According to a front page article in a recent New York Times
, many high schools across the country are not offering drivers ed. Cost and the focus on academics are two factors that have taken high schools out of the driver education business. So kids often have to make a choice between sleep and private weekend courses.
But we found an intriguing alternative. On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, we signed up for an ATV tour and the guide said my teens, 14 and 16, could drive. They learned basic hand signals and in no time were barreling through mud puddles and across the beach. The ATV tour was the highlight of our week in Puerto Plata, since it also took us into the lush countryside that dominates this part of the country.
We also spent a day exploring the small town of Sosua, with its small shops, quiet beach, and the opportunity for my oldest daughter, Hallie, to finally put her high school Spanish to good use.
Puerto Plata, which now has non-stop flights from JFK on Jet Blue, (as well as non-stops on other airlines) is ringed by all-inclusive resorts. We stayed at Breezes, part of SuperClubs. which is somewhat diminished by trying to appeal to all ages at budget prices. There is a ‘mini-club’, with a nice playhouse and climbing structures, but when my 10-year-old, Nora, went, she was one of only three kids, and the others were much younger (the club is for ages 4-12). But she enjoyed her hour on the trapeze, and we learned that we could just take her for a trapeze lesson during the daily kids’ hour.
Hallie and my middle daughter, Sela, both got ‘child’ bracelets, which meant they couldn't order alcohol, but they could take the adult trapeze lesson. Sela, who has done trapeze before, was selected for the trapeze show, so she got to wear a special outfit and perform for everyone one night. Every evening, there was a different show — on another, there was karaoke — so the nightlife might be a bit too colorful for parents with young kids. Also, since there is a casino, there can be late-night noise. The resort attracts college students and a lot of Canadians, which may explain the ice-skating rink.
Breezes has a 30-foot climbing wall, a beautiful pool with two water slides, a wading pool and a gorgeous beach with soft sands and big waves. While we were there during February break, the water conditions ranged from yellow to red, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the kayaks. But my kids were thrilled by the yellow flag days of huge waves for body surfing. Daily activities include soccer games, water aerobics, tennis lessons and volleyball in the pool or on the beach.
The resort has a buffet for all meals, plus several specialty restaurants where you can eat at no additional cost, but you have to make a reservation, and you can only eat at each specialty once. We found these restaurants to be lacking; service was either very slow or too rushed. Drink service at the buffets was no better; we had an entire meal where we asked for, but never got, anything to drink. But for budget-conscious travelers, Breezes hits a sweet spot; in fact, for the rest of 2008, up to two kids stay free with their parents.
Making travel – and maybe even learning to drive – a breeze: www.godominicanrepublic.com
. For more info: www.superclubs.com