As soon as the weather starts to get colder my phone starts to ring a lot more for southern vacations. The usual fix is a request of a seven-day venture into a tropical paradise, where the sun gives warmth, the water temperature feels like a bath, and there’s a mixture of relaxation, site seeing, and entertainment.
Each of the common southern destinations, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, all offer warm weather and beautiful beaches. But each place is also very unique.
Here is a little of what you should know about each destination when considering what may be of interest to you.
- Mexico. It's known for it’s Pacific beaches, as well as the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the country, you’ll find ancient ruins within jungle terrain and along the coastline, such as Tulum and Chichen Itza.
- The Caribbean island of Cuba has long, white sandy beaches. It is known for it’s capital, Havana, where you are taken back in time with cars from the 50s era and sites of Spanish-colonial architecture in Old Havana. Cuba is usually the most economical destination out of the choices of all-inclusive vacations from the Maritimes.
- Jamaica has an incredible landscape - not only on the coast of the island, but also inland, where you’ll find waterfalls within the rainforests. It is known for unforgettable experiences at its sites, where you can dive and snorkel. If you love Raggae music, then this is the best place to experience it, as Jamaica is the rightful birthplace of this genre.
- The Dominican Republic is shared with Haiti as the island of Hispaniola. The resorts and golf spots in the Dominican are world-famous as well as the beaches. There is a bit of everything for everyone on this island.
Any destination you travel to can have a customizable experience. If you want to spend a lot of your time on your resort and enjoy their amenities, you can do that. Or, if you are a bit for of an adrenaline junkie and want some adventure, there are lots of excursion opportunities both on land and off, with low to high physical demand. Always book your excursions with the same supplier your agent booked you with. Sometimes these can be pre-booked, or you can book them with your vacation representative on resort.
My recommendation to a traveller would be to do at least one or two activities off resort mixed into your week of fun and sun. Activities can range from two to four hours, or a full day. A full day is usually early morning to early evening, so a full day will likely mean that you don’t want to stay out late. A half-day activity leaves time for you to have a few hours at the resort for some R&R and seeing some of the fabulous entertainment at the resort during the night.
When you travel, it’s also important to remember to protect your body from exposure to things that you may not have at home that could be harmful. The three things I always protect myself from are mosquitos and bugs, the sun, and the food and beverages I consume.
It’s very expensive to buy sunscreen and bug spray in destination, so buy it beforehand. Bug bites can be very unpleasant as your immune system is not used to these insects. When you get a sunburn, it’s very painful and hard to do certain activities. It’s okay to get sun, however you’ll want to put some on every hour especially if you go in the water and make sure it is waterproof.
The resorts all have very large buffets. Every time I go to an all-inclusive I see lots of travellers over eating. It’s important not to do this, especially as the food may cause you to feel sick. I’ve been sick a couple of times, not because the food was bad but because my body wasn’t used to it. Take some medication with you incase any discomfort occurs. Imodium and Tums are good to take. It’s also important to never drink the water from the tap. Always drink bottled water or the water at the buffet.
Here are three tips to remember for choosing your destination & resort:
(1) Book with a Travel Agent. Agents are able to search all major suppliers that offer packages at the same time out of your gateway. If you try and do this on your own, it will take hours, plus you may not be getting the best deals. On another note, if anything happens that is unexpected during your travels, your agent can assist you. They don’t call me a Travel Expert for nothing!
(2) Set a budget, but be realistic. I always get a few calls from clients asking me for a seven-day $1,000 4-5 star accommodation. This is not a realistic product. Either you increase your budget, or ask yourself what you don’t need regarding amenities and quality. Keep in mind that rates can be higher or lower depending on the time of year you would like to depart. Your Travel Agent will have all this information for you. I do not recommend travelling during the shoulder season, as this is typically the time for either rain or hurricanes.
(3) Understand the quality of the product. If you book a vacation to Cuba for three stars, understand that this is likely not what your agent recommended to you. Cuba is a wonderful destination, however their food is considered bland and the amenities are more basic than other destinations. If you choose a 3-star in Punta Cana in the Dominican, this may feel like a 4 or 5-star in Cuba.