Our first ever Basic Travel Strategy trip started in Pittsburgh where we were visiting for a work event. We booked a last-minute flight to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to visit some friends before starting our journey to Costa Rica.
We used 6,814 points plus $11.20 for two tickets on Southwest Airlines thanks to the Companion Pass. To get around Fort Lauderdale for a couple of days we booked a rental car with 5,570 Chase Ultimate Rewards points… and $23 for returning it late.
$69 Annual Fee
From Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to San Jose (SJO) we booked award flights on JetBlue for 13,300 True Blue points plus $44.16 as it was cheaper than flying Southwest, even with the Companion Pass.
Once in San Jose, we again rented a car with Ultimate Rewards points. It cost 6,679 points but no late fee this time! Costa Rica has a weird rule about getting their insurance, of which there are a few options, but we only took the minimal 3rd party liability which was an extra $12 a day, so it cost $53 out of pocket. We used our Chase Sapphire Reserve Card so the collision coverage would have covered us if we had gotten into any issues.
$550 Annual Fee
Our first stop was Baldi Hot Springs, which is a beautiful 5-star hot spring resort. Unfortunately, I made the rookie mistake of not booking early enough, so the 3 nights we wanted were very expensive. However, we checked the night by night price and figured out that it was only the last night we wanted that tripled in price, so we booked two nights at Baldi for 42,181 Ultimate Rewards points.
We booked our third night at a 5-star backpackers resort, just to save points. We used 7,000 points from our Barclaycard Arrival Plus to erase the $70 purchase.
While in Lake Arenal/La Fortuna, we went zip-lining, canyoning, hiking the Hanging Bridges, visited Waterfall Gardens, and more!
We then ventured back to San Jose for the night. We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel thanks to 3,000 SPG Starpoints. While there, we enjoyed a beautiful upgraded room, as well as free water and chocolates! We were also able to enjoy the club lounge that included free drinks and food! Needless to say, we didn’t venture far from the hotel.
Flying over Montezuma
The next morning we were up early to return our car rental and hop on the smallest plane I’ve ever seen to Montezuma. Round-trip tickets from San Jose to Montezuma cost $370 for two, but we were able to erase the purchase with points from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card! We were also able to erase our taxi rides to and from our hotel with points from this card.
$95 Annual Fee
We stayed at the Ylang Ylang Beach Resort on the recommendation of a friend. You only had two options to reach the hotel: a drive across the beach in 4-wheel drive vehicle or a long walk. Once there, breakfast and dinner were included in the price of our room and it was some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Each night at the resort was $180, but we again erased the purchase with points from our Capital One Venture Card. We even booked a boat tour to Tortuga Island through the hotel which allowed us to erase the purchase with points.
To fly back to Buffalo, we booked flights on Southwest Airlines to utilize the Southwest Companion Pass. We needed 44,900 Rapid Rewards Points for this flight.
Overall, we used 5 different rewards programs to score this amazing trip for only $800! Below is our points breakdown.
[su_list icon=”icon: plane” icon_color=”#2fe1ce” class=”]
- Southwest Rapid Rewards: 51,714
- JetBlue True Blue Points: 13,000
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 54,6100
- Capital One Venture: 199,700
- SPG Starpoints: 3,000
Cash Value: $5,192.04
Total points used: 322,324
Grand Total Out-of-pocket: ~$800.
Thanks to the points we earned with our credit cards, our total out-of-pocket cost was about $800 and the vast majority of that was for activities and food. Nearly all of our flight, hotel, and ground transportation costs were covered by points.
$95 Annual Fee