Tips For Planning A Caribbean Vacation

[trip style = beach + sun]

This week the steel drums are clanging, the dreadlocks are bouncing and the sun is our world. Why? For most of the week, we're going to be talking about the Caribbean. Today we list tips and considerations for planning a trip to de islands and on Wednesday and Thursday we'll share our top picks for luxury and wallet-friendly romantic getaways.

The zillions of islands and cays that span 2736km in the Caribbean Sea beckon everyone from boaters to Beyonce and bevvie lovers to beach bunnies. Visit St. Barth's at Christmas and you're likely to spot more celebs than at The Grove {outdoor mall in LA} on a Saturday, or opt for something a little less opulent and stay on the less developed shores of The Turks and Caicos. Regardless of which trip style or island's geography you enjoy most, here are some thought starters for planning your future getaway under the jungle's canopy or the shade of an umbrella in the Caribbean.

  • Non-stop flight? If so, here's how to find direct flights on a month-by-month basis out of your home airport.
  • Family fun, girlfriend getaway, mancation or couples trip? Book yourself into the right resort and it's bliss, end up at the wrong resort and your vacay could be a miss.
  • Want an all-inclusive or a la carte experience?
  • Mega resort or boutique property?
  • Stay close to town or go castaway style?
  • Adventure junkie or beach break?
  • Saver or spender? The Dominican Republic and Jamaica tend to have the best values, due to a high influx of flights, whereas harder-to-reach islands are often harder on the pocket book
  • Choose your travel dates wisely, mid-December to April is high season, yet there's usually a small lull in resort occupancy just after New Year's, so this can be a reasonable time to travel in winter.
  • Bring small USD bills for tipping.
  • Don't expect North American customer service, each island has its own distinct culture and this will come out---for better or for worse---at each resort.
  • if you want to save money, consider doing a vacation rental, but stay near a town centre so grocery pick-up is easy
  • Know in advance about extra fees and incidentals. Most resorts will charge a daily resort fee unless it's included in your price. Furthermore, some countries charge a departure tax, only payable in cash.
  • If you have 5 days or less, opt for a direct or one-stop flight to maximize time at your destination. In addition, bring a carry-on so you can go from plane to pool in a flash.
  • Get to know the country you're visiting as well as their entry and exit requirements, for example, in Cuba you need physical proof of your medical insurance to enter the country.
  • We all remember sunscreen, but most people forget bug spray! With the dense topical foliage surrounding most beach regions, bugs and sand fleas like the beach just as much as you do!  I've been the the Caribbean more times than I can count, and generally the bugs aren't bad. The only time I was badly, badly bitten by noseeums---to the point of getting swollen ankles---was in the densely forested mountainous region of the Dominican Republic.

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[photo by mdanys]