Hack this trip: A Honeymoon in Costa Rica

 

H

 In this series, I plan to share practical examples of how to turn perceivably unattainable trips into affordable travel options using a little creativity and some more traditional travel hacking techniques. If you’d like to have a trip hacked, complete the online form through this link.

Goal Trip Details

A couple is looking to spend about 10 days in Costa Rica for some post-wedding honeymoon bliss. Ideally, they’d like to split their time between the tropical rainforests surrounding Arenal volcano or someplace similar and the coast. They had contacted a travel agent, providing the details for their ideal trip, and were quoted a price of about $7,000 total.

I found a similar itinerary to what they were looking for through a travel agent here http://costaricaexperts.com/vacations/honeymoon-heaven/. It comes in at a more modest $4,200 or so but doesn’t include airfare.

With a goal price of “as cheap as possible” without having to open too many credit cards, let’s see how we can hack this trip:

 

Flights

Rochester-San Jose

The honeymooners could book flights from their hometown of Rochester, NY to San Jose, Costa Rica on Southwest with a connection in Baltimore each way. In order to save money on the cost of these flights, one of them could apply for a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card through Chase, which currently has a sign up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $2,000. They would only have to spend $640 after the minimum spending to have enough points for convenient flights to Costa Rica. They would need to pay a total of $106.06 in taxes and fees along with the miles. Southwest Flights

 

Hotels

The honeymooners want to split their time between Arenal and the coast, so I’m giving them 5 nights in Arenal to hike, zipline, spot monkeys, and do all that other adventurous stuff that’s common to the area, 4 nights on the ocean in Papagayo for a little R&R, and 1 night back in San Jose before the morning flight out.

Arenal

Hotel Heliconias Treehouse

Photo credit: Hotel Heliconias

There aren’t any chain hotels in Arenal where points can be used, so we had to take a look at the boutique ecolodges. Hotel Heliconias is rated very highly on Tripadvisor, but still comes in at a budget-friendly price. Because it’s their honeymoon, I thought the treehouse room might be a little more fun and worth the extra money. Five nights at Hotel Heliconias comes in at a total of $610 through Travelocity, but if we use the TopCashBack portal, we can tack on an extra 7% in savings, bringing our total down to $567. 30. By opening a Barclaycard Arrival Plus card and meeting the minimum spending, the couple can use the bonus points earned to negate at least $478 of that cost (40,000 bonus points + points earned from min. spending), bringing their out of pocket cost to $127.30.

Hotel Heliconias Cost

Papagayo

Andaz Papgayo

Photo credit: Andaz Papgayo

The Andaz Papagayo is a luxury Hyatt property and the perfect place to relax during a honeymoon. Stays at the Andaz run 15,000 points per night, so 4 nights would require 60,000 Hyatt points total. The couple could earn these points by having one of them sign up for the Chase Ink Plus business card, which has a current sign up bonus of 60,000 points. Chase’s Ultimate Rewards transfer to Hyatt at a rate of 1:1, leaving them with the 60,000 Hyatt points needed.

Andaz hotel

San Jose

Hotels around the San Jose airport are affordable, so it makes the most sense to pay cash here. The couple could book a room at the Marriott Courtyard San Jose Airport, which has a free shuttle to and from the airport for convenience. The prepaid cost of a room would be $77, but by using the TopCashBack portal, we could save another 7% and bring that cost down to $71.61 for the night.

Courtyard San jose

Car Rental

Costa Rica’s infrastructure has been improving quickly, but still needs some work. Because the honeymooners are going to be driving a decent distance to get to Arenal and Papagayo and the roads may not all be ideal, I thought a small SUV rental would be best. Using the TopCashBack portal once again and booking through Expedia, they can save 6% on the cost of the rental car, bringing the $160 charge down to a total price of $150.40. If they’re not comfortable with driving in Costa Rica, there are several shared and private shuttle options available, but this will cost a bit more.

SUV rental

 

Trip summary

Open 3 credit cards

Person 1:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus – 40,000 bonus points

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards – 50,000 bonus points

Person 2:

Chase Ink Plus business card – 60,000 bonus points

Book Flights

Round trip ROC-SJO on Southwest

Points used: 52,640 from the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards

Cost: $106.06

Book Hotels

Hotel Heliconias

Points used: 47,800 from Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Portal used: TopCashBack to Travelocity

Cost: $127.30

Andaz Papagayo

Points used: 60,000 from Chase Ink Plus

Cost: $0

Courtyard Marriott San Jose Airport

Points used: 0

Portal used: TopCashBack to Marriott

Cost: $71.61

Book Rental Car

SUV – Budget through Orbitz

Cost: $150.40

Total trip cost: $455.37

 

Consider this honeymoon in Costa Rica hacked.

Cheers!

 

Do you have a trip you want hacked? Fill out the “Hack This Trip” form or email me at unsettledmeliorist@gmail.com with the details.

 

Full disclosure: I earn a small commission for signups from the cash back links on this page. You don’t have to use my links, but I appreciate it if you do!

 

3 Comments

  1. Wow, that is some crazy savings! I think my favorite was getting to stay at the Andaz Papagayo for free using Chase points- that’s a gorgeous hotel. Really good tips for saving on a trip to Costa Rica. Only thing you have to watch out for is the insurance for car rentals- in CR, everyone has to pay basic liability insurance on rentals and sometimes sites like Expedia and Orbitz don’t include those fees. Still a hack though even if it’s a little more!

    • Good to know about the car rental insurance. I know that can sometimes tack on quite a bit to the car rental fee!

  2. Great post. I truly loved your post. I will continue to check back and read more of your work, as I am hoping to plan a trip to visit one day and will use some of your post as I guide.

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