Panic! or How NOT to Plan a Trip!

Life has been a bit disjointed lately and we have not been on top of our travel plans like we normally are. Dominica has been on our radar for, oh, 20 years and it is time to strike it off the list. The day the docs gave Debbie the all clear we are on the internet trying to make sense of this little traveled destination.

Our first hurdle is to make sure we can get there. There are no direct flights from Canada or the US. This is why Dominica has not made it onto the tourist trail yet. We have to find the best island to fly through so we can board a hopper flight for the final leg of the journey. There are several possibilities. We follow up with United, Air Canada and West Jet. Air Canada has its typical horrible flight times at high prices. United has flights with connections that crisscross the US before heading to the Caribbean. West Jet actually has flights that are reasonable, therefore we follow up with WJ. There are several islands that have short flights to one of the two airports on Dominica. Puerto Rico, St Martin, Antigua and Barbados. The prices to fly to these island differ greatly. We choose Barbados as the price for both of us to fly there and back is just less than the flight for the return only portion from St. Martin. This is a complicated and time consuming process. But I think we done good.

I had done some preliminary research on diving and hotels over the months Debbie was dealing with health issues. So, after the flights are secured we sit down and discuss a game plan. Dominica is quite a big island so if we are only going there once, we think we should do it up right. Diving being the main reason for going, it is logical to base ourselves on the west coast.  There are dive sites all along the coast from north to south, again we might as well see a much as we can.

As we always do, we start by sending out emails to prospective dive shops and hotels. There is a short list of 3 or 4 of each, in the north, at mid island and in the south. The Caribbean works on Caribbean time and the emails are slow to return. As things begin to gel we are able to piece together the puzzle. Things are extra slow coming from the south of the island, the main city of Roseau. This seems rather odd as it would be where most of the tourists would be stationed.

Just as we are getting set to make some decisions, we have a family crisis and the trip gets put aside for just over a week. The clock is ticking, ready to chime,  with flights three and a half weeks out and we have not booked any hotels or diving. None!

We finally get back to our notes, emails and spreadsheets. Back to booking in Roseau, on the south of the island. After a bit of investigation it becomes clear that there is some sort of get together and the hotels are short on rooms for the first few days of our intended stay. It requires a phone call to one of the places to find this out. I am not sure why they were avoiding us but the phone call works. We are able to determine we can get a room for the last 5 days we want but have to search for one for the first 3 days. After emailing a group of hotels on our B list we secure a place and the trip has more or less crystallized.

One more odd thing about Dominica is at least 1/2 of the places require deposits. We’ve run into this before but standard procedure is to take a credit card number to secure the room or diving but not to charge it until either you do not show or you arrive. On this island they require partial or full payment before the booking is confirmed.

It is unusual for us not to have a trip planned this close to the departure date (a little over 3 weeks away!) and even though it has worked out there are challenges not normally encountered when one books things 5 or 6 months in advance. Stress, being one! To be able to do this things have to be quite stable on the home front and they were not that way the last few months. It is a good thing this is not our first rodeo or we may have resigned ourselves to failure and not been able to find our way out of the hole of reservation land.

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