Holiday Travel Tips:  Things to Know Before You go!

Holiday Travel Tips: Things to Know Before You go!

Good Morning, Good Morning!  It is fixing to be a BUSY Christmas here on St. John!  As Jenn mentioned on Sunday, there are a ton of cruise ships on St. Thomas and on St. John.  The ferry and barge lines are backing up and, even this week, it has been tough to get a dinner reservation!  This is all good news for our island economy but I thought it might be time to put out some helpful tips and tricks for those of you who are traveling to spend the most wonderful time of the year with us here in Love City!

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First thing’s first:  It isn’t only the on-island navigation of the busy holiday season that causes travel stress.  As most of you know, half the battle is getting here (and back home).  A reader recently pointed out to me some misinformation about the travel requirements to get into the territory.  Travel Pulse published an article last week that was, mostly, on point.  But with one very precarious misstep:

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Excerpt from Travel Pulse article

Everyone see the mistake here?  If you are vaccinated, unless you were fully vaccinated within the USVI, you STILL need to take a test prior to arrival!  Proof of vaccination from anywhere but the USVI will not work to get your Green QR Code.

The article does outline the clarification on the new CDC policies for international travel however.  If you are traveling between the US territory (that’s us!) and the United States, you DO NOT need to get a test before you travel home.  You do need one within five days of arrival into the the territory however.  There is a ton of misinformation out there so PLEASE refer directly to the USVI Travel Portal for any questions in regards to your travel requirements.  The Department of Tourism does a great job of updating the site with pop-up infographics as things change.  This is the most updated one:

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Oh, and speaking of misinformation, some of our guests on Asante last week changed their entire flight plan around based on a message they received from Delta stating that they needed to get a test before they went back to the states.  As we know, from previous changes in international COVID regulations, the airlines sometimes take a bit longer to catch onto the fact that we are not, in fact, an international destination 🙂  Delta’s website clearly states the following:

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So, if you get an email or message from your airline in regards to testing before you return home, don’t panic!  Check your carrier’s FAQ page, get the facts in hand and give them a ring.  The folks who changed their flights around received a second text from Delta after their two hour phone call and going through the hassle of changing their travel plans:

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So, there you have it 🙂  Some proof that the airlines simply have their lines crossed!  Ha!  Oh, and speaking of going home after a beautiful week on St. John, schedule your travel day appropriately and prepare for lines for the ferry, the barges and at the airport.

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A busy Red Hook ferry terminal in early December

On Monday, the Virgin Islands Port Authority alerted travelers who will be visiting during the holiday season to expect longer wait times at the airport over the coming weeks.  Even during less busy times of the year, I STILL arrive at the St. Thomas airport outside of two hours of boarding time to ensure a smooth travel day.  The bar, restaurant, kiosks, gift shop and duty free shop at the airport are all up and running now.  And there is free wi-fi.  So, you will have plenty of ways to kill some time while you wait to board your flight instead of stressing about missing that flight in a lengthy wait at TSA.  The lines can VERY quickly go from absolutely empty to absolutely PACKED as that two hour window closes in.  So, arrive early, enjoy some drinks and Caribbean cuisine and snag a bottle of rum to take home with you!

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Don’t get stuck in the crowd…Arrive two and a half  to three hours early to avoid the rush and the stress!

A few other pointers on getting to and from St. John:

  • Arrange for private transportation to and from the airport if you rented your car on St. John.
  • On that note, if you do rent your car on St. Thomas, expect HEFTY lines at the car barge.  The General II was just down earlier this week, leaving us with only two barges.  This creates a HUGE backup, especially during the holidays with visitor arrivals and residents doing their holiday shopping on St. Thomas.
  • Skip the ferry and take a water taxi!  Love City Excursions is offering water taxi services from Crown Bay and Sapphire straight to the National Park Dock in Cruz Bay!  I feel like this would be an incredible way to say farewell to St. John as well.  A power boat ride seems to me a much faster and leisurely way to arrive at the airport for that three hour wait 🙂
  • Buy your ferry and barge tickets in advance.  You can purchase tickets ahead of time for the Red Hook/Cruz Bay & Charlotte Amalie/Cruz Bay people ferries, both of the car barge operators (Love City Car Ferries & Big Red Barge) and the Crown Bay/Cruz Bay ferry online.
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Book your ferry ticket in advance!

Phew, ok!  I know that was a lot of information about just getting here and back home, but, that IS where a lot of the stress comes from!  Now, onto the fun stuff:

If you have not booked your dining reservations, boat days or rental car yet, DO THAT NOW!  I know that a lot of you have been a bit bummed about the pre-planning aspect of your trips to Love City in this new COVID climate we are in.  But the holidays are our absolutely busiest time of the year.  And if you have visited St. John pre-COVID, you know that the next two weeks are ALWAYS tough ones for activity and dining reservations.

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Don’t miss the boat! Get on top of your bookings now to avoid added holiday stress!

Additionally, be prepared for busy beaches.  Especially on cruise ship days.  Cruise ships are “apparently” scheduled for Tuesdays on St. John.  But, we woke up yesterday and saw one out there.  Double check the cruise ship schedule and modify your beach days to avoid the crowds.  The Cruz Bay scheduled vessels will definitely affect traffic on St. John, but WICO & CB (St. Thomas) will also show an influx in crowds.

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The Cruise Ship Crystal Symphony sat outside of Cruz Bay last week with 922 passengers.

The good news about the cruise ships is that the passengers are generally back on board by 5PM or so.  So, town should clear out a little bit in time for a later happy hour or dinner.  If there is a ship scheduled for St. John, avoid Trunk Bay, Honeymoon and Maho on those particular days.  The big boating and destinations will likely be a bit over crowded when the cruise ships are here.  So, hit the trails or schedule a day on the water to avoid those crowds!

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A full parking lot means you will have to modify your plans…Unless you are taking a taxi!

Speaking of beach traffic, did you know that there are ONLY 200 parking spots for the NPS beaches on the North Shore?  Crazy right?  Please, please, please consider parking in town at the gravel lot, the Lumberyard or Slim Man’s and taking a taxi to the beach.  It may be a bit more expensive but it will definitely open up options as far as what beaches you can go to on busy days.  If the parking lot is full, you will have no choice but to readjust if you are driving.  But, if you are with a friendly taxi driver, they can take you to whatever beach you would like!

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Hibiscus is amazing!!!

Also, if you missed our St. John Gift Giving Guide, take a look and do a bit of last minute holiday shopping while you are here!

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We look forward to seeing ALL of you during this beautiful holiday season on St. John!  If all this talk of crowds has you down, please turn that frown upside down!  It is ALWAYS packed over Christmas and New Years, as you well know if you have been joining us for years of celebration during those times.  It is equally stressful for those of us who live here.  Trust me 🙂  But, be kind, be patient, plan ahead and get down here and join in the holiday cheer!

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6 thoughts on “Holiday Travel Tips: Things to Know Before You go!”

  1. Thanks for the reassurance on this information. We will visit next month and wonder if the Christmas surge will subside in the following weeks?
    Still pondering how crowded restaurants will be in mid-January.

  2. Very helpful, as usual. Could you please write something about phone usage? My cell phone company has no towers near St.John. I can text but restaurants don’t want you to make reservations that way. Is there an available inexpensive cell phone I can buy on St. John for use on St. John? When we get foreign workers on Cape Cod, they often do that.

    • You must have wifi internet wherever you’re staying. And anytime you are in a business with guest wifi. Use wifi calling and texting if you have an iphone. No need for cell towers. We have done that for years in our Coral Bay area rent homes where Sprint cellular did not exist. Same for T-Mobile, even this past week.

  3. Supposed to arrive Saturday but still waiting on results of PCR tests taken Tuesday. Have visitors been missing flights because of this, or does the health department tend to turn things around quickly enough to avoid cancelations?

  4. Looking forward to spending Christmas & New Years in St John! We’ll be staying in Cruz Bay and will gladly take any recommendations from you on things going on during this time. We are 8 adults of various ages looking forward to enjoying the beaches, snorkeling and some hiking, sprinkled in with eating and drinking. My wife & I have been to St John several times but it will be brand new to the other 6 travelers. Thanks!

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