As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
What you need to visit St. Maarten
After closing its borders in March, Sint Maarten/St Martin is preparing to reopen to Americans and Europeans on July 1. They began their phased reopening to foreigners in three stages, with most of its Caribbean neighbors already able to visit. But like many other destinations, travelers will find that they are not going to find the ideal vacation away from all the masks and social distancing.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox including what other nations are open, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Sint Maarten is one of our favorite destinations at The Points Guy because of the incredible plane spotting opportunities at Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). You can literally stand on a beach and watch planes take off and land from the beach.
Related: Plane spotting at SXM
According to the official St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, all inbound travelers are expected to adhere to the following safety measures that the local government is instituting:
- COVID-19 RT-PCR test with negative results for anyone above age 10, no older than 72 hours prior to day of travel
- Facial coverings inside the Princess Juliana International Airport for all arriving and departing passengers
- Mandatory temperature checks upon arrival
- COVID-19 rapid test at an additional cost to the traveler if shown to be exhibiting symptoms
Local officials have confirmed via Facebook that passengers do not have to take the test within 72 hours prior to travel, as long as they get the results within that time frame. Quarantine and isolation rules are still in effect for anyone arriving on a ship.
How to get there
According to Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), the first flights from the United States will start July 2 with Delta from its Atlanta (ATL) hub. European service will begin on July 5 with Air France service to Paris (CDG).
Delta may still have seats available for its first flight into St. Maarten, but roundtrip prices on the first day easily exceed a whopping $1300. You can drastically reduce this price to roughly $624 from JFK in the main cabin ($554 for basic economy) if you’re willing to spend a night in Atlanta.
Prices are drastically lower when using miles. You can get there with as little as 42,000 Delta SkyMiles with only 6,000 more for main cabin over basic economy (and $90 for taxes and fees). Delta Comfort+ is available for another 6,000 miles. First class is available as well, but prices are high as you can see from the chart below.
While airport schedules indicate that JetBlue was slated to resume its flights on July 3, the booking portal on its website does not show seat availability from New York until July 11 — with its own nonstop service beginning to show on July 12. Roundtrip flights will cost roughly $743 or 52,100 TrueBlue points and about $84 in taxes and fees.
American is offering a relatively cheaper fare compared to the aforementioned carriers, with roundtrip flights starting at $498 on its main cabin from JFK. Business cabin is only available on the flight from St. Maarten on some days. Mileage redemption starts at 33,000 miles on main cabin with about $90 in taxes and fees.
However, you should remember that American recently removed its flight capacity limits — meaning you may not be able to socially distance in air. The airline said it will continue allowing passengers to move to less-crowded flights for no fee when such options are available, and that it will alert passengers when their flights are full.
The cheapest seats seem to come from Spirit in the middle of the month, leaving Fort Lauderdale on July 18 and returning on July 25 for roughly $149. For a roundtrip option from the New York area, Newark (EWR) is the cheapest for roughly $194 — $24 cheaper than flying from LaGuardia (LGA).
United, which usually flies from its Newark (EWR) hub, has not announced plans to resume at this time.
Where to Stay
Several resorts are planning to reopen on July 1, but using traditional hotel points on the island will not be easy. We would recommend using American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) benefits at Belmond la Samanna, but they are closed at the moment and have not indicated when they will reopen.
Hotels.com shows more than 1,200 hotels and guest properties with availability during the week of July 1, with many offering discounts at this time. Simpsons Bay Beach Resort and Marina is currently offering discounted prices from $85/night, with a wide range of prices from other places at this time. Not a lot of chain hotels are available in St. Maarten, so if you are paying cash, you could definitely use the travel credit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for somewhere else to go, check out our country-by-country Caribbean guide for more on when your destination of choice plans to welcome guests.
Featured Photo by Joel Carillet / Getty Images