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How far ahead do you plan your family’s summer vacation? For our family of five, it is always about 18 months ahead, which means by now, I usually have the location figured out for next summer (2018). While some families have yet to book their trips for this summer, I have spent the past few months searching for the destination of our 2018 summer vacation. Well this week I finally had the location picked out. Sorry Hawaii, as much as we love you, we will be heading to the Caribbean next summer, St Maarten to be exact!

Sint Maarten3

Saying no to Hawaii

Are we crazy to say no to Hawaii? Well, yes and no. Living in San Francisco Bay Area, we have been to Hawaii many times. It is such an easy five-hour nonstop flight from here to any of the four major islands. We have been to all the islands except the tiny ones. In fact, we were just in Oahu last November for a week, and we are going to Maui and Kauai for two weeks next month. While we love Hawaii, the beach. the poke and much more, there is no urgent need to return again next summer. A change of scenery would be nice.

Caribbean is like a dream

The Caribbean has always been like a dream to us, with its blue sky, calm crystal clear water and white sandy beach. It is a dream almost too far to reach! From the Bay Area it takes an entire day to get there and another day to get back.  So we put it off for many years, and went to different Hawaii islands instead. I know summer isn’t the best time to visit the Caribbean, but it is the only time we can travel for more than a week.

Stingray City in Grand Cayman

Stingray City in Grand Cayman

We finally took our first trip to the Caribbean in summer 2015. We flew into Bahamas and spent a few days hanging out at Atlantis using Choice hotel points. [SEE 4 best uses of Choice points] After Atlantis, we flew to Grand Caymans on British Airways for just 4,500 Avios per person. We spent a week in Grand Cayman and absolutely loved it! We rented a big boat for a day to take us fishing, snorkeling and swimming with stingrays. Grand Cayman was such a fun trip that to this date our family still talks about it often. We can’t wait to return!

So naturally while I was searching for the vacation destination for next summer, Caribbean was high on the list. The question is, where in Caribbean?

[Comprehensive guide to Caribbean airport taxes and fees]

The cost for accommodation is always a big factor. Anywhere we go, we would need either two hotel rooms or a two-bedroom condo, whether using points or paying cash, exchanging a timeshare week, or renting a condo. After reading the Lonely Planet article about which island is best, I was more lost. There are so many different islands! I decided to see where my search of accommodation would take me. Finally this week, it landed me in St. Maarten!

Sint Maarten1

Aloha St. Maarten

Ok they don’t really say Aloha in St. Maarten, I know! I was simply excited that we would be heading to a new destination next summer! We would be able to spend a week in St. Maarten without breaking the bank, thanks to a trade that I made through RCI using my timeshare week. We will be staying in a two-bedroom unit at the Belair Beach Resort. While not exactly a fancy place, the resort’s the wonderful reviews on TripAdvisors convinced me that it would serve our needs just fine. The money saved from not paying two hotel rooms for our family of five will help pay for food, activities and excursions, and perhaps the big anniversary trip that I have yet to plan for next year.

Sint Maarten

Now that we know where we are going next summer, I will be able to look at award flights when schedule opens in July this year. And perhaps extending the trip by a few extra nights at different parts of the island. After all, St. Maarten has a Dutch side and a French side, with no border in between.

Have you been to St. Maarten? if so, any tips or recommendations? 

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