Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Getting There

The Eastern Caribbean is a wonderful holiday destination. Our family prefers it to any other place available to us. In fact, for us the further east in the Caribbean island chain the better. However, the further east you go, the more difficult it can be to arrange travel from the United States. That's not to suggest that it's impossibly hard. It's just challenging for most novice Caribbean travelers.

One option is to call your local travel agent. Unfortunately, we have learned that when it comes to the Eastern Caribbean, our own travel experience is usually more extensive than that of the affordable travel agent.

Since this blog is all about our family's return trip to Carriacou, we will concentrate on that destination. However, some of these travel points apply just as well to other Caribbean locations.

Another important point regarding this particular post is that our family's travel begins in the United States. Travel to the Eastern Caribbean starting from other locations such as Europe and South America may require drastically different plans.

There are many travel options if Carriacou is your final destination. The challenge is finding a balance between travel time and cost, as they are directly related. Typically, the faster you want to get there, the higher the cost!

Let's start with travel time. If your holiday is luxuriously long and you are in no hurry to reach Carriacou, you can have a wonderfully adventurous and economic trip to the island through a number of great locales. For example, start with a direct flight from the eastern United States to the island of Dominica and meander your way south on passenger ferries and mail boats through the Grenadines until you reach Carriacou. Ah! I only wish that I had that much time.

For those with less time to travel, you can catch a flight to Grenada through Puerto Rico or other popular Caribbean destination, and then ride a passenger ferry to Carriacou. A greatly affordable option. However, it can be very difficult to arrange this travel to fit within a one-day schedule. The flights do not get to Grenada in time to catch the last ferry to Carriacou, which means that this option requires you to have an overnight stay in Grenada. That's not all bad. Grenada is a wonderful island and a joy to visit. Many travelers with Carriacou as a final destination purposely spend a few days on Grenada on both ends of their trip.

For some travelers, one challenge with this option is the ferry ride to Carriacou. There is a fast ferry and a slow ferry. In reality they both require a pretty long ride across some bumpy seas. If you are one of those who does not do well on a long boat ride, think twice.

You can catch a small, inter-island plane from Grenada to Carriacou. A great option for those who like to avoid the long ferry ride. Again, commercial flight schedules to Grenada make it very difficult to get to Carriacou in one day from the United States mainland using this option.

Our family greatly values our holiday time on Carriacou. Therefore, we would really rather get there in one day (no offense to our friends on Grenada!). One way to get to Carriacou from the United States in one day is through Barbados. Of course this somewhat depends on where in the United States you are starting from. This option works for most starting locations east of the Mississippi River.

There are direct flights to Barbados from several East Coast airports, including New York and Miami. If you can get to one of these airports by mid-morning, you can catch a flight to Barbados that will get you there just a little after lunch time.

Okay. It's now the early afternoon and you are in Barbados. How do you get to Carriacou before the day is over? Look for commercial inter-island flights. If your group has four or more travelers, you may find it economical to charter your own plane for the trip. This option can find you on Carriacou before 3:00 p.m. That's early enough to catch some serious beach time before sunset.

With the introduction of a Barbados-based inter-island airline, West Indies Executive Air (westindiesexecutiveair.com) is the only official option for private air charters from Barbados to Carriacou. There are other ways to introduce some competition in the mix though. SVG Air (svgair.com) and Mustique Airways (mustique.com) offer private air charters from Barbados to the Grenadines and other Eastern Caribbean destinations. These two airlines cannot fly directly from Barbados to Carriacou, but there doesn't appear to be anything stopping them from taking your party from Barbados to say... Union Island... then to Carriacou. If you shop carefully, you may be able to piece together a flight plan that is timely and economical. The lesson here is to think creatively!

Are we there yet?