| 1) Pack Lightly . This single tip can save you money throughout your trip.
St. John is a very laid back island, so leave all those high heels, hairdryers and pantry items at home. Many airlines are beginning to charge big $$ for extra check-in bags and also overweight luggage. St. Thomas taxis and even the ferries charge a small luggage fee for each piece, so you'll save money on this too. And, if you keep your luggage light, you may be able to get a slightly smaller rental vehicle. This can save you money on the rental itself, gas to get around, and you'll even find it easier to find a parking space!
It is rare to find a restaurant on St. John that requires anything resembling stateside 'dress attire', so relax and enjoy your vacation. Most rental properties come complete with hairdryers, irons/ironing boards, beach towels, coolers, etc. so leave yours at home. We have multiple grocery stores on the island, and you'll be surprised at the variety of items locally available. When in doubt, just ask your villa rental staff before you come!
*Special VIVA Tip: Most retail shops will ship items home for you, to save you the hassle. If you prefer doing it yourself, the US Post Office has free Priority Mail boxes ready for you to mail items home.
2) Bring Some Friends. Enjoy the life of the rich and famous on a small budget
For many, the price of a higher end luxury villa may seem far out of reach. But, bring a few friends and you'll be amazed at what you can afford! Let's say the most you can scrape together is $150/night for lodging, and at that price you want to be able to really enjoy every amenity offered. Fort just two people that's enough for a nice inexpensive to moderately priced property on the island. But, multiply that by adding another 3 couples or a few singles, and your buying power suddenly jumps to four times that amount(!).... enough for many upscale to luxury villas depending on time of year.
*Special VIVA Tip: Everyone doesn't have to stay for every night of the vacation. If you have 4 extra people staying for 5 nights, you only pay for the higher # of people for those 5 nights. Stay an extra night or two yourself and pamper yourself with privacy - and your price for the week will still be much less than if you were alone the whole vacation!
3) Location, Location, Location. St. John IS the location, so don't sweat the neighborhood.
Our island is only 5 miles by 8+ miles, so it's hardly a huge drive to get anywhere. We are a mountainous island with over 50 beaches... and many of those easily accessible. Being close to beaches is a given on the island. When looking to save money, you want value for your money - so ask about properties in up and coming neighborhoods where you get more for your money without sacrificing on quality, proximity to activities or restaurants, or amenities. A similar property in a lesser 'known' neighborhood than you are already familiar with could save you thousands of dollars per week!
*Special VIVA Tip: We often know of new properties that will be available before they even show up on our website, so just ask!
4) Skip Amenities You Won't Use. That will give you the cash to splurge on what does matter!
If you won't really use a swimming pool but just like the idea of it, or hate air conditioning but figure you 'should' want it in the tropics, then skip it. If your dream vacation means having a spa at night, then by all means insist on it. If you don't need that private taxi ride to the ferry dock, skip it. If just two couples, consider a single small vehicle (but pack lightly). The price of those added amenities you don't really want or need, could pay for a couple of sunset cruises and dinner in a nice restaurant... or a more upgraded property to start with. When you think tropics, think tropical breezes, which we have 360 days out of the year. As the locals say, "the best things are still free - the sun, the beach, the breeze, the people, the visitors".
*Special VIVA Tips: There are free Wi-Fi locations on the island if your house doesn't have them, and public tennis courts too, so bring your racket.
5) Do Your Homework. Know the value difference before you rent.
Two same-prices rental properties may be worlds apart in terms of value: Does the price include a mid-week maid service? Does it include a greeting at the ferry dock and a personal orientation at the villa? Is there someone you can call 7x24 if there are problems at the property? Are there hidden fees? Get all the information up front to make an informed decision.
Differences between properties may be perceived as important to others, but not to you. It's your vacation, so that's all that matters. Ask questions so the only surprises when you experience are happy ones!
*Special VIVA Tip: If you have a large crowd, let the pickiest person in the group select the property. Then everyone else is sure to be happy!
6) Bargains Do Exist - Ask A Local. Living on a little island has its advantages.
Ask if there are any other advantages in booking with your rental company- because you may be able to get a discount on a vehicle rental, or an island boat trip - it's worth asking. (At VIVA Villas all our staff are 'locals', living on St. John, so feel free to start with us!). Ask where we shop for inexpensive Christmas presents or Birthday gifts on-island and what our favorite restaurants are. We each have our favorite out of the way hidden beach and fun ways to spend evenings without emptying our wallets.
When a local shops for food on-island, they usually shop at two, three or more stores to get the best prices on everything. Living on an island is costly and we are experts at saving a buck and enjoying our occasional lobster dinner too!
*Special VIVA Tip: Check out St. John Tradewinds or St. John Times for retail store sales and specials!
7) Feast For Less. Stretch Your Dining Dollars And Still Have Fun.
Staying at a villa or cottage has its advantages. Scatter your restaurant dining t enjoy an occassional breakfast, lunch or dinner out. The rest of the time, get creative.Every property comes with coolers and grills, so enjoy them! Pack a picnic lunch each day. Want to save on ice? - Just fill empty water bottles with water (but not al the way) then freeze them. If you don't like to eat at the beach because of sand, consider a picnic amongst the sugar mill ruins at Catherinberg, or Annaberg. Grill hamburgers on the grill - buy some local mango and coconut salza to give it some zing and add some store-bought side dishes.
Here are some more tips: have a pool or beach party at night with pizza and beer or Chinese take-out. Put the food on a couple of floats and voila! (Make sure you bring flashilights and bug repellant). Try a local food stand where you can enjoy some of our local favorites: roti, fungi, pates, and so on. Some are for lunch only and some are open for dinner hours. Many places don't have signs (because if you put out a sign, you will have more customers, then you will have to make more, and that will cost more, and then you have to have a bigger sign, etc.). So, just follow your nose, ask what is on the menu and what is the price. Yummy!
*Special VIVA Tip: Maho Bay Campground,CInnamon Bay Campground, and Concordia Eco-tents are great dining spots at reasonable prices often overlooked by visitors.
8) Timing Is Everything. When to book even when its a value .
A good value doesn't equate to getting a discount off a rental prices. In fact, sometimes a discounted property can mean a property wasn't priced right in the first place. But, your timing can help.
Book a long time (over a year) in advance, and you may be able to put less money down up front as a deposit. Booking your vacation in advance gives you the best selection, and yes, often the best value. Last minute bookings can sometimes get you a discount - and because of previous cancellations that can be great. But, don't count on it. If you know you want to save money, come in the Off-Season in late spring, summer or fall. Skip holiday weeks when everyone else wants to come. If there is an odd gap in a rental calendar or that calendar is wide open, there may be some small price flexibiltiy.
*Special VIVA Tip: Ask us about any new properties that might be doing introductory pricing to fill their calendars fast!.
9) Stay Longer. Where there's a will, there's a way.
Add another day or two to your visit. Since you're coming anyway, the extra night or two won't cost that much more. And, if you follow our other tips, you may find a way to cover those costs before you even get here!
Many people just can't get away for very long these days because of work and other obligations. Most properties will rent for just 5 nights or more, so keep that in mind. Or, consider staying at a condo, where you have an even shorter stay. Even when coming for a week, you may be able to add on a couple of weekend nights to the end of your vacation.
Bargain airfare may not be practical because the flight leaves too early or arrives too late to come to St. John. Savvy travelers sometimes stay in a hotel near the airport to save costs and still have their St. John!
*Special VIVA Tip: Arriving on a weekday is not a problem at most of our properties. In fact, we encourage it to avoid large crowds.
10) Drink The Rum and Embrace Your Happy Hours. St John sunsets are made for rum punch.
Rum punches are a local favorite and many locations offer reduced costs for Happy Hour like they do in the States, but here on St. John, 'hour' is a relatively loose term, so check with your waitress and you may get lower prices for longer. Worried about driving - buy a can of tropical fruit punch and add some rum and have your own party at your villa. And, remember - you can bring 5 liters of liquor home duty-free per person and add a 6th if that bottle is a bottle of Virgin Islands rum!
There are many, many more ways to save money on St. John and still have an awesome time. Some of the best things are free - gorgeous sunsets, Sunday afternoon jazz in Cruz Bay, water fun, National Park hikes, and so on. Just ask the VIVA staff for ideas for your next St. John visit.
*Special VIVA Tip: Not a drinker? Happy Hour is for everyone and some restaurants offer special pricing for Virgin Specialty drinks and even entrees if you come early!