With the holidays behind us and winter setting in on the Northern Hemisphere, this is the time when everyone talks of escaping to a tropical destination. This sounds easy enough, right? All you need to do is block out a few days on your calendar, choose an island in a sunny spot, and book a hotel within your budget. Well, it could be that simple, but taking a moment to go through my tropical getaway planning checklist may help you to refine your decisions for the best vacation ever.
1. Prioritize vacation goals: As with any vacation, I suggest that the trip organizer invite each travel companion to jot down a list of their “top three” vacation goals. This could include having access to Jet Ski rentals, being in a location with no language barriers, going zip lining, or having mountains nearby for long hikes. Once the group has a better idea of what each person would like to do, searching for a destination becomes more focused and precise.
2. Not all islands are the same: I took a cruise years ago to the western Caribbean and learned quickly from the stops at my seven ports of call that not all islands are created equally. Some were a bit too underdeveloped for my taste, while others had rather small beaches or felt unsafe outside of the resort areas. It is important to do some general research on the prospective islands you are considering to be sure you are fully informed of what the options are. A few of my favorite ways to accomplish this is to do an Internet search on the name of the island and read travel blogs about people’s experiences. Also, checking out travel videos on YouTube that show footage of beaches and hotels is another great way to get a feel for potential destinations.
3. Consider the ease of travel factor: I took a resort vacation once to Saint Lucia, which took me over six hours to reach after a connection in Jamaica. Although the island was quite pretty and lush, I personally didn’t think that such a long commute was worth it just to put my feet in the sand and get some sun for a few days. The truth is that some tropical destinations are not simple to get to and can make for a long day of travel. If short and uncomplicated flights are important to you, factor this in when deciding on a destination.
4. Timing is everything: If you are planning a trip between mid-February and the end of March, be sure to call your prospective hotel first and ask them about the presence of “spring breakers” before pressing the button and booking your hotel package. Each year these notoriously rowdy gangs of college students descend upon many resort locations in the southern U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean and take over everything. If you are looking for a quiet family getaway, it is important to be aware of this fact and adjusting the timing of your trip if necessary. One rule of thumb to potentially avoid these crowds is to pick higher end resorts or smaller islands in more remote locations.
As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!