Here's what you should know before planning a trip to the Caribbean this winter

Caribbean cruiseShutterstockMuch of the Caribbean is open for business.
  • Despite the damage done by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, many of the islands in the Caribbean are open for tourism this winter.
  • AAA recommends that tourists remain aware of conditions that might affect their travel and use an agent to ensure a painless vacation experience.
  • Luxury travel agent Jaclyn Sienna India is sending her clients to high-end resorts in St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Turks & Caicos, and a private island in the West Indies.

The Caribbean islands are a signature vacation spot for travellers looking to escape the cold, winter months around the holidays. But in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, many have been left wondering whether it would be safe to travel to the region this year.

In early September, Irma formed in the Atlantic Ocean before moving northwest across parts of the Caribbean, Florida, and further west through parts of Georgia. Maria moved in a similar direction but did not reach as far north as Irma did. As a result of the hurricanes, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, the Virgin Islands, St. Croix, and Barbuda, among other Caribbean destinations, received significant damage and have been recovering since.

But, according to the travel organisation AAA, many of the Caribbean islands — including the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Barbados — will be open for tourism this winter.

AAA recommends tourists stay informed of global events that could affect travel and use an agent to make their vacation experience as seamless as possible.

AAA has a full list of Caribbean destinations it recommends visiting this winter. On the list are places that suffered minimal to no damage from the hurricanes — Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, The Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks & Caicos, and St. Vincent & The Grenadines.

St. lucia, saint luciaShutterstock/Jackie SmithsonSaint Lucia is a great vacation option this winter.

Where to stay

Jaclyn Sienna India, who owns the luxury travel agency Sienna Charles, takes the hassle out of vacation planning for her high-end clients, making sure their vacations are successful logistically and emotionally.

Her recommendations change each year in response to the threat of natural disaster, disease, or violence, as well as the quality of accommodations for tourists. To ensure the quality of her clients’ experience, she visits each potential location before booking it to get a first-hand look at how its operates.

“I’m particularly interested in seeing how all private island resorts have made enhancements for the upcoming season that will be particularly compelling,” she said to Business Insider in an email.

She has often sent clients to St. Barts in the past, but this year, she says she’s sending her clients to resorts that excel at the fundamentals — prime locations and high-quality residences with scenic views — and that offer amenities that make them stand out from their competition. Though some of her clients have opted to avoid the Caribbean and pursue skiing trips in Europe this year, India has been impressed by some of the offerings made by high-end Caribbean destinations.

Many of her clients fly in private jets, so the recently extended runway at Mandarin Canouan Island, situated in the middle of St Vincent & The Grenadines, was an appealing choice this year.

But her clients have diverse needs, so she makes sure she keeps a variety of scenarios in mind when considering her client’s options. Como Parrot Cay, located in the Turks & Caicos, gets high marks from India for its healthy dining options and top-notch spa and wellness programs.

Como parrot Parrot Cay gets high marks for its spa and wellness services.

Oetker Jumby Bay, located on a private island in the West Indies, was her go-to choice for families because of its villas that come with access to private pools and beaches.

What to do before travelling

Before making reservations or hiring a travel agent, AAA recommends that travellers take steps to guard against the risks any trip presents.

Given the prevalence of hurricanes this year, and the potential for further storms before hurricane season ends on November 30, AAA advises travellers to invest in travel insurance, which could protect against hurricane-related cancellations. AAA also suggests enrolling in the US Department of State’s Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP), which will make it easier for US consulates or embassies to notify travellers in case of of emergencies.

While the height of hurricane season is likely behind us, it’s never a bad idea to prepare for the worst.

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