Guest post by Tiffany Mullins
Social Media Manager, Island Routes
Planning your Caribbean vacation can be a headache if you aren’t properly prepared. While some people may simply purchase plane tickets, choose an island at random and hope that their vacation is everything that they desire, planning your ideal getaway is often not that effortless. There are a variety of factors you must consider before embarking on your dream vacation and we’ve prepared a handy Caribbean survival guide to assist you along the way.
Choosing the Right Island for Your Getaway
Whether you’re vacationing as a couple, with your family, or flying solo, each island can provide different attributes and amenities to suit your vacation style. For instance, St. Lucia’s idyllic topography might create the perfect escape for lovebirds, while the Bahamas features a variety of off-resort activities and family-friendly destinations, including haunted plantations, old forts and more. And if you’re travelling alone, you’ll want to choose an island – and a resort – known for its safety and reliable transportation.
Decide how you want to spend your vacation – do you want to enjoy an array of beautiful beaches? Check out Antigua and the Grenadines. Do you want to spend your getaway surfing, snorkeling or diving? There are a variety of hot spots in the Caribbean, including Jamaica and Turks and Caicos, renowned for their water sports. Perhaps you want to spend your vacation dancing and bar-hopping – then you’ll want to choose an island that boasts a diverse nightlife, casinos, bars, restaurants and clubs.
Do your research before booking your getaway – only you know what you’re looking for in a vacation and each island offers something unique.
Research the Hurricane Season
While most people take a vacation in the summer months, it’s important to remember that the Caribbean’s hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30 each year. While it’s likely that your vacation will be hurricane-free, you may still be affected by indirect wind, rain or flooding that could put a damper on your sunny holiday.
What can you do about this? Plan ahead – always travel with travel insurance, particularly if your trip coincides with peak hurricane season. Be sure to read the fine print, as trip-cancellation insurance will protect you from losing money, just in case you need to reschedule your getaway due to inclement weather. Additionally, the resort you’re staying at may actually offer a hurricane guarantee, which provides guests with compensation during this type of natural disaster. But you’ll want to read this guarantee closely – it may range from full compensation to a partial discount off of your next visit.
Smart Packing Tips
Packing for your Caribbean getaway also requires planning. You’ll want to make sure that you can easily access all of your travel documents – don’t leave your passport, boarding passes and driver’s license at the bottom of your suitcase. Instead, place them in a purse or carry-on bag, making it easy for you to pull out these items when necessary. Plan for potential luggage delays at customs or at your resort of choice. Pack any types of medicine you need, as well as a change of clothes (including your bathing suit!) and your toiletries in your carry-on bag just in case.
Pack several bathing suits in your suitcase, ensuring that you won’t have to wait for your suit to dry overnight, as well as a hat to protect your face and neck from harmful rays and lots of sunscreen. Bring along an array of garments to wear during a variety of activities – you’ll want to bring shorts or lightweight pants (e.g. cotton or linen), casual and dressy tops, and some type of eveningwear – whether it’s a light suit or an elegant dress to wear at a fancy restaurant or for a night on the town.
Don’t forget to bring your camera, plenty of film, and a small umbrella – just in case.
Saving Money in the Caribbean
While you’re in the Caribbean, there are several things you can do to save money, like using public transportation to get around. This is typically less expensive than renting a car or taking cabs from place to place and it also allows you to better immerse yourself in the culture of the islands. You’ll meet the locals and you’ll be doing your part to help with pollution and the community’s air quality.
Additionally, instead of eating in a restaurant for each meal, purchase food from local vendors and enjoy it at a picnic lunch or dinner – in the park, at a garden, or at a local hotspot. You’ll save money while sampling local cuisine, like fresh jerk chicken. (Avoid purchasing uncooked food and always wash any raw food, like fruits and vegetables, prior to eating.)
If you book a stay at an all inclusive resort during your Caribbean vacation, your meals and additional amenities may be already included. Some resorts will offer unlimited meals, unlimited drinks and access to fun activities to enjoy during your vacation, like watersports or Caribbean adventure tours, which will ultimately save you money during your stay.
You may want to call your loved ones while you’re tanning on the beach, but international roaming charges could make your phone calls and texts cost a fortune. Depending on the type of provider you have, your cell phone might not even work overseas! Thankfully, there are ways to communicate with your family and friends that won’t break your bank.
Rent or buy a GSM world phone and buy a local SIM card for its use. These can be found almost anywhere in the Caribbean, including convenience stores or local cellphone provider stores. After purchasing minutes for your phone, you can make outgoing calls easily and affordably. Even if you opt not to buy a GSM world phone, renting is still a cheaper option than paying for roaming charges, which can cost from $1 – $4 a minute.
Additionally, you can connect to your resort’s Wi-Fi and use applications like Skype to call home. You’ll get to talk for free, and you can “show” your loved ones your accommodations over video chat. In the same vein, you can forgo calls altogether and communicate over email or via instant messaging. This method is much less personal, but you’ll still get messages to your friends and family without paying exorbitant fees.
Plan Your Caribbean Vacation
From the islands you visit to the type of accommodations you choose, you can customize your dream vacation from the minute you begin planning for it. Select your airline of choice, your hotel, your meal plans and your activities beforehand. Even if you decide to do nothing at all on your vacation, it’s important to plan your trip now – so you can completely relax later!
Tiffany Mullins resides on Paradise Island in The Bahamas and is the International Social Media Manager for Island Routes (Unique Vacation, Ltd.). For more information on Island Routes’ Caribbean adventure tours, visit www.islandroutes.com.