If you read this blog, you may know that we spent a month in Costa Rica this summer. You can read about how we were able to pull off this incredible trip for relatively cheap here.
The above post is actually a very good read (if I do say so myself) in that it addresses a multitude of different strategies that you can use to travel cheap.
While I do love my timeshares, they can be difficult to use and do not always work for every location or timeframe. That is why multiple strategies should be used to travel well and affordably.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays since it is one of the few that you can spend time with family without the pressure of presents. It can also be a great time to travel since it is a very slow week for most businesses in the United States and most businesses are closed 2-3 days of the week.
For the past 5 or so years, my family has decided to spend Thanksgiving out of the country. Traveling domestically can be a challenge but since Thanksgiving is a US holiday, traveling overseas can be great. Depending on your destination, it can be very affordable and generally be easy to find reasonably priced accommodations. Timeshares can be abundant as well as great hotels on points.
While we were just in Costa Rica over the summer, we decided to come back for Thanksgiving. It seems kind of strange to visit the same country in such a short amount of time, but Costa Rica is quite diverse and there are tons to see and do and the various ecosystems around the country make it very different from one location to the next. Also, it was a "free" trip so it was kind of easy to decide.
Getting and Staying in Costa Rica for Free (almost)
One of the major reasons that we came back to Costa Rica was because I was able to get here for free and stay for free.
Here is how I did it: Last year, before Southwest closed the loophole, you were able to transfer Marriott Reward Points to Southwest using Marriott Vacation Packages. Marriott Vacation Packages were and still are a great way to use your Marriott Reward Points.
You can redeem your Marriott Reward Points through a package and receive frequent flyer miles in addition to a week stay at a Marriott property. There are various partners and different packages relating to the category of Marriott property.
Here are the full details.
Before January 1, 2017, Southwest use to count points transferred by Marriott toward their companion pass. You were previously able to reserve a category 1-5 Marriott hotel and receive 120,000 Southwest Reward Points for 270,000 Marriott Reward points.
By redeeming this package, you immediately qualified for a Southwest companion pass that was good for the current year and the entire following year.
Essentially, by redeeming 270,000 Marriott Reward Points, you could receive a week stay at a Marriott property (category 1-5), 120,000 Southwest Reward Points and a companion pass for 1+ years where your companion will fly free with you on all flights (even on award tickets!).
This was a fantastic deal but unfortunately ended on January 1, 2017. You can still reserve the Marriott travel package but the transfer to Southwest no longer qualifies for the companion pass.
This was a great deal and I did this transfer for BOTH my wife and myself so that we both have a companion pass good through 2018 and 2 free weeks at a Marriott hotel.
The companion pass is an absolute awesome deal so my family and I are traveling with Southwest almost exclusively for 2017 and 2018. Both of our kids fly for free and we now have plenty of Southwest Reward Points.
If Southwest is available to you, there are some great ways to still get the companion pass. I personally love Southwest as it is a friendly and efficient airline and are rapidly expanding their destinations. In case you have not heard, Hawaii is coming sometime in 2018! You can be certain that we will be making a trip to Hawaii on Southwest!
Costa Rica Again!
Since we "need" to fly Southwest and we "need" to stay at a Marriott property, we looked at various locations and things seem to coincide perfectly with Costa Rica. While we flew into Liberia this summer, we flew in San Jose, Costa Rica for this trip and are currently staying at the Marriott Los Suenos hotel.
Marriott Los Suenos
We previously stated at this resort when my son was 7 months old (now almost 7) and had a great time. We previously stayed at this resort when they offered an all-inclusive option using Marriott Reward Points. That was awesome as we ate and drank whatever we wanted. Since the resort was not simply an all-inclusive resort, all the menus had prices on them for guests who did not choose the all-inclusive option. While we did not receive a total bill, we easily spent over $4,000 on food and beverage for a week and it was entirely free for us since we used points.
This time, the all-inclusive option ceased to be offered and simply received the room using our free seven night stay. This hotel is a category 8 hotel so we needed to have extra points to upgrade our stay since we reserved a lower tier Marriott travel package.
While this post is not meant to be a review, it is a very nice property and worth a visit. There can be better options around the country but it is a solid property. I would definitely come back again even though the beach in front of the resort has a lot to be desired. I would not come for the beach.
There is no doubt that I am very fortunate to travel like I do. I am very fortunate to have a job that gives me the ability the work remotely and I glad that I got into the miles, points and timeshare world that provides me the ability to travel for free or for very reasonable amounts.
While I am always grateful for these opportunities, this year is especially special since we had a unique and downright terrifying experience yesterday.
Trek through the Rainforest
Yesterday, we decided to take a trip to a ecolodge located in the middle of the rainforest as recommended by a local. It was a fairly easy 2 hour drive on a regular paved road until we reached a dirt road. The roads in Costa Rica can be paved by many are dirt roads with gigantic potholes and require a 4x4.
Luckily, we did have a 4x4 and proceeded down the dirt road for 10 km. The dirt road progressively got narrower and narrower and the road had apparently been washed out about a month ago from Hurricane Nate. While it was still passable, it was in rough shape with cliffs on one side that went down extremely far into a raging river. We had to go over tiny little bridges with boulders in the way and thick deep mud being the "road". One wrong turn or inadvertent slide would immediately cause the car to tumble off a cliff.
This was by far the worst "road" that I have ever been on and having my kids and wife in the car was truly terrifying. Going 10km took about 1 hour and when we got there, the only thing I could think about was dreading going back down the mountain. I was seriously contemplating paying a local to get us back down the mountain.
The ecolodge was quite spectacular with waterfalls and hanging bridges (photo above) and we had a lovely homemade cooked meal in the middle of the jungle.
We luckily surviving and the car made it out almost unscathed, despite being covered in mud, but it was something that I would never do again!
With today being Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a lot but especially for making it down that mountain in one piece.
Thanksgiving is a great time to travel out of the country and highly recommend it. Instead of having a turkey dinner, we'll be having a fresh fish casado but I hope that my families thanksgiving memories do last a lifetime.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
Does anyone else travel outside of the country for Thanksgiving?