Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

I’ve been home for over a week from my kid free vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and it already feels like I’ve been back for months. No offence to my boys or anything but an all inclusive without kids…that’s a hard thing to leave behind.

Now that I’ve had some time to detox and dry out, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some details of the resort and to do a a real review. I know that there are tons of reviews on TripAdvisor but I find them kind of all over the place. Some of the reviews were so scary that we almost cancelled. Which is a shame because the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort (with a casino and aqua park!) was one of the best affordable all inclusive resorts I’ve been to.

ROOMS

We booked our trip about 10 days before we left. I do this a lot because with this timeline, resorts and hotels, are looking to fill their rooms and the prices often begin to drop substantially. We compared what we paid with others at the resort and we definitely got the best deal at $677 CAD per person for our flight and all inclusive stay. At the time of booking we asked for a non-smoking, updated room, near the beach and pool. We landed in Block M which was a bit far from the main bar and restaurant but close to the sand and pool action. It was still quiet enough at night that we didn’t hear any noise from the club or the beach parties. (That I may or may not have participated in. Until 6 am.)

Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. A real review

Our room was lovely, with two double beds, huge closet space, an updated bathroom with walk in shower (no tub) and lots of room to move around. We had a nice view of the back of the property with lots of palm trees and foliage however, we spent very little time in our room. Let’s be real. We were there to eat, sun, and party. The room was for sleeping and I barely did any of that.

Some of our friends had rooms directly above the main building and I heard that these rooms haven’t been renovated. They didn’t mind since they also didn’t spend much time in their rooms. What would have driven me round the bend, however, was the insane screaming of the peacocks who hung around the main building. We often saw them perched on the balcony of the second floor rooms. That would have been a total no for me. Peacocks are gorgeous but they’re kind of the assholes of the bird world.

The upgraded members had rooms on the quiet side of the resort with access to bed like cabanas and things I neither can afford nor care about. It looked lovely and quiet over there and really, really boring. So there’s that.

MEALS

The main building hosts two buffets to accommodate all the guests. As with most resorts, the buffet hours are limited and breakfast often ends before the party people come back to life. Which didn’t really matter since a breakfast buffet was also set up near the main pool. That breakfast buffet changed into a lunch buffet that ran all afternoon. We hit up the breakfast buffet in the main lobby (either Sanoa or Macao) most days but skipped the lunch buffet in favor of hanging by the pool. We only had dinner in the main buffet one night since the concierge was able to get us into restaurants every night but one. Super appreciated that because we got to eat at the Japanese restaurant twice. Mmmm….sushi!

We had one meal at the Mexican restaurant and it was fine. The Italian dinner was lovely as was the Mer. But Jade was simply our favorite. We didn’t make it to the steakhouse, of the Diner largely because there may have some pool party shenanigans and we forgot to check back in with the concierge that night for the Steakhouse dinner. We wound up at the buffet just as it was closing. I have no idea what I was eating at that point but I think it was delicious.

POOLS, BARS, AND ENTERTAINMENT

The Sirenis Cocotal has insanely gorgeous pools that wind throughout the resort. We spent most of our time on the shallow side near the swim up pool bar where all the action was.

Review of Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort, Punta Cana, Domincan Republic. travelingsinglemom.com

The cabana of the bar coupled with the bridge made for some well needed shade during mid-day. The cocktails and party atmosphere made for some crazy times. The other side of the resort also had a pool bar and it was much quieter with a more relaxed atmosphere. The deep end of the pool is in the middle and connects to the other pools. Personally, it was too deep for me to hang out in without spilling my ever present drink.

Review of the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic- travelingsinglemom.com

The statue attracted some bathing beauties who were not interested in partying with us. We liked that they kept to their side of the pool, thanks very much.

Traveling Single Mom- Review of the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana

The Animacion (entertainment) team was a little bit cheesy but also a whole lot of fun. The Miss Bikini and Mr. Sexy contests haven’t changed all that much since I was there in the 1980’s and the insane skit on our last day was beyond cheesy but pretty hilarious in the end.

The Animacion team was also responsible for water aerobics and exercise classes. People seem to like that. I enjoyed watching while sipping my first Bloody Mary of the day. Apparently there is a gym on site as well, but I may have missed that.

Some of our friends hit up the shows every night and loved the productions. I was too busy being my own production.

We’re not really into shows so we usually booked ourselves into late dinners before meeting others at the main bar. Where we drank the local drink, Mamajuana, into the wee hours. Occasionally we hit the disco, where we danced until 2 am with resort guests and locals before hitting the beach to party until dawn. Sometimes we skipped the disco and hung around the main bars until closing time. The bar closed at 1:30 am and the disco at 2 am. Hence the beach parties. It’s rather amazing that we actually ever made it to breakfast before the 10 am closing. Yes, I’m 47. I regret nothing.

THE NEGATIVES

Overall it was a pretty terrific experience however, there were a couple of negatives. The first was that the pools (and pool bars!) close very suddenly at 6 pm. One minute the music is blaring and the party is on and the next, security is blowing whistles and telling everyone to get out. Not cool. The other had nothing to do with the location or the staff and everything to do with the parents who let the kids jump all over people in the very adult area of the pool bar. Since I’ve got kids and all, I tried not to get annoyed with the little people jumping and splashing water in my drink. I was super annoyed however, with the parents who were lounging at the bar and ignoring their children. There’s a water park at Sirenis that is pretty spectacular. Parents. Seriously. There’s a bar and restaurant and everything and you can hang out with other parents. I would have killed for that when we were in Cuba last spring.

A review of Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. travelingsinglemom.com
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TRIP DETAILS: (affiliate links included)

WHERE:  Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

CURRENCY: Dominican pesos or US dollars

RESORT: Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort Casino and Aquapark. See the TripAdvisor reviews here.

BOOKED THROUGH: Redtag.ca

COST: $677 CAD- All inclusive with flight for one week. Expedia has some pretty great deals, as well, from the US and Canada when you combine flight and hotel packages.

TIP: Book 10 to 12 days before for the best deals. Ask for an upgraded room near the ocean. We were in the M building.

DRINK: Mamajuana!!

EAT: Jade- The Japanese Restaurant. Best sushi and a pretty great show, too.

 

10 Things To Do With Kids in Myrtle Beach

We love Myrtle Beach, and not just because of the warm ocean water and gorgeous beaches. But because there is a ton of great things to do in the area. If the weather’s good we spend most of our time at the beach. And while I always have a back up plan of things to do with kids in Myrtle Beach, I’m always a bit hesitant to make attractions the focus of our trip. Because kids catch on to that whole “Let’s do stuff” and “This is boring” thing way too quick for my liking.

We mostly avoid theme parks and attractions because I feel like the purpose of travel, even a family vacation mecca like Myrtle Beach, is to spend time together, be outside, and learn new things. It’s hard to do that when you’re hanging around the mini-golf sites or in a water park. You can do that at home, am I right? Plus I always have this worry that my kids will become jaded or spoiled and come to expect that our travels are geared to keeping them amused rather than learning about the world. Sorry, kids. That’s not happening. #sorrynotsorry

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Having said all that, sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and/or you need a break from the sun and sand. On our last trip to Myrtle Beach this past spring, we had the opportunity to explore a few attractions and learn some new things. In no particular order are our top 10 favorite places in the Myrtle Beach area for kids and parents.

Waccamaw River Tour

My kids are easily led into anything involving a boat ride. I’m not sure, at 3 and 4, that they were terribly interested in the educational and historical aspect of the river systems and wildlife of South Carolina (that’s more my kind of thing) but they had a great time on the pontoon boat. Narrated by Kim, who knows her stuff and loves the waterways as much as I do, there’s a lot to be seen for kids who have an interest in nature and history. On our trip we saw alligators, turtles, snakes, ospreys and their nests along with gorgeous scenery. The boys must have paid some attention because they can remember what a yellow bellied slider is! Captain Rick’s additions to the narrative are hilarious and we loved when he invited the boys back to “drive” the boat for a few minutes. Kim is also a very talented photography. You can see her gorgeous photos on their Facebook page.

river tour

 

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Tickets are limited and you’ll want to purchase them in advance.  I initially thought this was a pricey outing and hesitated a few times before committing to the tour. Clearly, I’m a ding dong. I’m so glad we went on this trip. It was the highlight of our visit and a great way to see the rivers and creeks through the eyes of a local person. We learned tons, had a lot of fun, and enjoyed the scenery and stories.

ADMISSION PRICES:

Adults-  $22.95

Children 12 and under-   $14.95

Waccatee Zoo

We almost skipped this zoo based on some very negative reviews on TripAdivsor but I’m so happy we didn’t. This is a great, privately run zoo off the beaten path. You actually go through the zoo to get to the river tour so we stuck around after the boat trip to visit the animals. This zoo was lovely, reasonably priced and the enclosures were mostly open and natural with some exceptions. The boys had a great time. To get to the Waccama River Tour, you actually drive through part of the zoo which is pretty handy. Take the river trip and spend a few hours at the zoo. It was a great way to spend what turned out to be a chilly spring day.

Top 10 Attractions for Kids in the Myrtle Beach area.

ADMISSION RATES:

Ages 13 and older-  $12.00

12 Months to 12 years- $5.00

Infants under 1- free

Alligator Adventure

I have a weird fondness for alligators. Maybe they remind me of the south, maybe it’s their prehistoricness (if that’s a word) or the way they like the sun as much as I do. I wish I could look half as cool laying on a rock. Regardless, I find them fascinating so any chance to see these creatures close up (and safely) and I’m on it. Alligator Adventure is one of the largest outdoor facilities for reptile life in the entire world. Not just alligators, although they’re everywhere and you can see them being fed at 3 pm daily, but all sorts of reptiles, birds, and mammals. Recently they inherited some lovely flamingos (my other favorite animal!) and we had an all round terrific time exploring this park. Not once, but twice. Because if  you show your ID on the way out and save your ticket, you can visit a second time within 7 days for free. Challenge accepted.

Top 10 Attractions in Myrtle Beach for Kids

ADMISSION PRICES:

Adults (Ages 13 – 61)                    $22.99

Senior Citizens (Ages 62 & up)    $20.99

Military                                           $19.99

Children (Ages 4 – 12)                   $16.99

Children (Ages 3 – Under)              FREE

Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach

You’re on the Atlantic Ocean so why not learn about what actually lives in the water right outside your window? Can you ever really go wrong with Ripley’s? Sharks, sting rays, sea turtles and so much more. We love Ripley’s! Families can sleep with the sharks (in a good way) every Thursday night in the summer and kids ages 6-14 can sleep over without parents on Friday nights. A fun break for everyone.

Top 10 Things to do With Kids in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
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ADMISSION PRICES:

Adults:                                 $24.99

Children  6 to 11                 $16.99

Children 2 to 5 years         $7.99


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Broadway At The Beach

Broadway at the Beach, including the shopping at Barefoot Landing, really has something for everyone. Shopping, zip lining, attractions, boat rides, theaters and nightlife. Spend some time browsing the shops, take a boat ride, feed the fish, and stay for dinner. There are fireworks on Friday nights and tons to do for families and kids of all ages all day long. We had a great time just strolling the paths and watching for fish and turtles.

Top 10 Things To Do With Kids in Myrtle Beach that Don't Include Water Parks or Amusement Parks
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Admission is free if you’re just planning to wander. Expect the kids to want you to spend some money, though.

Myrtle Beach Boardwalk

Ride the SkyWheel (it’s enclosed for the faint of heart…like me) and see the entire area from the air. Walk the boardwalk, visit the tourist shops, and see the shows. With a candy shop, rides, and music there’s something to see and do for all ages. It was so hot the day we visited, that we took a dip in the ocean and wandered back for ice cream. That’s my idea of a good attraction right there.

sky wheel
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ADMISSION- Free to wander around.

SkyWheel Prices

Adults –                  $14.00

Children 3 to 11  –  $9.00

Wonderworks

Located at Broadway on the Beach, this upside down building will catch your kids’ eyes for sure. After entering the “inversion tunnel” (because the building is upside down and all) you’ll have six fun areas to explore including a natural disasters learning center, space discovery, an imagination lab and a whole lot more. Older kids will love the laser tag area, the rope course and zip line over the open waters.

Top 10 Things To Do With Kids in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
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ALL ACCESS PASS:

Adults-                              $27.99

Children 4 to 12 years  – $17.99

The cost is lower if you’re just looking for the outdoor adventures.

The Market Common

The Market Common is a shopping and lifestyle center in Myrtle Beach and, aside from the terrific stores, is host to a lot of free events during the summer. Kids movies are shown every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday until mid-August at Grand 14 Cinemas in the Market Common area. Admission is free and the movie starts at the very kid friendly hour of 10 am. Drinks and popcorn are $1 each. On Fridays during summer months  you can enjoy the live music in the gazebos on Howard and Reed Avenues and take a complimentary carriage ride through the streets. Valor Park hosts free movies for the older crowd on Wednesdays starting at 9 p.m.

Top 10 attractions for kids in Myrtle Beach. No waterparks or amusement parks in the bunch.
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Admission is free.

Helicopter Adventures

Ranging from a 3 minute trip to 30 minutes or longer, there’s a tour for every age and stage if you’re up for seeing Myrtle Beach from the air. Prices start at just $20 for the quickie tour which is perfect if you’re not sure how the kids will handle the heights and motion. Helicopters hold a maximum of three passengers however, several choppers can run at the same time so you’re not waiting around while the rest of the family takes a trip if you’ve got a crowd with you.

Top 10 attractions for kids in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And not one water park or amusement park in the bunch.
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Prices start at $20 and go up to $180 for a 40 mile round trip.

Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens offers different eco-tours, programs, and adventures for families with kids of all ages. Tickets are good for an entire week so you can return as often as you like. Visit the enchanted forest, a collection of story book houses, for special programs, classes, and activities that occur throughout the season and include storytelling under the trees, book sharing, arts and crafts and lessons on nature. There’s a children’s nature and sensory trail for kids over 6 and younger children will enjoy the discovery room which has seven interactive stations. Grab a detective’s booklet at the welcome center and let the kids follow clues, investigate and explore on the trip. When they’re finished they can turn the booklet in and receive a sticker and prize. There are daily animal programs where kids can watch the animals being fed and meet snakes, turtles, and more.  Adults can enjoy the live oaks and gorgeous sculpture gardens along the way.

10 Myrtle Beach Activities for Families that Don't Involve Water or Amusement Parks.- travelingsinglemom.com
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ADMISSION PRICES-  (Tickets are good for 7 days and you can return as often as you like) –

Adults-                  $15.00

Children (4-12)   $8.00

There you go! 10 fun activities to do in Myrtle Beach and not an amusement park in the bunch! Happy travels!

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10 Things to do in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that don't involve water parks or amusement parks. - travelingsinglemom.com

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That Time I Took An Adult Only Vacation

I’m all about traveling with children but every once in awhile you need to bust out and take yourself on an adult only vacation. No kids, no husbands (not that I have one of those), just a much needed girlfriend trip with zero responsibilities.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a vacation without kids. Like you can have a conversation without being interrupted 97 times in 15 minutes. Or you can go a whole week without hearing poop or potty talk. Or wiping someone’s bum. And then there’s the whole daytime drinking thing. You can’t do that around kids so that’s pretty swell. You can stay out past 8 PM and you don’t need to worry about someone waking you up when they wet the bed. You can sleep past 6AM and skip breakfast. Or you can have a breakfast that doesn’t involve gulping a bowl of leftover soggy kid cereal and indulge in three cups of cafe con leche. And you can party at the pool bar instead of trying to keep a kid’s head above the water.

This trip idea came about after my friend, P, told me that her husband didn’t know how to make lunches for his kids. One kid has been in school for 3 years. He also didn’t know how to get pizza or make dinner without waking her from a nap to watch the children. This is the same husband that goes to Vegas for two weeks every year and golfs in tournaments all summer long and plays pool all winter. He’s hardly home. Great guy but never around. I casually mentioned that the best way to teach someone to parent is to disappear for awhile.

From my end, I’ve been shuffling my boys to all sorts of therapies, attending meetings and school planning appointments, fighting the child welfare organization to keep my boys in daycare, and was all around worn out and exhausted. The boys were running wild and I was turning into a shrieking shrew. I’m not terribly proud of my parenting skills leading up to the week before our trip. So when P said “Let’s book a trip”, I didn’t need to be told twice.
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We didn’t much care where we went as long as there was sun, beaches, and a swim up bar. Okay. That swim up bar criteria was mine. Because when we were in Cuba, I had a few brief moments of envy of all the people standing around in the swim up pool bar, drinking, laughing, and having a big ol’ party. I was there with my boys and while we swam up to the bar once, we got the heck out of there because nothing kills a party like a couple of young kids splashing water in your drink. P’s criteria was that the resort be adults only. I wish I had listened to that! Ours wasn’t but the next one will be.

So we headed off to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic one fine Friday morning. Where we were welcomed with cocktails, lunch, and an invitation to make use the resort amenities until we could check in since we arrived a few hours early.  Make yourself at home, they said. Don’t mind if we do.

Why You Totally Need an Adult Only Vacation
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After some well earned daytime drinking, we found ourselves floating in the ocean shortly after our arrival where we met two lovely fellows who were also from Ontario. The funniest and most animated guys I’ve ever met. Seriously. They instantly became the directors of all things fun and managed to bring the entire resort together. It’s like they were simply there to meet, greet, and introduce everyone else and get the party started. When we found out we were next door neighbors, our two rooms turned into a crazy kind of frat house. They were only with us for three days and I think the entire resort went into mourning when they left. Except the families. They probably breathed a huge sigh of relief that the shenanigans by the pool were dialed back just slightly. We may have referred to them as the boy band…so there’s that.

I’m not terribly chatty, nor do I seek out new friends for the most part so I’m not entirely sure what happened  down there. It’s like someone poured rum (or possibly mamajuana) in my glass and I became the most insanely extroverted person ever. We partied at the pool bar, we talked to everyone, and I barely went to bed. I’m a little obsessed with sleep so this was a bit of a surprise for me. We went to the disco and when P went back to our room at a reasonable hour, I just kept going. Three nights in a row I found myself at some kind of after party on the beach, partying until the sun came up. I’d sleep a few hours and start all over again. That’s probably how I lost my voice. Not that I let that stop me or anything.


So here’s to the people who made this party something else…

To the mysterious Ontario fellows who wouldn’t provide last names or Facebook info…Good call. Thanks for the wild and crazy, the beer nuts, and the afternoon we spent talking only in country music titles. It’s all fun and games until you’re “Drunk on a Plane”.

Why You Totally Need an Adult Only Vacation
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To the 7’1″ tall, so white he glowed in the dark, RCMP officer and his short and completely opposite looking friend, thanks for the stories, the beach party, and the hilariousness of watching you roll in the waves at 4am. Also, despite your height, a flash light shining through a bottle of vodka does not make a disco light. Apologies for telling you I’ll shove that flashlight somewhere and turn it on so we could see if you still had your appendix. I was just messing with you. Sort of.

To the two incredibly polite boys from Canada by way of India . Thank you for the respectful company, intelligent conversation, and lovely dinners. They had mad respect for us as a couple of older and married moms (Well, one of us is married anyway.) Until that one night when the quiet one who blushed when things got crazy at the pool decided the party wasn’t over, produced some vodka from his room, jumped the bar to grab shot glasses and kept the party going. Why, yes, the clock does say 2 am. Apparently the party was just getting started.

That time I went on vacation without my kids and acted like it was spring break

He also decided to strip down to his boxers to join the super white guy in the ocean. I have never laughed so hard in my freakin’ life. That may have been the night I lost my voice. I also learned to dance to Punjabi music. Love.

To “Crazy Joe”. You’re a pretty funny guy with a cool English accent. You’re gonna want to watch that temper, though. We always kind of wondered if Joe was wanted for murder somewhere in England. He sort of went from fun and games to this crazy I’m going to kill you stare and then back again. One of the boys we met the first night swore Joe was going to kill him and he wouldn’t make it home. Since we have no way of contacting him, it’s a possibility.

That Time I Took An Adult Vacation
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To all of the other English peeps, and there were a lot of you….Wow! You can really hold your liquor! Well done, you! Y’all made me feel less like of an alcoholic that week and part of the party. And, although I’m a couple of decades older than most of you, no one really seemed to care. Super cool to learn new English phrases, as well. Like when I put Crazy Joe’s phone in my purse and he said “Don’t nick it”, I heard “Don’t lick it”. I didn’t realize they licked phones in England. I was corrected when I went to “the loo” for “a wee” with another English gal (which I heard as “a week”) and finally understood what he meant. No wonder I got the crazy stare when I asked why I would lick his phone.

To the guy that bit my friend’s ear…You, sir, are a great dancer but you do some weird stuff when you drink. Go home, Mike Tyson. Go home.

To the creepy guy at the pool who had found a girlfriend but was busy making eyes at us and splashing to get our attention. Stop. You’re a gigolo. It took me all week to figure that out. Love the one you’re with and all that.

To all of the staff at the bar who started calling me “Mamajuana” and kept my glass full. Couldn’t have kept the party going without you. Also, I brought 4 bottles of that intoxicatingly delicious swill home. So there’s that.

Mmmm.....mamajuana!! The best part of our last trip to the Dominican.
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To the entertainment/”animacion” team. Mostly that was kind of strange…particularly the whole Madonna rescue scenario thing that played out for like an hour. I’m not sure that Batman actually drove a bike but I’ll accept your literary interpretations. But to “Banana”….You, brother, are the best. Like the day you showed up at the pool in full blown army camo with a gun and those aviator glasses. To be fair, I think P and the rest of the Canadians were a little freaked out. Me? Not so much. Since only an amateur would put his pistol down the front of his pants. Like who would risk shooting off his precious man parts or having some lunatic make a grab, right?  Probably we should have looked closer at your name tag which actually said “Banana”, but we somehow managed to miss that. So when you turned around to walk away, revealing that your camo pants had no back? Thanks for that. I kind of feel sorry for whomever had to do the drawings on  your naked hiney. Or maybe I’m just a little jealous.

And how excited was I to meet some fellow Southerners on this trip!!! Pretty freakin’ swell except my full blown Alabama accent is back and I’m having a hard time shaking it. I’m pretty sure the 3 of us will stay friends. S, you’ve got a mad crazy voice…go get yourself a recording contract. D, you got game, brother! Y’all better come up and visit next summer!

And finally, to my new 24 year old fake husband. Mad love to you for punking my kid (who’s 25) by pretending we got married at the resort. That was pretty swell and you did a great job of proposing, grabbing the ring off a friend and dropping to one knee. Nice. Since you’re a year younger than my daughter, referring to yourself as “lil poppa” was just over the top awesomeness. Also, you provided some pretty great drama that made me relieved to be out of the dating game 😉  I also kind of enjoyed swimming over and having you introduce me as your wife. The horror in their eyes (since I’m 47 and all) was pretty hilarious. I don’t know if they felt sorry for you or admiration for me. #cradlerobbingiscool

And one not so cool thing.

Parents. I know you want to hang out at the pool bar and party with everyone. I miss those days, too. But you can’t. It’s not cool to let your kids jump on top of everyone, knock drinks over, kick water in peoples faces, or take up precious space at the pool bar when the rest of us are gasping for alcohol and talking raunchy.  If you bring your kids to a resort you really can’t hang out at the pool bar, sip your cocktail, and pretend they’re not yours. It’s also super uncool to expose your kids to the sort of partying and drinking that was going on there.  All day, every day. There’s a kids area and an aqua park for a reason. I’m saying that as someone who’s watched enviously while herding my two guys back to the family friendly area on all of our other travels. #sorrynotsorry

TRIP DETAILS: (affiliate links included)

WHERE:  Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

CURRENCY: Dominican pesos or US dollars

RESORT: Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort Casino and Aquapark

BOOKED THROUGH: Redtag.ca

COST: $677 CAD- All inclusive with flight for one week.

TIP: Book 10 to 12 days before for the best deals. Ask for an upgraded room near the ocean. We were in the M building.

DRINK: Mamajuana!!

EAT: Jade- The Japanese Restaurant. Best sushi and a pretty great show, too.

 

Time to make your own kid free vacation plans

Road Trip- Ontario to South Carolina and Back Again

How fun are road trips? Seriously. I’m not even kidding. As much as I love the fairly instant gratification of grabbing a plane and arriving somewhere a few hours later, I love me some road tripping. I heart the idea of going at our own pace, stopping when and where we want, and actually seeing the country. Also, the boys acted like wild animals at the last airport we flew out of so there was that. And, I had just bought a new car that was supposed to be amazing on mileage and I wanted to give it a run. So one fine April morning, we loaded up the new car and took off from Ontario to South Carolina.

Road trip from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- travelingsinglemom.com

I’ve done the trip to South Carolina twice before, once by car and once by plane, but this trip was special because it was during the spring. Because I live in “cold Canada” as my boys call it, it was like traveling through the seasons. The trees were bare in Ontario and it was still freezing cold when we left but once we got to Southern Ohio the trees were starting to show signs of buds. By the time we hit South Carolina, it was full blown summer. Love that.

Road trip tips and tricks for traveling with kids from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- travelingsinglemom.com

We tend to start early on road trips because I like to get as much driving in as possible on the first day when we’re still fresh and enthusiastic. On that Wednesday morning, however, we didn’t get on the road until well after 11 AM. I had this half wit idea that if Aiden went to his OT (Occupational Therapy) appointment in the morning, he would be tired enough to nap in the car. I was wrong. Neither kid napped and both talked or shouted non-stop until we stopped at 10 PM in West Virginia.

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About that. I had intended to stop around 7 PM at a hotel with a pool and let the boys swim and burn off steam and maybe I could sip a glass of wine while they had at it. No idea what I did wrong but it probably had something to do with I-77 and the fact that there are very few hotels out there in West Virginia.

Road tripping through I77 West Virginia- travelingsinglemom.com
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Y’all…West Virginia is something else. Beautiful, breathtaking, and scary as all hell if you’re driving in the dark and it happens to be raining. The highway is carved out of the Appalachians and you can’t see anything but black on either side and there’s all these sharp curves and corners. And also, the transport trucks drive really fast, honk their horns, and scare the crap out of you on route. From the time we got on the toll highway ($8 from one end to the other) we had nowhere to stop until we got off in Beckley, WV. Which meant we stopped too late to do much of anything but crash. Thankfully, not literally.

I took the first hotel I found. Which happened to be completely by accident since I got off one exit too soon and was completely lost. In the dark. In the mountains. When the Country Inn and Suites loomed up in front of me, I ran in and grabbed a room. To the tune of $90 a night (which turned into $125 CAD. Ouch.) Regardless, I was so super happy to find a hotel, I didn’t much care. Take our chances on the interstate or take the readily available room? No brainer. Exhausted and freaked out by the scary interstate in the rain at night, I took the room.

Road trip from Ontario to South Carolina- Stopping in West Virginia
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Which actually turned out to be really lovely with a complimentary breakfast. And not just stale bagels and a banana, either. Hot food, loads of kid friendly choices, and a really pretty view of the indoor pool. I wish I was the kind of person who could lollygag and poke around because both the indoor and outdoor pools looked lovely and West Virginia is really gorgeous. But when I’m on route to a destination, particularly a beach destination, I’m determined to get there. And with two mostly potty trained boys that’s never as quick as I’m hoping it will be.

When I stepped outside and looked around in the daylight, I could see why I was so freaked out the night before. Beckley is gorgeous but hell to drive through during the night.

Gorgeous Beckley, West Virginia. Beautiful during the day, scary as hell to drive through at night. - travelingsinglemom.com
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From Beckley, it took us another 6 1/2 hours until we arrived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Once we got there however, it took almost 2 hours to make it a couple of miles down the road to Surfside Beach to pick up our keys. The traffic in Myrtle Beach is insane regardless of the time of day but on Thursday at rush hour, it pretty much sent me over the edge. I don’t think it helped that Toopy and Binoo was playing on the portable DVD player (we have and love this one!) right behind my head. I have no idea who gave the boys that video but if I ever remember we will no longer be friends.

Our condo was technically in Myrtle Beach but in actual fact was located in Surfside Beach which is on the south end of the whole Myrtle Beach area. We had a (mostly) terrific time and you can read about the entire adventure in the next couple of weeks when I share more in upcoming posts. We spent a couple of days in Charleston and on the Isle of Palms as well so check back in for all the details!

Our drive home was a little more leisurely since I knew we’d be heading back to the cold again. We took our time and stopped early in Marietta, Ohio.

Road trip from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- Stopping in Marietta, Ohio.- travelingsinglemom.com
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The boys weren’t at their best (Caution-understatement alert) so we grabbed a pizza and ate in our room before hitting the pool. This was one of the nicer indoor pools I’ve been to on the road and the boys paddled about in their “floaties” while I soaked in the hot tub. And, yes, I brought some wine to sip this time.  Liam tried to join me but I scared him off with tales of how hot the water was. #parentingwin

Road trip from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- Stopping in Marietta Ohio. Great pool and hot tub!- travelingsinglemom.com
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Nice, right?

Road trip adventures. Driving from Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- Where to stay and how we managed.- travelingsinglemom.com
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We took our time getting on the road in the morning, stopping for the free breakfast (loved the waffles!) at the hotel before doing some shopping. Once the boys started licking each other, I figured it was time to get back on the road. The trip from Ohio to Ontario was uneventful except for the part where the boys screamed and yelled for the last 3 hours of the journey. Nothing I said or threatened seemed to settle them and it was so bad that by the time crossed the boarder, I was pretty distressed. Aiden, in particular, took great delight in sending out a series of high pitched screams. For an hour. It was so loud that the boarder crossing officer took pity on me and when I declared the moonshine in my trunk, she said “Good for you, honey. Best get home and open that tonight.” and waved us on through. Bless her.

Is a road trip as a single parent with two little kids doable? You bet. Was it all rainbows and unicorns? Hell, no. It’s been a few weeks since we got home and promptly announced to the boys I’d never take them anywhere again. Lies, all lies. if you ask the boys, they have nothing but happy memories, even of the long road trip. I’ve burned the Toopy and Binoo DVD. And, because South Carolina is so incredibly gorgeous, we’ll probably do it again. 🙂

RESOURCES: (Affiliate links included. Read our full disclosure policy here.)

Details and resources from our latest road trip. Ontario to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- travelingsinglemom.com

Expedia.ca: Road Trip: Today’s Top Deals on Expedia!

Top 10 Vacation Destinations for 2016

I’m a pretty big fan of TripAdvisor, in case you hadn’t figured that out already. So when I got their latest email sharing their list of top 10 summer vacation destinations for US (and Canadian) travelers based on popular destinations and the average one-week vacation costs for hotels, airfare, tours, and meals, I felt compelled to share it with all of you.

What’s so great about this list? Aside from including some amazing destinations in the Caribbean and Europe, along with favorite American hot spots, this list gives you the best times to visit based on when costs are lowest. Traveling is the best. Traveling cheaply (or at least more inexpensively) is even better. Check out the top 10 summer destinations and attractions as compiled by TripAdvisor for 2016. After you’ve browsed all 10, pick your favorite spot and get packing.

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations-Las Vegas, Nevada travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 15 – 21: $2,050 (13% below summer peak)

  • Value Hotel: The Carriage House – Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average nightly summer rate of $127
  • Top Attraction: Blue Man Group – Tickets start at $90 per person

 

  1. Cancun, Mexico

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Cancun, Mexico. - travelingsinglemom.com

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,222 (16% below summer peak)

  • Value Hotel: Hotel & Suites Nader – Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average nightly summer rate of $39. Seriously. That’s not a typo!
  • Top Attraction: Mayan Ruins of Tulum – Tours start at $50 per person

 

  1. Orlando, Florida

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Orlando, Florida.- travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $1,733 (13% below summer peak)

 

  1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic- travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,848 (10% below summer peak)

 

  1. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $1,812 (26% below summer peak)

Having just come back from Surfside Beach, just south of Myrtle Beach, I can highly recommend this as a budget and family friendly destination. Check back in for lots of details on where to go and what to do in the Myrtle Beach area with kids in the next few weeks! We stayed at Myrtle Beach Resort and loved it! 5 pools, some indoor, some outdoor, one giant kids pool and a lazy river and right on the beach. How can you go wrong?

 

  1. New York City, New York

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- New York- travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: June 27 – July 3: $3,092 (10% below summer peak)

 

  1. London, England

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations-London, England travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: July 23-Aug 3: $3,788 (10% below summer peak)

  • Value Hotel: Luna & Simone Hotel – Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average nightly summer rate of $206
  • Top Attraction: The London Eye – Skip-the-line tickets start at $45 per person

 

  1. Destin, Florida

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Destin, Florida- travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,320 (25% below summer peak)

 

  1. Paris, France

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Paris, France. travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 8 – 14: $3,111 (25% below summer peak)

 

  1. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Travelingsinglemom.com-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,212 (10% below summer peak)

 

Pin it so you don’t forget it!

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- travelingsinglemom.com. From the US, to the Caribbean, to Europe. Everything you need to know to plan the perfect summer vacation.

Affiliate links are included for convenience because TripAdvisor is awesome. Read our full disclosure policy here.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods At Our All Inclusive Resort In Cuba

Everyone I talked to and all the reviews I read before hitting the Cuban resort hard, warned me that the food would be terrible. Which is interesting because it really wasn’t. I’m not saying I loved every single thing laid out before me but I enjoyed the food, the wine, and the beverages in general way more than everyone said I would.

Let’s talk about what didn’t work for me in Cuba. Every morning I dutifully slapped some fruit on my plate because a) I had lost 12 pounds before our trip (Thank you, influenza and pneumonia!) and wanted to keep the weight off and, b) I felt like I should eat local fruit since I live in Canada and it was winter back home and scurvy. I tried to do the same thing with vegetables, thinking local and all that good stuff.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods at An All Inclusive Cuban Resort- travelingsinglemom.com
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Except I’m not the biggest produce eater to begin with and I really don’t like papaya. Or guava. Or the weird tasting pale pink watermelon that they have there. Insert travel guilt here.

The yogurt. That was just weird. It came in pitcher so it was really more kind of like kefir. One kid liked it, particularly when mixed with juice, and one kid didn’t want anything to do with it. Since I was taking a break from micro-managing the boys diets that week, I didn’t worry too much about the absence of yogurt at breakfast.

And while everyone was complaining about the overcooked vegetables, those were the ones I kind of liked. Look. I grew up in the 60s and 70s where everything was cooked to death and covered in either bacon or cheese. Or both. #southern So when the brussel sprouts came out one night on the buffet (do those grow in Cuba?), all overcooked and all, I was delighted and ate my fill. Which was great since no one else liked them. Same with the cauliflower…hello mushy veggies. This is why I don’t have a foodie website. I have the taste and diet of an unattended child at a birthday party.

I did find some pretty amazing things to eat that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate anywhere else. Which makes me kind of sad and my waist line a little bit relieved all at the same time. Here are my top five favorite (and kind of weird) foods that we found in Cuba.

Cuban Coke

The soft drink, not the bad stuff. Jeez, I was traveling with kids and I’m a nice girl. Mostly.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods in Cuba. travelingsinglemom.com
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It took me about five days before I noticed that someone was drinking a coke at lunch. Up until then, I’d been dutifully drinking water (yes, you can drink the water here!) Ummm…..I didn’t know that was an option so I asked my waitress in my handy dandy Spanish if they have diet coke here.

SPANISH LESSON: “Tienes diet coke, aqui?” or “Tienes coca-cola light, aqui?”

Why, yes they do! Given that I drink at least two and possibly four diet cokes aka Pepsi Maxes a day back in Canada,  I was beyond delighted to get my hands on my first dose of fizzy caffeine in almost a week.

Except, good Lord, sweet mother of all things holy! What exactly was in this amazing drink?  It didn’t taste like anything I’d ever had before in my life. Perfectly sweet, full cola flavor and no weird aspartame after taste. My Spanish isn’t good enough to ask those kinds of questions so that I could find out the brand and smuggle this nectar home in my suitcase. (Seriously…who needs rum when soda tastes so dang fine?) I’ve gone on and on about the taste of diet Coke in Cuba until someone suggested that maybe they use real sugar. A little research revealed they use pure cane sugar and not the crappy high fructose corn syrup we’re used to up here. Ah-maze-ing. Note to cola sellers in North America. Get on that. Please!

Coffee

5 Weirdly Delicious Things to Eat and Drink in Cuba. travelingsinglemom.com
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I’ve never really liked the taste of coffee all that much and drink tea in the mornings. Or a diet coke. Don’t judge. But on my first morning in Cuba, after arriving at the resort at 1 am with my two boys, I felt the need for a bit of caffeine and had my first cafe con leche. Wrinkling my nose, I took that first tenuous sip, prepared to be knocked off my chair by the full blown strong coffee you kind of associate with the Caribbean. Except, it was delicious. Like coffee should be. All flavor, no bitterness, and no yukky coffee taste hanging around my mouth for hours on end. I didn’t even need gum after I drank this coffee. I proceeded to develop a small addiction, drinking 3-4 cups every morning. It was clearly magical in addition to delicious, since I successfully tuned out the boys demands to go swimming while I sipped cup after cup. I miss that coffee so much. Sorry, Tim Horton’s. I tried coffee again when I got home and you don’t cut it. I’ll be back when you have that candy cane hot chocolate, though 😉

Cuban Bacon

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods Found at an All Inclusive Resort In Cuba- travelingsinglemom.com
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Some days the bacon on the buffet had been baked which left a lot to be desired because the underside would be flabby and greasy. But the days that fried bacon made an appearance (usually every second day) were days to thank the Gods for. No one does bacon, or any kind of pork really, like Cubans. So lean, so perfectly cooked that even Aiden, who generally only eats white food, ate his fill. Why, yes. That empty spot once held bacon.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods at an All Inclusive Buffet in Cuba. And the kid that only eats white food- travlingsinglmom.com

I wanted to smuggle that bacon out of the restaurants and hoard it for later. Don’t be alarmed if you’re in Cuba and you see the bacon in the buffet and it looks all black and burned. It’s not. It’s perfection. Good-bye fruit, hello bacon. Hello 6 pounds as well, but I’m sure that was because of the fruit I wasn’t used to. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to read that there’s a bacon shortage in Cuba after we left. #sorrynotsorry

Cuban Ham

Like the bacon, ham should be in a food category of it’s own in Cuba. Never fatty and always perfectly seasoned, it was cooked perfectly no matter how many different places I tried it. I must have had ham at least twice a day and I’m longing for it now. Even the ham sandwich at the airport in Holguin was to die for. Mucho yummo.

That Weird Cuban Vanilla Syrup

If you’ve been to a Cuban all inclusive, you’ll notice that pancakes are often served with honey or one of 5 or so different flavored syrups in big plastic bottles. Those syrups are very interesting. The caramel one is almost black and the strawberry syrup is so neon pink/red that I’m sure it can be seen from space. And then I found vanilla syrup. I love anything vanilla so when I saw the bottle at the buffet, I was delighted to add it to my pancakes. And french toast. And later to my ice cream. But the shock I got when I first poured it, actually stopped me in my tracks. That syrup was bright orange. My Spanish is adequate (barely) but I had to re-read the bottle to make sure I was actually using vanilla syrup. Indeed.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods to Try at a Cuban All Inclusive Buffet- travelingsinglemom.com

Cuba has made some great choices with cola and pork but some weird ones when it comes to food coloring. Once I tasted it however, I was completely hooked. Sweet, vanilla-y, and totally artificial. Loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it. I made the boys use honey and refused to share any of this weird vanilla topping that glowed in the dark. That kind of says it all.

 

COMING SOON!

We stayed at Blau Costa Verde Plus Beach Resort when we were in Cuba. Look for a full review both here and on TripAdvisor in the next few weeks. We really had the best time!

All inclusive resort reviews. From TripAdvisor- travelingsinglemom.com