We've been asked what it's like to travel now. Ron and I have recently returned from Punta Cana where we stayed at Breathless Punta Cana and I want to share with you some of our experiences. While everyone's experience will be different, I hope you get a sense of what it's like to travel during these strange times.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Toronto Airport at 600 Dixon Rd. The rooms were big and spacious. We asked for a quieter room and couldn't hear any planes. Guest noise was minimal. The bed was comfy. Check-in was easy. Everyone was wearing masks. The shuttle leaves at 5 minutes and 35 minutes past the hour. Everyone wears masks. We can book your stay at this stopover hotel, ask us!
Tip: Ask for a quieter room at check-in.
Tip: When you are getting on the bus at the airport to go back to the hotel, make sure you are going to 600 Dixon and not 970. The shuttle also goes to the Delta (formerly International Plaza) so look for both logos on the bus.
Tip: When you arrive back at the hotel, you need to go to the front desk to get a ticket to be able to leave the parking lot.
Checking-in for the flight was a bit scattered. You are asked before check-in if you have the proper documentation for your destination. Nothing was verified at this point. There were lots of airport employees helping with the check-in terminals. The baggage drop was fine. People were spaced well. Everyone was wearing masks.
Security was the same as always. No big change there other than spacing on the floor showing social distancing.
The Air Canada lounge in the international area was closed because of COVID. You could go to the domestic lounge. The distance from that lounge to the gates was about a 20 minute walk so leave lots of time to get to your gate. People in the lounge were spaced OK but when seated, were able to remove masks. The lines to get food were long and people were not spaced well.
Boarding the flight was normal.
You are reminded that you must wear a mask at all times unless you are actively eating or drinking. They ask that you not line up for the washroom. On the southbound flight, an announcement was made reminding people to keep their masks on. Nothing on the return.
Punta Cana Airport
Everyone was wearing masks. You were asked at random times for random things like proof of vaccine or the e-ticket card we filled in online prior to our flight. Be prepared to show all documentation at any time. There was no warning or signs telling you what to have ready and the language barrier was a small challenge, but nothing major. Other than that, no big changes.
Tip: Fill out your e-ticket to the Dominican Republic prior to leaving Canada. Although you need a separate e-ticket for entry and departure, you only need to fill out one per household.
We hired a private transfer. It took a bit for us to find him in the sea of people. Look carefully for your name! The driver wore a mask at all times. No worries there. We can recommend a private transfer company should you choose.
You are required to wear a mask at check-in and while walking around restaurants or any enclosed space, but not required anywhere else. MOST people respected the rules with a few people walking around the restaurants without a mask on. Personally, I did it myself without realizing my mistake. I don't feel like it's often done on purpose, but rather an oversight. The staff could be a bit better at reminding people.
Your temperature is taken and you are required to use sanitizer before entering restaurants. Our resort offered us a la carte service, buffet service, or room service for breakfast and lunch. We mostly used a la carte service or room service as the buffets were always busier than my comfort level allowed. Dinner was always an a la carte. Tables were spaced well for social distancing.
ALL staff (in Dominican resorts) are fully vaccinated with at least two shots and are starting to get a 3rd shot now (so that they have two mRNA vaccines). ALL staff were wearing masks almost at all times. Every once in a while you may come across someone who dropped it to their chin to get a small break from it, but that was very rare and never in a crowded situation.
Rooms were cleaned daily as normal. Stickers on high-touch surfaces like the TV remote saying they had been sanitized. There was a kit in our room consisting of a mask and sanitizer. On our last night, the turndown staff gave us a package of wipes presumably for the plane. We had brought our own, but this was a nice surprise.
The one weak spot in the entire process was really nothing to do with the resort. It's the guests drinking in the party pool. As the alcohol flowed, and inhibitions disappeared so did the social distancing. We chose not to spend any more than about 20 minutes in that pool. No problem, we had the quiet pool as well as our swim-up pool that we spent our time at. All the lounge chairs by the main pools are spaced out as well.
Social spaces like the disco and swim-up bars were closed for COVID.
As our flight landed into Toronto at 6:20 pm on Sunday, we had to wait to do our test until Friday morning. Our concierge set up the appointment. There are forms to fill in. Our cost was $90USD for the PCR test, but costs do vary from resort to resort.
The test was easy enough. Made you a bit uncomfortable, but certainly not painful. We had to wait for our test results until about 8:00 pm on Saturday night. That was the most stressful part for me, but we figured that if our test was positive, they would have come and told us and got us out of the main resort area a lot sooner.
ArriveCan is Canada's immigration app with regards to COVID-19. It's pretty simple. Follow the steps. You will need your passport and flight information as well as your vaccination info and your testing result. You can upload it directly or take a picture of the documentation. You can upload your vaccine documents and save the session and resume when you have all your documentation. The nice part is you only have to fill it out once per household. So if you're not comfortable using a smartphone but someone who you're travelling with is, they can fill out the form for you.
Punta Cana Airport
Kind of the same where signage was lacking and trying to figure out what was needed and when was a bit of a challenge, but nothing more. People were not so enthusiastic about masks in the waiting area, but the spacing was not a concern.
Tip: If you have the eDeclaration app on your smartphone, use it to help speed up the customs process.
The process is essentially the same except for they ask a few health questions and ask to see the ArriveCan app and the vaccine certificates. There were no extra people to talk to. The extra steps were done by the existing officers. The whole process was relatively quick.
Overall I was much more careful than I would be at home because I did not want to test positive while away. I do not think it ruined my vacation in any way, it just made it a bit different. If you are a person who loves buffets, discos, and pool bars, then you are going to be much more affected by the COVID protocols than I was.