Four Tips for Caribbean Travel Savings
Check Out New Routes
Many low-cost airlines have expanded their network of routes to include sunny destinations such as Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico. When introducing new routes, airlines will often get off the ground by enticing travelers and sparking competition with cheap fares. By researching where low-cost carriers are expanding, travelers can find great deals.
Here is an example: This year, JetBlue is sending planes from Boston and New York to Turks and Caicos in February. The airline is also traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Jacksonville and Long Beach during the month of May. Although the fares have yet to be announced, past sale behavior nearly guarantees the routes will be significantly cheaper that prices on legacy lines for Caribbean travel.
JetBlue isn't the only low-cost carrier expanding to sunny destinations. From now until May, Spirit will fly travelers to Ft. Lauderdale from Niagra Falls, New York; Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Charleston, West Virginia; and Dallas. AirTran is flying to Bermuda, offering daily flights from Atlanta (May through September) and Baltimore (April through October). Finally, Vision Airlines is now servicing Northwest Florida Regional Airport with an introductory fare of $49 each way to destinations such as Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island.
If your travel plans are flexible, you could save big on your next beach vacation. After familiarizing yourself with low-cost carrier's routes, the next step is to look into flight schedules. Flights to and from the Caribbean and other sunny destinations are probably more limited than other areas of the continental US. SmarterTravel.com had difficulty finding AirTran flights from San Juan to Boston on Mondays in February and March. A great strategy to help you save cash is to simply take some time to look at sample fares on several airlines for different days.
Know When to Go
Since all carriers charge more for peak travel times, knowing just the right time to hit the travel sweet spot can save you a lot of cash. Avoid traveling during school vacations when students get long weekends, such as Presidents' Day weekend in February. Planes and beaches will also be packed during the middle weeks of March, typically time for spring break. During these high-demand periods, travelers can expect to see the highest prices to and from beach destinations. It's a simple rule of supply and demand.
SmarterTravel.com found if travelers avoid peak travel periods, rewards could be huge. In one case, an airfare was 60% cheaper during an off-peak period than it was during Presidents' Day weekend. Again, the key here is to shop around: if you aren't locked in to a date of departure, use a website such as Kayak.com that allows you to search flexible dates.
Take the Fees into Account
When comparing prices, don't forget about the add-on fees. Even low-cost carriers can rack up a la carte fees for things such as baggage, meals, extra legroom, entertainment, and more. Two bags still fly free on Southwest, and JetBlue allows one free checked bag -- although the airline recently tacked on a fuel surcharge up to $45 each way for Caribbean routes. If a price looks too good to be true, look into what kind of fees the airline charges before getting your heart set on a location and date.
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Photo, David Stanley, flickr