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
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.
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:
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?
Leana is the 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.