If you are considering a luxury-included ® vacation in the Caribbean, there’s only one brand that offers that…Sandals and Beaches Resorts. I have had the pleasure of visiting most ALL of the resorts from September 2014 through September 2016…yes that’s a lot of hustling! Having been there firsthand myself makes me a top choice for you to help plan your own vacation. I got married in January 2017 at a Sandals resort too, so again, I have more knowledge than anyone else in my area firsthand to assist you if planning a destination wedding too! Let’s get started!
First off, and most importantly, understand no matter who you use to book your vacation or wedding, there is no fee from the local agent; our service is complimentary to you! Most of us have experience and know things we can do to actually save you money and time too! It’s a no-brainer…use a local agent!
Secondly, there are three brands in the family: Sandals-for couples only, Beaches-for everyone and a third single resort brand in Negril called Grand Pineapple, also for everyone. (we’re going to focus on the first two in this blog but to highlight Grand Pineapple, it’s a great solution for budget conscious travelers who want an all-inclusive without the options and luxury-included ® experience Sandals and Beaches offers).
Third, another biggie here: you can start a vacation booking with as little as $400.00 down, make payments as you go, and final balances are due 45 days before travel. SO EASY! If you are considering a Beaches Family vacation during a winter school break, LISTEN here!!!—you need to be looking at dates for these 1-2 years out, trust me, they sell out FAST during the winter school breaks! EMAIL me right away to get started or call my office at 518-792-6092.
Moving on, where are the resorts? Well, they are only in the Caribbean…Beaches Resorts for everyone exist in Ocho Rios and Negril, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos. Sandals resorts for couples are located in: Grenada, Barbados-2 total, Antigua, St. Lucia-3 total, Bahamas-1 each in Nassua and Great Exuma, and in Jamaica you will find 3 in Montego Bay, 1 in Negril, 2 in Ocho Rios and 1 on the South Coast. That’s 16 total Sandals properties to choose from!
Let’s get started with some more basic info from start to finish to give you some education to hopefully help make your decisions easier when you are ready to book with me or another agent.
AIR TRAVEL: my clients, while from all over the country, are mostly from the Albany, NY area. When choosing a property, remember, all flights from Albany airport (ALB) will have a connection. When you are looking for quick and easy from Albany area, look at Jamaica (Montego Bay airport-MBJ) or Nassau, Bahamas (NAS). In both cases, you’ll most likely be doing a 6 or 7 am flight from ALB and be at NAS or MBJ around noontime. Sweet, let’s drink! Flights from ALB to NAS or MBJ are averaging about 700.00/pp currently as of the date of this blog. Great Exuma, Bahamas (GGT) will usually require more connections from ALB and longer flight time.
In most cases, anywhere else you go south of the Bahamas or Jamaica, you’re more likely to fly out of New York City (JFK) or other major airport like Newark (EWR) or Boston (BOS). Reason I say this is not only from experience, but it’s true! JFK offers direct flights usually to most of the islands, and at a lower price as well as less travel time. If you’re going out of JFK, I have a GREAT affordable park-n-fly vendor we use every time we travel and there are 4 hotels on the same lot as well, just ask me (see, the agents can help you better!)
Looking at the other islands and rough ideas for travel here’s some info: To get to Turks and Caicos use Providenciales Airport (PLS). You can get deals from ALB to PLS with connecting flights (6-7 hours ++, 700.00 /pp/rt +++), but again, shorter flights and lower rates originate from JFK (3.5-5 hours max including some non-stops, beginning about 400.00/pp!). (Did I mention pp/rt = per person, round trip. We’ll shorten it to pp for the rest of this blog, and these rates are as of the date of the blog too, they always change!)
Southward we go, from north to south:
-Antigua-V.C. Bird International Airport (ANU)-from JFK you can get non-stop 4 hour flights from 500.00/pp, that’s awesome!
-St. Lucia-Hewanorra International Airport (UVF)-you’re looking at about a 5 hour flight from JFK also about 500/pp or more.
-Barbados- Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI)-pretty much the same as St. Lucia, slightly longer flight, but direct and in the same price range.
-Lastly, Grenada-Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND)-Non-stops are about 5 hours, connecting flights much longer, prices are showing usually in the 600.00+/pp range and higher.
Here’s the approximate airport transfer times once you arrive and clear customs (and remember, with Sandals and Beaches, the transfers are INCLUDED!) I’ve included the airport codes again as well.
Now that we’ve looked at flights, costs and transfer times, that should really help you narrow down your options to a couple islands or so. Of course remember also, in winter time, the further south you go the warmer it will be. I suggest at minimum Jamaica as the Bahamas can have warm weather, but can be windy and have colder water (I got engaged at Sandals Royal Bahamian in January 2016, I was there! See pic below.) So now what resort is right for us Mark???
CHOOSING THE RIGHT RESORT: Are you more concerned about having more options like dining, bars, pools and excursions? (excursions are off-property treks you do at an additional cost—look at www.islandroutes.com and click on your country for options…I’ll help you book those too!) Do you desire a larger beach? A smaller, more intimate resort with less people? More nightlife? More sightseeing options and shopping off-property? SOOOOO many options, help me MARK!!! Ok, here goes alphabetically by country, and a picture of the resort is below each description.
Antigua, Sandals Grande Antigua-large, long public beach, 350+ rooms, 11 restaurants, 12 pools and whirlpools, several affordable excursions. The island itself is 108 square miles and full of history. It is one of my favorites and of course where I got married. The power 360 cruise around the island is to die for, and we have a great connection for you for a 4-5 hour land tour visiting historical forts, rain forest and English Harbor. My favorite spot is the Sunset Bluff Club level rooms.
Bahamas, Nassau, Sandals Royal Bahamian-private cove beach with private island too! 400+ rooms, 10 restaurants, 13 pools and whirlpools. Lot’s of great things to do in Nassau off-property, the island is 79 square miles. I liked the private island here a lot! The water in the Bahamas is pleasing in color and the high rise club level rooms offer great views and plenty of cocktails!
Bahamas, Great Exuma, Sandals Emerald Bay-Long beach, 240+ rooms (all club and butler level), 7 restaurants, 7 pools and whirlpools. The island is 96 square miles long. It is one of the most incredible properties Sandals has! Golf is included here too! You can swim with the pigs here, yes, I said pigs.
Barbados, Sandals Barbados-long public beach, 280 rooms, 11 restaurants, 5 pools and whirlpools. Lot’s to do on this small island, approximately 166 square miles, fun affordable tours galore. You must get the club level rooms in the high rise ocean side, best views and location I feel. We enjoyed the downtown shopping tour and shuttle tour of the island.
Barbados, Sandals Royal-long public beach, 222 club & butler suites, 6 restaurants, 2 pools and 2 whirlpools, barber shop, bowling alley and exchange privileges with Sandals Barbados next store. Lot’s to do on this small island, approximately 166 square miles, fun affordable tours galore.
Grenada, Sandals LaSource-small private cove beach, 250+ rooms, 10 restaurants, 9 pools and whirlpools. Shopping and tours galore on this 134 square mile island. Plenty of room options for all budgets from front to back of the resort. The skypool butler suites in the Italian village...OMG!
Jamaica-4200+ square miles (It’s HUGE) Over 100 excursions on this island from waterfalls, river tubing, shopping, safaris and the list goes on and on! Here's a map first of the locations in Jamaica of all the resorts:
-Montego Bay-Stay at 1, play at 3!
--Sandals Inn-very small public beach, 50+ rooms, 3 restaurants, 2 pools and whirlpools. This is a good lead in property for folks who want to save a little bit but still have the Sandals experience. Plus, you get to use the next two resorts as well and a free shuttle between them all.
--Sandals Montego Bay-private cove beach, 250+ rooms, 9 restaurants, 8 pools and whirlpools. If you want to party it up, this is your spot close to the airport, you can even wave to the planes as people leave the island. The Club level ocean view rooms here are very popular!
--Sandals Royal Caribbean-private cove beach + private island! 200 + rooms, 8 restaurants, 12 pools and whirlpools. A little more reserve then it's sister next door, Kensington Cove club level rooms are my favorite location for privacy with the great club service. The piano bar here will have you singing along too!
--Sandals Negril-long, public beach, 220+ rooms, 7 restaurants, 7 pools and whirlpools. I LOVED the DJs in Negril. Crystal Lagoon is the place to stay on this property, butler level rooms including swim ups. Incredible! 7 miles of beach and tons of tourist attractions will keep you busy!
--Beaches Negril-7 miles public beach, 220 + rooms, 7 restaurants, 6 pools and whirlpools including a waterpark! It's too easy to feel like a kid at Beaches, Xbox, games, fun, ice cream, hot dogs...oh they really have thought of it all!
-Whitehouse-Sandals South Coast-long beach on peninsula, 360 rooms, 9 restaurants, 8 pools and whirlpools. Over water bar, over water chapel, over water suites, every room has a view here, and the pool...one of their largest! I want to go back!!!
-Ocho Rios (Sandals golf course in Ochi Rios as well)
--Beaches Ocho Rios-private cove beach, 220+ rooms, 5 restaurants, 8 pools and whirlpools including a waterpark! This resort is on a hill, has multiple levels of pools, slides, beach and so much food you'll never eat again! And look at that beach!!
--Sandals OCHI-private cove beach, 520+ rooms, 16 restaurants, 120+ pools and whirlpools. Wait for it...OCHI is the PERFECT spot for those who want options, lively resort, an overload of fun and drinks, excursions and a slightly lower price than Montego Bay. OCHI = easy choice for many of my clients. Where else is there a speakeasy? Only at OCHI.
--Sandals Royal Plantation-private cove beach, 70+ rooms (all butler level), 5 restaurants, 3 pools and whirlpools. Very exclusive all butler resort. I will help you determine if this is good for you. Bonus is it's right next door to OCHI so you can head over there to party and then escape back to Royal for privacy.
St. Lucia-238 square mile island, three Sandals Resorts (stay at 1, play at 3 and golf too!) If you like to hike, this is the island for you! Shuttles run between the resorts all about 25 minutes apart.
-Sandals Halcyon Beach-long public beach, 160+ rooms, 6 restaurants, 6 pools and whirlpools. Small, charming, perfect starter for St. Lucia, lowest price of the three properties.
-Sandals Regency LaToc-shorter, private beach, 330+ rooms, 9 restaurants, 7 pools and whirlpools, golf on site! I am undecided about room locations, I liked the Emerald Village rooms as they were close to the lobby and fun, but the club and butler rooms up top of the resort in sunset bluff have killer views too. You will have to decide for yourself! Piano bar alert here...crazy mad fun!
-Sandals Grande St. Lucian-longer, public beach, 300+ rooms, 12 restaurants, 9 pools and whirlpools, public state park and hiking mountain just off the beach. In 30 minutes, and about 7.00/pp, you’ll be at the top! No doubt there are options here, HUGE pool, killer beach and just a perfect resort.
Turks & Caicos, Beaches Turks & Caicos-12 miles of BEACH! 600+ rooms, 16 restaurants, 13 bars, 10 pools and whirlpools including a waterpark! You don’t have to leave this property as it is the largest one in the family on this 38 square mile island. This resort was my first visit of any of them, and it's been hard to compare since it's so big and offers so much. The water and beach is unlike ANY you have ever been on. That alone makes it worth it. Ahhh.....
ROOM LEVELS AND CATEGORIES: Whew! Mark, soooo many things to consider! I think we’ve narrowed it down a bit, now help us with the room categories because there are even MORE of those and it’s confusing! Sure I can do that, no sweat at all! When looking at the room categories online, we have three levels: luxury, club (also called concierge at Beaches) and butler. I like to equate the offerings to four main things, as reflected in the pricing as well: 1) how you get your food and alcohol, 2) the location of the room on property, 3) the view, and 4) the service level. Look at this simple chart to better understand the levels.
ALL rooms include the main luxury-included ® amenities as listed. Luxury rooms often have garden views, located at rear of property, and you have to leave your room for food or alcohol. Many luxury level rooms also do not have a patio or balcony, or a view but don’t worry, I’ll help you here! Club level rooms have a bar in the room and room service available during the daytime and early evening as indicated as well as other amenities like preferred check in too! Butler rooms have 24 hour room service, bar, personal butlers to attend to your every need and they even give you a cell phone to reach them at, wow! The list of butler amenities also goes on and on, it’s really incredible! They often have the best views and locations on property, like the new over-water butler suites pictured below.
GETTING STARTED ON YOUR BOOKING: Ok so now we have picked the island, resort and room category we want, what’s next Mark? We book, so simple! Here’s some facts for you for the next steps and more details about Sandals and Beaches vacations in general.
Step 1: meet with or provide your agent with your required information to complete the booking. This usually includes your names, passport info, address, email, phone number, emergency contact, any allergies or considerations you may have for disabilities, the reason for your trip (such as anniversary trips get a free night-ask me more!) and your payment info. We process all payments via secure web direct with Sandals so debit or credit card is required. Passports are not required at the time of booking, BUT, are required at time of travel and just to be safe, should not expire within 6-10 months of your return date.
-all rooms are based on double occupancy (Some Beaches rooms based on 3 or more!)
-400.00 down secures your dates and travel insurance averages 240.00 for two people
-you can make payments as you go
-final balances are due 45 days prior to travel
-you can book airfare at the same time, or later, but full payment is required for air when you book it, unless it is a group rate with a minimum of 10 people (ask me!)
Step 2: Now that you are booked, your agent should always send you a copy of your invoice for your records. You can make payments anytime you like by contacting your agent, and they can help you with your airfare arrangements too. Here we should set up a registry as well if this is for a honeymoon or destination wedding.
Step 3: Begin to look at excursions, spa treatments and other things you may want to while on property and have your agent assist you in booking these before you travel so you can be guaranteed space is available for you when you arrive. If using resort credit, you can apply that only when you arrive on property. Some packages include an excursion as well, ask your agent for more info about this.
Step 4: Make final payments, get your travel docs from your agent in order, and begin packing! Your agent will also be able to help you with airport parking and hotels if needed, and many other pre-travel need. (for my personal clients in my area, I offer a FREE pre-travel session in my office and it will make your vacation so much easier already knowing what I know from being there myself!) If you’re going for a honeymoon, make sure to provide your agent with a copy of your wedding invitation or marriage license for even more perks! Here's the cool document holder Sandals provides for your trip along with luggage tags, for club level and butler level bookings only. (actual product received may look different)
Step 5: Enjoy the vacation of a lifetime in paradise, tell all your friends how much fun you are having, take lots of pictures and share them everywhere! (tag your agent too!)
When you arrive at the airport and clear customs and get your baggage, proceed to the Sandals Desk outside the airport terminal to be shuttled to the resort, this is included in your vacation. For a private car transfer, just ask me! Once you are there, they will check you in and you will be greeted with a fresh towel and cool drink. During check in, they will ask for a credit card to hold for any incidentals, such as gift store purchases, cabana rentals, spa treatments, or excursions. (Tipping on property is ONLY allowed for spa attendants and butlers! You cannot tip the servers, bartenders and other staff, don’t put their job at risk! Non-resort personnel, such as shuttle drivers and tour attendants are ok to tip also. I usually suggest you bring a couple hundred dollars max in cash with you.) You will leave your baggage and it will be brought to your room while you check in. At most Sandals, luxury level guests will check in at the main lobby, club level in the club lounge and butler guests will complete their check in in their rooms. There are daily resort tours and orientations if you need it, just ask at check in or contact the front desk at any time. For WI-FI access, it is usually your room number and last name, but ask to make sure when you check in…sometimes it takes a few minutes for them to activate your access code. Most resorts have a daily newspaper or bulletin, left in your room each previous night which will outline the next days activities, dining options and more along with corresponding times of each. Some restaurants require reservations-I suggest visiting the restaurant desk (or club lounge if in club room) and making them on your second day since they cannot be made in advance. If you are in a butler room, your butler would have already made them for you and will cover them on arrival, and you can change them as well. You should also schedule any tours or excursions your second day since sometimes they sell out, unless you’ve booked them in advance through your agent. Take care of this and dining reservations before you sit back and begin to enjoy your stay. (I highly suggest a small extension cord for your trip, say about 6-10’ long that is two prong, to use in your room as well.) Most resorts have beach or pool cabanas for rent as well for a small fee. Butlers for those in those room categories will also arrange for reserved chairs and usually provide a cooler full of refreshments for you as well. There are usually plenty of towels located near the beach and pools you can use-you do not have to take the ones from your room!
You will also have an opportunity while on property to take advantage of an incredible deal for a return trip to your resort through the Loyalty and Travel desk. This offer will save you 10% or more, and usually requires an approximate 350.00 deposit. Once you return, you can send me the information sheet they provided you and we can get the next trip transferred back to me so I can service you again and make it even better! You should also register for Sandals Select (SSG) once you are on property…this will save you even more on a return trip. Make note of your 16 digit SSG # when you register. Now that we’ve had a great vacation, it’s time to check out. The night before, the resort will provide you an information sheet of your departure. Please check to make sure the flight and times listed match yours! You will leave your bags outside your room at the stated time and then when it is time to go, you just go to the lobby and they will ask you to pay any balance you may have, then bring you to the airport. It’s so easy!
Special things to consider:
-Basic weddings are FREE! (ask me!)
-There are incentives for groups like private dinners, parties, free rooms and more (ask me!)
-The farther in advance you book, the better chance you have at all available room categories.
If there is anything else I can assist you with, please don’t hesitate to ask me anytime. You can reach me at email@example.com or 518-792-6092. Remember, there is no price difference in using a travel agent, our service is complimentary to you!
Take a closer look here: