The Top 5 Things I Learned While Vacationing in St. John

So finally I get around to my St. John vacation recap. Better late than never, no?? We had a fabulous time, though it is not hard to have a wonderful time when you are swimming in crystal clear water off white sandy beaches. Don’t believe me? See below.

beach

 

Here are the top five things I learned while vacationing in St. John:

1. Vacationing in the Caribbean is not nearly as expensive if you rent a condo. We opted to stay in a small condo community near Cruz Bay. We had a small kitchen that was great for making breakfast and lunch. We hit the grocery store for basics which allowed us to splurge on dinner out most evenings. There were some great restaurants (including this one and this one), but this one was our favorite. Check out the fried fish plate that we got on our last night. Needless to say, we went to this place twice.

friedfish

2. Tour guides can show you a whole different island. We were lucky enough to have our cousin, Frank, and his wonderful wife, Mickey, who managed the B&B across from our condo. In addition to helping us find our way around, our fabulous cousins helped us navigate the island, showing us some of its history and some awesome lesser-known beaches along the way.  We also got to go to lunch at this little gem of a restaurant, which we never would have found on our own. If you go, I highly recommend the grouper reuben.

3. In the Caribbean, goats are domesticated, everyone has a rooster, and iguanas are like island squirrels. Seriously, I have never seen so much farm-life roaming around on paved roads. Goats and chickens were all over the place! It wasn’t a problem for most of the trip until a rooster set up shop outside our place the night before we had to catch the 6am ferry home. Ick. Iguanas were everywhere too. We saw 5 in one tree one night at dinner. 5! This is one that I caught hanging out on the path when were walking into town one night. If you want to see really unique wildlife, you need to look underwater.

iguana

4. Snorkeling on your own is overrated, go with someone who knows what they’re doing. I was a disastrous snorkeler, and my mom was no better. We did try, so I guess that’s something. For my part, I floated around for a while, not seeing much, when all of a sudden a HUGE snapping sea turtle crept up on me. It was so scary! (I later found out that sea turtles don’t snap, in fact, they are vegetarians. How was I supposed to know??) In the meantime, mom kept coming up for air, not seeing me, and began worrying that I had drowned. Guess she didn’t have much faith in those swimming lessons she got me! We returned our equipment after only a day (thankfully it was only $8/day to rent), and tried snorkeling Discountess-style the next day. Basically, we stood really still  in the water and looked down for long periods of time. Despite looking like buffoons, we did manage to see an octopus, (snapping) sea turtles, silver fish, sea urchins and more! If I try it again, I want to go with someone who knows what to look for (and what will bite you). I think I’d have more fun that way.

5. Don’t even THINK about renting a moped. When heading to a Caribbean vacation, people often dream of renting a moped and scooting around the island each day. Well, not in St. John. In addition to the fact that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road, the entire island is covered in mountains. Really, really steep mountains. So steep in fact that I spent most of the time in the car with my eyes closed, softly singing to myself. You think I’m crazy, but you try speeding up a switch back with lunatic drivers whizzing past you on the wrong side of the road. I think you’ll change your mind.

All in all a fabulous trip. If you’re looking for a Caribbean destination for your next vacation, I highly recommend it!

 

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March Budget Breakdown – Better Late Than Never

As you can tell, I’ve been a delinquent Discountess. My end of March vacation to St. John and a series of spring weddings have rendered me without time to blog/keep my life and brain in order. After this weekend, I’ll be back in action. I have one more wedding, and then my schedule returns to normal. Well, more or less.

So at almost half way through the month of April, I give you the March budget breakdown. What I’ve learned this month is that vacations do not lend themselves to saving money. Not shocking. Still, the vacation (which I will give the full rundown on later) was fabulous and worth every over-budget penny spent! And, because I wasn’t in DC for a full week during the month, I was able to keep my grocery budget in check (of course my food and entertainment costs were off the hook, but I’m choosing the positive point of view). I also saved in the shopping category—a new feat for me. Aside from a few incidentals for the trip, I mainly stayed away from the stores last month.

Here is the full budget breakdown for March:

Cash/ATM – 14% over (I changed the starting number this month because the old one was too low, but this still isn’t good. I’m chalking it up to vacation needs and moving on)
Entertainment – 120% over
Food/Drink – 135.6% over
Personal Care – 5% over
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) – 56% over

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Auto/Transportation – 71.5% used
Business/Office – 50.8% used
Groceries – 92.7% used (Astounding!)
Dry Cleaning – 18.8% used
Gifts – 65.4% used
Gym – 100% used
Shopping – 70.4% used (YES!)

Also in March, I managed to keep with my goal of taking the stairs at work more which has been a good change. Plus, with the new spring weather, I’ve been able to run outside as well!  The goal on the docket for April was supposed to be about my morning coffee purchase, i.e. I shouldn’t be purchasing it every day. I was doing well for the first week of the month, but this week I’ve hit the Brown Bag for my Swings coffee every day. Perhaps we should save that one for May? Anyway, since it is now springtime, my goal this month is to clean house on my spring/summer wardrobe. I plan to get it all out (it’s been in storage for the winter) and use a discerning eye about what I should actually keep and what I should get rid of. I’m hoping I can scrounge up a few good consignment options, so I can line my pockets for future wardrobe investments.  I’ll let you know how it goes!