Travel Success Tales: Vanessa’s $83 Costa Trip for 2 using points

Pura Vida. I’ve heard of these words whenever I entertained the idea of traveling to Costa Rica. While it means “pure life” or “simple life” – it actually means more than that for the Costa Ricans. According to VacationsCostaRica, “No worries, no fuss, no stress—pura vida to them means being thankful for what they have and not dwelling on the negative.”

Image courtesy of World Atlas

Our previous Travel Success Tales were focused on trips to Hawaii:

  1. Iza’s Trip to Oahu $11/person using points
  2. Bryan & Emily’s last-minute anniverary trip to Maui for $11/person using points

This was the reason I’m excited to share with you our next Travel Success Tale. Today, we’re going out of the country, to Costa Rica. Meet Vanessa. She started this hobby of earning miles and points in the summer of 2016. She is thrilled to share her story. She and her boyfriend recently came back from Costa Rica. Here’s her success tale.

What was the goal of your trip?

My birthday was in February and my boyfriend recommended for us to go to Costa Rica (CR). He visited CR two years ago for work. We are both busy individuals and would love some sort of a romantic getaway trip for my birthday and Valentine’s Day. Our trip was rather crazy and ambitious, having to drive all over Costa Rica – from Alajuela, which was near the airport, to La Fortuna, then to Manuel Antonio then back up to Alajuela in a span of 5 days.

Zip lining at Arenal Park was a thrilling experience!

How long did you collect miles and points for your trip? What credit card/s did you get your points from?

Image courtesy of Chase

I started collecting points for travel redemption last May when I accidentally stumbled upon a travel group on Facebook. I wanted to have points/miles to be able to go on long weekend trips within the US and travel to South Korea and Japan where I have a bunch of friends who have been urging me to come visit them. Since then, I have in my wallet the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Southwest Cards.

Which points did you save to take your trip?

I was excited to get the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card when I found out that they fly to Costa Rica and the rest of the Caribbean. We could take advantage of the companion pass, I could get a free flight plus my companion’s flight as well for just $80 taxes/fees per person. If I just paid cash, this trip would have costed us over $1,000 total. I thought it was the best bang for my buck. Imagine, $80 for two to Costa Rica using our rewards with Southwest!

How did you search and find the award flights?

I first went to Southwest.com to book the trip. I discovered since Costa Rica was international that it would not be available online. I had to call Southwest and the process was easy. The agent was able to book our reservation on the phone in less than 10 minutes.

Sunset in Costa Rica

How did you find your hotel accommodations?

I’ve had to pay cash for our accommodation. To save more money, I chose to book via AirBnB as I found them more affordable and served our purpose just for a place to sleep.

Pejibaye, pronounced pey-hee-ba-yee, a cross between potato and a chestnut

What was the most challenging part about planning your trip?

The most challenging part was figuring out what to do and compressing it all in four days. I did my research. I looked up travel blogs for things to do and see in Costa Rica. They helped quite a lot. Since we only had four days, we had to prioritize. To help this, I created an Excel spreadsheet to organize our itinerary. We were not able to complete everything 100% but we were able to knock down a good portion of our to do list and most importantly, did so without stressing too much.

Lunch at El Wagon, a famous restaurant in Manuel Antonio.

What were your lessons learned about this trip?

I learned that although traveling can be done frugally, it must still be done in a way where you and your partner are enjoying yourselves. Because of the points I’ve earned, we were able to spend some money on fine dining and splendid activities that otherwise we cannot afford. Again, this would be impossible to accomplish without the points I’ve acquired from Southwest!

We love La Fortuna Waterfalls

Any tips for those who haven’t gone on a miles/points trip?

Just do it! That’s what can I tell those folks looking to plan a similar trip or those who are interested in taking any miles and points trip. Don’t stress too much and just have fun! That should be the main objective of your trip. Otherwise, all the points you have collected all this time would go in vain. Everything will fall into place as long as you are having fun!

Manuel Antonio beach is of the best beaches in Costa Rica

Any new trips planned? Have you signed up for new cards?

I plan to get more credit cards to travel to Europe, Greece, and the Philippines, my home country. The possibilities are endless with this lucrative hobby. I have my eyes next on hotel credit cards such as Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, SPG as they can definitely be useful for my dream vacations.

400 steps to La Fortuna Falls

It all goes back to the meaning of pura vida, no worries, no fuss, no stress. And that’s what Vanessa did. She went on a quick getaway and just went with the flow and enjoyed the beauty of Costa Rica. I agree with Vanessa. Just do it! In this case, in order for her to get to this point, she took charge and learned how to make it happen and was able to travel for nearly free. With a little perseverance, this birthday-vacation-getaway came true. I’ve never been to Costa Rica. I do have points that I can transfer to Southwest, and will definitely look up these sights that Vanessa had visited.

Thank you, Vanessa, for sharing your success tale. Can’t wait to hear more about your future trips!

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