A month and a half ago ago, my cousin-in-law Jen, her parents and sister’s family went to St. Thomas courtesy of Spirit off-peak redemption (5,000 miles per person roundtrip from FLL). They were fortunate to avoid the pilots’ strike and all the resulting madness.
Their vacation was a great success, so I asked her to write a short trip report. St. Thomas is an exotic Caribbean island, yet it’s part of US, so no passport is required. You also avoid the crazy departure taxes (like $135 we paid per person when we went to Jamaica). That’s great news for a family on a budget. Enjoy!
We recently got back from our five-day vacation in St. Thomas. This trip included my immediate family, parents and my sister’s family. There were nine of us total. Last year, my husband and I took a Spirit flight to San Juan for 5,000 miles per person (see trip report). When we got back, I immediately started researching where else we could go for 5,000 miles R/T and take the whole family. We settled on St. Thomas.
I did have to take my kids out of school for a week in order to take advantage of off-peak tickets. Between my parents and I signing up for the Spirit credit cards, we had 45,000 miles total. I was pleasantly surprised that we found NINE award tickets from FLL the first week of May.
We decided the best option for accommodations would be renting a house. This is the villa we got: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p892681vb. We all loved it. Terry and Rachel (the owners) went above and beyond to make our stay comfortable.
The view from our rental
When they found out we would have a one-year-old in our group, Terry installed extra safety latches on the pool doors and gates for the stairs. They also provided a crib and high chair. If you have children, I highly recommend this villa. With the off-peak rates, it was extremely reasonable split three ways.
We rented a Jeep for our time there. I snagged a good deal on Expedia: $300 for the week. My kids loved the Jeep. Beware, driving in St. Thomas is not for the fainthearted. The streets are narrow and windy, and they drive on the left side.
After a long day of traveling, my husband took off in our Jeep from the airport and then asked me what side we were supposed to be on. I wasn’t sure. He pulled over and asked a guy walking, “What side should I drive on?” The guy looked at us like we were crazy. Then my son pointed out from the backseat that there was a huge banner across the windshield that said to stay left. Duh!
The first day, we went to Coral World I used my Chase UR points via CSR card to book this activity. The cost was 4,200 points for two adults and two children. Coral World is not big at all, but we loved it. I thought it was actually just the perfect size for taking children. They won’t get overwhelmed, hot or tired from walking around.
There are iguanas wondering around the park, several aquariums, an undersea observatory, touch tanks and gardens.
It made for a pleasant, relaxing day. I chose a time when only one cruise ship was in port because I thought this might be a popular excursion. It wasn’t crowded at all. We had some exhibits all to ourselves.
We left our car parked at Coral World, changed and went to the adjacent Coki Beach for some snorkeling. My husband and I are certified scuba divers and were so excited to share snorkeling for the first time with my children (5 and 8). They were champs and had a blast. There were so many colorful fish. It was a highlight of the trip.
Our second day we wanted to explore St. John. I was a little reluctant because I thought it might be a hassle to get there. I hate wasting any precious vacation time. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to take the car on the ferry. We just pulled up, paid $50 for the car and all the passengers, drove onto the barge, sat in the car, and drove off the barge when we got to St. John.
We took a scenic drive to Cinnamon Bay Campground and parked there for a hiking trail to the Sugar Mill ruins.
We had lunch there by the beach and then did our hike. It was an easy 45-minute hike that was quite interesting. It was just the right length for the kids. After the hike, we drove about five minutes down the road to Trunk Bay. It is beautiful here! So pristine. Trunk Bay has an underwater snorkeling trail. You snorkel out and follow arrows, and there are underwater plaques describing the coral and fish. I loved experiencing this as a family.
Scenic Trunk Bay
During the remainder of our trip, we decided to just stay on St. Thomas. We went to Magen’s Bay and Lindquist Beach. Both were nice, with great facilities. We were delighted to see sea turtles while snorkeling at Lindquist.
We also went to Charlotte Amalie town for an afternoon in order to have lunch and do a little shopping. There was not a cruise ship in port the day we went, and it was still nearly impossible to find parking. We aren’t real big shoppers, so we just visited a few stores.
My son found a sunken treasure store that he was crazy about. It had authentic artifacts recovered from shipwrecks. He could’ve stayed there all day with my dad. All in all, it was a great trip and we hope to go back.
A LITTLE IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
I was sitting toward the rear of the plane and noticed some commotion by the bathroom. Attendants were gathered around the door and were knocking. Nobody would come out for several minutes. My mind started racing and I was thinking a terrorist is building a bomb in there, so I was panicking like crazy.
Finally, the door swings open and a woman with the biggest grin comes out holding a cocktail, followed by a man with a huge grin. So the attendants follow them back to their seats, and then separate them. Apparently, the woman’s first husband died at age 25 and that taught her you could die tomorrow, so you should live your life with no regrets. And if that includes adult activities on a plane, then you should go for it according to her. On a Spirit daytime flight, no less. Oh my!
I was extremely excited when Jen agreed to do this write-up. As you can see, you don’t have to fly to the other side of the world (Maldives? We don’t need no stinkin’ Maldives!) in order to experience amazing beach scenery. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with Maldives, but you sure won’t get a family of nine there for 45,000 Spirit miles.
And that’s the point of my blog. No, I’m not promising free travel, but travel that’s within the reach of normal people who don’t make six figures. All you need is decent credit score and some savings. Split the cost of a vacation rental with extended family and boom, you got yourself an affordable exotic getaway for less than it costs to stay in a Daytona beach hotel. Plus, you may even get some free flight entertainment on your way back!
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.