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A Virgin Islands charter vacation is something special and will create memories that will last a lifetime. Preparing for your trip and keeping things organized while on the water will maximize the enjoyment for you and your crew.
Planning your trip often starts months in advance and can be very enjoyable. But you may also discover an opportunity that opens up for an inexpensive charter package and airfare prompting a quick impromptu trip. As long as you have a passport and your time is flexible, you can be ready to leave for a Virgin Islands charter on short notice if the price is right.
Whether you are planning a year in advance or with two-weeks notice, following a checklist can help make your trip more enjoyable.
You may also have a few tips of your own. Please feel free to share them with us and other readers by commenting below.
6-12 Months Ahead
1. Select Your Dates
- How many days can you afford to be away? A 10-day trip is ideal.
- Allow for 1-2 days on each end of the trip for travel time. A hotel stay may be required on one or both ends due to arriving and departing flights and the charter schedule. This can be a enjoyable transition on either end of the trip.
- Another option can be an early sleep-aboard where you may arrive late the day before your charter starts and arrange to stay aboard your charter boat for a nominal charge, less than the cost of a day’s charter. This allows you and your crew to get unpacked and settled onto the boat.
- Maybe you've heard about some of the special events in the Virgin Islands. The monthly Full Moon Fireball Ceremony at Trellis Bay or Full Moon Night at the Bomba Shack may be on your list and may set your charter schedule. Or, you may want to experience Virgin Islands Carnival in St. Thomas or Spanishtown on Virgin Gorda. If your plans call for a late May charter, the BVI Music Festival in Cane Garden Bay is not to be missed. Or, knowing about some of the several sailboat racing events in the BVI may shift your dates. Knowing the dates of these events can add something special to your charter vacation. Check out the BVI Events or USVI Events on our site or visit local tourism bureaus web sites.
- And don’t miss checking out the Itineraries we have developed for more ideas.
2. Select Your Crew
- The crew could be simple with just two people or a small family. Or you could share the cost and experience with up to three additional couples in a four-cabin boat. If you have friends and family who love to cruise, you could even organize a small flotilla.
- It is important to determine who will be the captain. This is typically the person who is signing the charter contract as they have responsibility for any damage to the boat. Discuss the possibility of damage to the boat and whether costs will be shared or if the person who caused the damage will pay. This could be as simple as the head backing up ($75-$100), losing a dinghy or at its worst grounding the boat. The Virgin Islands is relatively safe and there are rare chances of theft. But it's best to determine how your group will handle the unexpected—just in case.
- It’s a good idea to select crew with like interests. Some see the Virgin Islands as a chance to let it all hang out and drink and dance until the wee hours. Some crews enjoy quiet anchorages. Some like to cook onboard and some like to dine out every night. Talking about crew and individual interests ahead of time can make sure all are on the same plan for your trip. Discuss provisioning—that will often reveal the interests of others on the trip. Also discuss sailing style. Some want lazy cruising with a drink in hand and others want to spend the days outside of the islands where the winds are strongest and with the rail buried in the water on a thrilling reach.
- It’s not hard to get a group of friends or family to initially agree to join a Virgin Islands charter. When you have your dates set and need to pay a deposit, consider having the others pay their share of the deposit at that time as well. Paying for part of the charter has a tendency to lock in everyone’s commitment. Crew dropping out due to scheduling problems before a trip can create a lot of tension. One idea is to have a short list of potential backup guests who are interested in joining you in case someone is unable to go.
3. Select Your Charter Company and Boat
- You may have a particular boat already in mind. See Selecting Your Boat for more information. The size and interests of your crew will dictate sail or power, monohull or catamaran, two cabins, three or four. The charter companies’ web sites all have boat layouts. Charter costs will be dictated by the amenities a company offers, the season, the size and style of the boat and the age of the boats. In the Virgin Islands there is quite a selection of boats available. Perusing the different boats on the web can be a lot of fun.
4. Make Your Travel Arrangements
- Depending on where you live, there are typically many options for air travel to the Virgin Islands. Keep an open and creative mind and read the air schedules posted online carefully. A great price may require an overnight stay in one city along the way. If your charter is leaving from Tortola you may want to fly into the small Beef Island airport at the east end of the island. You may see a fare that is $100 cheaper to fly into St. Thomas, where you could easily take a ferry to Road Town, Tortola. But the $100 savings may be consumed by the ferry fare and the extra time involved. If your schedule is flexible, check fares several different days before or after your trip. This may adjust your charter dates or a hotel stay. Airlines often charge more on the weekends. Arriving and departing with your charter boat can also be easier by avoiding the weekends at a charter base.
- One option for low-cost travel is to use airline points. The Virgin Islands is one of the most popular destination for airline points but there are a few strategies that might work if the free flights appear full. Check on flying into St. Thomas (STT) instead of Beef Island, Tortola (EIS). It is considered a domestic destination from the U.S. and will require less reward points and offer more flight options. You may find a free flight as far as San Juan and then pay around $200 round trip for a commuter flight from San Juan to Beef Island. While not free, this can be a huge savings.