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Single woman in need of a beach vacation!

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Thanks in advance for your advice - I have learned so much from all of you seasoned travelers! I am an unseasoned traveler and a single woman in her 30s who would like to go on a beach/resort vacation in late March. I would like to stay right on the beach, have full services on the beach (i.e. lounge chairs, food, drinks), and relative peace and quiet. Although I'm traveling alone, I am not interested in doing a lot of socializing - I need a break! I would also like to be at a resort where I won't feel compelled to leave it to eat if I don't want to. My budget is around $2000 (including airfare). I am departing from Boston, MA. I am focusing on Florida but would also welcome suggestions in the Caribbean. Thank you!

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    I am a woman (early 40s) and have done several solo trips to the Caribbean and Florida.

    If you could provide answers to a few questions, I think it might help people provide more targeted feedback:

    1) How long do you want your trip to be?

    2) Do you have any flexibility about when you travel?

    3) Does your budget include just air and hotel, or food too?

    The reason I am asking these questions are:

    1) Late March is spring break time, so crowds will be larger and prices will be higher. If you can wait until mid to late April, prices will be lower and crowds smaller.

    2) Length of trip will impact both budget and how much travel time makes sense.

    I used to do a winter beach escape during February, but I found that Flroida was not always warm enough in February or early March. I think you should be OK by late March. I prefer the gulf coast to the east coast. Siesta Key, near Sarasota, is a really nice beach, but the accommodation choices there are very limited (mostly condos). Key West was fun, but the beaches there aren't as nice, and it is a slow drive from Miami.

    In the Caribbean, I have traveled solo to Anguilla, Barbados, Grand Cayman, St. Lucia, St. Martin (daytrip), and Turks & Caicos. For a less experienced traveler, I would recommend Grand Cayman (Seven Mile Beach) or Turks & Caicos (Providenciales, Grace Bay Beach) for great beaches, a safe environment, and an area where you can either eat at your own hotel or go to others that are very close. Budget may be an issue; however, during high season, on both of these islands. Aruba offers a similar experience and may be a little less expensive. Check out Palm Beach (high rise hotels and busier) and Eagle Beach (more laid back).

    If you haven't already done so, you might want to post your question on the Florida forum too.

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    Hi Beachdreams! Thanks so much for your response. I can probably only get away for 4 or 5 days. I do not have a lot of flexibility in my travel time but you're right - I would want to avoid spring break if at all possible! Budget does not have to include food.

    Thank you for all of your suggestions - I will follow up immediately!

    Where did you stay in Grand Cayman and Turks and Caicos?

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    I stayed at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort on GC and the Royal West Indies and the Alexandra Resort in Turks & Caicos.

    I posted hotel reviews on TripAdvisor if you want more information. My username there is "Beachdreams2". If you enter that in the "search bar, you can find my member profile, which contains hotel reviews on the "Contributions" tab.

    Regarding spring break issues, I don't think you will have to worry too much about the college spring break crowd on either island, as the prices and limited nightlife tend to discourage them, but there likely will be more families with children in March if your vacation coincides with school breaks.

    There are some nonstop flights from Boston to T&C; I'm not sure about GC. In any event, there are good options to both places with one connection, which I think is important if you are only going for 4 - 5 nights.

    Feel free to ask if you have other questions.

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    I just posted a report on a last-minute trip to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I think most of us on this forum would agree that St. Thomas and St. John in particular is safe for a woman alone. Although I travel with my husband and young daughter, I am mostly tooling around alone on the island. DH and DD like to hang out at the house or at the beach. I tend to really "live" there and run alot of errands day and night by myself and have never felt unsafe. American Airlines has some terrific pricing and direct flights from Logan to St. Thomas through March. We just went for under $300 roundtrip direct flights. I would look on the website, www.aa.com for all the flight info. St. Thomas offers a lot of affordable housing options. St. John is more expensive but does have some smaller inns or rentals which could fit in your budget. For your budget, I would also look at last-minute travel deals on www.travelocity.com which has shorter term packages which are within your range... and they put it all together for you.

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    Thank you so much for your suggestions! I am looking forward to getting home, making a big mug of hot chocolate and doing some serious web surfing to check out your suggestions!

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    Regarding St. John, it is a place that is on my list for a future trip, but I have put it on the back burner because I have encountered some issues trying to plan a solo trip there (I share your preferences for accommodations on the beach and not needing to go too far for food). First, there seem to be very few hotels/resorts that are right on the beach. I think the only ones are Caneel Bay (very expensive) and the Westin (on a man-made beach that is not as nice as other beaches). Many people who visit St. John seem to stay in villas, which would not be something I would want to do alone. I had looked at some accommodation options (condos, smaller inn/B&B type places) in town (Cruz Bay), but I don't think any of them are right on the beach. Gallows Point, and maybe a couple of other condominiums are near the water and may have a small beach nearby. The other potential issue (for me) with St. John is that it is difficult to get to the nicest beaches and/or have access to many dining choices without driving everywhere (and I understand driving there can be a bit challenging because it is more mountainous and I think they drive on the left). Finally, the travel logistics from my area (Washington/Baltimore) were not good. I could not get to STT without a connection, and I would have arrived pretty late in the day and then still needed to deal with taking the ferry to St. John. It sounds like Boston offers better travel options, though.

    Tuxedocat,

    I enjoyed reading your other post on your recent trip to St. John and you obviously know the island well, so please correct me if I am wrong about the availability of beachfront accommodations that would work well for solo travelers.

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    I agree with everyone who posted that St. John is both a special and a safe place – one of my favorite islands in the world.

    That said, given the information the OP provided, it may not be the best place for her on this trip.

    While not overly complex to get to, it can be a hassle if you have never dealt with “service” in that part of the world as it involves a cab from the STT airport to the ferry dock at either Red Hook or CA and then the boat across, followed by another cab to your final destination. Further, to really make the most of St. John, you’d need a car and driving can be a challenge for a first timer. The whole thing could be stressful for someone who is not looking for an adventure and/or has limited travel experience.

    The one big exception to all this would be Caneel Bay – it is very much self-contained and the hotel can manage all transportation for you. It is also very, very expensive. The Westin is a less attractive option (IMHO) because its beach is very poor and it is overall much less upscale (although I think they have their own ferry too).

    Pretty much anywhere on 7 mile beach on Grand Cayman would be a good first trip to the Carib. The big chain hotels (Westin, Ritz, Courtyard and Marriott) are good centrally located choices with full resort services and close enough to off campus restaurants/shops. There are several upscale condo developments between the hotels, but these may not be cost effective for someone traveling alone.

    Of the hotels listed, I’ve stayed at both the Westin and Marriott and for my money, the Marriott is a better value (although the beach is much smaller). GC is a super safe island with all the modern conveniences. What it lacks is a Carib vibe – you could be in Florida or any place warm with a great beach.

    I’ve stayed solo at the Marriott on St. Thomas several times and that, too, is very manageable. I especially like the Morningstar rooms – right on the beach. The resort has several restaurants and shops and is very safe. While mostly couples (young and old), there are singles there as well. A more expensive option on STT is the Ritz Carlton - I've eaten there, but never stayed there. I don't like their beach as much as the one at the Marriott and the Marriott has their own commuter boat to the town.

    Other suggestions include Peter Island and Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands, but they tend to be more expensive and are more difficult to get to than the USVI. But, if it is beach and vegging that you want, these are great places.

    Given your limited travel experience, I'd suggest sticking to American chain hotels. Yes, you will loose some local flavor/charm, but you will get a fairly predictable product and you will not have to work too hard to make your needs understood. These hotels will all have good security and the services you specified.

    Although I have not stayed in these hotels, I have heard good things about them: Hilton Barbados, Marriott St. Kitts, Four Seasons Nevis, Hilton and Marriott Curaco.

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    I agree with Andrew304 that the Marriott at Frenchman's Reef in St. Thomas might be a good choice. It is not complicated to get to from the airport and they are truly a full service resort which will have a concierge that will help involve you in other activities if you wish. The resort itself is very nice and interesting because it kind of cascades down a hill to its beach. There's plenty there for you if you want to relax for the full time and there's plenty of other things they can hook you up with if you choose. Their restaurants are also quite good, IMO. AA.com can also put together a package for you to many of the Caribbean destinations. I've found that whenever you buy the airfare, the hotel and car packages are also significantly discounted.

    beachdreams3: Thanks for the positive feedback. I never know if I'm actually helpful or if I'm just enjoying myself sharing my experiences. I agree with much of what you said. Personally, as a woman, I find it pretty easy and safe but since the poster says she's "unseasoned," I would never encourage someone to go beyond their comfort zone. I would say that for you, you'd be fine at Garden-By-The-Sea or Gallows Point. Both are "waterfront" with fairly easy access to the water and you can walk into town for meals or shopping. If you want to go to the beaches, the famous north shore beaches have the open air taxis running to them all day long and the larger ones, Trunk Bay and Cinnamon have facilities there for an all day stay. There is also public transportation the VITRAN system which you could use too if you really do not want to drive. Coconut Coast Condos is also a possibility. It is on the edge of Cruz Bay and on the water. I don't think it's a great swimming beach but you can walk to Frank Bay etc. It also has a pool. They're more like studio apartments than condos so perfectly adequate for a single or couple. Plus, it's less expensive and there are plenty of other people around. The old adage, safety in numbers. BTW, the eco-camping options are also fun for singles. It's rougher but it's cheaper too. Concordia eco-camp just added a wonderful restaurant. My single female friend stayed at Maho eco-camp two years ago and says it was one of the most peaceful yet adventurous experiences of her life. All of the eco camps are on or close to some of the best beaches and also have pretty well-rounded facilities too so you don't have to leave if you don't want to. Again, you can either choose to rent a car or just use taxis. I'm not saying you have to go to St. John but I hope this additional information will help in planning for the future. Happy trails wherever you go!

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    I have traveled extensively alone, especially on my quest for the world's most perfect beach. Lucky for my husband, he only got to the good ones since I troubleshooted for him! ;-)

    Cinsidering even FLA, I second T&C. Easy flights, not a bad place to stay, one of the safer islands (still use caution, bad economies bring out bad stuff) Major peace and quiet, bonus, one of the most beautiful beaches and most turquoise water you'll ever see.

    Check out The Sands Resort, it's the least expensive that has service on the beach. Also call some resorts directly--many are offering 4th night free--will strecth your budget or even check out a more upscale property, such as Somerset, Regent Palms, or Turks. I think with T&C, you can get what you want and stay in your budget. Budget enough for an excursion-check out Caicos Dream Tours--excellent to boat to a stunning beach that's actually secluded, isolated.

    St. John is awesome, but Caneel Bay (to stay on the beach) is probably above your budget. Other places, you'd have to get around and not stay put.

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    I booked my trip! I am going to Turks and Caicos and staying at the Royal West Indies Resort. March 17 - 22. Thanks to all and especially beachdreams3 for her extensive trip reports and reviews on Tripadvisor - they were so informative. I can't wait to experience it for myself. Just a few short weeks away! The Royal West Indies is doing a special - pay for 4 nights and get the 5th free by the way. I will post a trip report when I get home. Thanks again!

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    We have traveled to the Bahamas 3 times already in March and absolutely love it....The weather is mid-80's - not too hot!! There are several all-inclusives where you don't have a need to leave the resort. We stayed at the Radisson Cable Beach resort, which is now the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort and loved it...All-inclusive plan - full beach services - no need to leave!!! The beach is big enough to be involved in the entertainment or go off by yourself and not hear the noise!!!

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    AZ,

    I hope you have a great trip! I was trying to be objective with my comments and respond to what you were seeking, but now that you have decided, I'll admit that Provo is one of my two favorite islands (Anguilla is the other, but I think Provo is better for a first trip to the Caribbean). I knew there were some great deals with hotels on Provo this year, but I wasn't sure if the airfare would be really high.

    Tuxedocat and Andrew,

    I will definitely refer back to your helpful comments about St. John for future trip planning. Thanks!

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