Like so many vacation destinations that depend on air travel, the Caribbean has not had a fun time dealing with this recession. The Caribbean's official tourism offices, which thanks to their economic importance have the ability to bring local resorts on board with their efforts, are combating the downturn -- and competing with each other -- by assembling a list of freebies for would-be holidaymakers.
These deals, which start now and mostly carry through the hurricane season of early fall, are a bald attempt to shore up visitorship with good old-fashioned bribery -- er, discounts. For the next few months, $200 is the magic number. Everyone under the sun, it seems, is itching to give you two Ben Franklins as long as you promise to come down and stay awhile.
Barbados: $200 back on stays for five nights or longer. It'll also refund $100 for each day the average temperature falls below 78 degrees Fahrenheit and it rains more than a quarter inch. That's got to be booked by June 7, but it's good until December 18.
Bermuda: $400 back as long as you book by August 17, travel by August 21, and stay at least four nights.
Curaçao: If you book by July 15 through its Curaçao Now promotion, you'll get $200 per person credit on airline tickets, a free night as long as you're staying at least five, $140 food and beverage credits, a free day of diving and a free rental car day.
Puerto Rico: The Puerto Rico Tourism Company tapped a few giant vacation sellers (such as Pleasant Holidays) to implement its "me too" deal, which gets that $200 credit, a $100 debit card to use while in Puerto Rico, and one night free (if you stay at least three) at 17 properties. This one must be booked by June 30 for travel by December 20.
Bahamas: This one's more limited. Nassau and Paradise Island (where Atlantis is) are offering the $200 credit to people who fly out of Orlando or Fort Lauderdale as long as you book by May 31, travel by July 1, and stay at least three nights on a package vacation.
Naturally, come-ons this enticing come with some conditions attached, so make sure you get everything you expected before money trades hands.
Each island's specific terms and rules vary, but almost all of them require you to book via the official government channels to get the promotions -- and that means you won't usually be offered the lowest sale rates at any properties. Do a little comparison shopping first to make sure you couldn't have gotten the same vacation cheaper by going directly to the resort in question.
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