Traveling is something that pushes me out of my comfort zone. I already struggle with anxiety so when it’s time to pack up my mind starts going a little crazy. While my husband was researching things to know before you visit the Virgin Islands…. my mind was busy
thinking worrying about other things.
Here’s a brief synapsis of what usually runs through my head…. Will the pets be taken care of? Will we get all of our work done before it’s time to leave? How will I get all the laundry done and pack in time? Will the house still be standing when we get back? Will we make it to our destination with all of our luggage, kids, sanity?!?!? But this time was a tad bit different.
This time I didn’t have to worry about our house, our jobs or our pets. You see we sold our house right before we left, our pets are in long term temporary homes, and I had already tied up all of my work responsibilities until the end of the summer.
BUT we did decide to take on one additional responsibility. We brought one extra kid along for our vacation; my older son’s best friend. I admit I was super worried about bringing him back home in one piece. After all the incidents with animals and children lately you better believe I was on shark watch constantly. I’m not even kidding, I was super worried that something tragic would happen while we were away. Oh and did I mention it was his first time on a plane! (God bless his parents for being so trusting of us. Seriously, they are the best friends/neighbors anyone could ever ask for.)
I’m happy to say we had adventures in St. Thomas that absolutely changed our lives forever and we all made it back in one piece. But I do believe we all left a little piece of ourselves back on the islands. I know one day we will all find ourselves back there again, to say it was magical, enchanting or life changing is almost an understatement.
So let’s dig in! I can’t wait to share with you all of the amazing things you can experience while you are visiting St. Thomas. Read all about things to do in the Islands HERE. Oh and I defiantly want to debunk a few things that I know many people may worry about when they are planning a trip to the Caribbean.
Top Things To Know Before You Visit Virgin Islands
Before we get in to the top things to do in The Virgin Islands let’s talk about what you need to know before you go.
You Don’t Need A Passport:
We (meaning my husband the obsessed traveler) did a lot of research before choosing a location to visit in the Caribbean. Are first choice was going to be the Atlantis resort located in Bahamas. However we were a little nervous about taking a minor with us that was not our biological child to a foreign territory. We also knew that obtaining a passport can be a little cumbersome. It would have meant that all kids would have had to miss school and have both parents present in order to get passports. We knew none of us were going to have time to do that. Because of the need for passports we decided against the British Virgin Islands.
The Locals are Extremely Nice and Helpful
I’ll be honest my family and I travel quite a bit. As a former military family we’ve been a lot of places. In fact our oldest child was born in a foreign county. Needless to say we have had the privilege of experiencing many different lifestyles, cultures, languages, and religions. That being said when we invited another child to come with us to an almost “foreign” country I was sensitive to the fact that his parents may be a little anxious. I realize not everyone has been able to travel as much as us so I want to put your mind at ease. St. Thomas has some of the most friendly and helpful locals of any place I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
St. Thomas is one of the three main islands in the United States Virgin Islands, it is only a little over 30 square miles in size. St. Thomas is one of the largest cruise ship ports in the Virgin Islands. Because of it’s ability to directly port ships it is extremely popular for tourism. In fact tourism is their number one source of business on the island. Therefore, nearly all working locals are in the hospitality/tourism line of work. As an avid traveler I personally only like to visit and re-visit places where people are super nice. I think the locals understand that and know that the nicer they are and the better experience they provide for travelers the more they will return. (and tell their friends). I also believe that beyond the fact that their business thrives off of great customer service and a friendly attitude most of the locals their truly love their island and are very proud of it. After all it is truly paradise!
Food and Souvenirs are Expensive
Be prepared. The Virgin Islands are like any other tourist area… EXPENSIVE. For example a bottle of Sunscreen like this may cost around six or seven dollars in the states but in the Islands it’s double if not triple the cost. Make sure you pack as much as you can and take those things with you. Because trust me plenty of money will be spent on food and drinks. You don’t even want to know what I paid for that little hat Jude is wearing. (he had to have one though.. ugh!)
Let’s talk about food. Many of the beaches have bars and food stands. They sell your typical concession type food like hot dogs, burgers and fries. And they are like typical concession stands, overpriced and ok food. None-the-less it is convenient but can add up quickly. Bottled water is recommended to purchase if you are a water drinker because most businesses are on a cistern. A cistern collects rain water and it is what comes out of the tap. The larger resorts have their own water processing system which may provide safe drinking water. (just keep that in mind if you were looking to save money by drinking tap water).
Duty Free Shopping
I know I just said shopping can be expensive and it really can be BUT it really depends on what you are shopping for. Shopping in the US Virgin Island’s is duty free. While buying things like sunscreen can be outrageous; buying things like jewelry, alcohol, china and crystal can actually be less expensive than buying stateside.
The Cruise Ships
When we read the reviews of Marriott’s Frenchmen’s Reef Resort we were a little nervous about the cruise ships and if they would be a distraction from the natural beauty of the island. We went in Mid June which is the off season therefore we didn’t see ships nearly the entire trip. Two came into port our last day and we only saw them because we were driving through town to the airport. Otherwise the ships didn’t really bother us at all.
Tons of Things to Do in The Virgin Islands
I love the beach. I could sit out in the sun all day long and be perfectly content. My husband on the other hand likes to be really busy all the time. He can barely sit still. The Virgin Islands was the perfect vacation for us because we both got what we wanted out of it. We had plenty of time to sit on the most beautiful beaches in the world and tons of time to explore and have tons of adventures. From sailing to snorkeling to exploring the old rum plantation ruins, there was something to do every single day!
You can easily access all of the islands by ferry or boat but keep in mind if you want to go to the British Virgin Islands you can but you will need to bring your passport. We will definitely have ours next time.
One thing that I did not expect to encounter in the Virgin Islands were certain animals. I will go ahead and warn you if you don’t like large lizards, roosters or sea gulls then you may not want to visit here. Personally, the only animals I don’t want to come near me are those that could hurt me. Otherwise iguanas and roosters are fine with me. But be warned if you are in an outdoor area that is serving food you will likely be met with either sea gulls or iguanas looking for scraps. The roosters on the other hand don’t seem to want anything but they are everywhere. You don’t bother them and you’ll be fine. Although one lady near us would disagree. She threw her food in the air and screamed “I’m over this” when one brushed against her leg. Oh that was super funny. (I’m sorry but it was)
I hope that I was able to ease some of your anxiety or answer some of your questions about traveling to the US Virgin Islands. I have so much more to tell you like what you need to pack for your trip and all the places to eat and things to do. Don’t worry all of that will be coming up soon. I can’t wait to share with you the life changing things that we were able to experience there!