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Thread: First visit - couple of questions

  1. #1
    FlyerQ is offline
    SBH New Member Joined: Mar 2019 Posts: 2

    First visit - couple of questions

    Hi,

    I'm planning a trip for May and have a couple of quick questions. It will be our first visit to the island, so lots to learn and this forum has been very helpful.

    Coming from BOS the tradewind flights are very expensive compared with WINAIR - is there any major downside to WINAIR? Also, if we use carry-on and don't mind carrying our own luggage are there any advantages to using a VIP service?

    Any advice on booking villas to minimize construction noise? How much activity is currently going-on and how disrupted are the towns?

    Last, any recommendations regarding dive shops / sites (I know St Barts isn't a purist dive destination but diving would make a nice addition to the main attractions of sun, beach, food, and relaxation).

    Any thoughts on the above or general advise to a first timer is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you much

  2. #2
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 1,065

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Welcome to the Forum FlyerQ ! Flew Winair from SXM to SBH to SXM for many years without problems. Numerous schedule changes by AA from where we fly, SAV via CLT to SXM has been the problem, so this year again have opted to fly to SJU, then Tradewind to/from SBH...best price on TW usually early morning, late afternoon so we'll be overniting at SJU both directions. Yes TW pricey in comparison to Winair or St Barth Commuter, longer flite from SJU but comfortable. Think our 20+ years of SXM are over.

    We've never needed a VIP service, always do carry on, you will need far less than you think you need ! Can't help with diving but look for past posts, there are some Forum members who do dive & will offer suggestions. Look at the top of forum where you can type in question or word/s.

    Ask the villa companies about nearby construction to your villa choices or owners if going direct. The closer the construction, the louder the noise. This year we have 20 days in May on SBH...paradise. Hope you enjoy SBH as much as we have.

  3. #3
    andynap is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Philadelphia Posts: 44,026

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by FlyerQ View Post
    Hi,

    I'm planning a trip for May and have a couple of quick questions. It will be our first visit to the island, so lots to learn and this forum has been very helpful.

    Coming from BOS the tradewind flights are very expensive compared with WINAIR - is there any major downside to WINAIR? Also, if we use carry-on and don't mind carrying our own luggage are there any advantages to using a VIP service?

    Any advice on booking villas to minimize construction noise? How much activity is currently going-on and how disrupted are the towns?

    Last, any recommendations regarding dive shops / sites (I know St Barts isn't a purist dive destination but diving would make a nice addition to the main attractions of sun, beach, food, and relaxation).

    Any thoughts on the above or general advise to a first timer is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you much
    Have you looked into flying StBarts Commuter? Itís much cheaper than Winair and they get your bags from your US flight.
    Others will chip in about where to avoid noise as will the divers among us


    Andy

  4. #4
    LMAC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2003 Northern Virginia Posts: 1,568

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Over the years we have made 40+ trips to SBH - usually in Feb. - sometimes in June .... almost always on Winair. They are certainly cheaper than Tradewinds but more expensive than St. Barths Commuter. We have never had an issue with Winair. We typically choose Winair because they have more flights that work with our flight from the US. If our US flight is delayed (in Feb. weather is a consideration) we have a better chance of getting a Winair flight than St. Barths Commuter. (See my other post about Winair flights.)

    While I am sure a VIP service is lovely (we have never done it), if you have carry-on there is absolutely no reason to spend the money. Frankly, there is no need to spend the money even if you have checked bags ...... except it makes your travel experience easier. It is all about how you want to spend your $.

    The villa construction noise is a crap shoot. There may be no construction when you arrive (or when you booked the villa) and three days later, the jackhammers arrive. It's happened to us (three days and they were gone) ..... so we go shopping, have a long beach lunch with lots of rose and try to ignore it.

    Whatever ..... you have picked a great vacation paradise .... enjoy!
    Libby

  5. #5
    GMP62 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2015 Martinsville, NJ Posts: 1,797

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by NancySC View Post
    Welcome to the Forum FlyerQ ! Flew Winair from SXM to SBH to SXM for many years without problems. Numerous schedule changes by AA from where we fly, SAV via CLT to SXM has been the problem, so this year again have opted to fly to SJU, then Tradewind to/from SBH...best price on TW usually early morning, late afternoon so we'll be overniting at SJU both directions. Yes TW pricey in comparison to Winair or St Barth Commuter, longer flite from SJU but comfortable. Think our 20+ years of SXM are over.

    We've never needed a VIP service, always do carry on, you will need far less than you think you need ! Can't help with diving but look for past posts, there are some Forum members who do dive & will offer suggestions. Look at the top of forum where you can type in question or word/s.

    Ask the villa companies about nearby construction to your villa choices or owners if going direct. The closer the construction, the louder the noise. This year we have 20 days in May on SBH...paradise. Hope you enjoy SBH as much as we have.
    Nancy, you're going to SBH for 20 days with carry-on only!?!?! You rock my world...wish I could do that!! I'm a pretty tight packer, but not for a 3 week trip!! Very impressive...you go girlfriend!

  6. #6

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Hi Flyer
    More tips:
    VIP now less important since transfer processes smoothed out. Car not scooter; drive round the whole island for perspective (not just shops, St Jean, champagne). Dive shop in Gustavia, owner acts a bit seedy fitting your wife with flippers. As a diver you can handle a boat; hire one, pack a lunch, and cruise around for even more perspective. Coming May 2019 ... maybe accelerate your villa search -- tho for low-season you'll surely find something beautiful. Packing light is wise -- StB is casual chic. Bring shoes that can manage a short hike but you won't need hiking boots. Booking in-villa massages is simple and inexpensive through villa concierge. Don't hog all the croissants in the boulangerie. Ensure you have mosquito spray even for the first evening and morning. Learn some basic French phrases -- but keep your accent poor (else people might answer you in French, horrors!). Tip the person who shows you your villa (I've just learnt). Pretend not to notice celebrities (unless they embrace you first or need telling off -- like Michael Strahan leaving his 4x4 blocking an entire row of temporarily-parked cars at Petite Colombe). The rum you're given after meals is gratis but you needn't drink the entire bottle. Le Select is cash only -- ATM just around the corner each direction. Ask your concierge about what’s available on what days (fresh fish, supermarkets). Bring or buy there a largeish beach bag to accommodate not only personal items but towels (!), for days you visit unequipped beaches. Don't smoke cigars in even outdoor restaurants -- plenty of better places to do that.

    Oh one more thing: beginning on your >>second<< StB visit, talk constantly about how the island was better before it became so crass and commercialised. Bewail the lost rustic, ribald yet innocent, yellowed-polaroid "real StB", which you miss terribly and can never forgive others for spoiling. You'll fit right in. Enjoy!

  7. #7
    Bart -my real name- is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Alexandria, VA Posts: 5,175

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Tradewind is crazy expensive when compared to St. Barts Commuter and Winair, but the total cost of airfare might be close if you fly Tradewind. In other words, your flight from the US may be cheaper by flying into SJU than SXM, and when you add the expensive Tradewind flight, the total cost may be close to your total cost of taking a more expensive flight to SXM and cheaper flight to SBH.

    The other thing about Tradewind that makes it appealing to some is, you may be able to get an early flight directly to SJU and an early flight to SBH, so instead of arriving in SBH late in the day, you can get there by noon.

    As far as construction noise goes, I agree with the above about asking the rental company, but definitely ask on this site. Chances are, someone here is or has recently stayed in whatever villa you choose!

  8. #8
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 9,169

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    St. Barth Commuter is more enjoyable than Win-Air. Our main issue is SXM. We have had nothing but good luck with SJU and Tradewind. More expensive but never any hassle. VIP not needed unless real tight connection on way in.

  9. #9

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    We used Premium IV VIP services because of a tight connection in SXM a few weeks ago, and I don't think I'll ever be able to travel without them again! They met us just as we were getting off the shuttle bus, grabbed our bags (we did carry on), whisked us past all the (very long) immigration and security lines, and handed us our WinAir boarding passes---they had re-booked us on flights more than an hour earlier than our original flight. For what I thought was a very reasonable price, we avoided all the lines and hassles of SXM, and had an extra hour on St Barth---which was great since I'd taken a red-eye from California and was happy to be done with my travels. Could not speak more highly of Vincent and his team!!

  10. #10
    GramChop is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Austin, Texas Posts: 17,287

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by GMP62 View Post
    Nancy, you're going to SBH for 20 days with carry-on only!?!?! You rock my world...wish I could do that!! I'm a pretty tight packer, but not for a 3 week trip!! Very impressive...you go girlfriend!
    It can be done...you just must be comfortable wearing the same outfit multiple times (after washing, of course).
    The waves of the sea bring me back to me.

  11. #11
    FlyerQ is offline
    SBH New Member Joined: Mar 2019 Posts: 2

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    I'm replying to myself to thank everyone who has chimed in with advice. I have to confess my biggest fear is widespread construction based on a handful of comments in other threads, obviously the construction is an important step in getting the island back into prime condition. My reading suggests that the town of St Jean is where the most activity is occurring in a dining and shopping center - is that an accurate understanding? Any thoughts on villa areas or am I best to just work with the rental companies? Much appreciated!

  12. #12
    Tiffany is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jun 2014 Virginia Beach, VA Posts: 746

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Yes, the loudest noise is currently in St. Jean with the reconstruction of Eden Rock. You only notice the “normal”noise in other parts of the island. There always seems to be a jackhammer working somewhere whether it’s a villa or a road issue, but nothing like the constant at Eden Rock right now. We stayed in Lurin last week and had no issues with noise. Columbier and Gouverneur were also very quiet.

    For your other question, we always use Winair and Premium IV. The service is very worthwhile if you have an incoming delay to SXM.

  13. #13
    BND is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2011 Alexandria, VA Posts: 875

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Silver View Post
    Hi Flyer
    More tips:
    VIP now less important since transfer processes smoothed out. Car not scooter; drive round the whole island for perspective (not just shops, St Jean, champagne). Dive shop in Gustavia, owner acts a bit seedy fitting your wife with flippers. As a diver you can handle a boat; hire one, pack a lunch, and cruise around for even more perspective. Coming May 2019 ... maybe accelerate your villa search -- tho for low-season you'll surely find something beautiful. Packing light is wise -- StB is casual chic. Bring shoes that can manage a short hike but you won't need hiking boots. Booking in-villa massages is simple and inexpensive through villa concierge. Don't hog all the croissants in the boulangerie. Ensure you have mosquito spray even for the first evening and morning. Learn some basic French phrases -- but keep your accent poor (else people might answer you in French, horrors!). Tip the person who shows you your villa (I've just learnt). Pretend not to notice celebrities (unless they embrace you first or need telling off -- like Michael Strahan leaving his 4x4 blocking an entire row of temporarily-parked cars at Petite Colombe). The rum you're given after meals is gratis but you needn't drink the entire bottle. Le Select is cash only -- ATM just around the corner each direction. Ask your concierge about what’s available on what days (fresh fish, supermarkets). Bring or buy there a largeish beach bag to accommodate not only personal items but towels (!), for days you visit unequipped beaches. Don't smoke cigars in even outdoor restaurants -- plenty of better places to do that.

    Oh one more thing: beginning on your >>second<< StB visit, talk constantly about how the island was better before it became so crass and commercialised. Bewail the lost rustic, ribald yet innocent, yellowed-polaroid "real StB", which you miss terribly and can never forgive others for spoiling. You'll fit right in. Enjoy!
    Hilarious, but very true reply! All good tips. Charlie Silver--you "get" St. Barth. And, PS, we usually come for 2 weeks and always bring only carry ons. Once we even brought our googles and fins for snorkeling. Luckily my "purse" (crammed full) fit under the seat in front of me. (I know, that couldn't happen today.) Missy is right, there is no need to bring multiple outfits if you are comfortable with washing some things for a second island wearing.

  14. #14
    GMP62 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2015 Martinsville, NJ Posts: 1,797

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by GramChop View Post
    It can be done...you just must be comfortable wearing the same outfit multiple times (after washing, of course).
    I’ve actually traveled several times to St. Barth with carry-on only. But, for myself, if staying longer than 7 nights, I’d like to have some options. It’s all good!

  15. #15
    dadto6 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Aug 2013 Northern Virginia Posts: 2,183

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    You are going to have a great time! We always do carry on only, makes it so much easier. Actually, took 4-teenage girls in August and mandated each only have carry on only. Imagine that!!!! I guess they have a respect for dear old dad. I told them, you each bring two bikinis and you never have to wear the same one twice You know young women. There were 7-of us in total including my son Matt, Anita and I = 7-bags.
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    As the saying goes "less clothes and more money" and is that a true statement.

  16. #16
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 1,065

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by GramChop View Post
    It can be done...you just must be comfortable wearing the same outfit multiple times (after washing, of course).
    Missy & Gayle, Mostly wear bathing suit/cover up most of the day so couple of each, white pants + more white pants & variety of tops/tunics, couple pair of sandals & beach flip flops. And the other stuff like meds & ? For a Paris, Tauck riverboat trip Basel/Amsterdam, Bruges, rental in wine village east of Bordeaux a few years ago...28 days...carry on only for both of us...but we knew when got to the wine village house we had a washer dryer waiting ! Springtime, more clothes & no beach.

  17. #17
    GMP62 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2015 Martinsville, NJ Posts: 1,797

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by NancySC View Post
    Missy & Gayle, Mostly wear bathing suit/cover up most of the day so couple of each, white pants + more white pants & variety of tops/tunics, couple pair of sandals & beach flip flops. And the other stuff like meds & ? For a Paris, Tauck riverboat trip Basel/Amsterdam, Bruges, rental in wine village east of Bordeaux a few years ago...28 days...carry on only for both of us...but we knew when got to the wine village house we had a washer dryer waiting ! Springtime, more clothes & no beach.
    Good plan, Nancy. I always bring travel sized Woolite along with us wherever we go. I'll have to do a slimmed down carry-on packing dry run again before we leave. The only caveat for me is if you purchase items to bring home for yourself, family and friends (as I always do), there's never enough room. Will just have to keep it simple - not easy for moi. Thanks guys!

  18. #18
    cec1 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 5,923

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by dadto6 View Post
    You are going to have a great time! We always do carry on only, makes it so much easier. Actually, took 4-teenage girls in August and mandated each only have carry on only. Imagine that!!!! I guess they have a respect for dear old dad. I told them, you each bring two bikinis and you never have to wear the same on twice You know young women. There were 7-of us in total including my son Matt, Anita and I = 7-bags.
    Name:  8-4-18 Return in Front of Plane.jpg
Views: 425
Size:  285.8 KB
    Name:  8-4-18 Return Bags.jpg
Views: 424
Size:  317.3 KB
    As the saying goes "less clothes and more money" and is that a true statement.
    Sensible & an enhanced travel experience!

  19. #19
    GramChop is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Austin, Texas Posts: 17,287

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by GMP62 View Post
    Good plan, Nancy. I always bring travel sized Woolite along with us wherever we go. I'll have to do a slimmed down carry-on packing dry run again before we leave. The only caveat for me is if you purchase items to bring home for yourself, family and friends (as I always do), there's never enough room. Will just have to keep it simple - not easy for moi. Thanks guys!
    To note: I sometimes check the bag on the homebound flights and bring a foldable carry on bag that I use to transfer lightweight items into allowing for space in the (now) checked bag for treats and trinkets procured during my holiday.
    The waves of the sea bring me back to me.

  20. #20
    sxmbeachlover is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Apr 2007 Littleton, Colorado Posts: 241

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Not much to add to these hilarious replies! We mostly travel with just carry on. The maid at our villa does our laundry for us so we do a load every several days. I hope you will love this island as much as we do!!!!

  21. #21
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 1,065

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    Quote Originally Posted by GramChop View Post
    To note: I sometimes check the bag on the homebound flights and bring a foldable carry on bag that I use to transfer lightweight items into allowing for space in the (now) checked bag for treats and trinkets procured during my holiday.
    We do check the luggage on the way back from SJU to CLT to SAV. Yep always a bag for the SBH shopping !

  22. #22
    Canuck is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Apr 2015 Canada Posts: 76

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    We used Winair for first several years and certainly a good airline. Never any problems. However, last couple years we have been using St Barths Commuter...much less expensive and better planes. My wife and I will be visiting the first 3 weeks of Apiril and travel only with carry on. Keep the shoes to a minimum and it’s no problem. It’s that kind of Island. There’s nowhere quite like it in our opinion...perfect vibe for us and really nice people.

    We rent a small Suzuki from Gumbs and go easy on the AC cause you’ll get sick from that if not careful. Also, be aware there is not a lot of shade on most beaches (especially not on St. Jean, Saline and Gouveneur) so be careful. We rent umbrella from Jean Michel on St Jean beach for 10e per day. He has chairs too but we bring them from the Villa.

    When you’re driving around just chill out and don’t worry about the scooters...you’re not in a rush to get anywhere on St Barts

  23. #23
    andynap is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Philadelphia Posts: 44,026

    Re: First visit - couple of questions

    F
    Quote Originally Posted by Canuck View Post

    Also, be aware there is not a lot of shade on most beaches (especially not on St. Jean, Saline and Gouveneur) so be careful.

    There is is shade on the Nikki side of St Jean against the fences and palm trees and way down at the far end.


    Andy

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