LOOKING for a bargain beach vacation? Better act fast.
Interest in the Caribbean is on the upswing, according to travel agencies like AAA Travel, which is reporting a double-digit increase in winter bookings over last year. Discounts for hotels and resorts, while widely advertised, aren’t quite as robust as they were this time a year ago. And limited flights are making it difficult to find a seat, let alone a bargain, especially on nonstop routes. But travelers planning visits outside of the popular holiday weeks can still score a deal on both flights and accommodations. Hotels, particularly those in the luxury range, continue to offer significant savings in the form of free nights and add-ons like daily breakfast or resort credits.
Here are some of the best offers this season.
Though technically in the Atlantic, this island chain’s turquoise waters and pink sand beaches rival those of its Caribbean counterparts. And this year it’s cheaper and easier to get to. The budget carrier Vision Airlines just started nonstop service to Grand Bahama Island from Richmond, Va.; Louisville, Ky.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., starting at an average of $99 each way plus taxes and fees. A limited number of seats are being sold for just $2 round trip plus tax with the purchase of a three-night stay at participating resorts including Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach and Grand Lucayan.
The Bimini Bay Resort and Marina, which has rates from $199 a night for a studio garden suite, has teamed up with IBC Travel to start daily nonstop 30-minute flights from Fort Lauderdale and Miami from $289 round trip. And more than 50 hotels across the Bahamas, like the ones on Nassau Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and the Out Islands, are offering $400 off to travelers who book a six-night stay by Nov. 21 for travel through March 4, with the exceptions of Dec. 29 to 31 and Presidents’ Day weekend. For stays of four or five nights, guests receive $250 off.
With a wide swath of lodging options, from mega-resorts to boutique hotels in the Blue Mountains, it’s not hard to find an affordable Jamaica vacation.
The all-inclusive Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Montego Bay is offering its biggest sale of the year with 65 percent off through Dec. 22. Next year, travelers can get 50 percent off two-night stays from Jan. 2 through April 8, not including Jan. 26 to 29 or Presidents’ Day weekend. Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts have also slashed rates by up to 65 percent. Guests who book a six-night stay or a combination hotel and air package by Nov. 17 for travel next year receive a $250 discount.
In the mountains, Strawberry Hill Hotel and Spa, which reopened last month after a six-week refurbishment, is offering four nights for the price of three through Dec. 19. And Half Moon, a RockResort, in Rose Hall on the Northern coast is offering a seventh night free, $200 in resort credit and round-trip airport transfers with its Great Winter Thaw deal for stays between Jan. 5 and April 1, with fewer blackout dates than last year.
Mexico continues to suffer from perceptions that it’s unsafe to visit, but security experts say tourists who steer clear of United States border areas and stay within resort areas like Cancún and the Riviera Maya can still have a safe vacation. And there is no shortage of bargains.
To spur bookings, Barceló Hotels & Resorts, which has seven beach resorts in Cancún and the Riviera Maya, is offering higher discounts the earlier you book — from 15 percent off between 31 and 59 days ahead to 35 percent off for reservations more than 120 days in advance.
Palace Resorts, with 11 all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, is offering up to $1,500 in resort credit with bookings of five nights or more. And Pleasant Holidays, one of the biggest sellers of Mexico packages, is offering $100 off three-night stays at AM Resorts’ all-inclusive brands including Dreams Cancún Resort & Spa and Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancún if booked by Nov. 20. Some of the best deals can be found at luxury hotels trying to make up for lost conference business with vacationers.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancún, for example, is offering rooms from $199 including breakfast for two for bookings made seven days in advance through Dec. 21. On top of that, guests receive a $50 credit per room to be used at the spa.
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts is running the “Fall in Love with St. Kitts & Nevis” nationwide promotion of seven nights for the price of five or four nights for the price of three through Dec. 12 at many hotels across both islands. Guests receive free continental breakfast daily or a food and beverage credit. In addition, several St. Kitts hotels are offering winter deals that are as good as, if not better than, last year’s. Ottley’s Plantation Inn, for example, has rolled back its rates to “pricing unseen since before 1999” with rates from $194 between Nov. 1 and Dec. 22 of this year.
On Nevis, the Four Seasons Resort is putting the finishing touches on two new luxury suites, completing its $110 million renovation and offering a fourth night free or eight nights for the price of six through Dec. 20.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Promotions are inching closer toward peak winter season on the United States Virgin Islands this year. For example, the Dive USVI promotion, which ended in October last year, is good for travel through December this season. In addition to the $300 in dive certificates offered last year, the deal now includes $150 in combined dining and retail credits. Boutique hotels across the islands are also offering visitors $100 in savings through dining and activity coupons. Details can be found at visitusvi.com.
And St. Croix now has its first all-inclusive option — the Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort — which switched to all-inclusive pricing earlier this year because it noticed visitors were more interested in one low price following the economic slowdown. Rates begin at $183 a person a night based on double occupancy for travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 15, if booked by Dec. 1., and kids up to 17 stay and eat free.
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