The lighthouse and museum on Vieques.
By George Hobica
It has never been as cheap, adjusted for inflation or otherwise, to fly to the Caribbean. But thanks to Southwest Airlines and JetBlue adding new routes, fares are unlike anything we’ve seen in a generation.
Flights to San Juan are now as low as $250 round-trip, including tax from the East Coast and Chicago, and even deals from L.A. and Seattle can be had in the $300 range round-trip.
JetBlue will begin nonstop flights to Antigua from New York’s JFK and from Boston to Barbados in early November, with airfares in the low $300’s round-trip. United is beginning non-stop flights from Newark to St. Kitts in December.
And Southwest, the free-checked-bag airline, now flies to Cancun, Aruba, the Dominican Republic, San Juan, and Jamaica. Here are more deals to get you to the Caribbean this fall.
United is beginning non-stop flights from Newark to St. Kitts in December. (Photo: United Airlines)
Some islands are more expensive to reach than others, so if you’re headed to a more remote destination consider, flying into a major hub such as San Juan, Nassau, or St. Thomas and connecting on a separate fare to your final stop. For example, if you were to search a flight from Newark to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands for January travel on Kayak.com, you’d see fares on United via San Juan for a ridiculous $2,250 round-trip. Don’t do that. Instead, price New York to San Juan on, say, American for as little as $300 round-trip, and then fly on Cape Air from San Juan to Tortola for $229 each way. Seaborne Airlines and Liat also provide intra-Caribbean service to islands of all sizes.
Give Puerto Rico a second look
Some of the best airfare bargains land in San Juan, so don’t overlook Puerto Rico, and don’t overlook the fact that it’s not just all about San Juan. Not only does the island use the U.S. dollar and require no passport to reach, but the islands of Culebra and Vieques are a world apart from the capital. The Discovery Channel named Culebra’s Flamenco Beach the second best in the world. The island’s quieter west coast has great surfing and nonstop service from New York’s JFK.
Play the euro
With the dollar still strong against the Euro, St. Barts, Martinique, and other Euro-based islands are less expensive than in past years, so if they seemed expensive in years past, give them another try.
Cruise without flying
Nothing matches the value of a cruise. For instance, Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a 12-night voyage to the Caribbean round-trip from New York, stopping in San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Lucia, Barbados, and St. Kitts starting at $1,598 for two people in an inside cabin on the Norwegian Breakaway. That’s $66.50 per person, per day, including meals and entertainment. Sure, you’ll spend on booze and spa treatments, but there’s no way you could travel this well, this cheaply, on land. Similar deals are available from other U.S. ports.
Hermitage Bay, Antigua, is offering 20 percent off five-night stays. (Courtesy: Hermitage Bay)
Always compare a package (air+hotel) with the price if booked separately. Generally, you’ll save at least something; savings get better the more expensive the trip and are especially good last-minute bookings.
Especially if you enjoy a tipple or two or three when you vacation, all-inclusives can prevent check-out shock. But not all all-inclusives are created equally, and that goes for properties within the same brand. Club Med‘s Columbus Isle location in the Bahamas ranks as one of the group’s classiest. At the time of writing, $1,198 per adult, double occupancy, would get you a week at the resort in January (look for “special offers” online). That includes round-trip air from Miami, transfers, activities, sports, all-you-can-eat food, wine, and cocktails. On the luxury level, Antigua abounds with posh all-inclusives; Hermitage Bay, for instance, is offering 20 percent off five-night stays in early 2016 if you book by Nov. 15 for many rooms.
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