The Caribbean has long been a favorite destination for American travelers. Treasured for its scenery and family-friendly atmosphere, the Caribbean is one of the safest travel destinations for millions of American tourists each year.
Yet, like anywhere else in the world, some travelers occasionally experience travel headaches. More often than not, these travel troubles are the result of poor planning by tourists. Hence, the key to a successful Caribbean vacation is preparation, from passports and choosing the right resort to learning important details about your destination and knowing how to pack.
To make sure that your Caribbean vacation is a success, here are some travel tips to consider while planning your getaway:
• Apply for passports as soon as possible. As all Caribbean destinations – with exception of St. Thomas and the U.S. Virgin Islands – require passports for air travel, every member of your family will need to apply. Being the first year of the new passport regulations, delays have increased (with some estimates placing completed application at 10 weeks). Since you don’t want to miss your vacation because of passports that haven’t arrived, complete this step before arranging the details of your vacation.
• Do some research before you travel. Try to learn about the culture of your destination and the locations of point of interest. Check reviews for hotels, restaurants and activities. Once you learn a bit about your Caribbean destination, you will be able to make informed decisions regarding resorts and activities.
• Since the Caribbean has plenty of great family activities, try to get your kids involved in the planning process. Your children will be happy to know they had a role in your family vacation and you won’t have to worry about disappointments.
• Try to book a resort near your points of interest that offers helpful services. Throughout the Caribbean, reliable resorts will often offer shuttle transportation, activity packages and might even have exclusive opportunities for guests. Also, try to take advantage of your resort’s local connections. It is possible to plan everything from car rentals to scuba diving tours directly through your resort.
• If you plan to visit the Caribbean during the high season (generally December to mid-April), make your hotel reservations about 2-3 months in advance. During the off-season (June to November), reservations at popular resorts are a bit easier to come by and also more affordable.
• Depending on where you plan to travel in the Caribbean, you may not need to exchange currency as many islands accept U.S. currency in addition to local currencies. However, in many cases, it is advantageous to carry the official currency of your destination – especially when traveling outside of areas frequented by tourists. If you are unsure whether or not you need to exchange currency, check with the concierge of your resort. Your concierge can also direct you to a reliable point of exchange.
• Throughout the Caribbean, food and drinking water are generally safe for your whole family. Yet, if you spend time exploring outside the major tourist areas – like the unique desert coast of Western Aruba – make sure you pack some bottled water.
• Wear sunscreen. Far and away, the most common health concern for tourists in the Caribbean is overexposure to sunlight. However, this hazard is also the easiest to avoid. Simply pack some good sunscreen and cover-up clothing for use on the beach or while playing outside.
• If for any reason you have any difficulties while on vacation in the Caribbean, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Nearly all of the islands in the region have an office offering helpful travel information and personnel able to resolve many common travel headaches.
• The U.S. State Department also offers detailed Consular Information Sheets for all the Caribbean nations. These information packets can help you understand entry and exit requirements, currency exchange, the location of consulates and embassies throughout the region and plenty of other local issues. Use the information of the U.S. State Department in conjunction with your travel guides to prepare for your vacation and avoid the unnecessary stress associated with international travel.
• Look into travel insurance programs before finalizing the details of your vacation. Travel insurance can protect you (and your money) in case you need to cancel your vacation, experience delays while traveling or have any medical issues. Review your existing homeowner’s and medical insurance plans to see if any of these conditions are covered before you travel.