Islands in the sun: All-inclusive Caribbean escapes are the way to go
March 26th 2011 - Winter-weary travelers grounded by ever-rising airfare and hotel rates can still escape to the island tropics - if they "bundle" up.
A recent Travelocity.com survey reveals that vacationers can save $525 per couple just by booking their flight and hotel together.
Savvy travelers can double those discounts, however, by buying all-inclusive resort packages covering the extra expenses (like meals, drinks and tips) that can quickly increase the cost of your trip.
"All-inclusive is the way to go," says Jim Hobbs, founder of CheapCaribbean.com. "We just did a deal with Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda resort in Riviera Maya [Mexico] for $59 per person per day, which includes all meals, beverages, alcoholic drinks, nonmotorized water sports and accommodations.
"It cost more than that the last time that I parked in Manhattan!" he says.
Value-hunters can score the best savings by combining their overall travel expenses into one flat rate. You'll have to cough up the cash up front, but once the bill is paid, you can check in without your checkbook.
"You can go to an all-inclusive resort and literally not spend another dime once you get there," says Jennifer Gaines of Travelocity.com, whose packages include airfare, hotel, meals, drinks, taxes and tips for the entire stay.
The best bargains are close to home in Caribbean hot spots from Riviera Maya to Jamaica's Montego Bay.
"Prices to popular spots like Cancun begin to soften in April, especially," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo.com. "And islands like the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic ... are offering a wide range of value options in March and April."
Take advantage of these all-inclusive spring break specials - and don't forget the sunscreen!
Although our Southern neighbor has suffered some bad press lately, "Cancun is considered the No. 1 safety spot in Mexico right now," reassures Saglie. In fact, crime along the border has spurred resorts in safe spots like Cancun and Riviera Maya to offer rock-bottom prices to draw in wary travelers.
A five-night stay at the BlueBay Grand Esmeralda resort on Cancun's Riviera Maya, for example, is just $479 (from $1,029) with airfare using the promo code RIVMAYA100 through CheapCaribbean.com when traveling May 1-June 30.
The same site serves up five nights at Grand Oasis Cancun for $629 (from $1,049) with the promo code CANCUN100 for travel dates between April 7-16 and April 25-June 30. Travelzoo.com features a three-night stay at Cozumel Palace on the Island of Cozumel for $749 (from $1,159) plus air through April 30. Amenities include hammocks on the balcony, liquor dispensers and 24-hour room service.
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
"This is a great spot to find all-inclusives," says Gaines. "Plus, hotels are really ramping up their value offerings, with things like free upgrades and free spa treatments because they want to give travelers a little something extra."
The Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana throws in perks (like free room upgrades, or a bottle of rum and a fruit basket) when booking the $649.99 three-night getaway including airfare from Travelzoo before March 31. Or, spend five nights on the silky white sands of Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach in La Romana at just $499 per person with air (down from $789) from April 24-May 31, or five nights at Santo Domingo's Coral Costa Caribe Resort for $499 per person with air (from $879) from April 1-Dec. 22 at CheapCaribbean.com.
Travelzoo's Breezes Resort and Spa in Nassau package doesn't include airfare. However, you can offset the flight with the money you save by getting a fourth night free when booking their $135 per person, per night deal (or $405 total) which includes airport transfers, rooms with garden views, all meals, snacks and premium-brand drinks, hotel taxes and windsurfing, sumo wrestling and dance classes through July 17.
Or plug in CheapCaribbean's promo code 100BAHAMAS and score a free room upgrade at the Riu Palace Paradise Island Harbor Resort, Paradise Island. The $519 per person sticker price covers airfare and four nights at the palace. Or, for a luxe romantic retreat, check out the couples-only Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort in Nassau at $1,309 for four nights via Cheap Caribbean.
Escape to the Holiday Inn Sunspree Montego Bay at $459 per person (a 60% discount) for four nights with airfare through Travelzoo, April 29-June 9. The recently renovated resort includes nonmotorized water sports, a full-service spa, plus separate clubs for kids and teens. Or the same site features a $669.99 three-day deal at the Riu Montego Bay when booking before March 31.
CheapCaribbean's Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa package runs $629 per person with air for four nights (from $1,139). Travelzoo features a five-night Sunset Jamaica Grand getaway through May 1 for just $699 with airfare.
Keep an eye on the newly opened Jewel Resort and Spa, which Hobbs says has some of the best all-inclusive food quality to be found on the island as well as the Ocho Rios waterfall and rum punch delivered to your pool raft. Travelzoo is releasing a $899.99 three-night deal there this week that's more than 55% off regular rates, valid May through June, so check the Web.
"The best deal in Aruba is the Tamarijn," says Hobbs, who stayed there himself last year. "Every unit is beachfront, and the restaurants are great."
CheapCaribbean features a $1,049 five-night stay including airfare at the Tamarijn Aruba now through Dec. 31. The price tag seems hefty, but kids 17 and under stay and eat for free, and the resort offers Sunfish sailing, canoeing and snorkeling as part of the package. The Tamarjin is just five minutes from Aruba's capital city, Oranjestad (home to butterfly and ostrich farms!), and only 10 minutes from the airport, so you can't beat the convenience.
The refurbished Almond Secret Surprise boasts a new lobby bar, upgraded restaurants and a new buffet for vacationers shelling out $799 per person with air for four nights (from $1,649) through CheapCaribbean before Dec. 15. The package includes entry to the nearby Almond Beach Village late-night disco for guests who want to cut a rug, as well as a nine-hole par-three golf course accessible by free shuttle service plus beautiful sandy beaches and bars.
Or just $40 more gets you an extra night and upgrades your stay to the nearby Almond Casuarina All Inclusive Beach Resort, which includes snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, tennis, a fitness center and off-site beach picnic areas, also through Dec. 15.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
"We've seen a resurgence in the islands," says Hobbs. "There's a Wyndham hotel now on Sugar Bay, and it just became all-inclusive at the end of last year. In fact, it's the only all-inclusive hotel in St. Thomas!"
CheapCaribbean includes a four-night package at the new Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa for $839 per person with airfare between May 1-Nov. 30. Guests are greeted by a secluded beach, access to snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking, plus three interconnecting freshwater pools with a waterfall and grotto.
CheapCaribbean.com is the leading online resource for travelers interested in vacation deals to the Caribbean and Mexico. Its mission is to be the premier e-commerce beach company by inspiring and fulfilling the dreams of its stakeholders. The CheapCaribbean.com website provides in-depth content on hotel properties and destinations, including authenticated user reviews, exclusive insider tips, as well as beautiful destination photos. The online travel site has grown dramatically since its inception 13 years ago. The site attracts more than 50 million unique visitors a year, resulting in over 1.5 million customers serviced.