Families together at character breakfast at Nick Punta Cana

Families together at character breakfast at Nick Punta Cana

By Eileen Ogintz

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic (Day Two of Three) — Ready to slide into the pool of plastic balls?

The just-opened Nickelodeon Hotel & Resort in Punta Cana has a well-appointed kids’ club with  cooking lessons, arts and crafts, a wide selection of toys, games (video and board games) and a slide that lands you in a pool of brightly colored plastic balls.

And as this is an all-inclusive resort, there is no upcharge, as at many resorts. But most of the families I’ve met have been keeping their kids with them.

“We both work full time so we come on vacation to be with the kids,” said Laura Webster, a mom of two sons aged 4 and 7 from Nottingham, England.

“The cousins entertain each other,” explained Anna Driscoll, here with her extended family from North Carolina to celebrate her mom’s 65th birthday.  “When we’re with Nana, she wants to be with the kids.”

So many toys at kids club Nick Punta Cana

So many toys at kids club Nick Punta Cana

“We tend to stay together,” said her sister Katie Hoyle, noting that the family tends to gather at a high-end resort known for kids’ programs every year —  like Atlantis and Beaches.

I’ve met many families at those resorts and others who also opt out of the kids clubs, though they are paying for the service in the all-inclusive rates. What they want, they say, are more activities to share—like the Aqua Nick water park here, the chance to get “slimed,” play beach volleyball or splash in the pools. If parents want “me” time – say for the spa — they take turns. They’ll forgo an adult dinner unless grandma and grandpa are along and will agree to babysit. But they can go out themselves at home, they say. Separation from the kids is not the point of a family vacation.

“We don’t enjoy getting rid of the kids,” said Atul Gupta, the father of two girls aged six and eight.

His friend Ami Sethi, the mom of three, opined that “we don’t need babysitters.”  Whether they would use the club would depend on the quality of the activities and how well the children were engaged. And in this case, they hadn’t found the activities special enough.

Neil Patil said he and his wife choose resorts based on kids’ clubs — their two kids are seven and nine — but they don’t like a regimented schedule where you have to sign the kids in either all day, a half day or in the case here, two hour blocks. “We like to be able to just drop in when we want, like on a cruise ship,” he explained, adding that  two hours might be too long during the day and not long enough in the evening for parents to enjoy an adults-only dinner.

This trip, said Melanie Samoska, is about having fun with the kids. “And they’re having a blast,” she said.  That’s what matters most.