Caribbean on a budget - rent a villa, buy groceries, eat in!

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The economy has managed to suck the life out of a lot of peoples' vacation dreams lately. Don't let it happen to you. Contrary to what you might have been telling yourself, a Caribbean vacation is totally do-able. And, you dont have to cash your 401K in to do it!

Renting a villa is a great way to save you money and provide much needed rest and relaxation from all that economy-related stress. Staying in a villa gives you plenty of space to spread out, especially for family travel. Villas offer more privacy than hotels/resorts (think thin walls!). Having your own pool and being on your own schedule are other perks of villa life. You wont have to clamor for pool loungers or worry about being accosted by the activity teamĀ to go limbo sounds like my kind of vacation.

Here are a few other ways to stretch your vacation dollar a little farther.
1) Eat in! Pack dry goods in a suitcase. Even if you have to pay for an extra piece of luggage, it still saves you money. Once you have arrived, hit the local grocery store. You will be able to find everything you need for the week, including locals favorites. For other meals and drinks - don't pay $15 a drink at the resort bar or in-room mini-bar. Instead, fill your villa refrigerator with your drink of choice. Breakfast and lunch at hotels and resorts are expensive - especially when you have kids who eat like birds. Fix your own breakfast and lunch in your villas.

2) Travel off-peak (after April 15 until mid-December). You will enjoy big savings on the rental rate and airfares.

3) Bring your own snorkel and mask and drive to the best snorkeling spots for the day. Dont forget to bring a cooler packed full of your own refreshments.

4) Beach hop, it's free! The villas usually have beach chairs available. Or, you can pick some up at a local grocer.

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