You booked the tour and are excited to spend the day with your kids in the paradise called Saona Island. Your tour operator told you to bring the usual – bathing suit, towel, sunscreen and some clothes to wear on you way there and back. Is that all? If you’re a mom, you know it’s never THAT simple. And you’re right! Here is my personal list of things to bring with you (and a few tips along the way) to make sure your days in paradise as amazing as it should be.
BIG Beach Bag
As a mom, you know that you’ll end up carrying it all. So make sure that the bag you bring with you can fit most of the items that follow.
The moment you step off your bus and walk out onto the beach you will be asked to take you shoes off and you won’t be putting them back on until you get off the catamaran in the late afternoon. So make sure to bring a bag big enough to fit all of your family members’ sandals and/or flipflops.
Bikini, tankini or one piece? That’s totally up to you. But keep in mind that you’ll probably be taking lots of pictures, so pick a bathing suit that makes you feel comfortable and beautiful.
Cover ups / UV protective clothing
If I were to do it all over again, I would have worn a bathing suit wrap / cover or a very light, fast drying dress on the way there, instead of the recommended skirt / shorts and shirt. You’ll be taking your clothes off about 15 minutes after you get on the first boat (if you choose to go snorkeling). It’s so much easier and more convenient to put on a bathing suit wrap after snorkeling rather than your regular clothes. Especially that you’ll be taking them off when you get to natural pool and then to Saona Island. So if you’re kind of old school or modest like I am, and feel a bit too exposed sitting on a speedboat with 20 other people in your bikini – cover up is the easiest way to go.
As for the kids – they’ll be happy and warm, just wrapped up in their towels during the short trips between the snorkeling, the natural pool and the island. However, I’d encourage you to bring a UV protective clothing for the kids if you have them. They will definitely come in handy on the 1.5 – 2 hours on catamaran. It is very easy to get burnt on the water.
Make sure to bring something easy to put on at the end of the tour when getting back to the shore. Most of the tours take you to the shopping centre before bringing you back to the hotel. So make sure to have something you’ll feel comfortable to wear at the mall.
Pick up some fresh beach towels just before your trip and bring one for each of the family members. They will come in handy not only to dry yourself after a swim, but also to sit on or to lie down on while lounging on the catamaran.
Put plenty of sunscreen on before you leave the hotel. Yes, you’ll be on the bus for about an hour, but the moment you get on the boat, your mind will be on the beautiful scenery, not on sunscreen. And remember to reapply the sunscreen every few hours. I was very diligent and yet, ended up with a burnt forehead.
I know, it’s an obvious one. I rarely forget my own, but the kids are another story. So don’t forget to bring a pair for them as well. After all, you’ll be spending the day under a bright, hot sun and your eyes are well worth the protection.
You will be asked to remove your hat on the speedboat, unless you can tie it under your chin. But it will come in handy on the island and on your trip back on the catamaran. I love the large rim hats for my daughter and UV protective hats with the neck flap on the back for my son.
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Waterproof Phone Cover
If you and your phone are inseparable, make sure to bring a waterproof phone cover. Ideally, I’d suggest you buy one at home and bring it with you, as buying it in Dominican Republic will cost you a proverbial arm and a leg.
Now this is a tricky one. You probably have a camera on your phone that takes good enough pictures to turn into a wonderful photobook later, so really do you need one? If you have a small, waterproof camera like GoPro, I’d say – go for it!
If you have a big, expensive DSLR, I’d say leave it at the resort, unless you are a professional. And I’m talking from experience. I took mine, just to take family photos and then spent more time worrying about not getting it wet and sandy than actually enjoying taking pictures with it. Besides, every tour has a dedicated professional photographer, who will take as many photos of your family as you wish during all the stops. You do not have to commit to purchasing them right away. Once you’re on the catamaran, the photographer will come to see you and show you all the pictures. If you like them, you can purchase them. If you choose to buy them, you’ll end up with an album of professionally edited, high quality photos from paradise that include ALL of your family members. Trust me, it’s well worth the money!
Snacks for Your Kids
Yes, they offer drinks on the boats, but not food. The only food you will see is the buffet lunch at Saona Island. You’ll be eating lunch around 1:00pm and getting back to your hotel around 6:00pm. By the time you get on the catamaran, the kids will be getting tired and whiny. You don’t want to add hungry to that list as well. So bring a few granola bars or grab a few muffins from the breakfast buffet.
It makes no difference if it’s the bottle provided to you at the hotel or a reusable one. Make sure to keep one on you at all times. You’ll have an opportunity to refill your bottle on the glass-bottom boat, the island and the catamaran. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck refilling the tiny plastic cups every time you want a few sips.
Make sure to bring plenty of change and some bigger bills. Yes, your trip is paid for, but you will be prompted to leave voluntary tips at the end each leg of the tour. The bartenders on the beach don’t mind a tips either. In addition, there are vendors walking on the beach offering massages and selling jewellery. If you choose to purchase the pictures taken by the tour photographer, he’ll ask you to put down a non-refundable deposit. Finally, when you get back to the main island, a local vendor will be selling personalized bottles of sugar cane rum.
BONUS: Snorkeling Gear
If you are planning on snorkeling and have your own gear, I’d encourage you to take it with you as well. True, the tour company provides you with it on the boat. But I’m not convinced that the mouth pieces are properly sanitised after each use. If you don’t have your own gear, but want to snorkel, consider bringing some wipes. Even hand sanitizer will do.
It may seem like a lot. But I assure you, packing those few extra items will save you some headaches and make your day in paradise much more relaxing and enjoyable.