Had enough discomfort trying to travel on a budget? Save your next cheap (no judgement!) holiday or vacation. Plan in advance with my personally tested strategies for achieving a relaxing, comfortable vacation that is actually affordable. It just means packing a few things you are unlikely to find for purchase in your affordable Caribbean vacation spot.
Cheap Caribbean Apartments and Guesthouses – Travel Tips
ZIKA VIRUS–Zika is a newly discovered virus with no vaccine that is spread mainly by mosquitos. If you are a woman of child rearing age you might think to cancel your trip to the American tropics at this moment in early 2016. Although further news has it that perhaps the cause of fetal damage is not the virus but the pesticide that was used in watery places in Brazil. We will find out soon what is going on, I hope!
MY PET PEEVES WHILE VISITING THE REAL CARIBBEAN
- LIGHT POLLUTION
- STORAGE, LACK OF
- ELECTRICAL CONNECTIONS
- ELECTRICAL OUTAGES
- KITCHEN TOOLS, LACK OF
Why is this article being posted to a Green Lifestyle website like Naturally Bubbly? Because if travel is part of life, and it surely is or should be) then travel needs to be examined with the same green, sustainable lens as every other aspect of life. Naturally Bubbly is, after all, here to focus a green lens on just about anything we can think of.
Having stayed in many a rented Caribbean apartment I have found that certain basic (to me) needs have gone unaddressed in those rental apartments. I am not in need of luxury accommodations, just an adequate and clean space where I can relax without too many bugs. There is something cool about staying in a house or apartment in a local neighborhood as opposed to being sequestered in a big hotel or resort, ‘safely’ kept at a distance from local people, except those locals who are serving you that is.
Get Ready. Be Prepared. and Then Relax with My Personally Tested Traveling Tips
PROBLEM: bugs and mosquitos infesting the apartment due to no or incomplete window screens, and the practice by local people of leaving the door wide open a lot of the time. And, unfortunately, mosquito vectors are everywhere around the house, no doubt.
Mosquitos can breed in just a drop of water, so any standing water at all can result in a population of mosquitos. A good fact to know is that mosquitos don’t venture very far from where they were born, so the more standing water you can eliminate surrounding your home and under your home, the fewer mosquitos you will have. And what can I say about bats?
In the tropics I love watching bats come out at twilight to swoop around scooping up mouthfuls of mosquitos for their dinners.
Often the only attempt at mosquito control for the apartment is a cone shaped mosquito net for the bed. From past attempts at using these practically useless devices, I have found that they only work if there is one person in the bed, not two or more, and only if the sleeper stays perfectly still in the middle of the net, and doesn’t touch the netting itself. Once you touch the netting with your arm or leg, mosquitos can get to you. That doesn’t make for a relaxing night!
1. For the Bed: Mosquito nets that you bring yourself. Rectangular mosquito nets for the bed are super cheap at Campmor. Then all you need are some small screw eyes, or in case the ceiling is concrete 3M Command sticky hooks and some heavy thread or light string in order to hang your own useful mosquito net for the bed.
Mosquito netting by the yard from Jo-Ann Fabrics is something I am about to experiment with in terms of fashioning makeshift window screening over louvered windows! I will bring pushpins that will make only tiny holes in the wooden window frames.
Now, Caribbean rental apartments that have been renovated may very well have vinyl windows with built in window screens. That doesn’t mean the place is completely screened in though. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not I can make this makeshift window insect screens work somehow . . . I like to live like the locals if I can, but I am not accustomed to mosquitos as an ever present fact of life. I live in the city, in USDA zone 6 where there are practically no biting insects to worry about.
Update is that my traveling window and door screen idea did work! Thanks to the fact that the louvered windows in my cottage are framed in wood.
2. For the Body: Off brand battery powered mosquito Clip-On really works for personal mosquito protection when you are outside walking or sitting in the gallery or on the verandah. It is a chemical repellent, but sometimes you just need something stronger than an herbal repellent. Bring refills ($1.00 each for 12 hours) and extra batteries, if you can afford the weight.
And, since you can’t use the Off Clip-On indoors, you may need to bring an unscented liquid repellent as well to apply to your skin. I have tried natural, herbal mosquito lotions for topical use and I can’t stand the strong aroma of the repelling herbs slathered all over my body. It’s just too much. So I use Off Family Care liquid insect repellent, unscented of course! This stuff also really works. For sleep, I make sure to use it on the top of my hands and fingers on account of the tiny mosquitos that you find in Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique that love to bite my fingers in the early morning. One or two mosquitos seems always to get through the netting every night.
PROBLEM: neighborhood noise from bars, and roosters, chickens, and dogs incessantly crowing, clucking, and barking at all hours of the day and night. Roosters crow around the clock! Especially if there is more than one rooster in the vicinity. (It is a myth that roosters only crow at daybreak). Also, loud music or televisions from houses and bars could be a problem, since windows are always open in the un-air-conditioned tropics, as well as noisy commercial shops that are often tucked into neighborhoods. There isn’t necessarily zoning to differentiate commercial and residential districts.
SOLUTION: disposable foam earplugs engineered for the highest decibel rating of 33 if you can get it. 32 works. I prefer the bright orange MAX NRR 33 Howard Leights made by Honeywell. These are really good for sleeping and at other times the decibels start to rise. Obviously ear buds or headphones will do the trick during the day to mask unwanted noise. Bring at least one pair for each day you’ll be there. They really don’t work well after even one wearing.
My most recent cheap Caribbean apartment became very noisy when a busy auto body shop opened up right across the street. Unfortunately the best solution for this problem was to relocate myself to a quieter neighborhood, to a house with no insect screens . . .
PROBLEM: excessive light at night that keeps the bedroom too light for sleeping. People feel bright lights at night increases their security. Perhaps, but not so bright that you feel you are in a prison camp! If only they would dump the floodlights and opt for targeted, down lighting at doorways and ground floor windows. It would be nice to see some stars while you are on vacation in the tropics wouldn’t it? Too much night-light makes it hard to see the heavens above us.
SOLUTION: Bring thin black curtains and safety pins so you can attach your own darkening cloth to the existing (no doubt sheer) window curtains. Now you’ve shut off and decent breeze from coming in the window, so a ceiling fan and rotating floor fan will make nighttime less stuffy. Almost every holiday apartment in the tropics has at least one fan.
PROBLEM: suspect indoor plumbing and uncertain drinking water supply. Now, even if the water is safe for the locals (like in Barbados, their water supply is naturally filtered through lava rock!) it might still make you, a visitor, a little queasy.
SOLUTION: Pack a water filter such as a Brita or Mavea, with one filter. Bringing you own drinking water filter alleviates you from having to drag home gallons of expensive, bottled drinking water every other day. Think of the plastic waste that you are keeping out of the local landfill if you filter your own water.
It took me a few years to figure this out! I started by bringing fancy backpacking water filters that took forever to filter the water, until it dawned on me to just bring my Mavea filter from home. It’s easy to pack, you can fill the plastic pitcher with clothing and it takes up practically no space and weighs next to nothing in your suitcase.
Speaking of suspicious indoor plumbing, if you find a sluggish drain, you can do your own temporary fix on it by getting some baking soda and white vinegar and dumping them into the drain, letting sit for a while, and then rinsing down the drain with really hot water. Remember making those erupting volcanoes in elementary school science class with baking soda and vinegar? That mild chemical reaction can partially or completely loosen up a clogged drain, and also clean it, which probably never normally happens with the lackluster cleaning that these cheap apartments tend to receive.
Showerhead hot water heaters are prevalent in inexpensive Caribbean rental apartments. In my experience they work better than rooftop solar hot water systems which don’t always have hot water available. As long as there is electricity you will get a hot shower! I think hot water on a beach vacation is necessary for washing off heavy duty water repellent sun block.
Don’t be afraid of these appliances even if they look unprofessionally installed. I’ve never been electrocuted haha…
PROBLEM: ill-fitting bed sheets and pillowcases that are scratchy, old, mildewed, and smelling of sweat. When fabrics are washed and then hung out to dry on a line, and then left over night or through a rain shower, they often smell sour even after they dry. Even ‘clean’ linens and towels may not smell clean. The mattresses and pillows themselves may or may not be really old and smelly.
SOLUTION: Bring at least one large cotton sheet and 2 cotton pillowcases. Bring your own pillow if you can fit it in your luggage. In the case of smelly pillows and mattresses I layer up sheets and pillowcases underneath my own, and try to ignore any lingering smell. It is after all a cheap holiday rental!
I thought of bringing plastic sheets and pillowcases to put between my sheets and their smelly mattress and pillows, but I don’t think it would really work so I haven’t tried it. Plus it would just make me sweat more at night!
Laundry: Most houses in the tropics will have a clothes washing machine but will probably not have a clothes dryer. If you are lucky there will be lots of clotheslines with plenty of pins, under an overhang, but in the breeze. Make sure to wash clothes in the morning on a sunny day so that they dry before dark or afternoon rains. Bring them in before you go to bed at any rate, to avoid the sour smell.
PROBLEM: nowhere to hang anything, no hooks or hangers or enough drawers
SOLUTION: 3M Command sticky hooks will stick to walls and wood and them come off leaving no marks, I promise! Now you can hang up all of your stuff if you need to!
PROBLEM: mysterious electrical outlets
SOLUTION: Electrical adapters, and depending on where you are going, electrical converters. If you have 110v (American) appliances you won’t need electrical converters in the Caribbean. It used to be that electricity in the Caribbean was 220 volts, like much of Europe uses, but now they have built in converters where necessary and the electrical outlets, if the electrical work is new, are able to take American style plug prongs. Nonetheless, it is still a good idea to bring a few adapters anyway. You can get these probably once you are there, but do you really want to hunt down a hardware store?
PROBLEM: unannounced and unexpected electrical outages
SOLUTION: battery powered lantern like a supercool and lightweight backpackers lantern by Black Diamond. As long as you keep some batteries around you’ll always have some light for when the current goes.
PROBLEM: kitchen equipment is always a problem. I personally have to be able to cook my own food while on vacation. It saves gobs of money, and I have a sensitive stomach frankly, and can’t eat oily or spicy food for every meal.
SOLUTION: this is an easy one! Bring your own corkscrew, chopping knife, vegie peeler, can opener if you like to eat from cans, and absorbent kitchen towels. Water filter! You’ll be so happy you did!
Those are some of my best travel tips. Thanks for reading!