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.
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
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.
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?
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.