As I sit here on a cool raining evening in New York, it's hard not to let my mind wander to sunny beaches, swaying palm trees, warm Caribbean water, soothing music and Jamaican Rum. Fall is upon us and that means it's time to start planning your autumn or winter escape to an island hot spot, and Jamaica fits the bill perfectly -- close by, affordable and fun.
Although some visitors choose to stay at boutique hotels and smaller resorts, Jamaica is synonymous with large all-inclusive branded resorts and super clubs like Sandals, Breezes, Hedonism, Couples and Beaches. Then there are the family specialty resorts like Franklyn D. Resort and FDR Pebbles that specialize in providing "Vacation Nannies" so you can concentrate on having a holiday rather than chasing after your kids (now that's my kind of vacation).
At FDR Holidays' (tel. 800/654-1337; www.fdrholidays.com) FDR Pebbles Resort located on the historic north coast of Jamaica (30-minutes from Montego Bay) families with small children are assigned their own Vacation Nanny on arrival. The fully trained and dedicated nanny is on duty all day, ensuring your youngsters receive the care and attention they need. They'll escort your tots to activities and the Kids Club, a rec room with state-of-the-art educational and computer games, toys and a library. Teens and pre-teens are also in for a treat with supervised outdoor campsite under the stars, beach parties, fishing, hiking, all-terrain bicycle trips, field trips, sailing or windsurfing lessons and visits to heritage sites.Â Regular rates at FDR Pebbles start from $1,400 per adult per week or $200 per night (for travel from November 3 to December 21, 2006), or if you can wait almost a year, a week between August 31 and November 15, 2007 is priced at $1,190 or $170 per night. They are currently running a number of sensational specials. If you book for seven-nights, you receive three-nights free, giving you ten-nights in total -- a saving of $600 per adult. The "Stay Longer" deal is valid for travel until December 21, 2006.
There's also the "BYOG" special -- bring a grandparent free -- one grandparent stays for free with every paying adult (sharing the same room) plus the "Something for Nothing" special which lets you stay seven nights and pay for six or stay five nights and pay for four. All these deals must be booked by December 15, 2006. Although FDR Holidays usually implements a single supplement, travel before December 21, 2006 or from April 3 to December 20, 2007 and there is no single supplement -- which will be a welcome relief to single parents. Children under six years old are free, while children from six to 15 years pay $25 per night for stays now to December 21 2006 and April 13 to December 20, 2007. Included in these prices are ocean view accommodation, the Vacation Nanny, all meals daily at any of the dining facilities or restaurants (plus special kiddies dinner and an all-day grill), open bar including all beer and premium bar drinks, wine with lunch and dinner, land and water sports (sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking and glass bottom boat trips with all equipment), supervised Yellow Bird Kids Club, nightly entertainment and, finally, all hotel taxes and airport transfers. International airfare is additional.
Cheap by name and cheap by nature. If you are after a budget trip to Jamaica, Cheap Caribbean (tel. 800/915-2322; www.cheapcaribbean.com) has a deal for you -- actually it has several. Book by October 18, and pay only $499 for a five-day Jamaican Holiday. This low price includes round-trip airfare on a major airline from Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, New York or Orlando, airport transfers, four nights' accommodations at the all-inclusive beachfront Holiday Inn Sunspree Montego Bay, all meals, drinks (including alcoholic and non-alcoholic), non-motorized water sports, travel insurance, a $5 international calling card and all tips and gratuities. As an added bonus, children 12 and under stay and eat for free. This price is valid for midweek travel from now until December 21, 2006 and represents a saving of up to $350 off the price of purchasing the airfare and accommodation separately. Add $100 from Atlanta, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., or $150 from Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Raleigh, St. Louis and Tampa.
Vacation Mart (tel. 800/288-1435; www.vacmart.com) has short break getaways to Jamaica that will make you look for the fine print. I looked, but I couldn't find any, so these deals are pretty unbeatable. From a super low $319 plus taxes per person based on double occupancy, enjoy a three-night package that includes midweek round-trip airfare from New York and three nights' accommodations at the three-palm-tree rated beachfront Foote Prints in the Sands Hotel, a boutique property of only 30 rooms on Negril. Stay for five nights from $389 or seven-nights from $459. Sample prices for three night packages from other U.S. departure cities include:
- Miami: $279
- Baltimore: $340
- Chicago: $369
- Detroit: $389
- Boston: $429
For $359 per person plus taxes, take a three-day break in Montego Bay, representing 30% off the regular price. The package includes midweek round trip airfare from New York and three nights' accommodations at the Doctor's Cave across the road from the beach. Stay for five-nights from $459 or seven-nights from $549. Sample prices for three-night packages from other U.S. departure cities include:
- Miami: $320
- Baltimore or Atlanta: $379
- Philadelphia: $409
- Charlotte: $429
- Dallas: $449
For the same package but with an upgrade to the plantation-style Coraba Beach Resort and Club, you'll pay $499 for three nights, $689 for five nights and $869 for seven nights. All these packages are valid for travel from now until December 15, 2006 (blackout dates apply).
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