Ahhh, the Virgin Islands. As winter grips us in its icy fist, you might be dreaming of white sand beaches, sunny skies and bright-colored rum cocktails with festive little umbrellas stuck in them.
As if that doesn’t sound enticing enough, there’s now an even sweeter reason to escape for a Caribbean vacation.
Effective immediately, the U.S. Virgin Islands is offering visitors $300 to spend exploring the territory in 2017.
Called the “2017 centennial package,” the deal is to honor the 100th anniversary of the U.S. government’s purchase of the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix from Denmark.
How to Get Your Free $300 U.S. Virgin Islands Package
Simple: You book a trip for at least three nights through USVI.com using the promo code “CP1,” and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ tourism department will send you $300 in spending credits.
You must book your trip by Oct. 1, 2017, but you can travel anytime in 2017, up to Dec. 31.
A major upside: These credits aren’t just glorified coupon books. At participating locations, you can use the credits just like cash and cover the full price of whatever purchases catch your eye.
Since these are the U.S. Virgin Islands, you won’t need a passport to go.
What’s the Catch?
Now, there are few things to keep in mind. For one, you can’t just plow through your free $300 at the nearest poolside bar.
The offer is meant to get tourists out exploring, so the $300 in credits are good for “cultural activities” like eco-tours, food tours, art or history museums and kayaking trips.
Another hoop to jump through: You have to stay at one of the participating hotels. That’s not too difficult, though, because there are 27 hotels on the list, most with nightly rates in the $200s or $300s.
Cheapest: the Holger Danske Hotel on St. Croix with nightly rates at $130. (A four-minute walk to the beach.)
Priciest: the Caneel Bay Resort on St. John, with nightly rates at $711. (Think elegant rooms with terraces and sea views.)
Pros and Cons
The main downside: You have to buy your own plane ticket. Depending on when and where you’re flying from, airfare to the U.S. Virgin Islands ranges from the $100s to the $500s.
The main upside: Do the words “tropical paradise” mean anything to you?
Average high temperature in Chicago in January: 30 degrees.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands: 84 degrees.
Your Turn: Have you ever visited the U.S. Virgin Islands?
Mike Brassfield, a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder, is fond of beaches. He can be reached at email@example.com.