Traveling isn’t cheap.
No secret there.
Even in the Caribbean, a region that is comparatively more affordable than others, expenses add up. Factor in a round trip flight, accommodation, food, transportation and that list of must-do activities you’re constantly updating, and we’ve got an overall cost that can put an impressive dent in your bank account.
But, I am a firm believer that traveling is worth the expense, once you’re willing to forgo luxuries in other areas of your life. That being said, while I can’t lay claim to being an extreme budget traveler, I have picked up a few tricks to get the most out of my dollars and cents while traveling around the region.
Note the title says more ‘bang for your buck’, meaning this article doesn’t necessarily highlight the cheapest options. Instead, I offer up my 6 tips for getting the most value for the money you spend while vacationing in the Caribbean.
1. Go Island Hopping
Island hopping isn’t cheap but it doesn’t have to be super expensive either. If you’re someone who loves the region and intends to visit several islands throughout your lifetime, then grouping a few of them together is ideal. Instead of having to pay exorbitant airfares from your homeland for every visit, it will be much more economical to set up a base on an island like Saint Lucia, Grenada, St. Maarten/St. Martin or even Jamaica, and schedule mini-getaways to neighboring islands. Regional airlines like Caribbean Airlines, Liat and SVG Air often offer reasonable rates, and there are also ferry services providing even more economical transportation options. So, consider killing a few birds with one stone each trip – you’ll cover a lot of ground and save a significant amount on airfare.
2. Stay at a Bed and Breakfast
The Caribbean is famous for its all inclusive resorts where room, meals and yes, alcohol, are packaged at pretty attractive prices. But, the one major drawback of these sweet deals is that you’re chained to your hotel’s dining options, which are usually varied but rarely represent the destination’s authentic cuisine. I’ve found Bed and Breakfast establishments to be a convenient alternative that offer unique local charm, guarantees you the most important meal of the day, and allows you the flexibility to sample lunch and dinner at various restaurants and street vendors. Personally, I also love the ability to wake up, and fill up on a delicious, freshly prepared, satisfying breakfast before heading out for the day!
3. Schedule in a Day Tour (or Two)
I’m torn about organized tours, as I outlined in this blog post weighing the pros and cons, but there are several upsides to this type of travel experience. You get to cover a significant amount of ground within a short space of time and these tours always include at least one meal, and sometimes even drinks! Through these excursions you’re able to visit several must-see attractions within a few short hours, an exercise that might take you several days if you attempted it on your own. Bonus: In the Caribbean, we’re big of filling meals so the portions are usually healthy enough to take you through the day and often times you only require a light dinner to tide you over till morning.
4. Rent a Car
Taxis are expensive almost anywhere you go, including popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. If you don’t mind a little adventure and relying on navigation apps, rent a car instead. There’s no guarantee the daily rate of a rental will always run lower than your taxi fares but the flexibility you’re afforded when you’re not watching every penny is well worth it. Plus sometimes getting lost helps you find the most amazing places and gives you the best travel stories!
5. Stay Close to the Action
Accommodations located in the heart of tourist towns aren’t always the cheapest, but the convenience is usually worth the price. Overall you may save a decent amount of money if you stay somewhere off the beaten path but if you’re the type of traveler that likes to be in the thick of things, then the money saved on your room will quickly be eaten up by taxi fares (or gas, depending on exactly how far off the beaten path you venture). But, if you like your solitude and prefer to avoid the crowds, feel free to stay as far away from the tourist hubs as you like.
6. Shop for Souvenirs in Bulk
We’ve all got our preferences when it comes to souvenirs, whether we’re purchasing them for ourselves or as gifts. I’m partial to handcrafted jewelry so really there’s no avoiding high-ish prices there but if you’re in the market for t-shirts, caps, bags, postcards or mass produced jewelry, visit the local craft markets. Take the time to walk around and chat with the vendors then settle on the one you have the best rapport with and try to get as much as possible from their stall. The more you buy, the more willing they are to negotiate better rates!
It goes without saying that I absolutely love the Caribbean! It’s my home and I’m quite content to dedicate a significant amount of time exploring it as thoroughly as I can. We have so much to offer and I hope this post inspires you to come visit and see for yourself just how amazing our archipelago is!