We were long overdue for an airplane trip. Let’s face it. It’s expensive to fly with a family of six. We will be squeaking in one more trip before baby girl turns two and we have to officially buy six seats. But still, buying five seats is a lot. My husband I always said we would travel with our children. We spent two summers in France, Belgium and traveling around Europe when we were in college and newlyweds. We always knew we would travel with our family. We just had no idea that would mean buying six plane tickets. But we are here. It’s been four years since we went anywhere oversees like our Norway trip.
It was time. Twice I bailed on planning a trip to Costa Rica, then Puerto Rica. Because traveling and renting cars and going off the beaten path the way we prefer, is WAY different with four kids in tow. Finding hotel rooms and cars to fit all of us takes advanced planning and I’m a spur of the moment gal. We all renewed our passports last year for a spur of the moment trip to anywhere…somewhere…for Spring Break. And then the two vans on the island I wanted to go to were long booked by people who plan better than me. I had missed the boat. Literally.
This time around I happened to meet a travel agent at my daughter’s dance studio (you can find her here). I told her my budget, my problem, my talent in poor planning, my travel style and said I’m open to different destinations. I told her I want to stay a week and I don’t want it to cost as much as a European vacation. I just want to go to the beach, somewhere warm, and use our passports.
We landed in the Dominican Republic. We stayed in an all-inclusive resort (this is the one) that was very international with guests from many places speaking many languages. Our travel agent found us a family room that comfortably slept all of us, in a family friendly place that gave us an equal balance of big kid stuff, and beach time for me with a baby. We flew out of Atlanta on a Monday, which saved $1500, plus got us on a direct flight.
Long ago my husband and I were the kind of travelers who backpacked around Europe with a Euro rail pass, guidebooks, and decided where we wanted to go when we looked at the train schedule standing in the train station. When we reached our destination we exchanged our currency (this was before the Euro) and found a pay phone (this was before cell phones) to start calling places to sleep that night – from the numbers provided in our guidebook we had in our backpack. We did this in Budapest. We did it everywhere, through nine different countries. So we are really NOT the all inclusive crowd. But for us today, it seemed like the most economical way to go somewhere and still find sometime to relax on our vacation. Because vacation with four kids, honestly is hardly a vacation. But it’s a trip. And it’s my goal to show my children very different places in the world.
In this moment, walking through the international terminal in Atlanta I said to myself…hell yes…four kids will travel. We are doing this!
I was determined not to be your average “fly and flop” American going to an all-inclusive resort who never leaves the resort. I was going to get out of the reservation and show my children life with real locals in the Dominican Republic. But booking excursions with our children ranging in ages required some creativity, and trust in traveling a little off the beaten path. I found a private glass bottom boat tour for just the six of us. This is so important so we could go at our own speed, and meet the wide needs of our four children. It was on Viator.com. From home I got the owner of the company on the phone, talked to him about our situation and felt comfortable booking it. He assured me he could provide a car seat for our transportation since I didn’t bring one from home. When it was time to hop on the boat the tour guide said everything was ready but they were still trying to locate a car seat for the boat. Thom the owner was trying to soooooooo hard to please us. In the Dominican Republic they drive with babies on motorcycles. They do not understand our American need for car seats. That’s another story but there are too many tales to tell them all. Getting out and trusting some locals and learning about the area brought us our best experiences.
The guide of this boat took us to an area only accessible by foot and by boat. I told him we wanted to go away from all the Spring Break tour boats and find a quiet spot. We succeeded. And the driver even scaled a coconut tree to crack it open and let the girls eat from a fresh coconut. I did not get photos of that. My camera was in the boat at the time. But it will be something my girls always remember.
The girls snorkeled in some deep choppy water, which was really impressive. Especially for my seven year old! And we stopped at a tourist chamber, dock thing, where you could swim with stingrays and nurse sharks. That was a Dominican Republic specialty because such a thing would never fly in the US with animal rights laws. But we did it. I drew the line with swimming with the dolphins.
This is my, I have trumped traveling with four children moment. And yes I just nursed a toddler in a stingray tank. Because that is how you meet everyone’s needs traveling with a one-year-old and a 12-year-old.
The owner of the company boat tour asked us if there was anything else we wanted to do that he could help us arrange. We brainstormed about the traditional options…safaris, dune buggies and zip lining.. all of which had elements we nixed off the list because of traveling with a toddler and some children who are not that daring. We told him we wanted to go surfing and take some lessons. This super nice man Thom offered to line it all up for us and drive us to the closest surfing spot about 30 minutes away. He picked us up in his SUV. The night before the trip I called him to double check that he found a car seat for us to use and that we could fit us all in his SUV. We had already seen his vehicle the day we took out boat tour and knew it was very nice, especially for Dominican Republic standards. While he was on the phone with me he was counting seat belts in the car to make sure we could all fit. He spoke very good English. The idea of doing this with four children felt a little far-fetched me. But I put my brain in travel mode and I thought of all the things to make sure we were safe and sound for this adventure. This is Thom’s business and he was very professional. While talking with him in the car we learned a lot about their culture, the jobs, and how the tourism industry is changing the country.
It was an awesome adventure!!! I’m so thankful we did it. Thom took us to Macao Beach. The two surfing instructors he lined up were from The King of Board Kitesurf School. Both of them were fabulous working with the girls and teaching them to surf. The owner was from Italy and has two children who surf. My two middle girls got up on their first tries! My oldest daughter lasted a long time out there and really enjoyed it. The middles called it a day after their first wipeouts.
Baby girl hung out with me and enjoyed my beach hammock I brought all the way from Tennessee. She was unsure of the ocean this trip more than she has ever been before, in all our weeks spent on the beach in Florida. I did not surf. Paddle boarding is more my speed. But I like to live the beach life, for sure.
This was our spread for lunch. The “menu” was a selection of fresh caught fish. There was no paper menu. And women cooked the food over fire, using large cast iron pots under a tent. The food was amazing and far better than anything at the resort.
There were all kinds of locals on the beach selling their goods to tourists even though it was not a very touristy area. We bought a fresh coconut and drank the water from the inside. And we had a little fun with a man wearing a US Postal uniform shirt, putting an iguana on people heads.
These are the awesome amazing experiences our children need to have traveling. So yes by golly…. Four kids will travel. Four kids will surf. And four kids will swim with stingrays. It’s how we roll.