Where should I go? How much will it cost? Should I choose an adult only resort? etc. These are all typical questions we get from people who are booking a vacation to the Caribbean. The following guide will (hopefully) answer your questions on how to choose the right Caribbean resort for you so that you can have the vacation of your dreams!
Choose Your Package
All Inclusive: First things first, you will need to decide what you would like included in your vacation package. Most vacation packages to the Caribbean region are ‘all inclusive’, meaning everything (and we mean everything) will be included in the price you pay. From your flight, to your transfer to/from the airport, to your hotel room, to your meals and drinks (even alcoholic ones!). Basically the only other costs that you will incur on top of what you pay when you book will be tips, any excursions you may want to go on and any souvenirs you may like to purchase. In our experience, this tends to be the cheapest option when travelling to the Caribbean as flights to the region can be quite pricey.
European Meal-Plan: Another option is to opt for a ‘European meal plan’ package that will include all the things mentioned above with the exception of your meals/drinks (some places may even provide you with breakfast). If you’re a fan of eating the local cuisine and not much of a drinker, this may be the best option for you as not having an ‘all inclusive’ package will definitely drive down the costs. This is especially useful when visiting pricier destinations such as St. Lucia, Mexico, etc.
DIY: Lastly, you also have the option of booking your flight and hotel separately, with no food/drinks/activities included (although, once again, breakfast may be provided depending on which hotel you choose). This is great if you want to have more flexibility with the times of your flights and location of your hotel. However, unless you plan on travelling around a country for an extended period of time, it’s honestly more trouble than it’s worth in our opinion. We are all for these kinds of trips to other regions of the world, but when it comes to the Caribbean, we prefer the all inclusive style vacations in most instances. Yet, depending on the time of the year you travel (i.e. if you travel in the off season) and the destination this may turn out to be even cheaper than a package. So if you’re more on the adventurous side and don’t mind the extra hassle of planning your own trip from A to Z, this may be the best option for you.
Choose Your Price Range
Many things can affect the price of your vacation package, so it’s best to start with a price range and go from there as this may end up limiting you in your choices.
Low (Under $1 000): If you’re trying to snag an awesome deal on a getaway or simply don’t have much of a budget to work with, fear not, there are many deals out there! Our recent trip to Cuba in January only cost $800 (all inclusive) and our friends travelled to Cuba in October for only $650!
Medium ($1 000 to $1 500): More money to spend = more selection in destinations (think Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas) and more stars attached to the name of your hotel.
High ($1 500 or more): the sky is the limit for you. Feel like being pampered like a king/queen? Check out some of the world’s most luxurious hotels (that having rating even higher than 5 stars – who knew that was even possible??) and have your feet massaged on the beach while sipping premium cocktails in an super comfortable lounge chair. #thedream
For those of you who aren’t rich (yet) like us, here are a few tips to save you some dollars but still go on the vacation of your dreams:
FYI: Most of the tips below are geared towards North American tourists.
- Avoid travelling during holiday periods. This includes Christmas, March Break and Reading Week. If you have children in school or are in school yourself, unfortunately this may not be doable for you. However, if you’re in the workforce like us then you have the liberty of choosing dates that have the cheapest options. We noted that the weeks right after the holidays were the least expensive to travel so keep that in mind when you book.
- Book on a Tuesday. Not an exact science, but we found that for some reason flight prices/vacation prices were cheapest by far on this day of the week (by up to $100!) and more expensive on the weekend.
- Depart on a weekday: As most people want to depart on the weekend this drives down the cost of flight/packages departing on weekdays. If this is available to you, we recommend you try to do this.
- Depart from a major airport: think Toronto, Montreal and (surprisingly) Ottawa.
- Use a discount search engine: After some thorough research, we found that the BEST deals on budget vacations could be found on RedTag.ca
Choose Your Destination
Some places are much more expensive to travel to. Cheapest beach getaway from Canada: Cuba. The Dominican Republic is also quite affordable. More expensive places include St. Lucia and Mexico (depending on the resort you choose).
As well, stay on your side of the coast. If you live on the East coast, then travel to that side of the Caribbean and vice versa. This will mean less time in an airplane for you and more money in your wallet.
There is a myth that the later you book the cheaper it will be. In our experience, this is completely FALSE. If you have no destination in mind, are extremely flexible in your dates, as well as the length of your vacation, then perhaps this is for you. However, this is not the case for most people so if you don’t meet all three of those qualifications, book your trip as early as possible for lower prices.
Look At What Is Included In Your Package
Most ‘all inclusive’ packages will include the following:
- All you can eat food. There is usually 1-2 buffets on the premises where you will find anything your heart desires for all 3 meals of the day.
- 3 à la carte restaurant reservations. So you get a break from the buffet and have the chance to dress up and have a nice sit down meal. Resorts normally have ‘theme’ restaurants where each restaurant will serve a specific cuisine. We always try to check out at least one place where they serve the local cuisine.
- All the drinks your heart desires. Yes that means all the beer you can drink 😉
- Water sports. Most resorts offer kayaking, wind surfing, etc. at no extra charge.
- Entertainment. From musicians to magic shows, nightly entertainment is vast but will depend on the quality of your resort.
- Nightclub. Most resorts have a nightclub nearby or on the premises where alcohol is (usually) included.
- Transfer to/from the airport
- Airport tax/visa expenses
- Hotel room. At the time of the booking you can choose whether you’d like a beach or garden view. For the budget conscious, a garden view is cheaper and just as nice.
If your package does not include these items, be sure to budget for them in addition to the cost of your trip as they will be additional costs you will need to pay.
What isn’t included in ‘all inclusive’ resorts?
- Excursions. Want to go swim with dolphins? Eat lobster at sea on a catamaran? These activities can be booked through your hotel at the beginning of your stay and will typically cost around $100 per day depending on the activity you choose
- Gratuities. For your bus driver, maid, servers and bar tenders. It is typical to bring about $50 for tips. Be sure to bring small denominations and to spread them out throughout the week. Alternatively, you can also bring gifts such as toys, chocolate or toiletries as a tip.
Have you ever been to the Caribbean?
Have any other tips for our readers?
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