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Agave_in_the_Sand

Registered
11/01/2008

Posts
18

Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 02, 2008 04:44PM

My wife and I are booked to come to STJ the first week of December. We are staying at Maho. We've read the book they sell on here about St John, and other books. I had some questions I hope someone could help with.

We will probably stay on STJ and beach-hop. Should we rent a car, take a cab, or walk?
Which do you recommend: bring snorkel/fins or rent at the island?
Do we need a US passport? (Not planning on going to the BVI).
Having never flown before (yes... never have) any advice on dealing with airport security/TSA, and other air travel functions?
What's the best way to get from Cyril King airport to STJ?
Where's an affordable grocery/general store on STJ? I'm guessing Cruz Bay?

We may not be bringing our kids this time but we've considered it. For those of you that traveled with a 4 year old or 1.5 year old, how did that go? Any pointers on traveling with preschoolers?

My wife and I have planned this trip for 2 years now. So we want to make it as smooth as possible. I know this is a lot of stuff to cover. I appreciate all the input from the more experienced.

Thank you,
alan

Chris at Work

Registered
01/21/2005

Posts
1,138

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 08:46AM

Hello Agave

Rent a car if you want the greatest flexibility. Walking is rough if you want to visit a lot of beaches and waiting for taxis is a drag. Rent on STT and ferry over if you want to save more money. Lean toward a 4WD if you are 'adventurous' otherwise a regular is acceptable. It will be best to have a car also if you are getting provisions, etc.

I always promote bringing your own so you aren't tied down to shop times in picking up and returning. I also have issues with someone else using my mouthpiece over and over.

No passport is required to/from USVI but traveling today is much easier with one. If you don't have one you won't get it by this December. You will need picture ID and birth certificate to show proof of citizenship when you travel back to mainland from VI. See planning trip link at top of page for FAQs.

Again, passport is best but it seems you might not have one. Get to the airport early (~2 hours before departure). Have picture ID ready for security and if you are checking bags, make sure your liquid or jell products are in the checked bags. Any liquid or jell products in carry on are limited to 3 oz containers and must fit into a single see thru baggie. You must remove that from your luggage for x-ray scanning.

Unless you rent the car on STT, take any one of the numerous taxis from Cyril to the ferrys at Red Hook or Charlotte Amalie. Check the ferry schedule in the links above to determine which is available at time of arrival. The taxis will group passengers together unless you are willing to pay more so be prepared to go 'island time' on arrival.

We prefer Star Fish market in Cruz Bay.

Bringing kids is not an issue but you should have some experience traveling with them before and you have not traveled by air before so experience is non-existent. There is not much time to prepare for that added responsibility so I would concentrate on getting yourselves through this vacation, enjoy all that STJ can offer without the time and added work associated with younger travelers and have when you think of returning (you will) then you will know what to do with/for the kids.

Have a wonderful time.

jennybug302001

Registered
09/15/2008

Posts
49

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 11:44AM

Have a wonderful trip!!! Relax and enjoy yourselves. Bring the kids next time cool Learn the ins and outs of flying first.


We will probably stay on STJ and beach-hop. Should we rent a car, take a cab, or walk? (RENT A JEEP FROM THE STT AIRPORT (YOU WONT REGRET IT)

Which do you recommend: bring snorkel/fins or rent at the island? IT REALLY DEPENDS ON HOW MUCH YOU PLAN ON SNORKELING. WE BRING OUR OWN BECAUSE WE LIVE IN THE WATER.

Do we need a US passport? (Not planning on going to the BVI). I'M TAKING MINE....CONSIDER IT A SECOND FORM OF I.D

Having never flown before (yes... never have) any advice on dealing with airport security/TSA, and other air travel functions? HMM. ARRIVE EARLY, BE VERY PATIENT, A SMILE GOES A VERY LONG WAY, GO TO THE AIRLINE WEBSITE AND LOOK OVER ANY OF THEIR RULES FOR BAGGAGE. WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHES, YOU WILL PROBABLY BE IN A TIGHT SPACE ON THE PLANE. GO WITH THE FLOW. REMEMBER THAT THE AIRLINE FOLKS ARE JUST DOING THEIR JOB...DONT GET AGGRAVATED WITH THEM. SMILE, YOU ARE ON VACATION. OH, DON'T FORGET TO SAY PLEASE & THANK YOU.


What's the best way to get from Cyril King airport to STJ? RENT A JEEP AT THE AIRPORT


Where's an affordable grocery/general store on STJ? I'm guessing Cruz Bay? THERE ARE SEVERAL SHOPPING OPTIONS ON STT, THEY MIGHT EVEN BE CHEAPER THEN STJ. IF YOU HAVE TIME...STOP BY A FEW PLACES. DON'T BE SHOCKED AT THE PRICES. I HAVE TO RECOMMEND PURCHASING BAKED GOODS FOR BREAKFAST (THEY WERE VERY REASONABLE & TASTY).

keriandpaulinva

Registered
04/17/2006

Posts
44

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 11:53AM

We're heading back to STJ for the third year in a row, always travelled with our kids, stayed at Maho the first year, split between Maho and Concordia the second time, and will stay at Concordia this year. The first year, kids were 15 months and 3 1/2, this year they are 3 and 5 1/2. We always had a wonderful time, kids, sand, and gentle water is a great combination. We did a lot of cooking in, the store at Maho is well-stocked and convenient, and we did bring a lot of snacks and a few other things ourselves. They will provide a Pack and Play and the cot was fine for our oldest. It is camping so as long as you're fine with that, you should have no problem. We decided to try a few days at Concordia last year and loved it. It's a little farther from the beach but since we were usually going to a different beach every day anyway, it was fine. There's a pool there and most importantly, your own bathroom and shower with hot (solar heated) water. Also a lot more space which we need now that the kids are older. If you decide to bring the kids, the best piece of advice I have is to go to sleep when they do, vacation will be hard but worth it. I'll try to check back if you have other questions, we head to STJ on Saturday.

Keri

IAMolly

Registered
04/24/2007

Posts
564

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 12:03PM

Don't foget the flip-flops! Even in winter I'll wear mine to the airport, easy on and off to get through airport security.

STT Resident

Registered
09/19/2005

Posts
3,293

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 02:05PM

Absolutely rent a car. You can rent on STT when you arrive (Dependable, Discount and Amalie are recommended by many but of course there are others but do not rent from Hertz as they don't allow their cars to be taken over to STJ on the car barge.) Once you have your vehicle you can head out towards Red Hook to link up with the car barge ferry (see ferry schedule top of this page.) Driving is really very easy here, Max speed is 35MPH and regular is about 25MPH so driving on the left is a real cinch.

There are two easy ways of getting to Red Hook from the airport. One route takes you via the southside route and the other takes you via the "country" route. I recommend the latter for shopping/stocking opportunities en route. The rental company will provide you with maps but getting to either major route isn't a problem. Cost-U-Less and Plaza Xtra are my recommendations for provisioning on STT.

If you decide to just taxi over to Red Hook and go directly to STJ, there will be an abundance of taxis at the airport and the dispatcher will set you right and put you into the proper taxi van (and they all have good A/C!)

Chris at Work's advice on the passport issue is correct. You should be prepared to be asked for proof of citizenship and identity upon leaving the USVI to return to the mainland. Coming into the territory isn't an issue but leaving sometimes is. Without a passport your best bet is a raised seal birth certificate AND a state driver's license. Since Homeland Security instituted all these new rules the majority of visitors has had no problem with just a driver's license but there have been several instances where visitors have run off at the mouth and missed their outgoing flights...

IA Molly will wear her flip flops to the airport in freezing weather? Yikes! And the last time I went off island I was STILL required to take off my simple sneaks and the person I was traveling with had to take off the flip flops too! Carry the flip flops with you in carry-on and change when you're ready to get off the 'plane. Don't overpack period. A couple of bathies, a couple of tees and shorts, a cover-up and sunscreen, bug repellant.

Chris At Work also has sage advice where the children are concerned. With two small youngsters, obviously you have already made arrangements for them to be cared for and have only recently started to think about bringing them with you?

You're embarking on what I perceive to be a bit of a well-deserved treat for the two of you, You've been working on this for two years now. I've read much between the lines and I would suggest going ahead with the plans for just the two of you. The little ones will deal with it. Whatever separation angst transpires will be over before you know it and I'd venture to guess that this vacation which you've obviously planned for so long will be an incredible experience and a rejuvenation for the two of you. Turn off your cell phones while here! Enjoy each other!

misterduffy

Registered
10/01/2008

Posts
66

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 03:52PM

To get the most out of STJ you will definitely want to rent a car. We've been to STJ 6 times and have always rented our car on island -- seems to be the easy way to go vs. renting in STT and barging it over. But, maybe that's a less expense alternative, not sure. We have rented from Conrad Sutton every year (www.conradcars.com) We fly into STT, grab a cab to Red Hook, take the ferry over to STJ, and take the short stroll to Conrad's place a few blocks from the ferry dock.

As for flying, you may want to look at the TSA website to see the current limitations/restrictions (3 ounces of liquids in carry-ons, etc.)

The Starfish Market is the best U.S.-style grocery on the island, but there are a few others nearby (I.e. the Dolphin.) Maho has a market.

If you have one, I would bring your passport. You may get the urge to go on one of the wonderful daytrips to the BVI.

And as advised above, pack light! STJ is a casual affair! ENJOY!!

avatar

TomB

Registered
12/04/2005

Posts
764

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 05:55PM

Small fold-up cooler (Soft)

Personal snorkel gear - recommend it comes in a bag - something like this



But do not forget:

Large ZipLoc Bags!

- When you pack make sure any goop or goob are in a sealed bag (new or not)
- Fill with water lay flat in freezer - large piece of ice for cooler
- Camera on beach - no sand please
- wet bathing suit for the way home because you had to snorkel one more time
- etc
- etc
- etc
The ziploc list could go on forever. But if you are staying in Maho at the campground they will be extemely handy!

And if sealed properly they float.

Did you know a lot of the rent of cars now have smart keys. If they get wet they do not work ! A couple in a mini van rented in St Thomas enjoying Maho Beach found this out the hard way. After 4 hours with three kids and grandma and grandpa patiently waiting for the rental agency to bring new keys from STT - Oh yeah and $250 added to their bill a ziploc would have made their day a whole lot nicer. Highly recommend for cell phones at all times.

ZipLoc bags!

IAMolly

Registered
04/24/2007

Posts
564

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 06:58PM

Just to clarify on the flip-flops, I put them on at the airport when I am being dropped off and leave the snow boots behind.

Molly

avatar

TomB

Registered
12/04/2005

Posts
764

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 07:12PM

and you keep them in ZipLoc bags I bet big grin

IAMolly

Registered
04/24/2007

Posts
564

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 03, 2008 08:01PM

Absolutely TomB! What would life be like without ziplock bags?

Lulu

Registered
09/07/2007

Posts
234

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 04, 2008 01:14PM

I learned the lesson about the ziplock bags last year, myself. I slipped on the rocks and dropped my beach bag in the ocean. My trip was already expensive without shelling out $200 each for a new cell phone and camera!

I am packing right now, and I have already put rechargeable batteries, passport, cell phone, camera and ipod in the Ziplock, and they will stay there all week!

jbittnersr

Registered
11/04/2008

Posts
5

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 04, 2008 04:24PM

The ride to Red Hook is longer than to down town, but the boat ride from down town takes longer--take your pick

avatar

TomB

Registered
12/04/2005

Posts
764

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 04, 2008 07:27PM

Lulu you can also get a small dry bag that works as beach bag also. We have for our canoe for all the reasons you just mentioned, but it came in real handy last visit. We had one in our group that was not a strong swimmer. Went to the Baths and we swam in and the weak swimmer did have on a life vest, but he used the dry bag like a kick board and it made even more comfortable.

toes in the sand

Registered
09/20/2007

Posts
263

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 04, 2008 07:27PM

Not sure if anyone else mentioned this..................................

INSECT REPELLENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My preference is multiple pocket sized liquid/cream with DEET.
& SUNSCREEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I bring multiple small bottles of varying SPF levels. I start with a 30 and work my way down as my skin allows. Small bottles are easier to carry to the beach.
Be sure it is packed in checked baggage or else have each traveler bring small bottles in their liquids ziplock. You cannot bring too much and it will be cheaper to bring than buy.

I mention this as it is your first flying experience, passports are the preferred ID for TSA and airline personell for any flight. Make sure that your airline ticket and your ID have identical names (no shortened or maiden name etc.) If kids are along, bring some sort of picture ID of them with you. If you don't have an ID for them you might be able to get one from your local government in short order.

If you bring the kids, bring some type of small blow up flotation I.E. armband floaties, kickboard, mattress etc. It will increase their time in the water.

I would suggest bringing your own snorkel gear. If luggage space is a problem, at least bring your own mask and snorkel. As was mentioned, rented snorkels have been in many mouths and a poorly fitted mask is at the least, no fun.

Pack MINIMAL CLOTHING. Shorts, sandals, light shirts, walking shoes, something warm for at night and the one item of clothing that you will absolutely need the most of .... swimwear. Unless you plan a dinner at an upscale resturant such as Asolare, you will not need nice clothes. (dress shoes, slacks etc.) even then you can usually suffice with a clean pair of shorts, a clean shirt and shoes other than sandals. I believe you will find laundry facilities at Maho. I believe the guide I read said to lay out the clothes you think you will need and put half of it back. Good advice.

If you read the books you will be ready for campsite visitors such as mongoose and donkeys. Be prepared to secure your belongings (especially food).

Oh yeah....leave your watch in your luggage and turn off your cell phone when you step on StJ. You will find no better place on earth to relax.

"I got a drink in my hand; I got my toes in the sand."

curran17

Registered
06/01/2007

Posts
74

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 04, 2008 08:49PM

where is Concordia? Is there a web site?

keriandpaulinva

Registered
04/17/2006

Posts
44

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 05, 2008 10:05AM

Here's the website:
[www.maho.org]

And some info I copied from it. There's a pool, store, and restaurant on site (and lots and lots of stairs!).

Located on the dramatic southeastern side of St. John, these high-tech structures provide our guests with comforts for the body and soul. These are some of the most spectacular surroundings for which the USVIs and St. John are well known. The "eco-tents" are similar to the tent cottages of Maho Bay Camps. They provide more creature comforts and conveniences with private toilets, showers, solar energy and more elaborate kitchen facilities in each unit. We have recently added more units of which 4 offer wheelchair access.

bfpbrady

Registered
01/29/2006

Posts
36

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 06, 2008 04:27PM

We have been to St. John several times and like to go to Red Hook on arrival, Charlotte Amalie on departure.

We always bring a cooler and suitcase with food so we spend more time on beach and exploring and less time (and much less$!) in the grocery store.

I agree with those on this board who advise to pack light. We are taking less each year. It is very casual and relaxed on St. John.

Have a blast!

pcogs

Registered
10/03/2008

Posts
3

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 06, 2008 06:04PM

I have rented from Courtesy Car rental on STJ and the were great. The best part is that they have a parking lot in town and let you use it whenever you want. It made going into town so much easier especially with our child who was 1.5 years old at the time. If nobody has mentioned it parking is a pain in December.
I'm sure it's cheaper on STT and could save a bit of hassle getting to and from, does anyone know how much cheaper? Our rate for this Feb is going to be $510 a week for Jeep Liberty.

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notahippie

Registered
08/01/2008

Posts
114

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 12, 2008 10:52AM

Rent a jeep. The next time we go, we'll probably rent in STT, but for a first-time, rent in STJ. As mentioned, parking in Cruz Bay is difficult at best - impossible at worst, and most (all?) of the rental places let you park in their lot. Do rent a jeep because you will need it to get to my favorite beach, Lameshur. The sound of the surf tumbling the rocks is incredible.

If you don't bring food, hell, even if you do, be prepared for sticker shock. EVERYTHING except rum is 50-200+% higher than you would see it at home. Seriously. We bought groceries at Starfish that would have cost maybe $25 at home for $75. If you eat out, the prices get even more shocking. You can get drunk cheaper than you can get full in STJ.

Speaking of eating out - you absolutely MUST eat at Shela's Pot. You'll see it to your left in Cruz Bay - a little white painted plywood shack. Simply the BEST most soulful food we ate in STJ. Her homemade fruit punch will make you believe in a supreme being.

Snorkeling - agreed about bad fitting masks and fins. We rented at Cinnamon and hated it. Fins were too tight and mask leaked. Next rental was from the shop next to the Beach Bar (can't remember the name). Fits were perfect. If you intend to snorkel everyday, yeah, get your own gear. But, honestly, this being your first time, my bet is that you spend more time exploring the beaches and the islands than the reefs.

Contrary to contrary information, you will not HAVE to have your passport, but, as has been said - get it and use it anyway. It really does expedite airport security. Plus, there is a psychological thrill knowing that the whole world is open to your future travels and adventures. The call of Jost and Virgin Gorda is loud.

Pack light - VERY light - very very very light. You won't need nearly as much as you think you'll need. On our first trip, we each had a checked bag, a carry-on, and a "personal". Next time it'll be just one checked, or even just one carry-on and one personal. Check the TSA and airline websites for specific rules and regulations.

From the airport to Red Hook is easy. If you don't rent, you'll take a cab. But this not your local cab company. You will be in a van - packed in a van - with others going to Red Hook. You can get a private ride, but it is more expensive. Ride in the sardine can and use the saved money to buy a hot dog and beer at the Tourist Trap in Coral Bay.

As mentioned, bring sunscreen and bug spray (pack it in your checked luggage). The skeeters were abominable and the worst part of our trip. Oh yeah, it hasn't been mentioned, but it is hot in STJ. Seriously. You will sweat. A lot.

It is not overstating that our trip to STJ was a soul-changing experience. There is a magic in those islands, and if you allow it, it will infect you. It will cause you to come back to VI message boards weeks and months afterwards to tell other VI virgins how wonderful the place is. You may even find yourself listening to Kenny Chesney songs.

I'd tell you to have fun, but that's pointless. As you're standing in security lines in the airport, remember where you're headed. Smile, relax, and "be as you are".

========================
Planning the Next Trip Already!
Ed & Talisa Selby

mahojim

Registered
10/17/2006

Posts
284

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 12, 2008 12:33PM

Hey IamMolly-
I gotta' party with YOU!!! Too funny.
I also ate a benadryl everyday. I was told antihistamines ward off the bugs, and I didn't get bit once. Actually, I think I only got bit one time, but she was drunk, so whatever...
Smiles-
MJ

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Admin

Islander

Registered
01/20/2005

Posts
2,080

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 18, 2008 01:47AM

A few travel tips for first time flyer... happy

Check with your airline for their luggage allowance: number of pieces allowed and whether there is a charge per piece just so you know what to expect, also note the weight and size allowed for both checked and carry on bags. Don't put anything in the checked bags that are of great value. Pack a couple pieces of clothes in your carry-on just in case your bags don't make it on time. Lots of suitcases look the same; some folks get a colorful strap to put on their bags, some folks put a ribbon on the handle - just to help quickly identify it when it comes along the baggage claim. Make sure to put your name on your bag. The airlines have small tags at the check in counter and usually at tables along the check in line that you can fill out and attach to your bag. If you have water/juice with you when passing through TSA they will make you throw it out; you can buy these items from stores in the airport once you have passed through TSA or take an empty bottle and use a water/drinking fountain to fill it once through TSA. Most airlines aren't serving food anymore on domestic flights; you can pick up a to-go meal from restaurants and vendors in the airport (once through TSA and in the gate area) to take on the flight with you. Airlines sell some food items in-flight; ie. sandwich, bag of chips, a big cookie. The arm rest of chairs have a button for getting your chair back to go down a bit, making it more comfortable to nap. Also has a spot for a headset; if you have a long flight they usually show a movie. If you have your own headset you can use it and watch the movie otherwise the flight attendants have them for sale for a few dollars.

Have a great time.

--Islander

bosco

Registered
01/28/2008

Posts
5

Re: Going to STJ - Questions and advice....

November 21, 2008 12:22PM

We are there Dec 2-9 in the Harmony Studios!

Last year we rented a jeep on SJ.

Because we got there late we just took Mr. Frett's taxi to the camp and I went it picked up the jeep the next day. It really came in handy going to all the beaches and trails. It is a Loooong walk to Waterlemon Caye and to Cinnamon there is no shoulder on a narrow road. BUT...Maho does have a resident taxi - Mr. Hamilton - and he also does daily outings - snorkeling trips, etc, and his prices are reasonable. And you could flag down Mr Frett as he does his trek to and from Cruz Bay several times a day. But getting to the other side of the island on your own - got to have a car. We loved the 2 door Jeep. So...having a car is definitely a plus for making the most out of your vacation, but not absolutely required if you are a walker.

Mosquitos can be a problem - this is what we did last year and it worked great. We had long "zip off" nylon pants and a coolmax type long sleeve t-shirt. I went to wal-mart and bought a can of Repel Permanone. (Permithrin) Sprayed it on our pants and shirt as directed. We wore this every night. We also bought a sunscreen called Sun and Bug to wear during the day. We didnt have any problem with bites (others did so it must have worked).



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/21/2008 12:38PM by bosco.


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