Nothing sounds better than lying on a beach in the Caribbean where you can dig your toes in the sand, soak up the sun and forget about daily stress.
But don’t book that flight just yet.
It’s possible to find a great flight to the Caribbean without breaking your budget or your psyche. All it takes is a little planning, patience and savvy. And we’re going to tell you how.
Choose the Right Destination and Departure Points
Finding the ideal flight is all about choices and logistics. You need to be clear about exactly what you want, but flexible enough to tweak some things if you need to. Flight prices vary for endless reasons — fuel cost, layovers vs. non-stop, carrier, holidays and events and destination and departure points.
With so many options of islands that differ in culture and environment, you may be interested in visiting more than one. Think about what your perfect trip would look like and do a little comparison shopping when you’re searching for flights. You could find a better deal looking at one of the other islands and then taking a short flight or a boat to the one you want. You may even be better off flying to Puerto Rico – a U.S. territory served by most major U.S. carriers right in the middle of the islands – and puddle jump from there.
Or maybe you want a non-stop flight to one island that you’ve always wanted to visit. If you live near a major city or hub, finding a non-stop flight will be a breeze; but if you live in a more rural area, you might have to take a short flight to a nearby city to get a non-stop flight. New York, Boston and Baltimore all offer direct flights to the Caribbean in just a few hours.
Not sure where you want to go? U.S. News and World Reports ranks each island with photo galleries and suggestions of things to do.
Be flexible, focused and diligent and you’ll find a good deal.
Choose the Right Time at the Right Time
While the middle of winter might seem like the best time for a tropical getaway, it’s the worst time to go if you hate crowds and high prices. December-April is peak tourist season. If this is your ideal time to go, try to avoid December because it’s the most expensive month to book a Caribbean vacation. Book months in advance and expect to pay – a lot.
If you’re considering summer or fall, consider this – you’ll be on a Caribbean island during peak Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 every year. Costs are lower, but the risks are higher. May is considered the best time to go.
A simple search will give you all kinds of theories about when to book your flight and when you should depart and return, but each article contradicts the previous and there’s no consensus. Some say you should book as many as 207 days out, others say as little as two-to-four weeks when they’re trying to offload tickets and others still say a good 76 days out is the time to buy.
There are endless theories about when the best days of the week to depart and return are, but they’re also all contradictory. What I’ve found works (and suggest to others) is to pick a month several months away and check the prices every day in the morning, afternoon and evening. See if you can find a pattern. At some point, you will find the right price for you and you take it. It might not be the lowest it will go; but if it feels good, do it.
Carriers, Packages and Travel Agents — Oh My
An easy way to find a great deal is to subscribe to mailing lists. Carriers will often send out last-minute deals to their subscriber list and the more you subscribe to, the better chance you have of finding a flight that meets your agenda and price point. Carriers also offer frequent flyer miles to members – easy to sign up for – and rewards points for credit cards, so check your merchant to see if they offer rewards points for flights. Some carriers even have their own credit cards. If you have one, there’s a good chance you’ve racked up some rewards.
Packages can give you the ultimate vacation deal if you shop around, which can be convenient because you only pay once. I just checked Atlantis Bahamas the other day and found a hotel and flight package for two adults for a week for about $2,500. But don’t limit yourself. Check out Sandals, Secrets, flight carriers and other travel sites.
I know they’ve sort of become a thing of the past, but don’t discount the help of a travel agent. Getting a quote from them isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, you can compare their prices to the ones you’ve found yourself and see where you can get the best deal.
Finding a great flight to the Caribbean doesn’t have to be painful to your mind or your wallet. Doing a little research, planning, comparing, and having patience will find you a great deal even if it’s not perfect. But your vacation will be.