Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are hot right now among American travelers from the mainland … and for good reason.
These two U.S. territories have surged in popularity throughout the pandemic. They've got picturesque beaches and warm weather closer to home. You don't need a passport to get there or a COVID-19 test to fly back home – and after some recent changes, you probably won't even need a negative COVID-19 test to get in, either.
But there's another factor behind the rise in tourism to these islands: Some astonishingly cheap flights to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Over the last year and change, we've sent our Thrifty Traveler Premium members some jaw-droppingly cheap fares to both islands, with roundtrip fares occasionally dropping below $99 at times. From short hops from the East Coast to longer flights from the Midwest, we've never seen fares this low.
They're drastically different islands once you get there, but they're both just a cheap flight away. So if either of these destinations is on your radar – or even if they aren't yet – it might be time to think about booking.
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Cheap Flights to Puerto Rico
No matter where you are in North America, getting to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) is cheaper than ever before – at least if you know where to look.
That deal featured fares as low as $126 roundtrip, which was mind-blowing…at the time…
But late last year, we dug up these sub-$100 fares to Puerto Rico that shifted how we think about San Juan flight deals overall. These American Airlines fares included the Delta hubs of Atlanta (ATL), Cincinnati (CVG), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), and Seattle (SEA) for between $97 and $99. That's less than almost any short hop within the mainland!
We've never seen fares like these from Minneapolis. Just one quick connection through an American Airlines hub and you're there!
This deal is the perfect example of how a fare war can drive some incredible deals on airfare. Airlines often target each other's hubs with big sales to try and steal some customers away in those markets. Here, American Airlines looked to peel away a few Delta loyalists with these historically low fares. But Delta isn't a victim of the Puerto Rico fare war. They launched their own sale targeting all of United and American's hubs last year, too.
The fare wars to Puerto Rico led to rock bottom prices on some of our most reputable U.S. carriers. No budget airlines, here!
You don't need to wait for a fare war to find a good deal, though. Sometimes, the airlines are just looking to fill some seats by dropping prices to Puerto Rico into the $100s.
From big cities like New York and Chicago, great deals to Puerto Rico pop up all the time. Living in gateways and hub cities can be the recipe to fares like these.
But Puerto Rico fares don't always just favor the big cities. Check out this deal we sent a few weeks ago that featured dozens of U.S. cities from Bangor (BGR) to Boise (BOI).
If these incredible fares in the $100s still aren't enough for you, could we interest you in some (nearly) free flights, instead?
Take a look at this Delta SkyMiles flash sale we unearthed last year, with deals starting at just 10,000 SkyMiles roundtrip to Puerto Rico!
Many travelers had a stockpile of SkyMiles coming out of the pandemic, and these deals would barely put a dent in them! Check out this fare from New York (JFK) to San Juan (SJU) for just 10,000 SkyMiles roundtrip!
Whether you're hoping to unload some points or book a bargain cash fare on one of the major U.S. airlines, there are tons of ways to get to Puerto Rico for cheap this year. Make sure you're signed up for Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal alerts so you can save hundreds on your Puerto Rico vacation.
Why Puerto Rico?
In normal times, Puerto Rico has all the ingredients for the perfect vacation cocktail.
Old San Juan is dripping in culture with artsy murals, tasty restaurants, and decades of history. The island is also home to some world-class beaches and resorts, too, if a slow-paced sunny escape is more your vibe. Adventurers won't be bored in Puerto Rico, either: It's home to the stunning El Yunque National Forest of the National Park Service. El Yunque is one of the U.S. National Parks that require reservations this year.
For all of those reasons, Puerto Rico's appeal has grown for many Americans on the mainland over the last few years. But ironically, the pandemic might have made that case even stronger.
You've never needed a passport to visit Puerto Rico – it's a U.S. territory, after all. And because it's a U.S. territory, that means you don't need a negative COVID-19 test to fly back to the mainland – unlike when you're heading home after a trip to the beaches of Mexico, Caribbean nations, or Central America.
In January, Puerto Rico even dropped its own COVID-19 testing entry requirement for vaccinated travelers, fully opening the island to U.S. travelers like it was any other state. And just last week, the island followed up by dropping all travel requirements, period.
There are a million reasons to visit Puerto Rico, so it was never a surprise that its popularity has grown over the last few years.
Cheap Flights to the U.S. Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are an outlier in the Caribbean as it relates to cheap flights. Over the past few months, we've sent Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers a ton of great deals to both St. Thomas (STT) and St. Croix (STX).
There are even deals like this one, which we just can't stop thinking about…
For the cost of a night out, you could have booked a flight to St. Croix (STX) from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD). It doesn't get any cheaper than that…
Or so we thought. Somehow, some way, the fares to the Virgin Islands kept falling and falling throughout the pandemic.
With flights to the U.S. Virgin Islands as low as $69 for a nonstop, it was cheaper than what I pay each month for streaming services! It was an insane sale that could have helped our subscribers get down to the U.S. Virgin Islands for next to nothing
No matter where you live, U.S. Virgin Islands deals are well within reach, especially for Thrifty Traveler Premium members.
Why the U.S. Virgin Islands?
Let's be honest, the U.S. Virgin Islands' reputation doesn't need my help. Dreamy beaches, perfect weather … all with no passport required. St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix are probably already on your list.
If they're not, you probably don't know about the snorkeling at Trunk Bay on St. John. It's known as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. The color of the water, the surrounding vistas, and that picture perfect blue sky are nearly unbeatable.
It's just a ferry ride away from St. Thomas, too, so you don't have to plan a St. John-only trip to take advantage. Plus, the Island Time Pub waits for you when you return to the island.
If you want to stay on the island of St. Thomas and are looking for something other than just a beach day, take a hike up to Drake's Seat for some sublime views of the surrounding area. Over in St. Croix, there's so much more you can see. We have a full guide to St. Croix, so you can choose which city (Christiansted or Frederiksted) is a better home base for you, and so much more.
Beyond all of the incredible things to do in the U.S.V.I., it's also increasingly easy to visit – even during pandemic times. As always, you can leave your passport at home for a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. And as a U.S. territory just like Puerto Rico, you don't need a negative COVID-19 test to fly back home after a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Throughout much of the pandemic, the U.S.V.I. required entry COVID-19 testing, but recently, the Virgin Islands dropped those COVID-19 testing requirements for vaccinated travelers. That means you no longer need a COVID-19 test or a passport to travel to and from the U.S. Virgin Islands so long as you're vaccinated.
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are some of the hottest destinations we feature on Thrifty Traveler Premium. And that has only grown throughout the pandemic.
Whether you want a Caribbean beach getaway, an arts and culture immersion, or a National Parks excursion, the islands have something for you without all of the hassle of international travel.