Category Archives: Costa Rica

How I Afford To Travel The World

Probably the number one question I get asked when it comes to my travels is, “How do you afford it?!” Since I work seasonal employment, it’s not exactly the most profitable field, and therefore I shouldn’t be traveling as much as I do. But, the answer lies in the details. As a former travel agent, I have a few tricks of the trade that have helped me throughout the years and as I travel more, I have gained a few tricks of my own. 

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. I scour websites like Momondo and Skyscanner and STA travel and Student Universe, and I’m not picky. When I bought my ticket to Japan, I originally had no idea of where I wanted to go. I used the “Take Me Anywhere” feature on Momondo, and found my $378 round trip ticket to Tokyo. I didn’t really have any interest in going to Japan, but at a price like that, I couldn’t say no.

Being flexible allows more doors to open and better flights to pop up. If you have one particular place in mind, chances of finding the “perfect” flight at a stellar price are pretty slim. But, if you go into it with no expectations of where you’re going, there are some absolutely phenomenal flights out there to places that are super up and coming.

Save. Everything. Since I work seasonal jobs, my bills are almost non-existent. Most of my contracts offer me food and housing, so I can save nearly everything I make instead of having to pay for rent and utilities and car insurance and car payments and and and…While this isn’t the case for a lot of people, when I worked a “normal 9-5”, I was putting 20-25% of my paychecks away for future travels.

Because I’m committed to traveling as much as I can, I was willing to sacrifice a few nights out with friends or going out to dinner or splurging on a new outfit if it meant that I could take a helicopter ride in Iceland or order an extra bottle of wine in Venice or stay in the hotel that I had been looking at for years online. While 25% is steep, you can always adjust that to whatever you’re comfortable with.

I have a Round-The-World trip planned for this September and just about everything I’m making is going towards tickets, hostels, excursions, food, drinks, etc. It’s sometimes hard to debate with yourself as to whether saving is worth it when there are so many things going on right now, but it always pans out well. 

Be Diligent. Once you’ve found an area or a location that has captured your heart, and clouded all your daydreams, sign up for fare alerts, check up on the price when you can, and check fare predictors. (Skyscanner and Student Universe both have pretty reliable ones.) Word of Caution: a lot of these third-party sites that offer lower rates usually use cookies, and if they see that you’re checking the same flight over and over, they’re likely to raise the price solely because they know you’re interested. To avoid this, turn off your cookies while browsing or browse in private mode. 

Travel on Tuesdays. If you’re traveling internationally, try to book your flight for a Tuesday and search for your flight Tuesday or Wednesday. Airlines tend to lower their prices to match competition on Monday nights, so you’re going to find cheaper flights on these days. Try to avoid searching for flights on weekends, as the prices are usually inflated. As for traveling on Tuesday, fares are usually less expensive than say, Sunday afternoon. 

Book Your Trip During The Shoulder Seasons. Shoulder seasons are the month(s) before and after peak travel times; think April, September, October. While you might miss out on the best weather, shoulder seasons are much cheaper both airfare wise and expenses during your stay. Hotels and exclusions are usually less too. And shoulder seasons tend to have less crowds, which is always a plus. 

Think Outside The Box When It Comes To Lodging. Hotels. They can be so, so expensive. Think about staying in hostels, Airbnb’s, or couch surfing. If you’re dead set on staying in hotels, try hotels.com, they have a fantastic rewards program where for every 9 nights you book through them, you get 1 night free. Which adds up so quickly. Plus, once you sign up, they “unlock secret prices”, which is usually $5-25 off the listed price. 

Pack Light. Luggage fees are getting more and more exorbitant. Airlines like Spirit and Frontier make a large majority of their profit from fees and last time inchecked, luggage fees for Frontier were upwards of $65. That’s as much as a ticket! Try to pack what you can into a carry-on and your personal item, not only are you saving on luggage fees but you’re also saving yourself from having to schlep around a ton of luggage. 

Don’t Be Intimidated By All-Inclusive. I have to admit, I was not at all keen on the idea of any trip I took to have the words “all inclusive” anywhere near them. I felt like it was cheating, or there had to be some sort of catch. But, when I found an all-inclusive trip on Living Social to La Fortuna, Costa Rica for $250, I was intrigued. It included lodging, food, drinks, and an excursion (I went ATV’ing on a volcano šŸ’) and it was so worth it. I didn’t have to worry about constantly having money with me, and I was still able to leave the lodge and walk around the town and get a sense of the local culture. 

Honestly, traveling is as much of a priority as you make it. If you’re bound and determined to see as much of the world as possible, you want to make it happen and you’ll do what it takes to see it come to fruition. If you’re okay with a vacation a year, that’s awesome too, we all have different priorities and it’s your life to live. 

I travel as much as I do because it’s probably my number one priority. It’s what I’m always thinking about, it’s what I save for, it’s my therapy and my escape. I’m so very lucky to have such an incredible and supportive family who lets my wanderlust take over and they’re there for me every step of the way. 

Travel is as achievable as you want it to be. Go forth, my dears. 

How I Spent $60 For Five Days In Costa Rica

The more that I travel, the more I notice how expensive it can be if you aren’t careful. Fees here, taxes there and that chocolate bar at the airport that was just calling your name. But a quick glance at Groupon and LivingSocial showed me a whole new side to budget travel.

In January, I was perusing Groupon when I noticed the “Getaways” tab. I figured I’d check it out just to see what it was and I was shocked at how steep the discounts were! Trips to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, England, for less than half of the retail price.

Everyone has their little tricks to save big but I kind of stumbled onto this opportunity. I told my friends about a 2 room deal for 4 nights, 5 days in Costa Rica that was being offered for $320 and jumped on the chance. 6 of us ended up going and splitting 2 rooms so we each only paid $60 including taxes.

When I looked at normal prices for our hotel, it was being advertised at $165/night. So, we saved $340. Crazy!

View From Back Porch

I had honestly expected a complete dump of a hotel but was pleasantly surprised at the stunning hotel that we stayed in. Living Social in particular has a personal agent that travels to all of their listed hotels offered (wish I had that guy’s job!) before advertising their deals.

Now I’m checking every week for new deals, I’m hooked.

Pura Vida en La Fortuna

La Fortuna is one of the towns that seems almost unfaded by time. The people milling about their daily business have the faces that seem to say ā€œIā€™ve seen it all.ā€

The days pass slowly, a strange thing to me, and I find myself waking up at ungodly hours and watching the sunrise, an even stranger thing to me.

La Fortuna

We stayed at a lodge right outside town, which proved to be perfect. It was a short and cheap taxi ride into town and a short drive to our excursions and tours. We had two rooms and a back porch that was the pinnacle of our trip. It seemed like all of our down time was spent in rocking chairs staring at the volcano on the porch. With drinks, of course.

The town itself is rather small, a lot of small shops for tourists and sodas. Sodas were a new thing to me; they are what Costa Ricans call their small restaurants that usually offered 10-15 meals on their menu and were all usually open air and had phenomenal service. Meals were made on the spot, ready to order and it was all very fresh. Our favorite soda had to be Los Neneā€™s. The largest meal for the cheapest price, canā€™t beat it.

Our group stayed at the Volcano Lodge and Gardens which we found on LivingSocial and were extremely happy with all of our amenities. The tours were fantastic, the restaurant was expensive but had great food, the rooms were clean and spacious and the staff went out of their way to make sure you had everything you needed. We ended up spending $60 each for four nights ($360 total) plus airfare and optional excursions.

View From Back Porch

I have to say, above and beyond, my personal favorite part was the tours we went on. They were all really well organized but had very small groups so it didnā€™t seem like we were being cattle herded to our next destination.

We chose to go on the ATVā€™s around the volcano our first day. Best decision ever. It was a 2 hour trip that had a guide who would help if anyone got stuck (only two girls did) or if we got lost (3 of us did) and would point out craters and interesting wildlife. But he was very laid back and kind of let us go as fast as we wanted, didnā€™t restrict us and took as many pictures of our group as we asked. Although we were covered in dirt from head to toe, we were all smiles.

Before ATVing

After ATVing

The second full day we were there offered us a glimpse into the jungle and gave us all a little thrill. We went zipliningĀ through the canopy and got to go on the Tarzan Swing. This day was my birthday and I have to say, it was one of the better birthdays Iā€™ve had. The canopy tour was fantastic, we went through Athica Canopy and our guides liked to play jokes but it was all in good fun. They took pictures of each person on almost all of the cables and took videos while we were on the Tarzan Swing. I highly recommend this company.

Zipline

We also went to the BaldiĀ Hot Springs after zipliningĀ and it was an interesting experience. The thermal springs that are heated by the magma from the volcano can reach up to 115 degrees farenheit but after a long day, it feels like the worldā€™s largest hot tub. There are a couple swim up bars and over 20 pools that vary in temperature. Thereā€™s also a water slide that is a little sketchy but definitely adds an extra element of thrill -I donā€™t think Iā€™ve ever gone that fast down a slide.

The last full day was white water rafting for part of the group and spa day for the other part. I went white water rafting and had a fantastic time. Word to the wise, donā€™t fall out. It was a 3 hour trip and included a beautiful lunch complete with shots.

White Water Rafting

The girls that stayed behind said the massagesĀ at the Lodge were wonderful. Side note; the second spa service is half off so if two people in your group want to get massages, have one person book them on separate days and get half off. An easy way to save some money.

All in all, my first endeavor to Costa Rica was a memorable one. I surprised myself at the amount of things we were able to pack in every day and how little we wanted to just sit around by the pool. We all had different ways to describe the trip as a whole like; breathtaking, amazing, tranquilĀ and fun. But we could all agree that Costa Rica lived up to it’s name.

This was definitely one of my ā€œadventure vacationsā€ but I wouldnā€™t have changed a single thing. Well, maybe the hurt kneeā€¦but as they say, bygones.