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Which island to visit?

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Hello -
My family of 5 (3 kids ages 7-12) would like to spend a few days in the Caribbean in April. The only island we've taken the kids to thus far is Bermuda and they loved it but we'd like to try somewhere different, and somewhere a bit warmer in April. We are trying to figure out which island might be best to visit. I had original been thinking the US Virgin Islands but am wondering if I should expand our horizons and consider the Cayman Islands, Aruba, St. Lucia, St Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua, others? I made the mistake of picking up a Caribbean travel guide from the library and now I am more stuck than ever - so many good options! The kids like to be on the go for a part of the day - hiking, beaches, sight seeing, shopping etc - but then like to also have downtime at the hotel for swimming, exploring the grounds etc. It would be helpful to have a hotel with multiple dining options so that we could eat on site rather than having to trek offsite at the end of a long day. Any thoughts for a family such as ours - as far as which island and any hotel recommendations? Thanks in advance!!

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    Why have you decided against St. Thomas or St. John?

    Instead of trying to narrow down your choices you are expanding them and quite frankly that is only going to make your selection process more difficult. You are falling into the classic "Are the palm trees nicer on the other island" syndrome.

    At their ages I doubt your kids will notice any appreciable difference in any of the islands on your list.

    Just so you know, those of us who have traveled extensively through the Caribbean (I've visited every island on your list and then some) have done so over a period of time. You have to start somewhere. Truth is there is no one perfect island and no island "has it all". The beauty of the caribbean is every island is unique.

    Also, I wouldn't put too much stock in finding a resort with multiple dining options on the property. Instead, stay at a resort that is in close proximity to a variety of off-resort dining. It's really not that difficult or inconvenient to go off-resort for some or all of your meals. Besides, doing so will give better food options that dining "on-resort" every night.

    Now, to help you narrow your choice tell us:

    1) How long is a "few days"?
    2) Where will you be traveling from?
    3) When in April will you be traveling? If Easter (April 17) you should know that you may run into minimum stay requirements.
    4) What type of budget do you have for accommodations?

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    We would likely fly out of NYC on Saturday and return Thursday/Friday, so about 6 days? We would be returning before Easter (departing the weekend before Easter, returning just before the holiday). In terms of budget, I know that resorts/hotels are pricey down there, especially at that time of year. My guess is that for a room or suite that accommodates 5, we might have to spend $500-800 a night?

    Oh, and I haven't ruled out the USVI at all - just picked up a couple of books from the library and was flipping through and thinking about all of the other options and wondered if there was a best place to start - like you said, it would obviously take years to explore everywhere but there was no specific reason for initially thinking we'd do the USVI - so I started wondering if that was indeed the best place to start our exploration of the Caribbean or if there were other options that might be better....

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    The week before Easter is also expensive as many schools have their break that week.
    Of the places you listed, I would look into Grand Cayman and Antigua. Beautiful beaches, shopping, etc.

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    "...The kids like to be on the go for a part of the day - hiking, beaches, sight seeing, shopping etc..."

    Are your children (ages 7 to 12) that interested in shopping? Other than t-shirts and a few trinkets" there's not too much in the way of shopping that will interest children that age but, hey, you know you children better than the responders on a travel forum.

    Grand Cayman is a very nice island with terrific beaches and plenty and activities for both adults and children but it is relatively flat and arid - not ideal for hiking - walking along the beach yes, hiking, not so much. The best hiking is generally found on the hilly & mountainous islands.

    Now, your chances of finding a resort with a room that can accommodate 5 people in your price range is small -the rooms at most resorts are designed for 2 people with a pull out couch that can sleep an addition 1 or 2 people. Those that have multi-bedroom suites will be 2X's or 3x's your budget. That goes doubly true if you want a resort that has those "multiple-dining" options you wished for.

    All is not lost, however, instead of a booking a suite or trying to cram 5 people into a standard hotel room look at staying at a "condo-resort". These are usually privately owned condos that are rented out when the owners are not in residence. They are less expensive than suites at the mega-resorts and you'll have multiple bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, living room, in unit laundry facilities and usually a nice balcony - in short all the comforts of home. Many of these condo complexes have similar amenities of full service resorts like swimming pools, daily or every other day maid service and an on-site restaurant. They are often located in areas that are close to shops and restaurants. You can find them on most islands and best of all you shouldn't have any difficulty finding ones in your price range.

    You are planning to travel around Easter so, in addition to paying "High Season" room rates (no matter which island you choose and what type of accommodations you choose) expect to encounter high airfares. Those are two items that you can't avoid. There are no "bargains or deals" at that time of year.

    You have 3 challenges. You have to: 1) Choose an island you wish to visit, 2) determine if you can get flights to that destination for your planned dates of travel then, 3) find accommodations in your price range.

    The easiest way to do that is to PICK YOUR ISLAND FIRST, then check out the availability of flights and finally look for accommodations. No sense picking accommodation only to find out you can't get to that island when you want to travel or that it's going to take you twice as long as you planned.

    And since you are not that familiar with the islands in the Caribbean stick to those islands you can reach non-stop from your NYC area airports. Of the islands on your list Grand Cayman and St. Thomas fit that bill. It's been a while since I check availability of non-stop flights from NYC to Antigua (a few years ago there were none and you had to connect through MIA) but if you can get a non-stop flight Antigua would be among the islands you should consider.

    For now I'd cross St. Kitts & Nevis off your list - there are only a limited number of non-stop flights each week to/from St. Kitts from JFK and they are not on the days you wish to travel and there are no non-stop flights into Nevis. Likewise you can't get to Dominica or Grenada from anywhere in the US without taking a connecting flight from San Juan or other Caribbean airport (often involving a long or even over-night layover). You can get to St. Lucia and Aruba non-stop from NYC area airports but since they are fairly far south you are looking at longer flight times. I'd save all of those for later trips when you have more time.

    So, I'd suggest you concentrate your search to Grand Cayman, St. Thomas or Antigua. All three have what you are seeking and all three have plenty of "condo-resorts" that should be in your price range and can easily accommodate your family of 5.

    Choose Grand Cayman if you want your main emphases to be on water based activities like swimming, snorkeling, jet skiing, swimming with sting-rays, - the island is all about beaches. You'll also find a number of interesting land based activities including some decent shopping (which I guess is really for you, not the kids).

    Chose St. Thomas you want a good combination of water based activities like swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, parasailing, jet-skies, deep sea fishing, etc, land based activities hiking & zip lining plus lots of shopping and the ability to easily take a day trip to neighboring islands like St. john or some of the British Virgin Islands.

    Choose Antigua (assuming you can get there non-stop) if you want access to the island's 365 beaches, all types of water sports and some decent hiking but are willing to give up a bit on the shopping.

    Last hint, once you've selected your island do a google search for "Condo Rentals on NAME OF ISLAND" and you'll find lots of links for places offering the type of accommodations I described. Also, go to the "island specific" forum on TripAdvisor and click on "Vacation Rentals" for that particular island. You'll find a complete list of the various condo-resorts on that island with ratings and hundreds of reviews. Read through the material to determine which units fit your specific needs.

    Have fun planning your vacation.

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    We had a family get-away on St Croix, and loved The Buccaneer. If you click on my name, you will find a couple of threads on which I gave lots of information about why we liked it so much.

    The Buccaneer is a great family place. Complete breakfast buffet included, in a beautiful open-air restaurant. Three eating choices: poolside cabana which was quite good, oceanside cafe that was also good and more extensive menu, high-end restaurant at the main house.

    Really a charming place. Family owned for a couple of generations.

    LOTS of lodging choices. Some family rooms that are cheapest; some newer townhome-type rooms; some very nice large, connected oceanside double rooms (we had 5 adults and rented three of these rooms; two of them connected).

    Very nice, not elaborate.

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