Let’s Talk Travel:  Flight Tips, Tricks and Trends

Let’s Talk Travel: Flight Tips, Tricks and Trends

Happy Monday Everyone!  I hope that all of you had a fantastic weekend and that you’re jumping back into the work week well rested and rearing to go!  In June, I was on a direct Frontier flight out of St. Thomas to Orlando that made the dreaded San Juan fuel stop, putting several travelers on board in danger of missing their connections in Florida.  And then, this weekend, my sister was stuck at an airport in the states over the weekend with two little ones for multiple hours with a delayed flight.  All of this has got me thinking about ALL of the airport and travel woes going on today.  Not just to and from here, but everyone traveling everywhere!  So, I took some time this morning to take a look at direct flights to and from St. Thomas.  Because, let’s face it, if you can squeeze in a little extra time on either side of your trip down, it might be worth it to skip the unexpected travel delays surrounding your visit to Love City.

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Image courtesy of Born to Rhumb charters

Ok, I want to talk to you all a little bit about how I have always planned my trips in and out of the VI.  After ten years of coming and going between the states and St. John, I have been pretty successful in missing out on those pesky unexpected overnight stays as a result of a missed connection.  Now, granted, employers here on island are generally a bit more gracious with giving time off for trips to the states because, many times, there is some kind of necessity attached to them.  And, the owners of establishments here understand the amount of time it takes to get back and forth.  They have to do the same thing.  So, these tips might work better for those of you who have a little wiggle room on the front and back of your vacation.

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I have never used the Flight Connections App before I stumbled upon it this morning, but I will be adding it to my travel research tactics!  Another good one that I found to day was FlightsFrom.com

Always fly direct.  And if you cannot fly direct, give yourself at least a two hour layover to deal with.  Especially when your layover is in a major airport!

The following airports offer direct flights to St. Thomas for at least some of the year:

  • Miami (Year Round- American Airlines)
  • Fort Lauderdale (Year Round- Spirit)
  • Orlando (Year Round- Spirit, Frontier)
  • Atlanta (Year Round- Delta)
  • Chicago (November-August- United)
  • Charlotte (Year Round – American Airlines)
  • Washington DC (Year Round- United)
  • Philadelphia (11 months a year?  I’m seeing non-stop flights on American Airlines during every month but September)
  • New York City
    • EWR- Year Round – United
    • JFK- Year Round – American, Delta and Jet Blue
  • Boston (Year Round- Jet Blue – Only on Saturdays during the slower months but it looks like daily service starting in December)
  • Minneapolis (Weekends only December to April- American Airlines)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (Saturdays Year Round, more frequent during peak season- American Airlines—> Prices on this one are STEEP!)
  • Houston (November-August – United)
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The direct Dallas flight prices are consistently around $2k!!

Now, with the exception of Dallas, the flights are relatively reasonable for direct flights from most of the above cities.  For example, you can get direct, round trip flights from Charlotte for around $600 during most of the year right now excluding peak holiday travel dates.  From NYC, you can get to and from STT for $300-$600.  When shopping for flights, I always use Google Flights and the Hopper App to cross check prices and dates.  Pro-tip:  NEVER book your flight through an outside app.  Once you have finished your shopping and decided on your airline and dates, go direct to the airline website to book.  IF you get stuck somewhere or your flight is canceled or delayed, you will likely have an easier time dealing with the airline if you bought your flight directly from them.

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Cities with direct flights to and from STT with flight times.

Plan a mini-holiday on either end of your trip.  

Ok, so let’s say that a direct flight just isn’t in the cards for you.  Say, for example, you’re in Denver and heading to STT for a week.  What I typically do in the instance that I am traveling from the USVI to the other side of the country is book two separate flights THROUGH a city that does have direct flights to STT.  Sometimes I stop over in Florida for a night and visit with a friend.  Dinner, drinks and a free polace to crash definitely beats getting stuck in an airport specified hotel in the middle of no where 🙂

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Maybe you could include some fireworks on an extended layover in Orlando? 🙂

This is how it could work for all of you Saturday to Saturday visitors:

  • Flight from Denver to Fort Lauderdale or Orlando on Friday evening and from Florida to Denver on the following Sunday:  Between $200 and $400 on multiple airlines, depending on the time of year.
  •  Flight from Fort Lauderdale to STT round trip Saturday to Saturday:  $200-$500 Round Trip

Ok, so…The FLL/Orlando direct flights ARE on Spirit.  However, with the exception of the seat comfort level, I haven’t had many horrible experiences with budget carriers like Frontier or Spirit on direct flights.  It’s when you put that lil layover in there that things get tricky.

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Pro-Tip: When booking with a budget carrier, always factor in your added bag prices when selecting a flight based on costs. AND avoid layovers!

On the average end of this, cost wise, you are looking at about $600 round trip with a lil warm weather stop over on the way to your final destination.  If you have little ones, this is a great way to break up the trip with a decent meal, a good night’s sleep and a easy travel day en route to your final destination.  Heck, you might even squeeze in a bit of pool time at a hotel or a quick catch up with friends.

Now, this always works for me because I’m diligent about checking flight prices AND I travel light.  It might not be a solution for everyone, but I have saved thousands of dollars on airfare over the past ten years by breaking up my trips like this.  And, probably a handful of missed connections are non-existent in my rear view mirror. 🙂

If you can’t get a direct flight and a stop over on either side of your flight doesn’t work for you, then plan for some flexibility surrounding your travel days.

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Saturday to Saturday travel generally works for most folks.  The kids don’t go back to school until Monday, work can wait just the same.  But, traveling on a Sunday to Sunday flight can be risky when you have things to do bright and early on Monday morning.  I ALWAYS plan to be delayed.  We recently booked flights to Colorado for a few nights of music and a quick catch up with family.  We were planning to fly on a Wednesday with Frontier and a layover in Orlando.  With the window of time with family very short and Frontier with a layover stressing me out, we ended up finding a friend to crash with for a few nights and flying on Monday instead of Wednesday.  So, if we are delayed overnight, we will still arrive a day early on Tuesday 🙂

Let’s face it, although St. John is MUCH more accessible than a lot of tropical travel destinations, we are still in the middle of the ocean.  And when there’s no way to get to where you need to be when you need to be there, you simply need to hurry up and wait.  So, if missing work or school on Monday is going to be a risky situation for your kids’ education or your career, fly home on Friday or Saturday.  And expect delays.  Always.

Be prepared.

As mentioned above, my sister and her family were stuck at the Portland Airport for five hours while waiting for their canceled and then rescheduled flight to Ohio to visit family.  What saved her in that situation with an infant and a seven year old?  She was OVER prepared!  She told me that if she hadn’t had over packed formula, changes of clothes for the kids, diapers, snacks, activities, etc., in her carry-ons….Well, let’s just say that the delay plus travel time would have been MUCH more difficult on the whole family.  So, pack your carryon (personal item) as an overnight bag.  If you have kiddos, be prepared to spend a night without your bag (just in case!).  And, if you don’t, a light change of clothes, toothbrush, flip flops and a bathing suit will get you through at least the first day on island without needing to spend a couple of hundred dollars on tropical climate necessities.

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A change of clothing, flip flops, toiletries and bathing suits for the whole family in your carry ons will get you through your first day at the beach or an unexpected overnight stay.  And don’t forget your travel sized Reef Safe sunscreen!

Let’s face it, air travel today is a PAIN!  The airlines, just like everyone else, are vastly under staffed.  And, on the dawn following the pandemic, everyone and their damn brother was traveling!  These trends may ease up after a bit.  And the merge of Spirit and Jet Blue could shake things up quite a bit in the near future.  But, for now, flying is difficult and calls for flexibility and resiliency…Especially to and from a destination with a small airport, located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

So, book your flights with care and detailed attention.  And, much like we do here on St. John on the daily:  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and know, at the end of the day, you’ll be here and soaking up the sunshine 🙂

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15 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Travel: Flight Tips, Tricks and Trends”

  1. Don’t believe what AA posts about direct flights from PHL. We booked a DIRECT flight in Sept. 2021 for travel this past June. In Feb. 2022 they cancelled the direct flight and put us on connecting flight with a 30 min. layover. That was impossible flying with small children, there was a total of 9 of us. Long story short, they changed our flight 4 times before we traveled. And then lost our luggage between Charlotte and STT. AA stinks….just saying.

  2. I’ve my Spirit reservations foot 2-weeks at Thanksgiving but was only able to book from DFW-STT, but no return flights were listed….anyone know when they will post that schedule???

  3. All great advice. I just want to reiterate what you mentioned recently about giving yourself PLENTY of time leaving St Thomas. We left Cruz on the 12.00 ferry and had about 30 minutes to spare before we boarded today. The customs line was longer than I’ve ever seen it. There were many people panicking because they were about to miss flights. Granted, sometimes you get to the gate in 20 minutes, but sometimes it’s wayyyy longer!

  4. Great info! We have been coming to St. John for over 24 years and have definitely had a few hiccups in our travels. Second trip luggage lost for whole vacation. Luckily we always pack necessities like bathing suit/cover. Learned many ways to wear a sarong beach cover that visit! Ugh! Non stop is a must if possible! Twice stuck in Dulles for over six hours was not fun! One other trick is to always check one way flights. If using miles travel this is great way to score first class and just end up paying for one way of trip if you don’t have enough miles for round trip.
    Always love your articles!

  5. Does anyone know when Spirit will post their flight schedule for late November? We’re going from Dallas for 2 weeks on St. John, Nov. 12-26. I booked one-way because round trip showed no flights back. Any thoughts?

  6. “NEVER book your flight through an outside app.”
    This is EXCELENT advice! I suggest that it also applies to hotels and rental cars. When things to wrong (They eventually will!) and you need to change of cancel your trip, dealing DIRECTLY with the provider is SOOOooooo much easier.

  7. Jet A availability at STT must have still been an issue in June if they were headed to SJU for fuel. STT-MCO is certainly doable even with STT’s shorter runway.

  8. Hello from Massachusetts. Always enjoy reading News of Saint John and we are looking to book for January. Above, it says it looks like Jet Blue might be offering daily nonstop starting in December. Can you share more information about this, when there could be a formal announcement and how sure you are of this. Can’t find anything through Jet Blue of the internet. This would make things much easier!

  9. Booked round trip on spirit from Chicago in late October. They cancelled the entire trip! No options available. Had to scramble to find an affordable flight which was running at a minimum of $1000! Best I could do was on Southwest to San Juan and Cape Air to St Thomas. Air travel for pleasure trips is no longer enjoyable.

  10. Another suggestion: My spouse and I pack 50% in each others suitcase in case 1 of them gets lost. At least that way you have half the stuff you need. We also include a change of clothes in our carry-on in case we get stranded.

  11. HA! Try getting flights in/out of St. Croix. Very limited and expensive, often changed or cancelled. Could fly out of STT if seaplane didn’t have such ridiculous prices. Ah, life in Paradise…..

  12. Better yet, travel with only carry on. Book early, even if not sure of exact dates. Most airlines don’t charge penalties now (may get a voucher, but no $100-$150 cancellation fee. Stay on St. Thomas for one night (from $100) in case your flight gets delayed.

  13. AA only flies non-stop to PHL during the winter. Starting ~about~ April 1 AA goes to Saturday only non-stop service to PHL, and this Saturday only non-stop service continues to November. Daily non-stop service PHL-STT resumes one week before Thanksgiving.

    In the past when AA offered non-stop service on the weekdays and then eliminated that service, people who had boooked on the npon-stop were transfered to connnecting flights. That’s what happened to commentor Terry J, above. She could have rebooked a non-stop on a Saturday, if she were flexible.

  14. A few tips from a frequent visitor:

    Cheryl’s advice above about Cape Air from San Juan to STT may be a lifesaver… I jumped on once or twice when I missed my connection due to a late arrival in San Juan via JetBlue… You have to move fast… Seats are limited as the aircraft is small.

    Also: If you are checking luggage when going on a beach vacation, you are doing it all wrong. I do carry-on everywhere… Including Europe.

  15. So…a day or two after I wrote (on Aug 6, above) that AA’s daily seasonal non-stop service from PHL resumes in November – they changed it! lol. AA’s seasonal daily non-stop service from PHL to STT now resumes mid December. Until then AA offers non-stop service PHL-STT only on Saturdays. We had to change a reservation because of this, moving a flight from a Thursday to a Saturday, but because it was for a snowbird who will be on island for 5 months it wasn’t a big deal.

    In sum, AA offers non-stop service from PHL to STT year round on Saturdays ONLY. Daily non-stop service from PHL to STT isavailable December 15 – April 3.

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