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Planning an Epic Wedding Anniversary Trip in 2018

Planning an Epic Anniversary Trip www.milesforfamily.com

Next year my husband and I will be celebrating a big anniversary milestone. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has flown by. It seems like yesterday here we were, saying our wedding vows. I was wearing a dress bought at a thrift shop (I’m sure it was at least a decade old) and my ring was acquired for a $100 at a fancy store called Walmart. And I couldn’t be happier!

Just two stupid kids who had no clue what they were doing… Many years and two children later, not much has changed, really! Well, we’ve gained a few pounds.

I remember driving to this tiny beachfront apartment on Manasota Key, Fl. for our honeymoon. My husband had about $1,000 in savings before we got married. Coming from a poor country, I had zero, zip, nothing. I didn’t want us to have debt from the honeymoon, so we booked a place for $600 for an entire week. It helped that we got married during hurricane season, when lodging prices in Florida are quite reasonable.

So, we had about $400 at our disposal, money we could spend on entertainment, eating out and groceries for an entire honeymoon. We managed to stick to our budget by splitting restaurant entrees and mostly cooking in the apartment. And how can you be unhappy when you have this view to go along with your dinner?

 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by DonMiller_ToGo at http://flickr.com/photos/100899678@N06/13161246353

Manasota Key, where we spent our honeymoon

I thought this was the most luxurious trip anyone could ever hope for. Afterwards we went back to our cheap apartment that had a rotten door and a hole in the carpet in the middle of the living room. Basically, our first year of marriage was reminiscent of “Barefoot in the Park” movie starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. One of the best years of our life.

Just to be clear, our marriage (just like any marriage) has had its share of ups and downs. We went through times where both of us felt like giving up on each other. But we never did, and I hope we never will. In retrospect, our wedding song “Right here waiting” by Richard Marx was quite prophetic:

“I wonder how we can survive
This romance
But in the end if I’m with you
I’ll take the chance.”

Where should we go?

Since I’m an obsessive planner, I already started exploring options for our 2018 anniversary getaway. It has to be epic! Well, epic by my standards. I would love to take a spin around the world or something like that. Alas, my finances and the fact that I have small kids prevent it from happening. Another problem? My husband will run out of vacation days in 2018 if we stick to our existing plans, not counting the anniversary trip.

He is allowed to use PTO time for vacations as long as it’s not done on a regular basis, so that’s what we’ll have to do. A part of me just wants to book a getaway in that humble apartment where we spent our honeymoon. The place is still in business, though the rates have since doubled. I even brought up the idea to my husband.

Amazingly, he insisted that we do something a little more exotic. He still feels bad that we missed our Aruba flight and wants me to have the trip of my dreams. He even offered to take me to Tahiti. Ahh, that would be nice, but it would require at least a week. I don’t want my husband to take more than three days off. There is also an issue of money, of course. I don’t have enough AA miles for award flights on Air Tahiti Nui, and overwater bungalows are hard to come by when you are using points.

And frankly, I just don’t feel right going without kids. I know it sounds crazy, but I want to experience Tahiti with them. In all likelihood, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I will regret not seeing their smiling faces in Bora Bora. A heart wants what a heart wants, so that’s that! Of course, in all likelihood, if we ever make it to Tahiti, the kids will be cranky due to jet lag and I will feel like an idiot for not taking advantage of my husband’s offer. But that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

We could, of course, go to Aruba and I thought about doing that. But there is something about the island that just doesn’t seem appealing to me. I love lush, mountainous landscape which is partially why I enjoyed our recent trip to Jamaica so much. I’ve seen photos of Aruba and I know many of my readers love it. Perhaps I should give it a shot. But there is another place that has been calling my name for many years.

Costa Rica

I have been planning to go to this destination for quite some time. In fact, I got Spirit credit card in my husband’s name with the idea of burning miles on off-peak redemption from Fort Lauderdale to San Jose. But our plans never quite lined up, so we ended up using the miles for a flight to Newark.

Besides, I really want to fly to Liberia airport so we can visit the region around Papagayo peninsula. Yup, you know where this is going. I have my eye on Hyatt Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort. Every miles and points blogger and their pet has been to this hotel or plans to visit it in a near future. Which is why I was determined not to follow the crowd. But then it occurred to me: I’m just being contrarian for contrarian’s sake. I really like everything I’ve read about this resort so far, well, except for high food prices.

But if we go for only few nights, the cost shouldn’t be so bad for just me and my husband. The resort has everything I enjoy when it comes to nature: beautiful mountain scenery and a gorgeous beach within a short walk. Plus, the architecture looks unique and not cookie-cutter (the way most chain hotels are). Apparently, they even have monkeys roaming the property. My husband wasn’t thrilled to hear it because he hates monkeys.

The cost is 15,000 Hyatt points per night, which you can transfer on 1:1 basis from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have a premium card like Chase Sapphire Preferred. Of course, there is also an option of applying for The Hyatt Credit Card (currently not subject to Chase 5/24 rule). You qualify for the sign-up bonus as long as you haven’t received it in the last 24 months.

Quick note: this card now pays us commission if you apply through the site, though I’ve recommended it for as long as I’ve blogged. If you choose to support us with your application, thanks! However, try this direct link for an offer with an extra $50 credit. 

You get two free nights at any Hyatt property, plus 5,000 points for adding an authorized user. Be aware, the annual fee of $75 is NOT waived. I currently have 15,000 UR points I can transfer to Hyatt, so I would need two more nights. If you want to stay in Hyatt Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort with kids, keep in mind that standard rooms have two full beds, so it will be a tight squeeze.

I plan to apply for Hyatt credit card in the fall of this year because the certificates expire 12 months after the issue date. If I don’t get approved, I may look into other options. I’m not going to Papagayo peninsula because there is a Hyatt there. The Hyatt there just happens to look appealing for an anniversary getaway. Since we plan to go during off season, the prices on lodging in Costa Rica should be quite reasonable. I didn’t do any extensive research yet, but there is one resort that caught my eye:

Jardin Del Eden Boutique Hotel

The cost is $170 per night for a standard room during fall season, and breakfast is included. Great reviews and gorgeous vistas that rival Hyatt Andaz. And it even has air-conditioning in rooms (a must for me). Not too shabby of a choice for my Plan B, if I say so myself. In fact, I might even save Hyatt certificates for Coconut Point Resort and Spa and just stay here.

My goal with this trip is to spend no more than $1,000 out-of-pocket, the amount our honeymoon cost us many years ago. And miles and points should hopefully make it possible.

A huge challenge with award flights

This is the biggest wrinkle in my plan. Revenue flights from Florida to Liberia, Costa Rica are quite expensive ($700 roundtrip or more). The reason? Lack of competition. The only game in town is American Airlines that offers direct flight from Miami. I would hate to drive 4 hours to Miami airport, but my husband said it would be fine.

The most logical choice is to use Avios currency, at a  total cost of 15,000 miles roundtrip. Unfortunately, sAAver award availability on American is mediocre, to say the least. That’s the only kind bookable with Avios. I found just one week in November where a three-night getaway would even be possible:

Oh well, I’ll just have to be flexible on dates. Anything within two months’ range of our wedding date qualifies. It will be a semi-wedding anniversary getaway. I do have 60K AA miles, which could potentially take care of two one-way AAnytime tickets, so that’s another option, I guess.

If you live near Los Angeles, Houston or Baltimore, you’ll be happy to know that Southwest offers direct flights to Liberia airport. Speaking of, the official affiliate offer on personal versions of Southwest card has recently been reduced to 40,000 points. I have a referral link for Premier version that still shows 50,000 points. Thanks if you choose to use it!

There is also a direct non-affiliate link for business version that comes with 60,000 points. All Southwest cards are subject to 5/24 restriction. United and Delta also fly to Liberia airport from several of their hubs, but finding award availability may prove to be a challenge, especially if you need four or more tickets.

I’m telling you, this region of Costa Rica is seriously calling my name. A heart wants what a heart wants.

Readers who have visited Costa Rica, do you have any suggestions? Is vacationing near San Jose (which has much better award availability) a viable alternative?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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20 thoughts on “Planning an Epic Wedding Anniversary Trip in 2018

  1. How exciting! My brother’s family is renting a timeshare in Costa Rica this summer. I’m interested to hear their thoughts. Great wedding photo!

    • @Nancy Thanks! I usually don’t wear makeup, but a relative insisted on prettying me up for the ceremony. 🙂 So I look like a doll on the photo.
      Let me know how your brother will like Costa Rica.

    • @Natasha Steal away, my friend! I don’t mind at all. Well, at this point it’s just an idea, and things may not work out. Everything hinges on AA award availability for next year because I sure won’t be paying $700 per person to fly to Liberia. I really like the area, so hopefully, we’ll make it there after all!

  2. Leana, Costa Rica is actually where I met my husband – so how much more romantic can you get?? I even lived there for six months. However, I haven’t been there in years so don’t have current knowledge to share.
    I do know that Skyauction has a lot of properties there though – even all inclusives.:)
    Also, another area you might consider is the hot springs at Arenal. We really enjoyed them.

    • @Audrey How neat! I remember you mentioning Costa Rica and how much you love the area. I’ve seen some reasonable prices on all-inclusive properties, but since we plan to go for three-four nights max, Skyauction may not be worth it. I’ll look into it, though.
      Honestly, the biggest obstacle is to get the award flights secured. Once that’s done, I don’t care where we’ll end up staying. Hyatt looks nice, but it’s not a must.
      There are many reasonably priced resorts. I like the idea of Arenal, but prefer to be close to the ocean. I’m obsessed with water, probably because I grew up in a land-locked country. My dream was to live on the beach someday. While we can’t exactly pull that off on our middle-class income, we try to have Florida beach getaways few times per year.

    • @Audrey Yeah, the beaches on the Pacific usually don’t compare to the Caribbean or Florida. But there is just something about being near the water that relaxes me.

  3. I love the fact that you picked Costa Rica over Aruba (hubby and I have no desire to ever visit Aruba, but Costa Rica is another story). Can’t wait to read your trip report as I may steal your ideas as well — the hotels you picked look amazing and thanks for the airlines info. I’m so irritated that Southwest is part of the 5/24 because at this rate, I will never ever qualify — oh well, at least I have other options.

    And don’t leave out any tidbits on wild animals and mosquitoes, etc. because I need to know everything. I’m with your hubby…I hate monkeys (mainly Chimps and Baboons) so let me know how it all turns out. I’m so excited for you, and anything within the same year as your anniversary counts (our anniversary trip was 3 months after ours and it counted).

    • @Stephanie Well, it will be awhile till I have a trip report! I’m just planning ahead. But definitely feel free to borrow ideas. That’s the whole point of the post, I don’t want to make it all about me. If you make it to Costa Rica before I do, feel free to contribute a trip report, OK?
      I don’t know about Aruba. The beaches look amazing, but the island is dry and flat. I’m sure I would have a good time, but I prefer Costa Rica, even though it will be harder to get there. Southwest flies non-stop form Orlando to Aruba, which is the main reason I wanted to go there. But it just doesn’t seem like a good enough reason for planning a trip of a lifetime. Plus, since the kids won’t be coming along, we can deal with some difficulties of getting to Miami etc. #Firstworldproblems
      Being based in LAX, you have quite a few options for Liberia besides Southwest. Well, as long as you are willing to make a connection.
      Oh, and I’m glad I’m not the only person who thinks anything within the same year counts as an anniversary trip. I wish I had the funds to make it more precise, but the miles will dictate our schedule to an extent. Especially on this route, which has such meager award availability.

    • @Anonymous I’ve approved your comment, though I did remove the profanity. This is a family blog, and I want to keep the language clean. Regardless, thanks for taking the time to comment. Have a nice day!

  4. Congrats, Leana!

    Wifey and I visited Costa Rica for a week while we were pregnant with our fourth, having unloaded the others on my brother-in-law. We flew into Liberia, drove west to Guanacaste and then down along the coast, staying one night in each area/town.

    Our only two-night stay was at the Tree Tops bed and breakfast in San Juanillo. Not available for points, obviously, but very reasonable rates and totally worth it IMHO. Nature is spectacular, and so is the food, which was my least favorite thing about the country otherwise–almost everywhere we went the food was very bland, despite the high prices. I know we’re spoiled New Yorkers, but still. So, that’s my recommendation.

    And we’ll actually most likely be in Costa Rica for 3-4 weeks around Thanksgiving–with the kids this time, and with another family. Perhaps our paths will cross 🙂

    • @Mark Wow, you guys are adventurous! Especially your wife. I’m not sure I would be up for flying to another country and then switching hotels each night…while pregnant. That is pretty awesome, though. And I’m sure leaving three kids behind made it relaxing. Every couple should do it now and again.
      I actually have seen the listing for that Tree Tops hotel. May need to look into it. I’m surprised by how many nice resorts that area has. And the prices are fairly reasonable. The Hyatt sure seems like a good deal at 15k points per night. We wouldn’t be renting a car, though. I don’t like the idea of driving in a foreign country. I’m chicken that way!

  5. I think a vacation anytime within a year of the anniversary counts! My actual 25th anniversary was in August but we took our “anniversary trip” the following January. Because Jamaica in January sounds way better than in August! LOL! I’ll be looking forward to hearing your trip plans! BTW are there no SouthWest flights for you? I checked and from Chicago I would have to fly to Texas to get there, no direct flights.

    • @Clyn6 Yes!!! Anything within a year counts. I was actually tempted to book it soon, but we have too much going on as it is. So Costa Rica will have to wait. Oh, and I agree, visiting Jamaica in January is a lot better than doing it in August. Heck yes!
      On Southwest flights, unfortunately, nothing direct from Florida to Liberia. The only option is routing through Houston, and that’s just ridiculous. It will add about 3 hours of flying one-way. So Miami is the only logical option, I’m afraid. I may need to hang on to my AA miles because we can get AAnytime tickets that way.

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