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Paradisus Punta Cana

When you enter Paradisus Punta Cana Resort through its serene tropical entrance, you immediately feel a sense of calm as you wander through the natural foliage and fish ponds towards the canopied beds in the common area. The resort has a very Zen like feeling in its initial impression, but the entrance eventually opens to a very lush tropical setting.

Only a short 30 minute cab ride from the airport, Paradisus Punta Cana has countless options to fit the needs of any honeymoon, wedding, family reunion, or corporate retreat. The property boasts 896 rooms in various styles, twelve restaurants, seven different pools, and an expansive white sand beach. The Reserve section of the property offers visitors more privacy than other areas. Containing only 132 rooms, The Reserve has private pools for adults and children. It also has restaurants that are exclusive to travelers who opt to stay there. It is the perfect way to enjoy the entire resort, but still be able to retreat back to a quieter area for relaxing.

The resort also offers a lot in the way of nightlife. The resort has nine different bars, nightly entertainment, and a casino.

Activities abound at Paradisus Punta Cana! The resort offers water sports including snorkeling, diving (for certified divers), windsurfing, kayaking, and a catamaran for sailing. If fun on land is more your speed, the resort has four tennis courts, three paddle ball courts, a rock climbing wall, batting cages, and volleyball courts. Horseback riding and golf (at Cocotal Golf) are available for additional charges as well.

After so much fun in the sun, you may find yourself needing to relax from your vacation. There’s no better way to do so than to relax at the resorts Yhi Spa. They offer a long list of services as well as a fitness center for use anytime. There’s also a kids “mini spa” where they can get pampered as well.

Paradisus Punta Cana has something for everyone and every occasion. It is perfect for large groups of people with varying needs and travel expectations. The resort is beautiful, and the staff is attentive to the needs of the guests. The Shady Umbrella would love to help you find your place in the shade, so contact us with any of your travel needs.

Happy Travels,

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Navigating the Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Airport



This is an overview of most island airports, but specifically Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)… You may be wondering what to expect when you arrive, so hopefully this will help to make your trip as stress free as possible.

Upon landing in Punta Cana, you are first met with what is arguably the cutest thatched roof airport around.  Once inside here are a few stations that you must proceed through in order to gain entry into the Dominican Republic. The first station is where you purchase a “tourist card”.  These are  $10 (cash only, US dollars are accepted)  per visitor, and are given to an attendant at the next station to validate your purchase.  Now proceed to the customs line, here your passport will be stamped and the customs documents (blue page given by flight attendants) that you filled out on the plane will be validated by the customs officer.

Be sure to grab any luggage that you may have checked and the head towards the exit where another airport attendant will be collecting the information card (white page) that was also filled out aboard the airplane. 

Provided you aren’t a drug mule or international criminal that just slipped up…welcome to the Dominican Republic!

Transportation is waiting just outside the airport…

- A valid passport is a must.

-Don’t forget cash for the tourist card!

-Travel at your own risk, I suggest not taking anything you don’t want stolen or misplaced.


Checking your flight status 24 hours in advance for changes and completing the online check in (if available) is always a good idea. It helps save time and lowers the risk of surprise at the airport.

Once you return to the airport, there are two terminals (A and B ).  Check out the airlines at the terminal you were dropped off at.  If you don’t see your airline check-in area, then it is located in the next terminal on the other side of the airport. There are very long security lines for both terminals, so be sure that you have checked in with your airline before waiting through it.  

After the security lines, you will do your business with customs. Then follow the signs to your flight’s gate and relax. You are heading home!

If you do an online check-in with Spirit Airlines and choose to print boarding passes, these are NOT your airline tickets! Make sure to have your passport scanned and proper tickets printed prior to proceeding through security. Your new tickets will have “DOCS OK” printed on them validating your check-in.

Clearing US Customs upon Return

You will head through Customs once again upon returning to the US. Once your passport and paperwork are validated, a security check is again required. Any “Duty Free” liquor or perfume that has not been checked (over 3oz. and not in your quart sized plastic bag) that you have purchased will be confiscated and not allowed back into the country.  Basically making most “duty free” shopping a complete waste of time and money.

After you clear customs, welcome back to the US! Have a safe connection as you continue home!

Happy Travels,

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow” ~Lin Yutan

Helpful Links:
Country Entry/ Exit Requirements
TSA What to know before you go
American Airlines
Air Tran
Continental Airlines
Spirit Airlines
US Airways

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Don’t Get Hit With Unplanned Phone Charges

When planning to travel abroad it is a wise idea to check with your phone provider and review your plan. 
With smart phones that automatically update without prompt, you may be getting hit with charges without
making the first phone call. 

When in doubt simply cut off your data package while overseas.

Happy Travels!

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All-Inclusive vs. Pay As You Go

    A lot of people seem to struggle with whether to go all-inclusive when they go on vacation.  I am no different, so I am not going to tell you which one you need to pick.  Instead, let’s list reasons to choose both.  That way you can decide what kind of trip you want to go on…


Need a little quality time with your special someone?  All-inclusive trips allow you to focus on nothing but each other.  I wouldn’t recommend anything different for a honeymoon.  Waking up in each others arms and not having to focus on any details of the day is wonderful.  Many resorts cater to couples…

No Unexpected Costs

Once you pay your total balance you are done.  All of your food and alcohol have been taken care of.  Most resorts even include activities like snorkeling, sailing, biking, shuttle buses, and glass bottom boat rides in the bill.  You may have to pay for some spa treatments out of pocket, but that’s about it.

Decisions? ummm, yeah…not for me…
Sure, there are some things that will require your attention, real hard hitting questions like, “Would you like another (insert drink of choice here)?” or “Would you prefer your meal brought down to the beach?”  Nothing life altering though….

Big Appetites
Are you a foodie or a big eater?  Like variety?  You can eat at as many places as you want within the confines of your resort.  If you like what you had, but are still hungry then order it again.  Most resorts offer many different styles of food and dining atmospheres.  You are not limited to a buffet line every night. 

Travel with Less Cash
If you have already paid the bulk of your trip expenses, then you don’t have to have a fat wallet with you everyday.  Just pack some local currency for souvenirs and a debit/credit card and hop on the plane.

Big Family
If you have a larger family or children of varying ages an all-inclusive family resort may be for you also.  Most resorts offer many activities with experienced guides.  Staffed security guards ensure safety within the properties also.  You will feel better about letting the kids go do different things if they are limited to the confines of the resort. 

Pro Tip: Many All-Inclusives are offering huge discounts right now, take advantage while the deals last!

Pay As You Go

Are you an Explorer?
If you like getting out and exploring then pay as you go is for you.  You choose your destinations and set the itinerary. 

No Limitations
You can stay in a different town every night if you choose.  Check out the countryside and local eateries at your leisure.  If you don’t like the hotel or resort you’re at, then go to another one…

Lower Initial Costs
You may end up spending more than all-inclusive, you may end up spending less.  It’s up to you and your budget. 

Check Out the Local Hot Spots
Get out there and do what the locals do.  White sand and blue water are at every tropical destination on the globe.  Local flavor and culture are what changes from country to country.  Go be a part of it!

Hate Touristy Spots?
Braid your hair pretty lady? I was asked that 1,267 times in the Bahamas…At first it was charming, by the fifth time in three steps onto the beach they might as well have been telemarketers, except you can’t just let the phone ring until they hang up…I know they are just trying to earn a living, but wow.  Go find your secluded, private spot with just the people that you want to see there.

Be More Spontaneous
There is nothing to keep you at the resort like prepaid meals and activities.  You will be free to take off on an unscheduled excursion.  

    When choosing between all-inclusive and pay as you go, it really depends on what kind of experience you want to have. If you are leaning towards all-inclusive, I would recommend couples seeking romance to consider Sandals or Couples resorts.  Families should check out Beaches or Breezes.  While pleasure seeking singles may want to bare it all at Hedonism or party until dawn at Club Med.   I hope this has helped you make your decision.  We are happy to help you with your arrangements whatever route you choose. 

Happy Travels!

Kristin and Jason

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Tasty Bites in NYC

    I hope everyone had a great and blessed Christmas and holiday season!  We caught the Christmas fever in our house, literally.  Kristin and I have both been a little under the weather, but are happy to be back with more details on our trip to NYC!

    So…where should I begin talking about New York City?  Let’s start with something everyone likes to do…eat!  NYC has more varieties and variations of food than anywhere I have ever been.  It’s hard to know where to start because of the sheer volume of restaurants.  I can honestly say that we would have likely not found the number of awesome restaurants had it not been for modern forms of communication that utilize “word of mouth”.  My friend and fellow NYC traveler, Wesley, is a huge fan and user of new media.  He has been telling me for a few years now how useful new media can be in professional and social applications.  Well, if there were ever an example, navigating NYC is it.  Within minutes of asking friends on facebook, twitter, and simple texting we were swamped with suggestions of “must go” restaurants.  It made sifting through the sand and grit to find the gold pretty easy. 

Pop Burger was the first place that we tried in NYC.  We were out getting our bearings in the city and wanted a quick bite to eat. They offer tasty small burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and the usual gang that you would expect as sides at the first floor counter.  The lounge on the second floor offers the same as the first as well as some more options for dinner. The décor in the restaurant is a retro tribute to pop art.   On the first floor there is a simple eating area, but upstairs there is a lounge, pool table, and full bar.  It’s the best of both worlds, somewhere quick to eat or somewhere to chill out at night and grab a snack. 

    Our first night in the city we ended up at Pastis, a French Bistro in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, through a recommendation by a neighbor.  They offer some traditional French dishes along with a few twists on bistro fare.  It is a very open, tightly knit restaurant that gives a true sense of community.  You can make reservations, or take your chances on finding a seat at the community table.  We were lucky enough to be able to walk in and grab seats at the community table.   I would actually recommend this option because of the forced interaction with other people.  You may just end up next to someone that provides you entertainment with your meal.  The food was outstanding. 

    Admittedly, I watch a lot if Travel Channel TV…I love Man v. Food.  Watching Adam do some of the spicy food challenges has inspired me to attempt a few of them myself.   I was interested in checking out Brick Lane Curry House whenever the show visited it to do its Phaal Curry Challenge.  Phaal is a super hot curry that uses the ghost pepper, which is the hottest pepper on the planet.  If you finish the phaal you’ll get a free beer and your picture on the wall.  Not exactly like winning the Superbowl, but a small victory none the less. We hoofed it over there for an early lunch on day two.  I had never been to an Indian restaurant, so I didn’t know what to expect.  The staff was very friendly, and explained what everything was to us. I considered doing the challenge, even went as far as to try the sauce on its own (incendiary), but decided being on foot in NYC after braving that was not gonna be very well thought out.  Kristin spent the rest of lunch telling me I was scared, but I didn’t see her attempting it either.  All of the food was very flavorful and well prepared.  It is worth a go if you want to try something different and spicy. 



    That night after some suspect Chinatown shopping we decided to head into Little Italy and try Angelo’s.  To me this was exactly what I was expecting in a NYC Italian eatery.  The food was rich and flavorful.  The quarters were intimate and dimly lit.  The majority of the staff and patrons all seemed to have been cast by Francis Coppola himself.  It all just felt right…not to mention that they have, without a doubt, the best veal marsala that I have ever eaten. 


We took a subway ride down to the Lower East Side to try Katz’s Deli.  It is a Jewish kosher style delicatessen.  The restaurant has been around since 1888, and was the site of Meg Ryan’s climactic scene in “When Harry Met Sally”.  The restaurant has some of the best pastrami and corned beef that I have had.  The meat punches you square in the mouth with flavor!  House made pickles and fresh cut fries made it outstanding.


We tried out Sushi Samba for dinner on our third night in NYC.  It is a unique restaurant that offers a blend of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian food and music.  While the food was very good, the volume inside of the restaurant was deafening.  It seemed like the “seen and be seen” crowd was out in full force fronting for the world to see.  Finding humor in this sort of situation though, I enjoyed the dinner and the façade that the tables around us tried to project…good times.

    Throughout the trip there only remained one constant…Coffee.  I don’t want to speak for the entire group, but I know that I have a healthy addiction to caffeine.  I am not sure how many Starbucks there are in NYC, but we visited a good many.  Sometimes you need something to level you out, keep you going, or to get your fix.  Why not make it a legal addictive substance?  We take our coffee pretty seriously around here…

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I took a bite of The Big Apple, and it was surprisingly sweet…

    Everybody’s got their place…the place that you’ve always wanted to go, and the place that despite people’s praises you’ve never cared about seeing. I am from the south. I love the pace of life here, and the simple courtesies associated. I love the outdoors, and getting back to the simpler things. For me vacation means white sand, blue water, and a few cold beers. You can imagine my dismay when I first heard that were we spending our Christmas vacation in New York City. 

    Everybody has heard that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”…blah, blah.  Maybe you can’t, but I can and did for many years.  My work has taken me around New York a few times, but I have never cared to go into the city.  Now I know where your mind is wandering, “this fella here is just some bumpkin, ain’t never seen nothin'”…Let me assure you, I have been around and have seen plenty.   Like I said, I enjoy keeping my life simple.  I have a beautiful wife, a lazy dog, and a little boat to sneak off on now and again.  Give me a pair of jeans and some broken in boat shoes and I will change my shirt based on the occasion.  You can have the hustle and bustle, bright lights, over population, and pop culture.  I am fully aware of the significance that New York City has in society and commerce. I get the jist of it, which had always seemed like enough for me.

    Having said all that, I was completely wrong about New York City in every sense.  Sure, all of the things that I mentioned that kept me away were there, but they just bring balance to a city that is rich with history and culture.  So…I have to join the masses and say that if you haven’t been to New York City, you should go.  Over the next few blog entries we’re going to hit the high points of the trip.  What we did, where we ate, things worth doing, and things to avoid.  So, hang tight…

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Football Season Ending or Just Heating Up?

    We’re on the road right now heading back from the Charlotte, NC where our NFL fav Carolina Panthers just put the whammy on Brett Favre and the Vikings.  All of the men in the family decided it was high time that we took in a game together, so away we went.  Travel in an out of Bank of America Stadium is relatively easy with plenty of available parking to be had.  After a short walk you are in the thick of a rockin’ tailgate party complete with punt, pass, and kick contest. Feel free to step right up and be embarrassed…

    Inside the stadium is very clean and easy to navigate.  Find your seat and let the energy of the crowd take over, it’s time for some Panthers football!  Every game, win or lose, is a blast, but let a big name team (coughVikingscough) roll into town and get dominated…that stadium crowd feeds the players with their energy!

Like what you hear?

    This kind of experience happens every week around the country.  Primetime running backs and franchise QB’s light up the scoreboards and the eyes of fans every game. You don’t need to be at the stadium to feel and see it, but it is a different experience.  One I would recommend you take in at least once… 

    The Shady Umbrella is always happy to help you find transportation and lodging near your favorite team,  We can even steer you in the right direction to find the perfect seats for your game.

So, Are you ready for some football?

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