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Trip report – STT and STJ – 7/14-7/24 - planning & lessons learned

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Trip report – STT and STJ – 7/14-7/24 - planning & lessons learned

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Posts: 2
New Member
Topic starter

THANKS! First, I’d like to thank everybody that posts on these boards for the helpful advice. I used a lot of the advice from the forums during our vacation and I’m paying-it-forward by sharing our planning experiences (below) with some additional insight now that we’ve completed our trip.

WHO WENT: Multi-generational family of 6 ranging from teens to 60’s (I should have good karma credits for taking my in-laws). This was our first time renting & staying on the islands after stopping here during a cruise. We are all fairly “active”, so our vacation was focused on beaches, snorkeling & kayaking.

ABOUT OUR TRIP: 2 nights at Island View guesthouse on St. Thomas, 7 nights at Island Horizons villa in Coral Bay on St. John (found on the HomeAway website).

THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT (again, mostly due to advice from others on this forum) AND A FEW LESSONS LEARNED

• CAR RENTAL: Dependable. Add to the positive experiences others have noted here.
• LUGGAGE/TRUNK SPACE: We bought/used some affordable soft-sided luggage to better fit in the trunk of the Durango we rented (picture jamming luggage for 6 people along with 2 purchased coolers in the back of a Durango). I even told my in-laws they should consider this and they did, and we were all thankful when we saw the amount of trunk space.
• SNORKEL BACKPACK: Bought a mesh snorkel backpack (ours was Speedo, though any would do). It was great to carry a couple sets of snorkel gear, a towel, etc while leaving your hands free for picture taking, cooler carrying, etc.
• SNORKEL GEAR (LESSON LEARNED): I wish we would have bought our gear from a local dive shop in the states & made sure it worked there. We bought snorkel equipment for our teenage daughters on St. Thomas, and then had some issues with it once we got to St. John. Side note: In an attempt to make this right, the St. Thomas dive shop worked with us to get a free rental in St. John but the dive shop equipment in St. John was picked over by cruise ship folks so the quality wasn’t good.
• CRUISE SHIP PORT SCHEDULE: Printed it from the VINow website & planned our beach trips accordingly – e.g., we avoided Trunk Bay the day 3 cruise ships were in port. Plus, your fellow vacationers will look at you in awe when you spout these facts.
• BOOKS ON ST. JOHN: Which one to chose? St. John Beach Guide? St. John Off the Beaten Track? St. John Feet, Fins & Four Wheel drive? I bought (and used) all three and congratulated myself on my first island souvenirs. I also picked up a Franko Fish ID Card of Caribbean Reef Creatures guide on eBay for a couple $, but later saw these on the island. Kinda fun to mark what you’ve seen.
• ONE FREE CHECKED BAG: Delta had a credit card promo (no fees) that gives you 1 free checked bag per person in your party. You didn't even have to purchase your tickets on this card - just use it at check-in. I’m a light packer & could have carried all my items on but we ended up checking 4 bags.
• FOOD FROM HOME: We bought all our sun tan lotion in the States. We also brought seasoning from home (like Montreal steak seasoning). This was my balance of saving weight/packing space vs. cost savings. Once we got to our villa, we found they had a lot of seasoning there, so probably could have skipped this.
• SWIM SHIRT: I bought mine at Costco (another example of finding something at Costco I didn’t know I was looking for). You can pick this up on the island in a dive shop or even some souvenir stores. Best to try this on before you buy. For the hours and hours we snorkeled and swam, I never once got a burn AND (side benefit) it reduced the amount of sun screen purchased. Not sure what I’m even talking about? Google “rash guard dive shirt”. If you have mental hang ups with wearing a shirt while swimming, picture yourself as one of those cool surfers in Hawaii (as opposed to the old guy wearing a t-shirt).
• USE RENTAL VILLA EXPERTISE (LESSON LEARNED): We could have learned more from the hotel/villa contacts. For example, when we got to our villa on St. John, they had 3 ring binders full of info on restaurants, beaches, night life, excursions, etc. A lot of the info they put together was similar to what I painstakingly learned from books & hours on the net.
• ID/PASSPORT: We brought our passports (adults) and birth certificates (teenagers). This was fine for customs. I asked the customs person if a driver’s license would be fine & they said they preferred a passport – take this for what it is worth. You will need a passport if you go on an excursion to the BVI’s.

MOVING DAY (aka the day we went from STT to STJ)
• GROCERIES: Groceries near or on the way to the Red Hook Ferry at the food center. We went to Food Center, but I’m sure others would be just as fine. We generally cooked all (but one) breakfast and half our lunches/dinners in our villa. This ended up being a good balance.
• GROCERIES (LESSON LEARNED): Buy FEWER groceries than needed and supplement at the local store. Why do I say this? 1 – The dollar or two per product you save in STT shopping is lost if you end up with left-over groceries. 2 – We found we wanted to try MORE restaurants than we originally planned. 3 – We should have included buying fresh fish in our plans (and bringing along a recipe).
• ALCOHOL (LESSON LEARNED): A couple one liter bottles went a long way. We could have bought less in St. Thomas and supplemented as need in St. John. As it is, we left a nice parting gift for our villa manager. Of course, with the cost of spirits, you aren’t ‘wasting’ much money even you have some left.
• GAS: Filled up before getting on the ferry to St. John. You can get gas in St. John but not Coral Bay. One tank did the trick for our week there.
• BUG SPRAY: Bought bug spray with deet and really didn’t have any issues except when we forgot to pack it to a beach that we were at near sun down. Next time we’ll just keep a can in the snorkel bag.
• CAR FERRY TIX: we bought ONE WAY tickets and when we returned from STJ we didn’t have to sit around waiting for a specific ferry. Seriously, it was like “Did you already buy a ticket? No. Then go around all those cars & get on that ferry that is already loading”.

• CUSTOMS/CHECK-IN: We got to the airport early, and used all the time we had to get checked-in, get thru customs, and have one Caribbean beer.
• ALCOHOL DUTY FREE: Bought our duty free alcohol to bring home AFTER going thru customs on the way home. I was able to carry on 4 bottles (in addition to my backpack).

I’ll post another entry on the actual experiences we had – but I will say it was an awesome vacation.

Posted : July 31, 2011 1:34 pm
Posts: 3316
Famed Member

Glad to hear you had what was obviously an excellent vacation. Have you started to plan your next visit?

Posted : July 31, 2011 11:26 pm
Posts: 563
Honorable Member

nice travelogue, and great advice at the same time!

you have done a good public service, glad you enjoyed your stay.

Posted : August 1, 2011 7:32 am
Posts: 111
Estimable Member

Thank you for your tips -- sounds great! Can't wait for our trip!

Posted : August 2, 2011 9:55 pm
Posts: 2
New Member

Hello Paul, great info U share. We have a group of six going to STJ in a week. Considering packing a cooler of perishables (frozen meats and such) with dry ice, and checking with Delta.
Did you do anything similar? Don't want to get stuck in Atlanta airport with 5 lbs of Dry Ice that I can't throw in trash. TSA site says they allow dry ice , but you never know.
Who did you rent Durango from on STT?

Posted : August 3, 2011 8:11 pm
Posts: 2
New Member
Topic starter

Hi Bob -
We rented the Durango from Dependable on St. Thomas. It worked out well, but for a group of six with luggage and coolers, expect a tight squeeze. While traveling to our villa, we had 2 in the front, 3 in the middle, and 1 in the back seat with a couple smaller coolers and stuff just packed in to the ceiling 🙂
We did not pack a cooler with the dry ice but I was tempted.
Hope you have a great trip. I'm jealous.

Posted : August 3, 2011 8:28 pm
Posts: 1036
Noble Member

Just be careful when using dry ice (it is not allowed on some airline)

From the Delta website...........

"Dry and Wet Ice
Delta will accept dry ice packages in amounts of 5.5 lbs. (2.5 kg) or less when used to cool non-hazardous perishables in carry-on or checked baggage. The package must:
Meet carry-on baggage restrictions
Allow the release of carbon dioxide
State on the package "Dry Ice" or "Carbon Dioxide Solid"
Note the net weight of the dry-ice material on the packaging
Include the contents being cooled in writing on the packaging
If possible, instead of dry ice, we encourage the use of gel packs or similar products to keep frozen perishable items fresh within the cargo hold.
Wet ice shipments are not accepted as carry-on baggage, checked baggage, or cargo on Delta or Delta Connection® flights.
Request for an approval letter from Delta's Dangerous Goods Department is required for "Dry Ice" shipments ten business days before date of travel."


Posted : August 4, 2011 2:19 pm

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