It’s been a while since I’ve written a personal post, but I went on an amazing trip with my girlfriends this summer and I wanted to document it as there aren’t a lot of resources on the internet for budget-friendly Caribbean weekend girls getaways (a.k.a. RVA Momcation 2014). Trust me–I scoured the internet when I was planning ours.
Sure, there are a ton of all-inclusive packages out there if that’s your thing, but we wanted something that would be more private and allow us to explore an island instead of just staying put on a resort. [i.e. The resorts in our price range offered the culinary prowess of a Golden Corral and were about as deserted as the Water Country wave pool on the hottest day in the summer.]
Before we started planning, we made a list of several criteria that I we all agreed on:
2) Private villa with pool (infinity pool would be a +)
3) Not all-inclusive resort–we wanted privacy and to explore the island
4) Lodging at or below $100/person/night
5) Wednesday-Sunday trip
6) Flight schedules that would allow us to log beach time on Wednesday and Sunday
Once we had this list, I actually contacted a travel agent and she told me it would be impossible to find this within our budget. Challenge accepted!
With the help of my super savvy travel buddy Anne Shaffer, we accomplished every goal (except for the infinity pool). We definitely did not stay at the Ritz Carlton (there may have been an element of glamping involved), but we had the most amazing time, our own stretch of Grace Bay Beach (often voted the best in the Caribbean), and a private pool all to ourselves. If you are planning a girls trip and have similar criteria, here are the steps I recommend you follow and the overview of our trip.
Step One: Flight Times and Airfare
After taking a look at flight times from Richmond, VA, to the Caribbean, we were able to narrow our search down to four islands: Barbados, Turks and Caicos, Curacao, and St. Maarten. Arrival times ranged between 1 p.m.-3 p.m. for each destination and there were late afternoon return flights on Sunday. The prices were also on the lower end–between $600-$700. By far, airfare was the largest expense of the trip.
Step Two: Lodging
Finding a place to stay was the most difficult step as we wanted a private beachfront villa with an infinity pool. We were also on a budget of $100/person/night or less and were only staying for four nights. The biggest obstacle was the four night minimum–most villas want you to stay at least five nights and almost half require a seven night minimum (I didn’t perform a statistical analysis, but it felt like half in my gut and I’m trying to sound like an authority on the subject).
I recommend trying to negotiate with the villa owners. Some of them will be flexible and let you stay for four nights even if their listing states 5-7 nights. You may have more luck with this strategy if you’re booking closer to your travel dates and they don’t think they’ll be able to book it for a whole week.
We used resources such as AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway during our search. We ultimately decided on Villa Camilla in Provo, Turks and Caicos. We got everything we wanted except for the infinity pool. Not complaining, though…the pool was pretty awesome and very private.
We did feel a little gypped as the house only had a partial fourth wall, but, it wasn’t on our list of criteria, so we really couldn’t complain. The bars were very secure and the screen kept out the bugs. A few lizards still found their way in, but they were of the friendly variety.
The location of the villa couldn’t have been more ideal. We had our own private stretch of Grace Bay Beach to ourselves, and we were also in between several boutique resorts: The Beach House and The Gansevoort were to our left and Coral Gardens was directly on our right. (So close that we could access their WiFi on the beach for FaceTime with our children. Score!
I was concerned about the walk to the beach as you can’t really tell how far it is in the pictures. When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. It was honestly about the same distance as being in a beachfront house in Nags Head, however, instead of a walk over the dunes on a wooden boardwalk, it’s a thirty second meander down a flat path through tropical foliage.
We took a tour of The Beach House on the last day, and they said we could have sat on their beach chairs every day and ordered drinks if we would have asked…
Their comfy beach loungers and umbrellas are pictured above. Too bad we found that out on our last day! I don’t think we would have done it every day, but one day of pampering would have been nice. For all future travelers to Villa Camilla–use these chairs at least one day!
Step Three: Final Prep
We wanted to take care of as much as we could before arriving to the island in order to maximize time resting and relaxing on the beach. Our villa contact recommended a car rental agency and a grocery shopping service…
Driving in Turks and Caicos
I strongly advise renting a car on Turks and Caicos so that you can explore. There are several awesome restaurants and sites you won’t want to miss. The Turks and Caicos airport was very small and easy to navigate so picking up our car, Noah, was a breeze. Using Noah’s radio which was all in Japanese–not so much.
[There’s Noah at Da Conch Shack. He almost rolled into the ocean as I forgot to put him in park. Sorry, Noah!]
They do drive on the opposite side of the road in Turks and Caicos, so keep that in mind. Fortunately, there weren’t many people on the roads, so we were able to navigate fairly easily. Our only driving issue was mixing up the windshield wipers with the turn signals as they were on the opposite sides of the steering wheel than in the U.S. When I returned home, I was so used to the positioning of them being switched that for a solid week I mixed them up again. Not really an important detail of the trip, but I want you guys to be prepared for the mayhem that will ensue when you go to turn left and your wipers scare the living daylights out of you.
Most Important Tip // Don’t Waste a Minute of Your Beach Time at the Grocery Store!
The house was a ten minute drive from the airport, and it was so nice to have groceries waiting for us when we arrived. We quickly whipped up some snacks and rum punch (recipe courtesy of Villa Camilla’s owners) and hit the beach by 3:30 p.m.
Our grocery order consisted of food for breakfast, lunch, and a few snacks. There was a delivery charge and a 10% up-charge on the groceries, however, I think it was well worth the convenience. It would have probably taken someone 2-3 hours to find the grocery store, do the shopping, and return. And, who was going to do it? It wouldn’t have made sense for all six of us to go, but I don’t think any of us wanted to be the losers at the store while every else was hanging out on one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. I know I wasn’t planning on volunteering.
Turks and Caicos Itinerary
I was the self-appointed cruise director on this trip. I’m super lucky my friends trust me and are happy to let me plan the meals/activities. Here’s what I recommend for a Wednesday-Sunday itinerary if you are staying at Villa Camilla in Provo, Turks and Caicos, or nearby.
Day One // Wednesday
Afternoon- Snacks and rum punch on the beach, finish up with a dip in the pool (continue this step every day in between all of the other scheduled events).
Evening- Walk next door for dinner at Somewhere (We highly recommend the fish tacos.)
Day Two // Thursday
Day- Beach and pool
Evening- Walk down the beach for dinner at the Fish Fry around 5:30 p.m. We didn’t get to go as it was stormed out when we were there, but we heard from everyone that it is a must! We’ll just have to go back.
Late Night – Karaoke at Danny Buoy’s (There is also a hot wing challenge if you are the hot wing challenge type. I tried my best, but I left two drum sticks on the table. Next time I will get my shirt!)
Day Three // Food-day Friday
Lunch- Da Conch Shack [Listed in the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. Check!]
Cocktail Hour- Infinity Bar at the Grace Bay Club
Dinner- Coco Bistro (make reservations several weeks in advance!)
Late Night – If you’re still awake (we weren’t), walk down to Club Stelle from Villa Camilla at the Gansevoort when you return from dinner.
Day Four // Saturday
Half day snorkel tour with Island Vibes!!!! This was the most fun day of the trip and we almost backed out last-minute because we were so tired from the day before.
To start, the boat picks you up right in front of Coral Gardens next door so you don’t have to drive anywhere. The tour begins with a short boat ride and then about thirty minutes of snorkeling. Next stop…an uninhabited island where you are served bottomless rum punch, fresh conch ceviche, and Doritos. You can explore the island and have a Swiss Family Robinson moment if you like, or you can just hang on the beach or on the boat. We saw a little reef shark while we were there. While I had a little bit of a Jaws moment inside my head and decided someone was going to have to carry me back to the boat which involved just about three steps in one foot of clear blue ocean water, one of the moms sent her five-year old son out with his snorkel gear to examine it. I obviously need to brush up on my shark factoids. Great whites=missing limbs. Reef sharks=toddler toys.
Once everyone gets back on the boat, you will ride back out to sea and anchor down where, if your mates are cool enough, the dance party circa 1990 begins. There is also a chance to jump off of the boat’s diving board, which was an awesome rush. Not sure the bottomless rum punch, rocky seas, and a diving board are a great combo, but all of our mates made it back home safely. There were a few moments when I was worried for our lady friends from Jersey, though.
Snag a seat on top of the boat at the beginning and pretend like you’re Beyoncé, on your own private yacht.
Photo Source–That’s not us, but I don’t have a picture of this part.
Day Five // Sunday
Walk on the beach, relax by the pool…
I highly recommend Turks and Caicos for a relaxing girls trip or a family vacation. The island is very small and not very built up, so it’s easy to navigate and we felt very safe. If you have any questions about planning your trip, feel free to email me. Here are some of the resources we used when researching our trip…