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.
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.
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)
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂