Johanna Jainchill, Travel Weekly's destinations editor, is in St. Barts, exploring the island and staying in two hotels and one villa. Her first dispatch follows.
Sometimes the stars align perfectly, and against most odds, travel becomes almost too easy. My experience getting to St. Barts from New York, between two storms, was one of those times.
Winter doesn’t officially start until December, but weather doesn’t follow the Gregorian calendar. So when a nasty nor’easter was forecast to descend upon New York, the night before my flight to San Juan, I knew I could be in trouble.
Even if the flight wasn’t canceled, I had a two-hour window to catch the flight to St. Barts, and the next flight wasn't leaving until the next day.
Living in the northeast, I’m familiar with the wrath that weather can have on even the best-planned vacations. Not many people know that several airlines, JetBlue among them, often let travelers change their flights for free if a storm is approaching.
Ultimately, the airlines would rather have you fly than not, and are more apt now to cancel flights than bear the bad press of passengers sitting for hours in airports, or much worse, on the tarmac, waiting out weather delays.
That’s exactly what JetBlue did this week. When news of the impending nor’easter broke, they waived their $100 change fee for anyone traveling around the time of the storm. So last Monday night, we decided to change my flight to Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. instead of Thursday at 7 a.m.
It also turns out that the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino has last-minute rooms for under $200. The property was a perfect place to spend the day in San Juan — not only because it’s right on the beach and is walking distance to several great restaurants in the trendy Condado neighborhood. The property also is a seven-minute drive from the airport and has excellent WiFi.
Sure enough, by Wednesday afternoon I was working away on my laptop at the Marriott, enjoying the ocean views, while more than a thousand flights were canceled out of the New York area.
So for less than $200 in hotel and taxi fees, a trip to St. Barts worth thousands of dollars can be saved. In fact, we were able to extend our stay in St. Barts by a few hours because the friendly and flexible staff at TradeWind Aviation, the small-plane operator that flies from San Juan to St Barts, had no problem changing my flight from Thursday afternoon to Thursday morning at 8 a.m. Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.