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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Open 3 credit cards
Barclaycard Arrival Plus – 40,000 bonus points
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards – 50,000 bonus points
Chase Ink Plus business card – 60,000 bonus points
Round trip ROC-SJO on Southwest
Points used: 52,640 from the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards
Points used: 47,800 from Barclaycard Arrival Plus
Portal used: TopCashBack to Travelocity
Points used: 60,000 from Chase Ink Plus
Points used: 0
Portal used: TopCashBack to Marriott
Book Rental Car
SUV – Budget through Orbitz
Total trip cost: $455.37
Consider this honeymoon in Costa Rica hacked.
Do you have a trip you want hacked? Fill out the “Hack This Trip” form or email me at email@example.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!