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vcheney Dec 26th, 2012 07:23 PM

Need help with first trip out of U.S.
Hi, my husband and I are planning a romantic trip to the Caribbean in late 2014. We have never been out of the U.S. before except for myself when I was 4 yrs. and went to Canada. We have no idea where to go. I just know that we both want hot weather, sparkling water, and white sands for our trip. This trip is sort of our belated honeymoon since we never had one. We have chosen 2014 since it will be our 10 yr. anniversary and it gives us time to save up the money. We are using a travel agent but would like some recommendations on places to stay and things to do.
We both have agreed that we want a place that is not overly crowded. Not so much into the night life but would like to hit a bar or two... some shopping... sight seeing. We don't like just sitting around doing nothing. There needs to be ample things to keep us busy during the day. We are not too picky so whatever you got will be taken into account... we are interested in zip lines, horseback riding... not to interested in trying the local food though.
Any tips would be great. We were looking into Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, St. Lucia, UVI, Turks&Caicos. Not interested in an island where we will be spending an arm and a leg for food, attractions, or shopping! Thanks!

vcheney Dec 26th, 2012 07:42 PM

Also would prefer a room on the beach... maybe a villa or something like it with a kitchen so we can store some snack and drinks if need be!

RoamsAround Dec 27th, 2012 05:42 AM

Any of the islands you mentioned would "fill the bill" but in order for us to make any meaningful suggestions we need to know when in 2014 you will be traveling since that could make a big difference in whether or not you'll find "hot weather" - for instance Bermuda can be quite cool in winter months. We also need to know how much you are budgeting for accommodations, food and excursions. Quite honestly terms like "spending an arm and a leg" are meaning less without a dollar point of reference. You see, we have no idea how "long your arms and legs are" so you have to tell us how much you have available FYI - room rates are usually at their highest between December and April. They drop after Easter you'll usually find the lowest room rates during the summer and early fall.

Tell us too, if airfare is part of your "budget" and, if so, where will you be flying from as that could have a significant bearing on how much you spend on airfare.

Give us some idea of the type of accommodations you'd like - on most islands you can usually find everything from basic guest houses to very high end resorts. You should be able to find places within your budget assuming it and your expectations are realistic. Don't expect to find 5-star accommodations for 3-star prices. But, in order for us to make suggestions we need to know what type of place you'd like and how much you can spend.

Now, you'll often find different prices for different rooms at the same resort/hotel. For instance a garden view room could be significantly less than a beachfront room at the same hotel yet you'll still have access to the full amenities at that resort. So facvtor that into your budget.

You'll also need to budget for "transportation" while on the island, if you plan on leaving the resort. On most islands you can take taxis but they will be costly so decide whether you want to do that or rent a car for part or all of your trip.

Turks & Caicos and Antigua have quite a number of "condo resorts" where you can have the convenience of a fully equipped apartment coupled with the amenities of a full service resort. They are good places to get the most bang for your "accommodations" buck.

One more hint, since you are planning to travel "out of the country" make sure you apply for and have your passports well before your planned travel dates.

blamona Dec 27th, 2012 06:15 AM

1 more thing to add, overall Caribbean is an expensive destination, and in general 5 stars doesn't match 5 stars in the States, so put your budget in prospective.

Because of this, don't count out Belize, Costa Rica or Mexico either.

vcheney Dec 27th, 2012 09:04 AM

Yes we plan on flying out from Chicago or New York. Renting a car is a big possibility. We are not looking for 5 star. Just not some run down hotel. The travel agent said right after Thanksgiving is a good time for cheaper rates. Not sure if she is right or not. We are not looking to spend more than $6000.00 total. I'm sure with using a travel agent I could get the trip for around that. I just wanted to know where the best place to go for first time traveling out of the country was. I will look into Antigua and Turks & Caicos. Sounds like what I am looking for.
As for month going, my husband and I was thinking towards end of year. Maybe first week of December. What is the temp. like at that time?

Bassguy66 Dec 27th, 2012 09:35 AM

My advice....dump the travel agent, and book everything yourself. TAs seem to push certain islands and properties. Booking in todays electronic world is so simple a caveman could do it.

Impossible to tell you what the temp is without knowing where you are going....for example....December weather in the Bahamas is cold compared to the more southern islands.

For 6 grand, you should be able to get flights, a nice condo or villa, on the beach, and have plenty left over for food and car.

You need to figure out what you want. So far, you are being way too general for anyone to make a reasonable suggestion.

Take the time to read up on different islands. If you aren't going until 2014, you won't be booking for at least a year and a half....which is plenty of time to explore the different types of islands that will provide what you are seeking.

KVR Dec 27th, 2012 10:01 AM

We go somewhere the first week of December almost every year. That time of year has the best prices and the lowest crowds. However, this year and last year we got caught up in bad weather coming/going in the US which caused some major travel issues. I think next year we are going to go the first week of November and hope for better weather.

We tend to go to Caribbean Mexico, but have found the pools too cool during that time period to use. However, we did just return from Cabo San Lucas and their pools are heated. We loved it there.

From the Islands you mentioned not sure you will find zip lines except maybe St. Lucia. For that requirement you need lush islands that have foliage. Islands like T & C are flat and scruffy and will not have that excursion.

Most Carribean Islands are quite expensive and booking tours/excursion will cost. We found T & C to have some of the most expensive excursions. Mexico will have most of your requirements and excursions there are inexpensive compared.

If your not interested in trying the local food, you might want to look at Islands that are more Americanized like Aruba or Grand Cayman. No ziplines in those destinations though. We spent our 10th Wedding Anniversary in Key West. Some of the best food we've found on vacation.

vcheney May 4th, 2013 12:31 PM

Thanks for the tips. I will consider all when we finally start booking. :)

xkenx May 5th, 2013 04:08 AM

Barbados is a wonderful island for first-timers because it is so varied and the people so nice. Below is a repost of my comments from over a year ago...Ken

From a Caribbean Princess cruise out of San Juan, instead of returning, we disembarked at our last stop, Barbados, and spent a few nites beachfront at Coral Reef Club. This was my 6th stay on the island over the years, and it remains my favorite for having lovely people, a wide range of sightseeing, beaches, hotels, restaurants, entertainment.
But this is about the resort Coral Reef Club. 2012 will be the 60th year that the O'Hara family has owned this gem on a beachfront 12 acres. Coral Reef was built and expanded using coral stone to create a series of plantation-style cottages and low rise buildings, never skimping on room and balcony space, never jamming too much onto the grounds (only 88 rooms), never sacrificing quality. Even the least expensive rooms have a roomy bath, sitting area, ceiling fans, balcony or patio with 2 loungers, table+chairs. The lobby area is spacious and adjoins the roofed but open air restaurant right at ocean's edge. One of the most elegant and charming settings anywhere. The grounds are a profusion of trees, shrubbery, flowering things, the likes of which I have never seen, even in official gardens. Beach is long enough and wide enough, and shaded in places, and doesn't get crowded. Owners are always on the property, staff are smiling and efficient. Their principal chef was trained in Europe, and the ever-changing menu extensive and varied. This is the class act of class acts. It was very difficult to tear ourselves away to leave. Oh, and the tree frogs serenade you all night--their mating call is a crystal clear sound which is prettier than 90% of the birds.

More about Barbados. It is a good island for first-timers to the Caribbean, with at least some of everything the islands have to offer, except for a volcano. It is a coral island where rainwater gets filtered thru the coral limestone formations, so pure drinking water and minimal mosquitoes. The island was formerly British, so a distinct British flair, with lovely people, education & religion conscious, and with an economy not dependent only on tourism. The capital, Bridgetown, is a bustling port city with decent shopping and some historical sites. But get just a little away from the built up west and southwest coast roads, and you see a lovely island with flat and hilly areas, sugar cane fields, and many sightseeing opportunities. A cave, spectacular tropical gardens, wildlife preserve, rum factory, plantation houses. Also a wide range of beaches, hotels, restaurants, dive/snorkel sites. The island comes across as a mixture of the old authentic Caribbean and the new.

suze May 5th, 2013 07:57 AM

What I would do so early in your planning, and with so many general ideas to choose from is use a spread sheet. Put the islands (or specific towns even better) you are considering down one column, then across the top the other things you are considering: hotel prices, on the beach or not, car rental or not, ziplines and activities available, weather at the time of year you're traveling, americanized-food available, etc. and just to a checklist.

To get more bang for your buck and good weather that time of year, I also encourage you to look at the Caribbean coast of Mexico (as already mentioned, sometimes called Mayan Riviera). There is a large selection of All-Inclusives there that fit just what you're looking for.

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