How it worked out for these 38 people!
Barbara: Hi! I am so excited to have Haley Trujillo with me. Haley is going to talk to us about her multigenerational family trip to Punta Cana. She was the main planner of this trip.
First of all, because I specialize in wellness travel, I'm going to ask, what aspect of wellness do you think that this trip helped you with, Haley?
Haley: I think it definitely was a connection with family. Our whole goal was to get together in a place where we could relax and have fun and be in warm weather and just have connection.
Barbara: Where are you in the family? Are you the oldest? How many siblings do you have?
Haley: I'm the oldest girl. So basically I'm an oldest child in some ways, cause I have three older brothers and two younger sisters. So total there's six siblings.
How many people total?
Barbara: Tell us how many people there were total and talk about your initial ideas for where you were thinking you may want to go.
Haley: There are 41 people including parents, siblings, and children. There were only three of the nieces and nephews that didn't end up coming because of school. Initially we were looking at maybe renting a big house or Airbnb, we thought about an all-inclusive, going to Costa Rica or Hawaii. We were trying to just figure out the best place that would accommodate all ages. We range in age from my parents are in their seventies down to a nine month old baby. Most of the kids were teenagers, but we did have a good range.
How did you decide on Punta Cana?
Barbara: That’s a big group to try to please. Eventually you narrowed it down and decided that the all-inclusive idea might be the best. I think mostly because it worked so well to accommodate all the different ages and all the different stages of life that everybody's in. Is that what you found?
Haley: For sure. A few years ago we went to Newport beach and we rented a house. We found that for the moms, we did a lot of lunch prep and a lot of coordinating all the activities, and we were kind of on top of each other and it wasn’t really fun. We had a great trip, but we wanted it to be a little different than that. We wanted everyone to feel like we're on vacation. And so we started to kind of lean towards all-inclusive and the location of Punta Cana. I had been there, and I knew that it was a beautiful location. I feel like it's similar to Mexico, but Caribbean. You get the beautiful beaches, the beautiful, warm water. It has a little bit of a different feel and a lot of my family had been to Mexico. We wanted something different.
Barbara: I love that Punta Cana is similar to Mexico in that they don't have a lot of requirements in order to travel there. Let’s jump into the trip itself. Is there anything that you want to mention as far as flights? Not everybody was on the exact same flights.
Haley: I would say the only thing--and not everyone is cares about this--but the red eye flight can be really hard for younger kids. Just be mindful about going into it and maybe find a different flight if you need to. But everybody got there okay. And getting to the resort worked out great. We followed the directions you gave us. They took us right there; there really wasn't any waiting time. Besides the fact that my brother-in-law left phone on the flight. So but we were really impressed with the transportation crew. He took my brother-in-law, they went straight out and, you know, obviously he knows the airport and the people. So he was able to go straight to the to the runway where the airplane was, and they had already cleaned it out. So then they went directly over to the Jet Blue terminal or desk and they had his phone. They were really, really helpful and helped him get that. And so we did wait, but that was unforeseen circumstances.
Covid accommodations at the resort
Barbara: At the resort, did you notice any accommodations that they were doing for the virus, like cleaning procedures or social distancing or masking?
Haley: Sanitizing stations are basically everywhere you go. Any door that you go into, all of the workers are masked, and going into any of the eating establishments, you had to have a mask. They weren't super vigilant on making sure you kept it on, but going into the restaurants, you had to have a mask, which, you know, when you're walking around in your swimsuit and stuff, it was a little challenging, but I appreciated that for sure. That those things are in place, it didn't feel super restrictive. It was smart how they ran it. And they did have masks there. So if you didn't have it, they would give you one.
Photo courtesy of Royalton Splash Punta Cana
Royalton Splash Punta Cana
Barbara: That's good. We haven't even mentioned the resort you stayed at. It was called the Royalton Splash Punta Cana. Let’s dive in and talk about the resort itself. We want to hear plenty of details, whatever you want to tell us. First of all, I'll set the stage by saying originally everyone was booked in just the standard rooms at the Royalton Splash. And then as we got closer, a couple of weeks before you left, we started looking at the different room categories and everyone decided to upgrade to the diamond club room, which provided a few more amenities. And so everyone was in the diamond club rooms. You had one brother and sister-in-law that upgraded to the sister property called the Royalton Punta Cana.
Diamond Club check-in
Haley: When we got there they took us into priority check-in, because we were in the diamond club. The diamond club for us was worth it. I would highly recommend the diamond club in our experience because when we came in, we had a large group, they took us right into the diamond club. We'd been traveling all day. We had cold drinks, we had snacks. There were tables that we sat at while we went through signing forms, and there's obviously a lot of documentation getting our wristbands and it was so nice to be there. I did notice anyone else that checked in without diamond club was just at the desk, like in the lobby. There's the bar and you can get a drink, but I just felt like it was that little extra, it was like a separate area. It really gave us a sense of like, we're getting some priority benefits here being in the diamond club. So right away we felt like that was worth it.
And the resort itself is beautiful. It's well-maintained, well-manicured, I was impressed with just the look of it right from the get-go. It was a beautiful property. When were checked in, we immediately had our Butler. Ours was Edwin and he took care of our whole family. He was the one that helped check us in, and then he took us on the tram and drove us around a little bit, just pointing out certain things, which of course you don't remember because you’re overloaded at the beginning.
The beach is the furthest, so you have the check-in lobby and the Splash, and then you have the Royalton Punta Cana that's by the beach. So he took us to our rooms and the funny thing was, there were two of us, me and my sister, we went to our rooms and there were people in them already. My husband has experienced this before, and he just said, Edwin, we need a room. We're all tired and gross and sweaty. Edwin was great. He upgraded us to a nicer room. And it only took minutes.
They immediately got us into a room. We had about three to four of us kind of clustered in one area. One sister was far away, which was where we would have been, but her room was available, so she got left over there. And then there were two or three families upstairs in the upper level. We were all in the same area, took the same tram together and we were directly across the diamond club. Rooms were directly across from the waterpark.
Photo courtesy of Royalton Splash Punta Cana
I would say that we overestimated the time we'd spend at the waterpark and underestimated the time we would spend at the beach. The waterpark was really fun. I loved that part, but for the time spent, I would have preferred to stay closer to the beach. Everyone agreed. They'd rather stay closer to the beach. There’s a tram to the beach. Some families took the tram, but we walked a lot because there's a beautiful path. There's ducks and turtles and birds. And it's lit at night. It's easy path to get over to the other resort and the beach. The sister resort was actually our main gathering place, which was where all the restaurants were because a lot of the restaurants in the Splash were not open or they were only open on certain days. The buffet at the Punta Cana was better than the one at the Splash, so we would walk over there every day. We spent most of our time there and used the restaurants and the beach and the diamond club bar at the beach. It was amazing. They had awesome food, awesome drinks. We spent a lot of our time there cause it was right by the water.
Barbara: What I'm hearing is that if you hadn't had the diamond club upgrade, you wouldn't have had access to everything that you did.
Haley: Absolutely. That diamond upgrade was totally valuable.
Barbara: Anything else about the resort or the rooms?
Haley: The rooms were nice. They're your basic tile floor, and the beds were fine. They weren't like overly comfortable, but they were good. They did a great job cleaning and stocking our fridge. We didn't want alcohol in our fridges. So we requested to Edwin actually that we just wanted diet Pepsi and water and Coke Light. That was great. Edwin also booked all of our reservations for dinner, but it was a little hard to communicate through WhatsApp, with the language differences. There was some miscommunication with what we wanted, but he did so well. And we had a birthday and an anniversary. My parents 51st anniversary was while we were there. And he did an awesome job of providing a dinner for all of us where we could all be there at the same time, which is pretty hard to coordinate for 38 people. He had the waiters sing, and brought cake for the birthday celebration and the anniversary. So that was really special. That meant a lot to us.
Photo courtesy of Royalton Splash Punta Cana
Dinners: together or separate?
Barbara: What did you do for dinners? Did you eat together most of the time, or separate?
Haley: I guess the rule is that typically you just make reservation for eight people. Sometimes you can increase that based on the restaurant, but we didn't really eat together unless we were at the buffet. We did do the buffet two or three nights. And then the other nights we went to the restaurants and we would just split up into families. Everyone was okay with doing that at night, because we would gather afterward; there's a show every night at nine. So we'd meet up after dinner and talk about what we wanted to do that night, and whoever wanted to go home and go to bed could, and others could stay and go to the show. So that was really fun.
Barbara: It sounds like you were together enough for other activities during the day that it wasn't a huge deal that you couldn't eat together every night.
Haley: Yeah. And you can eat anytime basically between 5:30 and 8:00 pm, so everyone could do what they wanted.
Barbara: So let's move onto excursions. What kinds of things did you do off property and were you happy with it?
Haley: We initially decided, because we had such a big group, that we were going to just wait and decide what to do. That ended up working out just fine. My brother did a deep sea fishing excursion and several of our family members did that on two different days. That was a really great experience. They loved it. They caught a 91-inch marlin and a tuna, so it was agreat experience.
We did a family excursion; we went to Saona island. We were able to have our own private catamaran take us out because our group size, which was so fun because we had our own crew and we were able to hook up our phones and have our playlists. They brought snacks and drinks. It was about a 45 minute ride to get to the port where you leave from, so that was a bit of a drive. It's definitely a full day activity going out there. We took the catamaran out to the island. The island itself is beautiful. I honestly feel like the beach at our resort was just as beautiful, so it wasn't like we were experiencing something different than what we'd already had. It was just nice to get off the resort and do something different.
We were able to snorkel, which was fun. They fed us lunch. It was really good. Everything felt really safe and prepared. And then we went back to the catamaran and went back home. We left at 7:30 in the morning, and I think we got home around 6:30.
A couple of families did the dolphin swim, and they all said it was awesome. They interacted with the dolphins, they swam with them, and did all the things. They said it was awesome, especially for the younger kids.
Barbara: It sounds like you had an amazing time.
Haley: We really did!
What would you do differently?
Barbara: Is there anything else that you can think of that we haven't talked about yet? Anything you would recommend or do differently if you were going to repeat it?
Haley: Really, the only thing is we probably stay in the sister property.
With the climate in the world right now, some restaurants weren't open, there's less staff, but we were understanding of that. And I thought they did a great job of having enough things open. There was plenty of food. We never went without. We did have a couple people get sick, but nothing crazy, just typical GI stuff for a couple of days. But nothing that felt like it was unsafe.
We really did love the all-inclusive for the age ranges that we had because the little kids who are picky, there was plenty to choose from. Room service was actually really awesome. And we did room service a lot. If the kids didn't want to make it to breakfast, they'd just order room service.
We all came home just feeling like the purpose in the vacation was, was had by all. We had a great connection. We felt like we spent lots of family time together. The kids and the cousins were able to go swim and go to the beach and do all the things together. We felt like it was well worth the effort and the money and the time that was spent. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime. I don't know that we'll ever be able to coordinate something like that again.
Barbara: Thank you so much for talking to me about this! I’m glad that you had a great time and then it all worked out!