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Dreaming of Costa Rica thanks to Jet Blue Points Windfall

Few months ago I wrote about my unexpected success in getting approved for Jet Blue credit card (X2 thanks to having a husband). The 60k offer (now dead) was just too good to pass up, so I went for it. As a result, we are now proud owners of a combined total of 123K Jet Blue points.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to put them to good use for at least few years. But just because I can’t redeem the points for the foreseeable  future doesn’t mean I can’t dream, right? To me, that’s big part of the fun. The reality rarely lives up to my high expectations, but there is always another trip on the horizon  thanks to miles and points.

Costa Rica

One country I have been dreaming of visiting for years  is Costa Rica. It’s no longer  off-the-beaten path, but still seems exotic. It’s definitely a unique destination due to its geographical location. According to this website, “Costa Rica is a landmass encompassing only .03% of the earth’s surface, yet it contains 5% of earth’s biodiversity – a density that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.”

Most people who collect miles and points end up flying to Liberia airport and staying in Hyatt Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort. In fact, that’s where I originally planned to go for our wedding anniversary before switching to Bora Bora. Goodness, how did I get so fancy?

I still hope to make it to that Hyatt resort someday, but our focus this time will be on area around  Arenal volcano. That’s  what Costa Rica is primarily famous for. You can find  beautiful beaches all over Caribbean, but you won’t be able to experience this level of biodiversity anywhere else. 

Image courtesy of Marcpo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo by Javier Mazzeo on Unsplash

Photo by Isabella Jusková on Unsplash

You can find  practical tips on visiting Costa Rica on NomadicMatt website.  You can also download this free Arenal volcano travel guide. According to my research, Costa Rica is a pretty safe country with good medical care. This is important to me because we have kids.

The road conditions are apparently not great, but the main highway to Arenal volcano is supposedly OK. We don’t plan to cover the entire country, but rent a house and use it as a base for day trips. High (as in dry) tourist season in Costa Rica runs from December to April, when prices tend to be higher. Shoulder months like May and November have less crowds and relatively decent weather.

Covering the trip with miles and points

I mentioned Costa Rica plans to my sister-in-law and she said she would love to go with us. However, after our trip to South Pacific, she is planning to finally start building her office (she is currently renting). As a result, she will need to cut back on travel. I thought about it and we came up with a plan.

I would use my Jet Blue points to book the tickets for all seven of us. It’s hard to predict how prices will be in few years, but right now it’s possible to book a roundtrip ticket from Orlando to San Jose for around 15,000 points per person, plus taxes:

That means if I book tickets for seven people, it will cost me 105k Jet Blue points. Even assuming inevitable price hike, I should have enough. Plus, my Membership Rewards points  will  give me access to Jet Blue transfer if I need to top up the account.

My in-laws will pay for the minivan rental and we’ll go half with them on vacation house. We’ll probably go through  VRBO.com or AirBnB (my referral link, you’ll get $40 off your first $75+ booking) to book the latter. I didn’t do any extensive research, but here is a sample of what’s available in the area via VRBO.com at the end of May:

I REALLY like the last one. No, you can’t use hotel points here, but why would you want to? With seven people, paying cash will almost always be the best deal when you look for resort-like experience without resort-like prices. I would love to go during Thanksgiving week in 2019 but in all likelihood, it will be 2020. So, right now this trip is just a  dream. But having my stash of Jet Blue points definitely brings the dream closer to reality.

How you can do this trip for less

Most major airlines fly to Costa Rica, including Alaska Air, Delta, Southwest, Jet Blue, United, American and Spirit. San Jose has more choices than Liberia airport. Your best option will depend on where you are located as well as your points balances. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay more miles just so you can get a non-stop flight that doesn’t leave at 5 AM.

Few sweet redemption spots on flights

1) If you live in Miami area, you can use Avios currency to either fly to San Jose or Liberia, at a  total cost of 15,000 miles roundtrip. Unfortunately, sAAver award availability on American is mediocre, to say the least.

2) If you are able to utilize Spirit off-peak redemption, you can fly from Fort Lauderdale to San Jose for only 5,000 miles roundtrip. This is the best mileage deal, hands down, but eligible dates are quite limited. If your kids are homeschooled, it is something to look into.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a good option for us because my children go to public school. Also, Orlando airport is much closer to our house than Fort Lauderdale. That’s why Jet Blue is the best choice for this particular destination.

3) Southwest has decent sales now and again, so you may want to keep an eye on the prices. If you live near Baltimore, you are in luck. Southwest flies to both San Jose and Liberia airports. If you qualify for Companion Pass, you can bring someone for free.

4) Alaska Air flies to Liberia and San Jose from Los Angeles, so this may be a good chance to use your BOGO or $99 renewal companion certificate from Alaska BoA Visa.

Hotels

If you want to visit the Pacific side and do a long day trip to Arenal volcano, Hyatt Andaz Peninsula Papagayo  seems like an excellent choice. Prices hover around $250-$600 per night, depending on the season. The cost is 15,000 Hyatt points, which you can transfer on 1:1 basis from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have a premium card like Chase Sapphire Preferred , Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Business Preferred. All of them pay us commission, but are subject to 5/24 restriction.

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. If you’ve recently renewed your Hyatt credit card, you can use your annual certificate in this property since it’s a Category 4. Be aware, standard rooms have two double beds.

Last year I wrote about all-inclusive Hilton resort in Costa Rica which can be a decent deal on points. In many cases, though, you will be better off simply paying cash for a local hotel or vacation rental, especially during off-season.

Did I inspire anyone to visit Costa Rica?

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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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12 thoughts on “Dreaming of Costa Rica thanks to Jet Blue Points Windfall

  1. I couldn’t resist answering the siren call of the JetBlue Card either 😉
    I already used half the bonus to book flights to New York for our family this Summer. A few days in New York and then off to Barcelona!
    With my husband being the Amazon junkie that he is, we are accumulating TrueBlue points at quite a fast pace so I plan on keeping the card for the long run. The $99 annual fee pays for itself with the free checked bags and the bonus points for renewal.
    Costa Rica is in my bucket list for sure!
    Will look into it as a possible destination for next year’s Spring Break.

    • I totally think you should consider Costa Rica for spring break! Being based near Fort Lauderdale, you have good access to San Jose. It would be a quick flight for you guys. It does take several hours to drive to Arenal, though. You may want to look into paid transfer and forgo a rental car altogether. Of course, it does depend on your lodging choice.

  2. Arenal volcano is awesome! If the weather and the volcano cooperate you may get to see lava coming down the volcano at night, which is a memorable experience.

    When I was there a long time ago, I stayed at this place, which I really liked, and the prices aren’t bad either:
    https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/rooms/standard-room

    Also, when you’re planning your trip, note that distances on Central American maps can be deceiving. It takes longer to get from point A to point B (compared to the U.S.) on account of the roads and the traffic.

    • @Nick Thanks for the advice! I’m really looking forward to visiting Costa Rica and especially Arenal volcano. I’ve seen this lodge recommended in an online search, but with seven people we will probably come out ahead by renting a house. I do know the roads are not great and driving anywhere is a challenge. But my in-laws drove in Africa at night, so they don’t get scared easily! I’ll be sitting in the backseat, naturally.

  3. Costa Rica is on my wish list for sure. I’m trying to decide between Costa Rica or Hawaii for a family trip in 2019. If I had gotten approved for the darn JetBlue card, it would’ve definitely swung in favor of Costa Rica, especially with the nonstop shorter flight from FL. Maybe the offer will come back and I’ll snag it next time.

    • @Jennifer I can’t tell you whether you should go to Hawaii or Costa Rica. That being said, if you are willing to part with your UR points, Southwest flies non-stop from Fort Lauderdale to San Jose. So that’s an excellent option for Floridians such as yourself. And of course, there is Spirit, LOL
      I like to visit new places, so would probably opt for Costa Rica. that being said, I also want to take kids to Hawaii at least once.

    • P.S. Just checked and Southwest has some very cheap rates to San Jose from FLL, as low as 3,600 points (plus tax) one-way in April !!!

      • I have some SW points and then could supplement with my UR points and make it doable for pretty cheap. I need to make up my mind soon! Pretty good problem to have, Hawaii or Costa Rica.

      • I just got an alert that R/T tickets from Orlando to Hawaii are $350 in May. How is that even possible? It’s time to home school so I can take advantage of this craziness!

  4. Costa Rica is amazing! My husband and I went several years ago and we loved it! One thing to consider is staying in a treehouse. We stayed at one outside of La Fortuna (Tree Houses Hotel I think). Something to think about for a night or two for the experience! We saw tons of wildlife. Also if you are interested in experiencing the biodiversity, consider spending some time around Monteverde (cloud forest). Awesome! We hired a guide and we saw and learned so much. I wanted to see a quetzal and the guide was like yah those are tough to find. My husband asked what sound do they make? The guide did a quetzal call and one responded! We saw a male and female building their nest and the guide was baffled! He was like this NEVER happens! Anyway you will love it. We went in late May and the weather was generally good. Just a rain shower everyday around 4 or 5pm and then one day it rained most of the day during our 9 day trip. We’ll definitely head back sometime

    • @Tammie Your trip sounds incredible! Really makes me want to go now. I would love to plan a trip in 2019 and do something similar, but I’m afraid my savings account won’t be able to handle it. LOL
      But Costa Rica is extremely appealing to me.

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