This Winter, Consider a Long Stay in the Caribbean

Featured Image: In the midst of summer sun, it feels silly to consider the cold of winter, but now is the time, before blizzards ground flights, to plan your long-term, cold-weather getaways. / Photo credit: Matthias Stalt on Adobe Stock

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By Nancy Drolet, Jesson & Co, and JourneyWoman Advisory Council member

We may be in the heat of summer, but August is usually the time to start thinking about our winter vacation.  For those who annually travel to southern destinations to miss the worst of winter weather, this year presents some special challenges.  What to do? With Covid still very much in our minds, and winter on the horizon, where can we go to escape the snow and sub-zero temperatures?

View of downtown Toronto streets in a snowstorm from a streetcar window
It’s easy to forget about the snow and ice once summer hits, but come winter, slushy streets and freezing-cold treks are the norm. / Photo by Andre Furtado on Unsplash

Now, picture islands in the sun.  The majority surrounded by white-sand beaches, azure waters, swaying palm trees where warm trade winds blow.  Although the Caribbean has been impacted by Covid, most islands have escaped relatively unscathed.  Could the Caribbean be an alternative to wintering in Florida or Arizona this year?  Yes.

A sandy beach in the Caribbean

A breezy beach offers warm respite from a cold, frigid winter! / Photo credit: Carolyn Ray

Why the Caribbean could be a good choice

If you are thinking of going to the Caribbean this winter, here are some things to consider:

  • Accessibility: Canadian and American carriers are already flying to many Caribbean countries, including Antigua & Barbuda, St. Martin, the Bahamas and more. Flights are being added and although not up to pre-Covid levels, the signs are promising for more flights in the Fall and Winter seasons. With protocols in place to ensure safe travels, airlines are stepping up to the plate to ensure a clean and safe flight experience.
  • Quarantines: Only a few countries are requiring a quarantine on arrival, which can usually be done at your own hotel, condo, apartment or villa. Not necessarily a deal breaker if you are going for one month or six, but consideration must be given to allow for possible quarantine in your home country on your return.
  • Food! With good food to be found all over the Caribbean, you’ll be hard pressed to choose from the array of restaurants. Most Caribbean countries offer a wide variety of foods from all over the world. Usually locally sourced food ensures fresh fruits and vegetables are available year-round. Grocery stores are accessible and food and spice markets are fun to explore.
  • Internet: Need to get some work done while you are away? Most Caribbean countries offer reliable service so you can take those zoom calls with minimal disruption.
  • Activities: You can live an active life in the Caribbean from walking, biking, hiking, swimming to diving, snorkelling, sailing etc. Truly relax by visiting world class spas or joining a yoga or meditation class. There are watersports galore to choose from. Interested in art or history? There are galleries and museums to visit. Rent a car to explore the island you are on. Want to visit another island while staying on one? There are ferries, sailboats and flights to allow you to hop to another island for a day or longer.
  • Accommodation: Variety is key here, from villas to apartments to condos to Airbnbs…there is a lot to choose from in terms of where to stay. There are also a range of price points to choose from. Have you considered sailing around the Caribbean for a few months? Companies such as The Moorings and Sunsail lease sailboats and yachts.
  • Health Care: Always a concern when travelling outside of your home country especially for seniors and retirees. Most Caribbean countries have top notch medical care, through on call doctors, clinics, pharmacies and hospitals.

Ten Countries to Consider for Long Stays

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with Canadian tour operators, hotel chains and cruise lines with Caribbean products which gave me the opportunity to visit a number of Caribbean countries. I worked with the Sandals hotel chain as well as for Radisson Bahamas, and most recently promoted the Caribbean through my position with the Caribbean Tourism Organization where I worked with 24 member countries of the CTO.

Here’s my take on what’s happening.

Disclaimer: I work with companies marked with an (*).

As the situation in Canada and the US continues to change, so does the situation in the Caribbean. Protocols are continuing to evolve and may be modified by each government at any time.

Anguilla

Officially, Anguilla’s borders are closed until October 31. They have said that travellers from countries with less than 0.2% active cases of Covid-19 fill out an application to enter Anguilla; all visitors approved to arrive in Anguilla will be required to provide a negative PCR test taken within 3 to 5 days of arrival along with proof of insurance covering Covid related illnesses. We’re waiting on further details of potential opening dates and their protocols. Anguilla was recognized by the WHO for being Covid-19 free. They only ever had three cases – all recovered.

Website: ivisitanguilla.com/

Sandy Island, Anguilla

Sandy Island, Anguilla / Photo provided by Nancy Drolet

Antigua & Barbuda*

Their borders opened on July 1 with their first flight from the US on July 4.. A few little hiccups, but their entry protocols have been working. They require a negative PCR test taken within 7 days of their arrival flight. Weekly flights from Toronto are scheduled to begin in September.

Website: visitantiguabarbuda.com

English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda

English Harbour in Antigua & Barbuda / Photo credit: Ted Martin

Barbados

Barbados is promoting “working remotely” for 12 months, an appealing idea! The airport opened to international travel on July 12 and has implemented strict travel protocols depending on which country you’re arriving from. You can view these here.

Website: www.visitbarbados.org

Beaches in Barbados
The simple, beautiful beaches of Barbados are calling / Photo by Anthony Ingham on Unsplash

The Bahamas*

The Bahamas reopened to tourists, then closed to Americans, then reopened to all BUT have implemented a 14-day quarantine on arrival. They require a negative PCR test taken within 10 days of their arrival flight. With 700 islands to consider, it’s an ideal destination for those who love yachting. Currently, Bahamians are in a lockdown situation (except for a few of the southern-most islands in the archipelago) as they had a resurgence of Covid-19. This lockdown is supposed to end in mid- August, but I do think it will be extended. There is a weekly flight from Canada, which will go to two flights weekly in September.

Website: www.bahamas.com

Junkanoo celebration in Bahamas

Celebrate like the locals do at Junkanoo in the Bahamas / Photo provided by Nancy Drolet

Cuba*

Flights from Canada will start in September to a few remote areas in Cuba like Cayo Coco. They will restrict travel to mainland Cuba, while welcoming travellers to the cays. This will allow visitors to travel within the cays…and keep the Cuban population away from the tourists.

Website: www.cubatravel.cu/en

Cayo Cruz, Cuba

Cayo Coco and other cays are relatively isolated from larger cities (Photo: C. Ray)  

St. Martin, French side*

The Dutch side is where the international airport is located and they have opened up to visitors. Although travel is normally open between the two sides, because of the Dutch side opening up to American visitors, the border between the two countries is currently closed – and will stay closed until at least September 1st. St. Martin is a French territory and must abide by the laws of France (currently US visitors are not allowed). Right now, we don’t have any scheduled flights to Saint Martin – and are awaiting updates from the airlines and tour operators.

Website for French side: www.stmartinisland.org

Baie de Marigot, French St Martin

English Harbour in Antigua & Barbuda / Photo credit: Ted Martin

Jamaica

Jamaica’s protocols have been changing for US visitors. All Americans are now required to upload a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 10 days of departure. Canadians are not considered high risk, and do not have to have a PCR test done in advance though they can be tested on arrival.  All travellers must stay in a zone – i.e. they do not have the run of the country!

Website: www.visitjamaica.com

Horse stands in the surf on the beach in Jamaica
Horseback-riding on the beach in Jamaica? Yes, please. / Photo by Austin Kirk on Unsplash

Grenada

They have just opened up with a flight from Canada this week. Not all hotels are open. They will require a Rapid Test on arrival from low risk countries such as Canada, but other countries considered medium or high risk will require PCR test in advance.

Website: www.puregrenada.com

Aerial view of Grenada
The rainbow colours of the island of Grenada / Photo by Hugh Whyte on Unsplash

Aruba

Aruba recently changed their protocols for Americans as they had a resurgence of cases. Canadians must upload a PCR test prior to travelling to Aruba or at the airport upon arrival. There are direct flights to Aruba from Toronto (it’s a five-hour flight).

Website: www.aruba.com

Santa Cruz, Aruba
So much to explore on the island of Aruba / Photo by Qijin Xu on Unsplash

Dominica

Dominica, the ‘nature island’ offer a safe, varied environment with a place to enjoy beautiful scenery, beaches and self-care. The island requires a 14-day mandatory quarantine and is promoting long stays. To access Dominica, you must fly through Puerto Rico or another Caribbean island, such as Antigua, Barbados or St. Maarten.

Website: discoverdominica.com/en/home

Secret Bay Resort from above

Dominica – a modern-day Garden of Eden / Photo credit: Secret Bay Resort

Want to Learn More About the Caribbean?

Join Nancy on a Special Webinar on Tuesday, September 29, 7 PM EDT. Details to follow soon! 

Nancy Drolet is a 30-year veteran of the travel industry and a director at Jesson & Company, which represents several international destinations. Prior to that, she was the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Canadian representative and has worked with travel companies, cruise lines, tour operators and hotels and resort across the Caribbean. You can read her full bio here.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    The problem with any country asking for travel/medical insurance that covers Covid is that is impossible. None of the insurance companies will cover this. I think travel will be back to some kind of normal for 2022 but not before. Too risky.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Seniors on the go, usually by bus through Peru, Vietnam, South Africa, so we now are contemplating hunkering down and being grateful to
    be in the sun. As I understand here, a stay would be localized, so no travelling within a country let alone island hop through the Caribbean, is that correct ? To island hop would mean a 2-week quarantine at each island, which is ok as that is what a hotel stay is, right? And presumably, this safety regimen will be part of travel to anywhere…..so pick a great spot and stay there!!

    Reply

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