My friend sent me a text, "Hey...any interest in going to Barbados for my 40th Birthday party?"
I had been trying to save money lately, since I have to deal with the whole new car thing that is coming up for work. But...I kinda needed a vacation. I really haven't been on a real vacation since my quick trip to Costa Rica in 2014 with the Hoboken Crossfit gang.
My friend Clarie already rented an AirBnB in Barbados, which was 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and $180 a night. She was staying for 9 nights, so total cost was $1620 for the condo...which had 3 bedrooms, or $540 for basically 10 days/9 nights. Was it a four star hotel...no. But if you check out the pictures, it was decent enough, plus had a kitchen, so you could make your own meals if you wanted (across the street was a market).
I was only going for 5 nights, so I would pay $300. That's not bad.
Then I had to consider airfare. Last year I got the Capital One Venture card. 2x miles for every purchase, and 40,000 miles when you sign up. I use my card for most purchases & bills, so the miles really add up fast. I used Capital One's website to book the airfare from JFK to Barbados, which was about 55,000 miles. So this ticket was free, essentially. I paid an extra $80 each way for the extra leg room seats. Totally and utterly worth it when you are 6'4 like me. Plus, since the tickets were free, paying $160 for tickets to a sunny beach sounded like a deal.
Well...$160 for airfare...$300 for room/board...what about Rocco??
Fortunately he is a popular pup, and I had a nice friend take care of him for the trip - for free. Many thanks to Bonnie, who adores Rocco, and I was kept up-to-date with many Rocco pictures of their adventures together.
Getting to the airport for the 8am flight on Wednesday was a bit of a hitch, but my plan was to take the PATH train to Christopher Street, then grab a yellow cab which have flat rate prices to JFK for $53, rather than pay for the tunnel toll and a cab - or use Uber. I'm a big fan of Uber, but when I woke up at 6am, they had no cars available. I saved some extra money doing this, and it worked out fine.
Barbados was, in a word, great. I highly encourage people to look into trying Barbados, especially since the direct flight was only 4 hours. JetBlue rocks, I watched Star Wars & Creed flying back.
WiFi is in use everywhere on the island, most stores, shops, and restaurants have WiFi so you are "always connected". The AirBnB had a WiFi router, full cable, and I was able to watch Villanova play basketball on Miami's FOX station.
The picture above was my view from the AirBnB balcony. Barbados has very lax laws. You can drink anywhere. On the beach. In a car. Driving a car (I don't encourage that, we took taxis). But if you are going out taking a "road soda" didn't matter.
As a cigar smoker, I liked how you could basically smoke anywhere - except in restaurants or other enclosed places. I was able to get about 5 different Cuban cigars and enjoy myself with a cigar on the beach - something that NJ has banned. It was glorious to sit on the beach, drink a beer, smoke a stogie and just stare at the blue ocean.
Snorkeling was great, highly recommend you bring snorkel gear. I was able to see sea turtles on my 2nd to last day and swim with them.
Also to save time I only brought a carry-on bag with my clothes. They had a washing machine at the AirBnB, so I would just use that to wash my clothes to save space on packing.
We were able to golf while there, and we rented clubs. Did a tour of the Mount Gay Rum distillery. Hit the Oistins Fish Fry. Went out to a few restaurants, including Lone Star Restaurant, Nishi and The Lobster Pot. We went to Nishi twice because it was so good.
Crime is pretty low there, but we did witness a thief steal someone's purse. If you are "city-savvy" you should be fine.
Getting around Barbados is mostly from taxi drivers or you can use the Reggae Buses. The Reggae Buses are not for older (read: fussy) folks. You have to be kind of laid back to take those, but they are like the NYC subway - very cheap and easy to get around the island. All taxi drivers can be negotiated. I didn't quite realize that until the end, and we found a very good driver to use there, who was a nice kid.
Other things to know is that the islands electricity is the same as the U.S. - so no need for converters. Also their water is pure and clean, so you don't have to worry about drinking water or ice usage there like you do in Mexico or Costa Rica.
The Zika virus has been a concern for many Caribbean nations, and the CDC did report some activity on the island, but its extremely low. During the day we wore Off bug spray and each bed had a mosquito net to sleep under at night. I didn't consider it to be enough of a concern to stop me from going here.
If I had to buy "one" thing at the duty free when I visit, it would be Mount Gay 1703. It drinks like a good scotch. Even the Mount Gay XO is worth buying. These are not rums you add to coca-cola! If you want that, get the Mount Gay Black Barrel or even Eclipse.
I can't stress enough this one thing - eat fish if you visit here. I don't often eat a lot of fish, I mostly like sushi and rarely order grilled fish at restaurants in NYC. I'd rather order something else. In Barbados, it's like the freshest, tastiest food on Earth because you are basically eating fish caught about 4 hours ago, not something that's been flash frozen, put on an airplane and sitting in a freezer for a couple of days. If I lived in Barbados I would be eating fish 3-4 days a week. On my trip I only ordered fish and loved trying fishes that I never/rarely had before like flying fish, kingfish or blue marlin.
I said it before but everyone there is extremely friendly. Not just store owners, but everyone. They very much take pride in their island and enjoy tourists. I only met one sour person on the island and I told other Bajans (people from Barbados are called Bajan) about him and they said, "No, no. He can't be one of us. He was a tourist."
Barbados was one of the few places where I felt like I needed to go again. Much like my semester living abroad in Florence made me fall in love with Tuscany (and three visits back again!) - having this trip to Barbados made me wonder...why aren't more Americans going here?
If you are looking for a cheap getaway, with nice people and absoultely stunning beach views - Barbados is where it's at.