LB Note: I love good travel content and my friends Holly and Greg from Club Thrifty are the MASTERS at travel hacking and living their best life (with a family no less!) Loving these tips – enjoy!
Most of us dream of taking a Caribbean vacation at some point. The sugar-sand beaches and golden sunlight paints a picture of the perfect tropical paradise. From sailing around the Virgin Islands to hiking Gros Piton in St. Lucia, there’s no doubt the Caribbean is full of adventure.
Unfortunately, the cost is often a factor when planning your next getaway. The good news is you don’t need to spend your weight in gold to have a great time. If you want to travel to the Caribbean, here are the best ways to do it on the cheap while making memories that last a lifetime.
Plan and Book Ahead
Planning a vacation is fun, right? When you book in advance, it gives you that much more time to daydream about the adventures you’ll have. Plus, a little planning can save you money. Some sites offer flash sales that can cut thousands off the cost of Caribbean travel if you’re willing to wait to hit a good sale. Save your information and get alerts for flights, hotels, cruises, and more when they drop in price.
It does require a little calendar coordination if you’re vacationing with a group of people…and you may have to act fast! But, if you have the money in the bank, you can jump on a great travel deal when you see it. Plus, this gives you more time to save for your trip!
Score Last Minute Deals
Booking in advance isn’t the only way to save. Sometimes you can find last-minute Caribbean deals at a big discount.
If you don’t have specific dates in mind and have some flexibility in your plans, this might be a great option. Keep in mind that it’s often more difficult to find airfare to accommodate several travelers on the same flight with a last-minute ticket. This might not be the best option if you’re traveling in a large group.
But, if your calendar is flexible and you aren’t picky about your final destination, finding great deals is a cinch. Sign up to receive alerts of price changes to help you score a deal on cheap flights.
Build a Travel Fund
To take advantage of discounts on travel, you need to have the cash available to spend. My favorite way to start building a travel fund is to open an online savings account. Online savings accounts offer better interest rates than traditional banks, sometimes earning 100x the rates (or more) that you’ll find at the national chains.
Cashing in on high rates can really pay off and give you more cash for your adventure. Plus, your travel money is held separately, making it easier to keep it marked for travel instead of spending it on impromptu purchases.
Grow your account even more by setting up automatic deposits from your checking account or paycheck. Even $5 will add up – you won’t miss it, but you’ll be thrilled with your stash when vacation time comes.
Pick Up the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Redeeming rewards points is an excellent way to cash in on a great vacation without cutting corners. A favorite is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card due to its lucrative rewards program. Earning points is a breeze. But the icing on the cake is that you can transfer your points to 13 different hotel and airline partners for free flights or hotel stays.
To help get you started, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card gives you 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months of opening the account. That’s the equivalent of $750 in free travel if you redeem the points through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Get the Southwest Card to Earn Points for Flights
Travel credit cards make it easy to save on flights. One of the best options to earn points toward free airfare is the Southwest Card. To get a jump start on your next Caribbean escape, you can get a 40,000 point sign up bonus for spending $1,000 in your first 3 months.
Southwest currently offers nonstop flights from several U.S. cities to Costa Rica, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. You can also get to Cuba, Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman, Belize City, and Cancun – making it an excellent way to save on your next trip.
Keep in mind that flying to the Caribbean can take up a good chunk of your day. You’ll want to have some room in your bag for items to stay comfortable on the plane.
Carrying a pair of noise-canceling headphones, a good travel pillow, a Kindle reader, and a water bottle to refill after passing through the airport security checkpoint can be a lifesaver.
To take in all the Caribbean has to offer, consider a cruise. You can visit multiple islands all while having the convenience of a central home-base aboard the ship. Saving money is easy since food and entertainment are included. Remember that most cruises aren’t all-inclusive, and you’ll likely pay extra for shore excursions, gratuities, and drinks.
If you live on the East Coast, it’s often possible to drive to a nearby port like Baltimore, New York, Miami, or Charleston. Without the cost of airfare, you can shave even more off the price of your Caribbean getaway.
Book an All-Inclusive Resort
Surrounding yourself with the sun, the endless white-sand beach, and the sounds of the Caribbean can send your brain into vacation mode. When that happens, it’s easy to forget about your budget.
Instead of spending more to indulge yourself in a luxe vacation, consider an all-inclusive Caribbean resort.
Paying one flat price will take care of all your food, entertainment, and fun. With so many all-inclusive resorts to choose from in the Caribbean, it’s the perfect option if you want to relax on a sun-soaked beach, try your hand at snorkeling, or just get away from it all.
Travel in the Off Season
It’s no secret that traveling during peak times can cost a lot more. Most vacationers visiting the Caribbean are seeking a respite from the harsh winter months. In North America, that covers everything from November to April. Prices can rise 30% or more during this high season.
Obviously planning your travel in the off-season can help you get the best bang for your buck. If you can avoid the heaviest demand around the holidays and Spring Break, you can save money on your island escape and enjoy it with fewer people around.
Get More for Your Money
As you plan your getaway, compare prices and consider cashing in on credit card rewards to save even more. With so many ways to cut costs, a trip to the Caribbean can be more than wishful thinking.
Do you have a Caribbean vacation in mind? Share your travel plans with us in the comments!
Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. He is the co-owner of the popular blog Club Thrifty, where he teaches others how to spend less and travel more.