Flight: I had a Spirit Rewards Mastercard and a bunch of bonus points for signing up. They are very specific about peak times to maximize using your points. I printed out the matrix for places they fly and the points required, and then I searched their calendar for available flights. It just so happened that Tampa to St. Thomas would be 5,000 points + $15 in fees one way, and that I could get a flight out on a Saturday and back on a Tuesday. When I used Google Flights to find the cost, it was coming in at over $400. Needless to say, I booked.
Lodging: I searched for AirBnBs and only one came up, but it was $50 a night and looked gorgeous. Done.
Transportation: I used Hotwire to find a good deal for a rental car in St. Thomas. I was on the fence between renting a car and using taxis, but my AirBnB host recommended having a car to explore. I was definitely glad I did!I lined up a friend a week before my trip to drop me off and then pick me up again from the airport. Then early in the week, I was unfortunately hit in my car while going to buy my new TV for my AirBnB guests. I hit my head on the seat and was briefly in the hospital with post-concussion syndrome, but thedoctor said I was still allowed to go on the trip as long as I promised to rest. It made me extra thankful for this experience! I made a point to get a rental car from the airport since my car would be in the shop for at least a month. I dropped it off before my flight out – yay free parking! There was no use paying for a rental car when I wasn’t even in the country. When I returned home, I got another rental car.
Food: I went to Publix before my trip and bought bread to make peanut butter sandwiches. (You can’t bring a jar of peanut butter on the plane. You have to make the sandwiches beforehand, but can tuck them right back into the sandwich bag. No need to individually wrap. I just make sandwiches out of the whole loaf of bread.) I also bought some crackers. I had some snacks at home already, too. (Apples, granola bars, chips, pretzels.) While I was there, I grabbed a couple groceries for dinner/spa night while I was at the pharmacy.
I had a connection in Fort Lauderdale so it was a bit of a long day traveling. Seeing the mountains in St. Thomas while I was flying in was amazing, though. I had some problems with obtaining my new rental car, so it was late when I got to my AirBnB. I wasn’t worrying about dinner since I had food with, but what a happy surprise when my host offered to cook me a delicious local dinner. They even cooked me breakfast the next morning.
My first stop was Magens Bay. I spent the morning enjoying the beach. I collected sand and a couple shells and rocks, swam in the water, and checked out the tourist shop. I ate a sandwich at the picnic tables. Then I drove up to the Mountain Top, which is the highest point in St. Thomas. It is free to drive up yourself and walk around, and I enjoyed buying a couple gifts in the tourist shop. It was a gorgeous day and I could see out for miles. I got a famous (virgin) banana daiquiri, too. Then I drove all the way out to the Bordeaux Farmers Market and browsed for an hour. I was allowed to sample some goods, like fresh honey, and I enjoyed watching a local band. I was feeling pretty tired, and was under doctors’ orders to get some rest, so I stopped at Walgreens for some groceries, ice cream, and “spa night” supplies and had a night in.
The next morning, I was up extra early. I ate breakfast before I left and packed some snacks. Then I drove down to the Red Hook area and took the ferry from St. Thomas over to St. John. The ride was gorgeous. I walked the half hour out to Honeymoon Beach, which actually turned out to be a lovely hike through the woods. I spent the rest of the morning enjoying the sunshine, and grabbed a bag of sand and some rocks to bring home. Then I walked back down to the market, found an outdoor bar for lunch, and wandered around for a couple hours through the shops. I found a couple more gifts (Christmas is around the corner!). Then I took the ferry back to St. Thomas. I drove around the southern part of the island. It was very powerful to see the “inner city” area, and to see how people live. I went back to my room in the early evening so I could get some rest.
I was up early the next day to eat and pack up. My host appreciated the beach towel I left behind. I drove out to Coral World, where I was able to walk down into a tunnel below the water to see out into the reef. It was a small park so I was able to get up close and personal with all the animals and had front row seats for the feedings, talking with trainers and conservationists, etc. including asking them about the reef and conservation efforts. I had a sandwich and the last of my snacks for lunch on my way to Charlotte Amalie, where I did a last little bit of shopping and walking around. Then I went back to drop off my rental car and head back up to Florida.
The most impactful part of the trip was driving around the island and learning about how the Islanders live. The beachside homes and resorts are a huge contrast. Seeing the metal shacks, one can only wonder how they would survive a hurricane. I came home feeling more thankful for what I have and for the opportunities I’ve seized.
These are experiences you won’t get by sitting in a hotel or resort all day. These experiences are real, tangible, life changing, and worth every penny.