My love affair with Jamaica began on my honeymoon, the first time I ever left the U.S. My new husband and I stayed at the infamous Sandals Resort, the founders and connoisseurs of the all-inclusive experience. I was 21 years old and the opposite of worldly, so imagine my amazement at being fed something called Lobster Thermidor and being provided unlimited wine with which to wash it down.
After the awe of that first vacation in Jamaica, we returned as often as we could, later taking our grown kids back to the very same Sandals where we honeymooned and drinking the very same frothy cocktail with them at the very same bar. As the locals said, that made us official “Jamericans.”
So when COVID restrictions were weighing heavy on us and we had grown tired of exploring the local area, we went searching for a Jamaican vacation and discovered three glorious things:
- Jamaica is open and makes traveling there a breeze.
- It costs half of what it normally costs, both for airfare and your stay.
- Currently sitting at 40 percent occupancy, Jamaican resorts make you feel like you’re in an exclusive club.
When we booked our trip, we were astounded at the prices – in a good way. Since we are seasoned Jamaica travelers, we know how much a trip usually costs. Typically, you’re looking at about $5,000 for an all-inclusive resort, but with Jamaica determined to draw tourists after a non-existent travel year, they’ve slashed prices to half that. We worried that while we were getting bargain basement prices on the resort, the airfare would make up the difference, but that wasn’t the case. We paid $300 a ticket for a direct flight from Houston to Montego Bay. That’s less than a lot of domestic flights and this one lands on one of the most exotic runways you’ll ever see – right in the blueish, greenish waters of the Caribbean.
Traveling to Jamaica, if you can believe it, is less difficult than visiting Hawaii. Jamaica requires that you secure a negative COVID test within 3 days of flying. But they make it much easier and more cost effective by accepting a Rapid Antigen Test. Pre-register online with your airport and with the Jamaican government, and check-in is a breeze. Just show a copy of your test results to the gate agent in Houston and to your hotel upon arrival, and you are ready to start sipping Rum Runners beachside.
And once you get there, the experience is one-of-a-kind. When will you ever get the chance again to have the run of a resort usually packed with vacationers? Every day we had no problem picking the lounge chairs of our choice and an umbrella to go with them. We never stood in a line. We never waited for service. On the beach, my husband walked right up to the jerk chicken grill and had a plate of the steaming Jamaican delicacy in under 5 minutes. When we wanted to sail or kayak or stand up paddleboard, we just checked out the equipment and went, no sign-up needed.
Needless to say, social distancing was never a problem, and Jamaica takes sanitation very seriously. Hand sanitizer is everywhere and you are requested to use it every time you enter a restaurant. You must wear a mask when you sidle up to the bar or approach the restaurant hostess stand, but on the beach, in the pool, at the table, on your lounge chair, you are mask free and breathing in the Caribbean Sea.
A couple of days before you leave to head back to the U.S., your hotel will provide a free COVID test. Just walk in from the beach, get tested within minutes, then pop in the next day to pick up your printed results. Present them at the Jamaican airport and you are homebound.
As the Jamaicans would say, “No problem, mon.” So if you’re itching to escape, head down to “the land of wood and water” and enjoy all it has to offer with historically low prices, no crowds, and all the jerk chicken you can eat.