If I had a nickel for every time I got asked about the DR’s safety in the last few months, I could have paid off my house. If I coupled that with the phrase “Come back alive” when I told friends I was headed down there, I would be a millionaire. With so many different stories and major news events, it is easy to get caught up and be scared about travel. However, we decided to test it out ourselves to get a firsthand look at what is really going on and how resorts are responding to this security threat. We wanted to make sure it was safe for our clients to travel (That's our job as travel agents!). We checked out the resort security, alcohol, and off-site security at popular excursion locations.
The other major news item was the security of the mini-bars and alcohol. I stayed at and toured AM Resort hotels and was very impressed. Everything was bottled and sealed. No open spickets in the rooms and the bars had name brand imported liquor available. I felt very comfortable drinking both the local bottled rum and imported liquor. I talked to several other people on our excursions about their all-inclusive resorts and their observations were identical to mine. Everything was sealed and was either bottled or canned.
A trip to any all-inclusive would never be complete without an excursion or two. We booked two popular excursions to Marinarium and Coco Bongo. At both locations, you felt very comfortable with the staff and your surroundings. Marinarium did not serve alcohol until the snorkeling was completed which is the standard protocol. They had filtered water and ice on the boat along with bottled liquor which all seemed safe and protected behind the bar. Transportation to and from was very secure with door to door drop-off and pickup. I was really impressed with the staff when they noticed one person drank a little too much. Immediately, they cut him off from the alcohol and when back on shore, they brought him to his transportation van.
With my personal experience, it looks like the resorts and off-site locations are taking this threat seriously and have worked hard to make sure everyone feels safe and secure on their vacation. I talked with one of the property managers about it. He said the last thing they want people to worry about is their safety on vacation. People should be relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. I couldn’t agree more and felt very safe throughout my entire trip.
First, I want to start by saying I do not endorse everyone to leave the airport during a layover. It can be nerve racking and scary thinking you might miss your connecting flight. However, with the right amount of planning and preparation, it is possible.
In June, my wife and I had a 7-hour layover in Paris before our final destination. After an 8-hour flight from the states, the last thing you want to do is sit in an airport. After a lot of research, we decided to try and attempt our first trip to downtown Paris. Once our plane landed, we sprinted through customs and followed the signs to the subway station to buy our tickets. We hopped on RER B Express train, made a change to the C Line and 45 minutes later walked out staring at the Eiffel Tower.
We walked a little over 3 miles from the Eiffel tower to Notre Dame Cathedral taking pictures along the way. We walked along the Seine River and enjoyed seeing the different river boats, houses, and landmarks along the way. The Louvre has some beautiful gardens to walk through along with views of the Arc De Triomphe. Our speed was brisk, and we did the whole walk in about 2 hours. We took a few minutes to enjoy a local croissant and crepe before hopping back on the subway.
We did not know how long customs and security would take, so we buffered 2.5 hours to get through everything. This was more than enough time. We actually walked right through both and made the round trip in just under 5 hours. Enough time to relax before hopping back on the plane.
Everything went as well as it could. Here are a few things I learned from our experience with a 7-hour layover.
3.Take the Train\Subway and know your exact route. Don’t forget about getting tickets!
This will be the biggest time saver of them all. This also might be the break point of completing your trip or not. Even though a taxi might seem easy, they can be very unreliable with Paris traffic. A quick car accident and you might miss your flight which is way more common than a subway breakdown. The subway is also quicker to get downtown.
I worked really hard to know what subway routes we needed and what our options were if we had to quit and leave earlier. We also had to know what tickets to purchase as Paris has multiple different prices and routes. The RER is unique and requires a different level ticket than the normal subway within the city. We purchased a round trip at the airport, so we did not have to deal with a machine in the city. Also, make sure your credit card works in Europe. There are some cards that do not work in the machines and would require you to visit the subway desk. This would slow you down dramatically.
4.Don’t travel in a Group. Keep it Small
This might sound obvious, but keep it to a small number of people with the same physical capabilities. If you plan the trip out for yourself, but someone else cannot make a 3-mile walk, this will dramatically change your plans and cause it to fall short.
5.Don’t Book Tours or Museum Tickets
I cannot repeat this enough. Do not try to go up in the Eiffel Tower, do not buy tickets to see the Louvre, etc. You will not have time. The lines to get into these places can easily be an hour long and the tours usually last at least a couple hours. The Louvre itself takes a day to go through. Some cathedrals let you walk in without a wait which is nice, but be careful of long wait times at major attractions.
Traveling on a religious Israel tour was always on my bucket list. I found this trip to be fascinating and filled with more information than my brain could handle. For an 8 day trip, we covered a lot of ground from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee. Here are the top 5 things I learned about Israel culture and religious backgrounds.
4. Israeli/Palestine Border is not as simple as it seems
One of the most fascinating things about our trip was learning what group controlled each city. I always assumed that there were large sections set aside for Palestine. This is not true at all. Find a map and look. The “West Bank” is now just scattered dots with different cities except for the Gaza strip. Two major cities currently held by Palestine are Jericho and Bethlehem. As the bus drove through different towns, we had to do checkpoints and stop for inspections.