Hotel discounts

How to find an affordable Caribbean vacation in 2017

Wondering how to find an affordable Caribbean vacation in 2017?  There are many ways to keep your general costs down during the year to be able to afford a trip but more importantly, there is a very specific way to find an affordable vacation that not everybody is in the know about.

Let us explain.

Changes in online travel

The online world has changed the way we travel but more importantly it has allowed people to do so more often with everywhere being so much more more accessible and affordable. That said, the latter of these benefits has all but disappeared in recent years with the arrival of a new law called rate parity.

You see, until recently most travel booking engines or brands were enabled to offer excellent discounts on vacations, hotels etc and for good reason, customers were lining up to avail of these fantastic prices. Sounds great right? Yes it was but actually, all of these great prices and value have completely disappeared from the market without the consumer even noticing.

Affordable vacation

But how or why has nobody noticed?

Well, naturally if a travel website is perceived as not offering any real value, there is no reason for them being there in the first place. After all, why use a third party when you can go direct to the service provider for the same price? For this reason, a new law called rate parity is little talked about in an industry which is now severely restricted from offering customers genuine value.

What is rate parity?

In a nutshell, rate parity stipulates that travel companies is required to offer the same price to customers across every channel of distribution. Straight to the point, this essentially means these booking engines are no longer permitted to offer customers the great discounts we have seen in the past.

Does this mean the end of hotel discounts or special offers?

Well, no. There was one exemption from this rate parity law and it came in the form of travel membership clubs. As a membership club, you are entitled to negotiate large discounts with suppliers and pass this value on to paying members.

Hence, Travel membership clubs such as Hotels Etc are now returning to the fore of an industry they dominated before the online world and booking engines took over.

Hotels Etc

Hotels Etc

As mentioned above, Hotels Etc have worked within the travel industry for more than 20 years. At one time this membership club was one of the only ways to find a vacation or hotel discount in a world without internet.

With more than 4 million members and a five star rating, it continued to take care of members but was obviously affected with the arrival of booking engines and online travel brands. As discussed already, with the declining value of booking engines, this membership club is now re-emerging to establish itself as one of the few providers of genuine travel discounts.

It makes sense that customers like to stick with the major travel brands which they trust but with 4 million members and some truly genuine value, Hotels Etc has an easy to use booking system in which you can search and compare all of the best online discounts for hotels and vacations.

Why more North Americans are deciding to vacation at home

Since 9/11, there has been a large decrease in the number of North Americans traveling abroad in general and this is quite understandable given the current climate. However, there are far more reasons for why recent trends are showing that many Americans are opting to vacation at home rather than traveling abroad and they all make sense entirely. Here is the main reason as to why so many North Americans are deciding to stay at home rather than vacationing abroad in 2017, diversity.

Yes, North America has all the necessary ingredients needed for an unforgettable vacation and often, with the use of hotel discounts or deals, it will also cost a lot less.

Stay at home

It’s not Fear, it’s out of interest

Let us get this out of the way, in contrast to popular belief, it’s not actually fear that is deterring locals from traveling abroad. Yes, since 9/11 people are more reluctant in terms of leaving the confines of home  and unfortunately, there is still a concern that elsewhere is unsafe or that terrorists are waiting to pounce outside every hotel abroad but none of this is really true. No, most of the reasons for which North Americans are spending their vacations at home are positive and with the best of intentions.

You see, it must be understood that this is a huge part of the world and as a landmass, the States has almost every type of bio-diversity, attraction or variety of landscapes as anywhere else on earth. Something majestic? The Grand Canyon. Entertainment? Las Vegas. Exciting cities? New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco. Wilderness, swamp lands or beaches? Montana, Florida and California. It makes complete sense to stay at home as why feel the need to travel abroad for new experiences when you can have a less expensive and just as interesting vacation closer to home.

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North America is accessible and affordable

And that brings us to the cost. Traveling in the US was once an expensive thing to do but with the arrival of the online world, just about anyone can afford a vacation with hotel discounts. Want a hotel room in New York for half price? Use hotel discounts. Want two for the price of one in a restaurant? Use restaurant discounts. Want special offers on local attractions or recreational activities? There are discounts for everything online. But you’ve got to know where to look, and that’s where we come in; we know exactly why you should stay at home for your next vacation and we want to help you make it happen at the most affordable price.

You can sign up for a free trial on Hotels Etc here and start finding all the biggest hotel discounts and more.

5 Best Caribbean luxury resorts for 2017

Caribbean all-inclusive resorts are the most popular vacation of choice for most North Americans and there is little to wonder about in this respect for most of them are blessed with fine weather, amazing food and world class facilities. That said, there is a gulf in difference between budget options and the more luxurious resorts making it difficult to choose the most ideal destination for your next trip.

From Mexico to Jamaica, Dominican Republic and back, here are the 5 best Caribbean all inclusive resorts for 2017:

Caribbean Vacation

Hyatt Zilara Cancun, Mexico

Mexico makes our list again and as you might expect with the Hyatt, this is a hotel of pure luxury. Offering a world class spa with ocean views, saunas, whirlpools and more, Hyatt is also one of the true masters when it comes to relaxation and pampering of any kind. Another highlight are the hammocks which adorn the balcony of every room and then the food which never fails to make feedback from satisfied customers.

Azul Sensatori, Jamaica

Seven Mile Beach is one of the finest in the world and it is here you will find the Azul Sensatori, one of the most incredible all-inclusive resorts in Negril, Jamaica. Sun baked and covered in white powdered sands, the beach is scintillating but then that’s not all the resort has to offer, for 120 deluxe rooms each have an incredible ocean view. And then there are the facilities, with onsite dance classes, cooking course, and the option of renting canoes or surf boards. Completing the rout, the Azul also has no less than six different restaurants.

Chic Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There is a mansion in this resort, does that tell you what to expect? This is truly royalty and Chic Punta Cana is the essence of luxury. More than five bedrooms, a Jacuzzi, private pool and wine cellar make this one stand out. Aside from this there are another 300 rooms with green gardens and pools to accompany the variety of foods, from Japanese to Moroccan. Chic in Punta Cana is slightly expensive but worth every last dime.

Infinity Pool

Generations Riviera Maya, Mexico

Situtated in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, Generations finds itself on an isolated beach and has a unique selling point in that every suite has a personal butler. This really is one of the finest coastal sections in Mexico but there are also stunning infinity pools meaning you don’t even need to move from your suite to take a swim. Gourmet food is also a highlight and make Generations one of the best Caribbean all-inclusive resorts with a wide range of Mexican and Mediterranean foods on offer. Interestingly, the hotel also has a kids cooking club which is super fun.

Melia Nassau Beach, Bahamas

Melia is another luxury resort for rather wealthy and this richness extends to every part of the resort. There are two different areas, Baha Mar and Atlantis, but regardless of which one you decide upon,  the experience is just as unique as you might expect. With more than 600 rooms and a beautiful beach front setting, Melia Nassau Beach is one of the best Caribbean resorts for 2017.

You can find hotel discounts for all of the above Caribbean resorts on Hotels Etc.

Best Caribbean Cruise Ships in 2017

There’s really no such thing as a terrible cruise in the Caribbean, but there are definitely a few who stand out from the rest. Whether it’s unique activities that are offered onboard or just a vibe that’s not like the others, these cruise ships might have just the thing you’re looking for. So, sit back, relax and grab one of those tasty pineapple drinks with neon straws and ridiculously big umbrellas as we check out five Caribbean cruise ships that are anything but boring.

Here are the best Caribbean cruise ships in 2017:

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Honestly, what makes this cruise ship so amazing are the many fresh options when it comes to activities that there’s really no other experience like it. Royal Caribbean really outdid itself with the robot bartenders, skydiving simulation, trapeze lessons, and glass enclosed ride that takes you up 300ft above sea level so you can see the world from an entirely new vantage point.

This ship also has all of the other regular stuff like delicious food options and shows, but its rooms are also unique given that some have HD screens that cover an entire wall and give guests the feeling of a virtual balcony. Some of the rooms also are interconnected and two stories, which is good for larger families or someone who just really likes to spend more money.

Cruise restaurant

Carnival Sunshine

Formerly known as the Carnival Destiny, a pretty, little makeover of over $150 million bucks upgraded the 17 year-old ship into something a little more, you know, cool. There are a ton of bars and restaurants on this bad boy, including a delish burger bar that was created by your favorite blond-haired chef, Guy Fieri.

One of the favorites on this ship though is the huge adult-only sections that span across three separate decks. Not that we don’t all love having kids around while drinking our cocktails, but you know.

Norwegian Escape

This cruise ship is a party machine and with twenty-one bars onboard, you almost have each one of your drinks at a different place. Two of them are Jimmy Buffett franchises, which always helps out with creating the chilled out Caribbean vibe.

Another thing that makes this ship unique is that it supposedly has some of the fastest waterslides you can find while sailing the seas. But, there’s really only one way to find out — plug your nose!

Disney Fantasy

Kids, kids, and more kids – that’s what Disney has always been about and this 2,500 passenger Disneyland on water is going to get anyone’s vote who’s under the age of twelve. It’s not all about the kids though and good ol’ Walt and company still keep the adults in mind with bars and other areas that are 18+ only after 9pm.

Disney

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

Saving the best, and most impressive for last as there’s no other cruise ship that competes with the 5,400 passengers that this thing can hold. But, it’s not only size that matters, right? There’s also an entire park that has over 12,000 plants (the first of its kind on a cruise ship), two climbing walls, a surfing simulator, and an entire mall that offers pretty much anything you would ever need to buy, including your daily dose of Starbucks.

You can check out our endless run of cruise discounts for 2017 on Hotels Etc here.

Which Carribean Island Fits Your Dream Vacation?

With thousands of islands in the world to choose from, it’s hard to ignore the beauty that is the Caribbean. A Caribbean vacation is a dream for friends, couples, and families looking for a place to relax, have fun, and enjoy everything under the sun. Not only does it offer lots of activities, but also thanks to plenty of hotel discounts that are usually floating around the web, there’s something to fit every budget.

Cayman Islands – Scuba Diving

In Cayman Islands, it’s impossible not to be in the sea because this is by far the best spot for scuba diving. Boasting more than 200 diving sites anyone with an itch to take a dive can take advantage of the underwater treasures.

British Virgin Islands – Sailing In Paradise

If you’re with people who are skeptical of getting in the water, the British Virgin Islands is your place and will keep you afloat. There’s nothing more exciting than being the person behind the sails and a trip here will teach you exactly how to do that.

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Jamaica – Kid Friendly

Jamaica, while filled with plenty of nightlife and adult activities, is one of the best Caribbean islands for families. There are plenty of resorts who cater to infants and older children and some, like the Franklin D. Resort and Spa, is a like a couple’s personal babysitter. As an inclusion in guests’ payments, kids get their own nanny to look after them while their tired-looking moms and dads are getting their much-needed pampering. Who doesn’t want to relax while knowing their children are in safe hands, right?

Dominican Republic – Adventure Awaits

Dominican Republic is the haven of adventurers. Those who are thrill-seekers can get their dose of adrenaline rush by doing activities such as zip lining, surfing, diving, rock climbing, canyoning, and more. You name it, they have it.

Aruba – Island City Life

If there’s a place that feels like a city in an island, it’s Aruba. Adults will enjoy unique mix of both urban and country feel that this destination has to offer and it also means there’s always something new to experience. Oranjestad, its capital town, is known for its shopping strips, bars and restaurants, casinos, golf courses, and spas that can entertain even the most demanding people.

Puerto Rico – No U.S. Passport Needed

U.S. history buffs have no reason not to bask in the best of Puerto Rico because any citizen can go here without a passport. Direct flights make it even more convenient and the same with Jamaica. If time travel is your thing, fly to Puerto Rico and visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro, and Castillo San Cristobal, which are two of the largest Spanish camps. San Juan Cathedral, located at the Old San Juan district, is also where the Ponce de Leon family’s ancestral house and burial site are located.

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Martinique – Low Budget and European

Fancy seeing France but don’t have the budget? You can go to Martinique instead. Although it’s located in the Caribbean, it’s still a part of France and therefore the architecture and even the language is very much French. Imagine Paris in an island. Yep, that’s it.

St. Lucia – Get Some Privacy

There’s a reason why St. Lucia is always mentioned in lists of the best places for a honeymoon – it’s vast landscape and layout of resorts make sure that the island never feels crowded. It’s also considered as one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands because of the rain forests and mountains found there. When it comes to privacy, this place is definitely the top choice for people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle.

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Packing for a Caribbean Vacation

You’ve booked the flights, you’ve got a place to stay (thanks to those sweet hotel discounts you found online), and now all that stands in front of you and laying on the beach on your soon-to-be-fabulous Caribbean vacation is the dreaded thing we all try to put off as long as possible — packing. But, don’t worry too much about it, getting everything together and shoved into those old bags you still haven’t replaced won’t be nearly as hard as you might think. So take a breath, close your eyes, imagine yourself snorkeling with all kinds of different magical-looking fish, and let’s do this.

Packing for a Caribbean Vacation

Old bags with CAMERA

No Passport Needed

There are some interesting things you need to know about getting into the Caribbean as far as passports and visas go. First off, if you’re American and a full-fledged U.S. citizen, you don’t need to have a passport if you’re flying into Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, which includes the trifecta of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix — the others require you to have more than basic U.S. IDs (driver’s license, etc.). If you’re hopping on a cruise, you can actually visit more of the islands without a passport, but be sure to double-check where you’re going before assuming you’re all good.

Caribbean Weather

Another important thing to thing to do before you start packing is familiarizing yourself with the weather happening for wherever and whenever you’re traveling in the Caribbean. There’s not a lot of major differences between the temperatures from one to the other and the average temperatures are around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit most days, but depending on the month you’re traveling you might have more or less rain, which is a good to know. Brief showers happen nearly every day on most of the islands, too but not enough to pack any legit rain gear.

Vacation discount

Packing Light

It’s easier said than done, but thanks to the consistently hot climate, the Caribbean is a place where less is more. In fact, many people who are traveling for a week or less easily get away with packing a couple of carry-ons, wearing a light jacket, and keeping it simple. Depending on your needs (I know, shoes)  and length of stay you could easily get away with not checking any bags, which would also save you a lot of hassle and potential delays if you’re flying.

Your Itinerary Determines Your Needs

Are you planning on doing some hiking? You’ll need some active clothes and a pair of good rubber-soled shoes that can give you the support you need. Are you just going to lounge on the beach all day and drink cocktails? You can probably get away with packing not much more than a couple of swimsuit options, flip-flops, and one or two pairs of shorts or dresses to wear when you’re not listening to the waves. There’s no one perfect list for this since each trip is unique, but think through what you’ll be spending your time doing and pack accordingly.

Toiletries

Your toiletry needs will pretty much be the same, but you might want to throw in some extra sunscreen, lip balm, or aloe/lotion depending on your plans to get out into the wild or your skin tone. It’s going to be hot and sunny most of the time, so ease into it and remember, you can always get more sun the next day, but it’s hard to deal with a really bad sunburn.

Gadgets

Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget to pack in your cameras, selfie-sticks, GoPros, Kindles, or any other electronics that you feel like you can’t live without. You’ll probably want to keep the phone off as much as possible, but it’s your Caribbean vacation, not mine, so you can do whatever you want.