When we started this blog and journey, we signed up for numerous discount travel sites, like Scott’s Cheap Flights. I’ve been looking like a hawk for somewhere that we have never visited and would be affordable for 3 people. A bonus would be a place in our travel budget at about $1000 total, where we could stay for 5 to 7 days, at around $200 per night.
In our Ready Set… post, we talked about making a travel plan and going for it. And we did! As LaShon said, St. Kitts was on her list and we searched for flight deals, but none were available for April. (The month of April is a key travel time for us because we’re pre-empty nesters – our 17 year old is still in school but has a break in April.)
I got a vibration notification on my phone – it was Scott’s with a deal to Aruba. I know Aruba is not St. Kitts, but it was on the short list for our destination wedding 20 years ago, so I knew LaShon would be happy with it.
Aruba is an island in the Caribbean Sea about 15 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. It’s part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is about 20 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point. The weather is a constant 81° Fahrenheit year-round. The southwest side of the island has white sand beaches and turquoise seas with warm water. (Yes – goodbye cold weather!) Aruba is the “A” of the ABC Islands with Bonaire and Curacao. One great thing is the ABC Islands are outside of the Caribbean hurricane belt so you don’t have to worry about a hurricane messing with your travel plans. Aruba’s currency is the Florin (Awg), but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted along with major credit cards. Aruba uses 120v at 60Hz for electricity, which is the same as the U.S. Aruba is on Atlantic standard time – the same as Eastern Daylight Saving time all year.
Plane tickets from Atlanta to Aruba, roundtrip, are normally in the $600 range. The alert discovered these tickets for $200-$300, with availability in the spring. For the week that we could travel, tickets from Atlanta (ATL) to Aruba (AUA) were about $490 per ticket, but changing the departure airport lowered the price. The cheapest flight for us was out of Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) – a 9 hour drive from Atlanta – for $282 a ticket. That’s half price. Some might say 9 hours, damn, but driving doesn’t bother me. A tank and a half of gas is cheaper than 3 round-trip tickets to FLL. Now, if a flight sale happens between now and when we leave, I wouldn’t be adverse to buying tickets to Ft. Lauderdale.
I called LaShon and told her what I had found and she said let’s do it. The flights were on JetBlue, which I have never flown, but have heard good things about. Scott’s uses Google Flight to find the deal. When you find a flight you like, click the link and it takes you to the corresponding airline. It took me to JetBlue’s website and I purchased each ticket for $282. After conducting lots of research and following the advice of several travel bloggers I trust, I also bought travel insurance for $26 per ticket.
But wait there’s more!
I love my kids, but I long for the day when LaShon and I can travel as a couple again. We are pre-empty nesters so I was a little salty about having to buy 3 tickets. The women in my life are close so what happened next didn’t surprise me. The night I bought the tickets, LaShon said we should ask Daija (our oldest daughter who lives in North Carolina) if she wanted to go, too. And then when I told Charly about the trip, she asked if her sister was going. (When the 3 of us visited Turks and Caicos, Charly announced that she hated traveling with “old” people. We still don’t know who she was talking about…) So you know what I had to do – go back online to see if I could score the same ticket. Luckily for us, the sale was still on and I scored the same ticket price ($282 + $26) and got Daija in the same row across the aisle from us. We pretty much stayed close to our budget of $1000 for flights, only going over by $200.
A little more about the tickets
I purchased the base flight on JetBlue which means checked bags are not included and we have to pay extra for premium seat choices. I have told everyone that we are not checking bags and to only pack a carry-on bag. It’s the beach, so shorts, t-shirts, and swimsuits. Cheap flights can be found on larger airlines, Delta and American, or low-cost airlines like JetBlue and Southwest. When booking with lower-fare airlines, be sure to read the fine print. The ticket prices are great but you may be charged for things on their flights that are normally included in the ticket price of the larger airlines. Think of lower-fare airlines like an à la carte menu – you want refreshments on the plane (even water), that’s a charge. Check a bag, that’s a charge. Breathe the air, that’s a charge – well, it’s not that bad, but make sure you know the lay of the land before you book. Also, one thing about discount carriers is they don’t have the fleet size that the bigger airlines have so if you have a maintenance issue with a plane or weather issues, they can’t offer many options for getting you were you need to be, so be flexible. As I say to myself, pack your patience when you fly. Traveling can be stressful if you let it, so woo-sah and travel on!
Now with the destination decided and airfare booked, the search for a place to stay is next. If you’ve visited Aruba, where should we stay?