7 Tips for Visiting Atlantis on a Budget
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Atlantis, Paradise Island is a well-known vacation destination in Nassau, Bahamas. But, as is true with many popular resort areas, Nassau and Atlantis aren't especially budget-friendly. For many travelers, the expense is simply the price of an annual vacation or once-in-a-lifetime trip. But, it's possible to cut down your expenses and book a trip to Atlantis at a fraction of the cost you thought possible.
1. Consider Saving Your Miles
Usually here at TPG we're all about using your points and miles. But we want you to get the best value possible when you do so. In many cases, using airline miles to fly to the Bahamas just isn't going to provide solid value. This is due to both the availability of cheap cash fares to the Bahamas, as well as the excessive taxes and fees levied on flights departing from the Bahamas. So, even if you use just 15,000 American miles (12,500 miles off-peak) to fly from Nassau to the continental US, you'll still need to pay $112.93 in taxes and fees. Of those taxes and fees, $22.33 are collected by the US, and the remaining $90.60 are held by the Bahamas.
So, if you can find reasonably priced round-trip flights or a cheap one-way flight departing from the Bahamas, this may be be better than using miles and still playing high taxes and fees. Note that the high taxes and fees only apply to flights departing the Bahamas; You'll only pay the normal $5.60 US security fee on an award flight from the US to the Bahamas.
2. Get a Free Stay
Simply put, staying at Atlantis isn't cheap. For example, a three-night stay in a Garden View room at the most affordable property on site, The Beach, still costs more than $900 for just the room, taxes and resort fees. And this was during times marked "best value."
Luckily, there are various ways to get free or discounted stays. A separate piece describes strategies for getting free nights at Atlantis -- but the easiest and most straightforward way is to use Marriott points to stay at The Coral (35,000 points per night), The Royal (50,000 points per night) or The Cove (60,000 points per night). You can even redeem the up to 35,000-point free night certificate that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card at The Coral.
Alternatively, you can use Choice Hotels points to stay at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island, which is a short walk from Atlantis and provides access to Atlantis' Aquaventure water park.
3. Pack the Essentials
If there are things you know you'll need, bring them from home instead of waiting to purchase them once in the Bahamas. For example, my husband and I were happy that we'd brought our own sunscreen and aqua socks to protect our feet at Aquaventure. And you definitely want to remember to pack your sunglasses, rash guards and dry bags to keep your valuables safe and dry.
Many of these items, like rash guards, aqua socks and dry bags, can be purchased for surprisingly little on Amazon. Our aqua socks looked ridiculous since they were the deeply discounted crazy designs, but they served their purpose. Purchasing them in the Bahamas or at the resort would have cost a small fortune.
4. Take the Ferry
If you want to go to Nassau from Atlantis, you could take a taxi. But, based on our experience with taxis in the Bahamas, you're probably going to be charged more than is reasonable for the short ride. So, why not take the $3 per person ferry?
Ferries depart from beneath the incoming side of the bridge on Paradise Island. You can purchase tickets on demand from a ticket booth, and then boats depart when full. You'll be dropped off in downtown Nassau.
5. Bring Your Own Food
Seriously, food is expensive at Atlantis. From my experience, the most wallet-friendly option on-site was the Marina Pizzeria, where we paid $41 for a large pizza. Yes, the pizza could easily be split by two adults and two children, but it's still a $41 pizza.
Depending on how serious you are about saving, you could theoretically pack every meal with you in the form of dehydrated meals, or go shopping at a supermarket in Nassau between the airport and Atlantis. But, at the very least, I recommend bringing oatmeal, granola bars and some of your favorite snacks. This will save you money, and the quick-eats and grab-and-go options at Atlantis really aren't worth the splurge. By eating oatmeal for breakfast in our room and snacking on granola bars, we managed to only need to buy dinner each day.
6. Take a Walk to Eat Local
There's a bridge linking Paradise Island to Nassau. If you walk across the bridge, you'll see a row of shacks along the water serving various local foods and drinks.
On our second night we took a short 15- to 20-minute walk over the bridge going off Paradise Island to Mckenzie's Fresh Fish & Conch. The walk is easy (there's a sidewalk along the bridge) and there are numerous small restaurants at the end of the bridge. The pink one right at the end of the bridge is Mckenzie's, which takes credit cards and serves Bahamian food. We ordered two Kalik beers, a conch salad, conch fritters, a fish sandwich and fries for $42 including tax and tip -- although this was more food than was needed for two people. Some of the fish is served with skin on and bones in, so if you're a picky eater, be careful when ordering.
7. Bring Your Own Alcohol
We saw a few large cases of beer being stored in the luggage storage room when we departed and noticed multiple groups of people walking around the resort with red Solo cups. You can bring alcohol from home or purchase some in the Bahamas; there's a rum shop and an island grocery store in a shopping center near the harbor village.
During our recent "free stay" using the Total Rewards benefit, we spent $533 on non-room expenses. Some of these expenses, like the resort fee and mandatory housekeeping gratuities, aren't avoidable and accounted for $198 of our non-room expenses. And although I researched other transport options, I couldn't find a way to avoid the $92 of taxi fares we incurred round-trip between the airport and resort.
The remaining $243 of expenses could have been avoided or reduced, since these costs were from five meals for two people, plus two cocktails during happy hour. You might initially think bringing your own food and alcohol is too much — but I didn't particularly enjoy paying $41 for a pizza either. In fact, budget conscious travelers may actually enjoy making their own food and eating it on their balcony instead of having to wait in line for yet another over-priced burger and fries.