Our little family spent New Year’s Eve reminiscing & flipping through photos from 2016. As Josh and I looked back on the year, we both agreed that our family trip to Turks and Caicos was our travel highlight.
We visited Turks and Caicos (T&C) in March during Josh’s HLS Spring Break. Accommodations and food are pricey on Turks and Caicos, so we tried to budget our trip carefully.
Before I forget all the details of our trip (I have a terrible memory so that’ll probably happen any day now…) I thought I’d share some tips on how to save money if you ever visit T&C and some pictures from our favorite adventures on the island!
1. Use Google Flights to find cheap flights
During December last year, we couldn’t stop dreaming about the beach. Josh was stuck in the library studying for finals, and Winston and I were trudging a mile each way through the wind and snow just to get to the grocery store. We gave into the temptation and started to check Google Flights for cheap/convenient flights to the Caribbean.
For our search, we adjusted for flights costing under $400 and the dates we could travel. Then we just searched around to see what was available. We weren’t too picky, we just wanted to go somewhere warm with nice beaches. We found affordable flights to a few different islands (T&C, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, etc). We picked some of our favorite locations and tracked the flights so we would receive alerts if the prices went up or down.
After a few weeks of searching/tracking, we purchased flights from Boston to Providenciales for $330 a piece for Josh and I and $30 for Winston (about $700 total). I definitely recommend using Google’s search tool whenever you’re planning travel.
2. Look for alternatives to the expensive resorts/hotels (but exercise caution 😛…)
Most of the hotels on T&C were way above our budget, so we hopped on AirBnB to search for more affordable accommodations. We ended up booking a small, modest studio close to the beach. It looked like it would suit our needs, and it even had good reviews!
Unfortunately (lest you thought all the Craddock family travels were seamless and luxurious…) we discovered shortly after we arrived that the apartment had a minor roach infestation. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I’ll spare you the details about how we found this out. We also heard a rat crawling around in the ceiling above our apartment. Needless to say, I did not sleep at all that night.
The next morning, I requested (err… demanded) that we find other accommodations. Josh is a wonderful husband, and even though he thought it “wasn’t that bad” he did some research/calling around and found us a wonderful place to stay for the rest of our vacation. This increased our spending on accommodations, but we still only paid $100/night, or about $600 total. Most of the resorts on the island cost about double that or more per night.
3. Grocery shop and make/pack some of your meals
Even though our first apartment was a nightmare (at least I’m pretty sure I’ve had that nightmare before!), the host was really nice. He picked us up at the airport and offered to take us to the grocery store to pick up some food for the week. At the store, we picked up supplies for breakfast at the apartment, lunch on the beach, and a few at-home dinners. Making/packing some of our meals saved us a significant amount of money.
We also find that it’s nice if we don’t have to go out to eat every night or get out of the apartment early in the morning for breakfast, especially when we’re traveling with a toddler. And who wants to leave the beach in the middle of the day to get lunch?? Not us!
4. Consider alternatives to renting a car
Shortly after we booked our flights, we found out that it would be virtually impossible for us to rent a car on T&C. The island has some weird insurance/safety laws, so most rental places won’t rent to anyone under the age of 25.
I did some research and found out that we could rent bikes to get around the island. This little hiccup in our planning ended up making our trip more adventurous, significantly cheaper, and definitely more athletic!
We rented Josh’s bike through Caicos Wheels because they had toddler seats. That bike cost $132.00 for the week. We rented my bike through a cheaper place called Scooter Bob’s. That bike only cost $72.00 for the week. Overall, our transportation total came to $204 (vs. $600-$800 we would have paid for a rental car).
Winston loved riding around in his little bike seat, and Josh and I enjoyed seeing more of the sights than we would have just driving by – and we got a good workout to boot!
5. Bring your own tent (especially if you’re taking a toddler)
We purchased this beach tent and used it throughout our trip. It’s lightweight and easy to set up. The beaches on T&C aren’t very crowded and we didn’t have any problem finding a place to set up our tent. We spent a lot of time at the beach, so it was great to have some shade for Winston. Winston would also take naps in the tent every afternoon.
6. Take a boat cruise to Pine Cay
This won’t save you any money, but it’s so worth it!! We took a cruise with Sun Charters on the beautiful Atabeyra sail boat. It was the highlight of our trip.
We sailed out to the Barrier Reef, where Josh and I took turns snorkeling and hanging out on the boat with Winston. We saw some beautiful fish and coral.
After we snorkeled for a while, we sailed to Pine Cay (one of the smaller, mostly uninhabited islands of T&C). We stopped at a beautiful deserted beach with an amazing sand bar. We walked hundreds of yards out into the ocean in crystal clear turquoise water. SO AMAZING. I want to go back to T&C just to see this beach again. We could have spent all day there… or our whole vacation… or a whole year.
Sadly we lost most of our photos from that day because we only brought my phone and my phone went swimming with turtles in Barbados a month after our trip to Turks and Caicos, so we only have our photos from Instagram. 😦 😦 😦
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We biked 14 miles and took a sailboat to get to this amazing beach and sandbar, but it was definitely (definitely!) worth it. Seriously one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life. 🏝 (P.S. Thanks to Turks and Caicos' no renting cars to people under 25 rule, I'm building my tan and toning my legs at the same time. We've biked up and down this island, and I've got to say, I almost don't miss having a car! 🚲) #pinecay #turksandcaicos #familyvacation #islandlife
(NOTE: if you are biking instead of renting a car, the boat leaves from the very far side of the island near Blue Haven Marina, which was a 7 mile bike ride from Turtle Cove. So leave plenty of time to get there.)
7. Explore different beaches on the island
The beaches on T&C are amazing, so plan to spend lots of time at the beach. We explored a few different beaches, and we liked getting to see different parts of the island. Here are some of our favorites!
Grace Bay Beach:
Grace Bay is consistently ranked one of the best beaches in the world. The water is crystal clear, the sand is soft and white, and the waves roll in gently. We spent two full days here.
Bight Beach is the closest to Turtle Cove, so we went down there for our first evening and second day in Turks and Caicos. It’s less crowded than Grace Bay because there aren’t any resorts on the shore, but the beach descends a little steeper into the water in places.
Smith’s Reef is a small, secluded beach near Turtle Cove. It’s a great place to do some snorkeling close to the shore. Winston loved exploring the rock formations! We were the only people there for most of the day, which was nice.
Sapodilla Bay Beach:
Sapodilla Bay is a small beach on the south coast of the island. It is known for its gentle waves and shallow water, which make it very child friendly. The water wasn’t quite as clear as it is at some of the other beaches on the island, but we still had a great time.
While we were over by Sapodilla Bay, we also went kayaking in Chalk Sound. It was so beautiful!
8. Eat yummy food and explore the island
Thursday Night Fish Fry
Every Thursday night there is a “fish fry” on the beach in Grace Bay West. We happened to be biking by and saw it going on. We stopped to get some beverages and do some shopping from local venders. We loved the coconut water with rum, it was yummy + adorable. 😛
da Conch Shack
da Conch Shack is a fun beachside restaurant and bar that serves conch in every way you could possibly imagine. We got fried conch and conch salad, and both were delicious. We got to watch the sunset and sip on some fun rum beverages. It was just what we needed after a long day biking from Turtle Cove to the south side of the island. We also got to snap some sweaty and freckly sunset selfies on the beach.
9. Take pictures of your toddler
This isn’t really advice 😛 I just wanted to share these cute chubby happy toddler photos because gosh I just love him so much and I want to remember this!!