Native Language (Quinn gave us these on a little card that fit in our wallet, awesome). What about electrical outlets?  Check to see if you can charge your camera or curl your hair before you go.  Check the weather of your destination, you can plan accordingly thereafter.  Good, you're set! Well, almost.  Is there a departure tax to leave the airport of the Country you're visiting?  Find out if there is and how much, or you just might be stuck there.

After unpacking, repacking and weighing each suitcase over and over again, it was finally departure day!  I worked most of the day before heading to the airport.  Excitedly-anxious!? Or maybe, anxiously-excited?  Either will adequately create the picture for you of the three of us waiting in the check-in line this late afternoon.  Bags checked, seats selected, boarding passes in hand we then proceed, uninterrupted, through security...that much closer to Dominican.  :)

We sit. We wait.  Our boarding time approaches but boarding the plane doesn't happen.  A half hour goes by, still nothing.  We can see our plane. We're able to watch it from the windows and doors that haven't opened yet to let us on it.  How weird.  As we sit watching our plane, we can see them unloading it.  What!? 

Finally an announcement.  The room goes silent.  "Ladies and Gentleman..." OMG, while waiting for your pre-vacation flight at the airport, these are scary words.  A sigh of relief escapes everyone!  Okay, well they did not say the dreaded word "cancelled".  You're instantly happy you decided to start your vacation the second you finished work (what a waste of time if you hadn't lol), but you'd be happier if you were on a plane to your destination already.  However, when the announcement tells you that you're waiting for a plane to arrive from another location because the one that you're supposed to be on won't start, you tend to be happiest that you're seated where you are, safely inside the airport.  Yes, we'll gladly wait for a plane that works, thank you very much! :)

We boarded the CanJet plane only to discover that this aircraft was even larger than the last one I had experienced.  This baby had 3 seats per row and an endless aisle filled with 'vacation ready' Canadians (woot)!  And since there were three seats, this meant that the three of us could all sit in the same row! How perfect!  Roughly about 4 hours from the scheduled departure, we were flying down the United States coastline over the Atlantic Ocean.  This flight now offered us a beautiful midnight view of Boston, Long Island, New York / Manhattan, New Orleans, Florida etc.  What a nightscape, so many lights. 

Arrival time now 2:30 am and the very second you exit the plane you are smacked with the aroma of sweet, mouldy heat. It's so in your face, it's so therapeutic and it welcomes you to the Caribbean long before you hear anyone's voice doing the same.  "Ladies ... WE. ARE. HERE!"

We made our way through customs, found our luggage, met our bus and said adios (at least for 7 days) to the Puerto Plata Airport.  Kenya, was the name of the tour lady on our bus this morning.  She welcomed us, offered information about where we were, where we're going and how long before we'd be there (15 minutes to our resort from the airport).  Three absolutes:  (1)  DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER (2)  Don't go, do or buy anything, anywhere from anyone until after your orientation meeting tomorrow at 9 am (3) DON'T MISS YOUR ORIENTATION MEETING TOMORROW MORNING.  And then the bus stopped. "Occidental Grand" ... ahhh, that's us!!  OMG, we're here.  :)

...I'll stop here.
                    ... just before I get all people crazy on you (I fall in love with people, you'll see.  Always have and I hope, always will. OMG - so many wonderful people: the Newfie girls, the beach workers, the staff at the resort, the boys from Norway). 

I also need to tell you of the resort upgrade (with our fancy 'red bracelet' to the gated entry privado section.  With our private pool, order by menu restaurant and cerveza's served in the bottle to our door - VIP, yes yes yes).  The off-resort excursion, the disco bar called Mangue (home of the cages, drag-queens and the mouth throwing flames - crazy place), the most memorable statements "I've got maracas" "Monkey See - Monkey Do", and, and, and...  

There's so much to share with you!  "Looky, Looky for FREE" This is the title of the next blog post to follow and your invitation to join us in the Dominican! See you there (hopefully next week)!  ;)

Share your comments, your stories, your travel advice etc. in the section below or to my email holidayheidi@hotmail.ca Be sure to click your reaction to this post (below) and give your answer to the weekly survey (top right of the blog page).  No sign up necessary, just a simple click :)

~ Holiday Heidi


  1. stephanie brace6 April 2011 at 13:22

    The biggest smile on my face - BUT - WHAT - I have to wait another day to read more!!!!! I was so getting into it :-) Can't wait to read about your stay. AND I must say you keep a better diary than me :-P

  2. A day, crap we have to wait a week it's all good
    Heidi you have to wait until I read the rest...LOL,Hugs

  3. I just read ur blog! I freaking love it! It made me feel like I was reliving all MY dominican trips! U have such a way w words. I've been following the transat vacationer Kate. And while she's good and I like her, there is really no comparison. They really don't know what they missed out on. I'm serious :)

    - Kelly Bachl