It really does help to plan ahead. The best advice I could ever offer anyone about traveling is to pay attention to details and plan for the unexpected. On the times I have traveled via airline it has been such a hassle you almost want to bail out before you get to wherever you are going. We had some troubles in getting to and parking at Fort Lauderdale International Airport on our way to Jamaica and the place was very busy on the day we flew out. The lines all over were ridiculous but it seems AirJamaica was especially delayed on this day and there was confusion on more than one flight. The people we’re courteous and friendly but you could sense an air of sarcasm in how they approach things. They are obviously overworked and tired of the routine.
We had to park triple stacked out front to unload our baggage and cars were whizzing by very fast the whole time. It was nerve racking with a two year old who suddenly knows everything and feels like he can do what he wants. He has certainly made our trip more interesting if not difficult at some points. It made for a hectic time to keep an eye on our children in the mayhem of the airport while we dealt with the myriad of lines and checkpoints. Making it through to the parking lot from the airplane took us more time than the actual flight from Florida to Jamaica did. Sounds bad but it’s true we were in immigration and customs for what seemed a lifetime. On all my previous trips I traveled for less than 30 days and was never really questioned about my intent or my ability to support myself. After a day from hell to have that girl ask me if I could prove my ability to support my family for 90 days I was hopping mad. I lost it and she was pretty curse in her remarks that my troubles were not going to be hers. I understand they have a job to do but I wish they could understand us as well.
They really don’t make it easy at all to travel to Jamaica. It all sounds good on the advertisements but once you embark on your trip you realize they place more obstacles in your way to discourage your travels then they do concessions to accommodate us. We were one of the last flights in that day and it seemed half the staff was working on shutting down or not working at all. We carried lots of things for our 90 day adventure and they took time to rummage through every single bit of it. It was aggravating but necessary I guess. It seems redundant to go through checks of our baggage when we land after the inspection we’re given in the States but I realize they are looking for different things on both ends. What would have been nice was more accommodations for us. They were pretty adamant we stand directly in front of them and watch the search while we had two young children ready to leave and running around the lobby like wild bush kids. At times it seemed to me they reveled in our aggravation as if to say good for you for coming here. Maybe it was just me but I did get the feeling we were unwanted and an irritation to them for being there.
Traveling with kids can be a real headache but traveling with my two kids can be worse. Our oldest son AJ is autistic which requires attention and our two year old is having issue with control and he is deep in the middle of a “my” phase. Everything belongs to him and he’ll fight you for it. He was a handful in the airport and keeping control of him almost requires one of those kid leashes now. I hate those things but this trip made me rethink things. For safety sake I can see some need for those on occasion. Sadly we didn’t have one and Robby decided it was time to explore. I covered almost the entire airport that day including stairwells, bathrooms and behind counters. Half the staff at the concession stands knew his name and ended up watching him with me as he ran around the terminal in circles jacked up on Pepsi cola and Doritos chips. I suggest you plan according and bring multiple forms of entertainment for the young ones especially on longer flights. You’ll appreciate a portable DVD player and favorite movie like never before. A mobile game is probably even better but that’s between you and your kids. Whatever you do bring a couple choices to cover the boredom for them and don’t forget backup batteries. I brought a rechargeable battery center with loads of rechargeable batteries for all the gadgets and things we have. It’s been great already and looks to be a great investment. I’ve got some gadget reviews for Jamaica soon come mon.
A list of what to do and and what not to do before you travel to Jamaica would be great but it would only tell you whats good for me and my family in our travels. Traveling requires thinking and pre planning for things beyond your control. Case in point would be with our arrival in Mobay. Our original plans called for us to reach Negril as early as 5 PM with plenty time for a grocery run and dinner that evening but our flight delays brought us in after 9pm. Our plans were shot and we needed to modify, we had a junk food dinner from the likkle shop across the street and breakfast was soda, chips and honey buns at the Texaco Gas station on Sheffield Road early the next morning and well before anyone was open for business. The kids are up and ready to run at 6 am and nothing opens here until 9am so it was that or listen to them die of hunger for 2 hours. We can’t seem to function until after breakfast and better planning could have avoided this confusion. With all the junk we did bring a little more food would have helped quite a bit. Our plans to hit the grocery on the first evening were smashed when our flights were delayed and we hit evening traffic from Mobay. Now I realize food prices are quite a bit higher then we planned and I have had to adjust our budget. I’ll have more to say on shopping in Negril soon come.
Waking up in paradise eased many of our concerns but there were some troubles with that as well. I’m beginning to learn that not everything is as promised in Jamaica. Our room at the Heartbeat Hotel in Negril Jamaica is very nice and a deal at the rates we pay for the service we receive but it’s not exactly what we thought it was. The room is not air conditioned and the beach access is through an adjacent property which happens to be a pretty seedy looking bar that doesn’t get started till after midnight but never closes. The air conditioning is a tough one to handle but we’re living with it. The wireless access in our room has been spotty at best. I replaced the in house router with my own and it was great for the evening but when I woke up the router was dead. No action at all. I was able to reconfigure the existing one and move on but it gets fuzzy every afternoon when the rains come. The rains are sweet and cool off the sometimes brutal afternoon heat. The rain is great and much needed around here but it does lead to one prevailing problem in Jamaica and thats mosquitoes. The mosquito problem is huge. The mosquitoes are huge and the problem is beyond huge. We would be eaten alive if not for the screened windows which we are forced to keep closed each afternoon as the swarms invade from the hillside. The mosquitoes here are hungry and relentless in attack. Hand to hand combat is your best effort in this ever to be won war unless you relish poisoning yourself with DEET and other such chemical gents. The best I’ve found now is to sleep with the windows shut and and we lotion ourselves up because sand fleas still creep in and their bites can be worse than mosquitoes. Sleeping on near the ocean or beaches in Negril can be surreal but nature is a balance of pleasure and pain that you’ll need to learn to live with.
What to wear in Negril is a personal thing. You can actually wear whatever you want if anything at all but keeping it simple seems to work in all of Jamaica. My first trip to Jamaica found me walking around with logos and name brand labels on everything I owned and I noticed it made me marked as someone with money. It also reminded me how obvious those labels were to others and how oblivious I had become to them. I don’t think I purchased items because of the logos but it made me rethink how I look when I travel. I’ve found a pack of plain colored tee shirts works great for me. I prefer a solid earth tone shirt with simple board or cargo shorts and shoes of choice if necessary. I was also warned in the past that fresh new bright white socks are a sign of wealth to some so I run low profile black socks these days just to be safe and sexy
It’s hot in Jamaica and dressing appropriate is not only smart but easy. Dressing in layers with options for the fast changing Jamaican weather helps but in Negril you can wear what you want. I carry a waist bag with small poncho for those flash flood rain storms that pop up most afternoons. A heavy rain can soak you and your gear fast and a poncho comes to the rescue with ease. A good pair of shoes is a no brainer but in Jamaica I prefer a pair of hiking or trail style shoes with full toe protection. While a nice romantic walk in Jamaica sounds great the reality is the beach and access roads can be littered with glass and the potholes and road sholders are more like rough hiking trails with large rocks and debris to grab your toes and hurt you. I know it sounds cool to run around town like you do the beach and barefoot it I do not recommend doing so unless your feet are hardened and ready for a beating. My favorite pair of shoes is a pair of hiking sandals which covers the toes from bumps and bruises but also breathes well and can get wet if need be. They allow me the freedom to cover the variety of terrain and conditions you might encounter on any day in Jamaica without need to carry backup shoes.
The sun here is deadly and you can almost feel the skin cancer growing on you if you run around all day with no protection. It will bake creamy white human flesh like chicken in the oven and leave you looking worse than last nights lobster dinner in just one day. You have to be careful at all times. Even on an overcast day the suns rays are beaming through and it will have a lasting effect on you even when you don’t feel it. The sun takes more out of you than the Red Stripes on the beach and playing it safe is smart. I’m not going to get into what sun protection to wear but I’ll tell you to bring plenty and try different things. The obvious would be good suntan lotion with a decent SPF factor. Others will suggest you bring lightweight long sleeve clothing which may work well for them but not so for me. I can’t handle long sleeves or long pants in the sun. I find them suffocating and can only wear shorts and tee or tank tops. A decent skin lotion is my best choice. Suntan lotion is a luxury to many Jamaicans and the prices in local stores reflect it. Average price at the Key West Pharmacy in Negril was over $700 Jamaica Dollars for a medium size tube of 30 SPF. At 65 Jamaican to 1 US thats $10.95 I paid for a 12 ounce bottle of 45 SPF Baby sun protection. The whole issue over what size liquids containers you can bring on airplanes had me leave a few things we needed. We probably could have brought 3 bottles from home for the same price we paid for one bottle here. We brought some but it would not have lasted our entire trip and just finding the right stuff in Negril was hard enough. The Hi Lo only carries an SPF 15 Tan Accelerator and some other over priced junk with lower SPF. Nowhere have I seen any high performance stuff like the zinc oxide type high SPF creams for water sports and such. I’ll have to try some dive shops or maybe higher end gift shops and hotels for better stuff for the kids at the beach.
A full days sun can be hard on the eyes and good sunglasses are a must. I suggest you consider purchasing more than one pair of sun glasses for those times when one pair can’t be found. No matter how hard we try our room ends up a mess and keeping track of things like sunglasses, room keys and cameras becomes a chore without some proper planning. Keeping things in one place helps but the kids don’t always cooperate and misplaced items makes it necessary to run through a checklist of sorts before we leave to make certain we have everything we need for our trip including an itinerary and cab fare separate from grocery money. I have a multi bag setup which includes my waist pack, my shoulder bag and my backpack which I use based on my adventures for the day. The full backpack is usually to much unless we’re taking the kids to the beach and bringing towels and cameras and stuff. I usually run around with a waistbag that has multiple pockets. This allows me to keep cash separated so I don’t have to show all my money for things like cab rides and jerk stands. It carries a mobile phone, room keys, digital camera, cash, credit cards and I can stuff my shades and a small washcloth in it. It looks touristy but it’s the most convenient and safest to carry. I never leave it anywhere and it’s far more difficult to snatch. Having things right in front is handy and even the wife and kids can reach it should they need to.
I’m fully embracing technology and we have a decent setup of gadgets and gear with us. We brought the JVC digital camera which shoots nice DVD quality video but takes crap pictures. I use it for video shoots of the kids and I’ve done some nice sunsets with it but it has limitations and it’s bulkier to carry. For this trip I wanted a new digital camera that shot good size photos and I also wanted something waterproof so I could go on a snorkel trip or two. I ended up choosing a Sea Life SL320 because one was available in Fort Lauderdale on the day of our flight. My order for a Vivitar Vivicam 6300w fell through and it was to be delayed beyond our departure flight. The SL320 cost more but its a much better dive camera. Rated at 130 feet this thing goes well beyond my limits and has been a real blast thus far. I’m preparing a gadget review on my Sea Life Sl320 soon come. I needed a new laptop and went with a refurbished Gateway from TigerDirect that simply rocks. It’s a very nice computer and I could not be happier with it. It comes with all the ports and connections I need including firewire and USB 2.0 and the Centrino Duo lets me create movies from my video camera while the kids watch a DVD movie through the attached 22 inch monitor using an extended desktop. We forgot the remote to the Xbox so the kids can’t use the multifunction 22″ monitor for anything but games for now. Soon come the remote from grandmother in the States. I have the laptop setup to power the monitor with a DVD movie and the Xbox is attached so the kids have something to do besides swim at the beach and run around the property. Both Robby and AJ have taken to having their picture taken much better than before but Robby has become a real camera hog. He loves to have his picture taken and now he wants to take pictures. He’s been running around with the SL320 and popping some odd shots of cats and trees. It’s neat and it would be awesome if he took to photography at a young age because of it.
Ok, this post has grown to huge proportions and I can write all day. I’m ending it here with comments open for questions or suggestions. Does anyone need to know anything else about moving to Negril Jamaica?Tags: customs, food, grocery, heartbeat, hotels, Jamaica, Jamaica Tips, Jamaica Travel, jamaicans, mosquitoes, Moving to Jamaica, negril, Negril Jamaica, pharmacy, re, rooms, shopping, travel