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st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

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Mountainside, NJ
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st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

Hi

We are currently booked for st. thomas in November at the Marriott but are thinking of canceling and renting a house instead on St. John with another family -- some questions both families have -- there are five kids rangin in age from 6-11

- We all enjoy the beach (snorkeling, etc.)

- Love hanging out at he pool too

- don't mind eating breakfast & lunch in, but would prefer nightlife within walking distance to go out for dinner

- Do we need a car on St. John -- prefer not to get one if we don't have to

- Do we need passports if we are US citizens?

- Any recommedations of first timer/family/above areas to stay in St.John would be appreciated

- Also there are tons of rentals with photos online -- is there a better way to go about this or just trust what I see online?

- What are the prices like for food, etc. on the St. John -- pricier than other islands i.e bahamas, or the same?-

- Finally and I know I'm on the St. John site, but should we just stay in St. Thomas and do a day trip to St. John instead for ease of travel with the kids, etc.

Thanks!

Pennsylvania
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1. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

It is going to be hard to find a house within walking distance to Cruz Bay. The Gallows complex is walking distance but there used to be an age restriction on children and the pool is shared. Grande Bay might be an option, I haven't stayed there but it gets great feedback. Again, the pool is shared.

I think a rental vehicle is a must. Even if you stayed in town, you would need to take cabs to the beach and with a couple of kids, the cost will add up fast. Cabs will only go to a few of the beaches, limiting your ability to see the island.

Mountainside, NJ
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2. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

Is there a better part of the island to stay in than cruz bay for what we're looking for? Do you know how much a weekly car rental is on St. John? Thx

CT
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3. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

I think that renting a villa is much easier with kids.

It allows parents to be able to relax in the evenings when the kids go to sleep without being stuck in a hotel.

You can cook meals at your convenience instead of always having to get dressed and go to a restaurant. A box of cereal and a gallon of milk, while pricier than the states is still cheaper than breakfast at a restaurant with 4 kids.

You can swim in your own pool any time day or night.

All that being said, you will need to rent 2 vehicles for that many people. STJ is an exploration island. So many different beaches within the National Park, that all require a drive or taxi.

You do not need passports to go to STJ but will need to show some proof of citizenship upon departing the STT airport, no matter what island you stay on.

There are so many great rentals on STJ. You can look at on island agency websites like:

Cateredto.com

Destinationsstjohn.com

caribbeanvilla.com

vivactions.com

stjohnproperties.com

and many more

If you do decide to rent a villa on STJ, I would recommend the Great Cruz Bay or Chocolate Hole areas. They are close to Cruz Bay (5 min drive) for shopping and dining.

Richmond, Virginia
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4. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

If you want to walk to town, Cruz Bay is your place. If you don't mind a "shared" pool", Grande Bay units might work well.

Parker, CO
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5. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

St. John sounds exactly what you are looking for. More so than St. Thomas. I'd suggest that each family rent a 1 or 2 bedroom condo at Grande Bay for your first visit.

That way you'll be within walking distance to everything in Cruz Bay. Have a pool. Private parking. It will help you get your St. John "sea legs" and then on your next trip you'll have a better idea of what kind of house you might want to rent and where.

CT
Destination Expert
for St. John
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6. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

Grande Bay is great but I think with that big of a group, I would opt for a private villa, especially with kids. They are most likely going to want to be together. One large villa just makes it that much easier for moms and dads, in my opinion.

Elk Grove Village...
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7. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

You won't need passports, but if you don't have them you should bring offical, government-issued copies of your birth certificates (i.e., ones that have the raised seal). However, If you plan to take a day trip or boat charter that included a stop in the British Virgin Islands, then you would need passports.

St. John and St. Thomas have different enough feels that people generally perfer one over the other. If you think you would prefer St. John, I would say go ahead and stay there. It wouldn't be that much extra hassle with the kids. I know that when we come back with our kids, we will stay on St. John.

There is an extent to which you have to trust what you see in the ads for the different properties. However, what you can do is come back here to ask about specific villas that you are thinking about. My experience is that you will almost always be able to find someone in this forum who has first-hand knowledge of villas you are asking about.

I can't really compare grocery prices on St. John to other islands, since the USVI is the only place in the Caribbean that I've bought groceries. However, I can say that while prices certainly were higher than they are at home, there were only a handful of items that truly gave me sticker shock. (I had to take a picture of the $7.50 price tag on my gallon of milk.)

If you are staying in or around Cruz Bay, you don't NEED to rent a car. However, taxi fares (particularly with a big party) will add up quickly. Plus, it will give you lots more flexibility. The taxis only run to a few of the beaches. More correctly, they will only be available to pick you up and bring you back from a few of the beaches. If you don't mind the limited selection of beaches and the constant paying of taxi fares, then you probably could get by without a car.

Enjoy your trip. I wish I were planning one right now, but the whole my-wife-just-had-a-baby thing has thrown vacation plans into the air for the time being...

CT
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for St. John
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8. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

A round trip taxi with 9 people from Cruz Bay to Trunk will be $108.00.

Take that into consideration if you decide to stay on STJ.

Virginia
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9. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

I am suggesting you stay in STT and day trip to STJ more than once. Do it with your own family and as a group.

I have done both STT and STJ with children and a 2nd family, one trip we even split our time. Coral Bay home and Sapphire Village condos.

The problem with STJ was that EVERYTHING but the pool was an excursion. Alone time for adults and kids was not to be had. After a week in STJ we came back to S.V.m we collectively exhaled and everyone finally let down their hair.

Kids were allowed to roam the marina and beach in pairs with limits. They did what kids do and we adults had the choice of a two pools, strolls, beach, nap, adult time etc. As another poster pointed out a condo allows for the kids eating cereal while mom and pop dine-out. With the kids I like the Village because the pool is a bit more user friendly at night. The beach pool is a lot fancier but at times a little remote and vacant. A good thing for some but not for kids at night. The restaurant at the Village is alongside the pool so there's always someone about. So again we allowed our kids to use it in pairs at night. Giving the kids freedom allowed us to have a better vacation. We also scratched cooking a couple times and enjoyed a meal at the restaurant.

Pools are nice but boring; I have a pool at my local Holiday Inn so why fly 2000 miles if not for the beaches. Unless you can afford Caneel the choices for hotel/good beach in STJ are few; sorry folks the Westin's man made beach doesn't pass muster.

Last month I was at S.V. with another family with 2 kids 10 and 12. The kids were kept on a short leash for the first few days but as mom and dad loosened to the idea the quality of what we could do improved. By the end of the stay the kids had teamed with another pair of kids and the 4 of them played like a neighborhood gang.

Your other questions; passports no but there are specific rules about I.D. and verifying your citizenship status. Use the search feature, and wade through some confusion. I use a passport to make it easy, I got hassled once by a border patrol bully for no reason. Passports are a must for BVI excursions which are $$ but worth it.

Trusting photos, you can trust the photos-it's the photographers I don't trust. If you use a site like VRBO or Homeaway pay attention to the feedback and ask for contact information from a recent renter then contact them. It's a tough process but worth it. Ask for coordinates and zoom in on the property on Google satellite maps.

Expect to pay 30% more for groceries in STT and more if you are in some of the markets on the east end. Higher still in STJ.

Eggs, butter, milk, cereal and bread will lighten your wallet by 25-30.

If I have a group of eaters I prefer Cost-U-Less for an initial stock up. For longer stays I go twice. I use the east end markets only when needed.

Have fun

Philadelphia...
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10. Re: st. john rent a house or stick with hotel?

I'm with Tom. If you have that many kids, you can rent right on Sapphire.

I'm a STT fan so take that into consideration.

There are some owners that have side by side units that open up to each other. You literally can walk out onto the sand and Sapphire Beach is gorgeous. They also have a really nice pool overlooking the water.

I know you have alot to think about, but with kids, I'd pick Sapphire and do day trips over to STJ.