Thinking about going on a relaxation getaway to the Caribbean? When cold weather arrives, or winter is on its way, our thoughts often turn to the sunny beaches of the Caribbean Sea. However, some aspects of Caribbean travel remain largely unknown to tourists.
Here, we’ll help you prepare for Caribbean travel so that you can make the most out of your vacation, and avoid unwanted mishaps due to improper preparation.
1. Prepare your permissions
Do you have the proper permissions to enter the Caribbean country of your choice?
First of all, you’ll definitely need a passport, unless you’re from the United States, and you’re headed to one of the following nations:
- U.S. Virgin islands: These are U.S. territories, so you can enter with a valid, non-expired drivers license or your birth certificate. The islands include St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas.
- Puerto Rico: This island is a U.S. commonwealth. All you need is a non-expired drivers license or your birth certificate.
Other than those countries, chances are you’ll need a visa, or at least a passport, to enter your chosen vacation destination.
Here’s a list of the Caribbean countries U.S. citizens can visit with just a passport (no need for a visa, or tourist visa is given to you upon entry):
List of Caribbean countries U.S. citizens can visit without a visa (passport only):
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bahamas (technically located in the North Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea)
- Dominican Republic
- Mexico (has several states with Caribbean coastlines)
- St. Barths (St. Barthelemy)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia
- Saint Martin/ Sint Maarten
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos islands
If you are not from the United States, use this website to determine whether you’ll need a visa for a Caribbean country or not.
2. Get the necessary vaccines for Caribbean travel
In general, traveling to the Caribbean is by no means a risky endeavor. However, you could be exposed to mosquitoes, dirty water, and bacteria during your visit.
Prepare yourself by making sure you have the following vaccines, as recommended by the CDC and WHO:
- hepatitis A
- hepatitis B
- yellow fever
3. Get “in the know” about mosquitoes
Since the Caribbean has a hot, humid, climate, mosquitoes love it just as much as we do. Unfortunately for us, these pests carry dangerous viruses, such as dengue, chikungunya, and zika.
There have been confirmed cases of these diseases on every Caribbean island, so you’ll need to come prepared to combat these pesky critters. Here’s how:
- Bring mosquito netting and insect repellent spray with you, and use it at all times, especially at night and in wooded areas.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants at night or in mosquito-infested areas.
4. Purchase your tickets
The best time to fly to the Caribbean is basically anytime but the “high season”. It’s no secret that “spring breakers” LOVE to flock to Caribbean beaches during March and April, so those months (and especially Easter time) is considered the high season.
It’s easy to purchase your tickets online. Find deals on sites like Kayak, Travelocity, and Skyscanner. Those sites will compare prices from many different airlines. Skyscanner will even let you see which month is the cheapest one to travel for your chosen destination.
According to SmarterTravel.com, the best time to purchase your tickets for a Caribbean trip is 54 days (7.5 weeks) in advance.
5. Book your accommodations
It’s always best to book your resort or hotel accomodations ahead of time, since these places fill up pretty quickly, especially around Spring Break or holidays like Christmas.
The last thing you want is to arrive at the airport, tired and worn-out (and in need of a shower!) only to find out that all the hotels near you are booked for the night. So, purchase your rooms as soon as you decide on when you’re going to travel.
6. Prepare your suitcases
It’s best to pack light when going on vacation in order to avoid extra baggage fees from airlines, or fees for extra weight.
No one likes to put their suitcase on the scale at the airport, only to find out that it’s 3 pounds overweight– and they’ll have to pay $50 extra! Avoid that nightmare by buying a scale specially made for suitcases. That way, you can weigh your luggage at home, before you go to the airport.
Nowadays, airlines allow bags to weigh only up to 50 lbs. Check your airline’s website to find out exactly what their specifications are.
Also, pack at least one change of clothes and all your essentials in your carry-on. This will allow you to have the things you really need in case the airline misplaces you bag and takes a day or two to get it to you.
Not sure what to pack? We’ll take the guesswork out of packing for Caribbean travel for you. You’ll find helpful information in our article “What to Pack for a Trip to the Caribbean”.
7. Bring the right clothing
The right clothing can make or break your vacation, because you won’t feel as comfortable without it.
You may think that a swimsuit or two and some shorts and t-shirts are all you need for Caribbean travel, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Like we mentioned above, long-sleeved shirts and long pants are needed to combat mosquitoes, even if you wouldn’t normally bring them because of the hot weather.
Wondering what clothes to pack? Read about specific wardrobe items to include for Caribbean travel here.
8. Get ready for the time of your life!
When traveling to the Caribbean, your outlook and mindset is very important. Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone, although you’ll find the Caribbean more than comforting.
In addition, don’t close yourself off to meeting the locals. Caribbean culture tends to be quite hospitable, and many people there love to chat with tourists. You’ll find that it’s easy to make friends with them, and your vacation can be greatly enriched by learning more about the people you meet.