Written by PresidentELLA
I joined a bunch of girlfriends and traveled to Costa Rica. It was my first time traveling internationally, alone in a really long time. Here are my lessons and learnings on getting to Costa Rica!
I flew out of JFK on Wednesday, January 30th, as a blizzard just hit NYC. Luckily, they were passing flurries and I was able to get out! I stayed for 4 days & returned on February 4th. I bought my flight tickets 3 months in advance, on October 13th for $401.07 total (including taxes & fees, but no checked baggage). My flight was actually a little more expensive than some of my friends because I flew with American Airlines (cuz I have a lil credit card or whatever). Flights were more affordable with other carriers.
My first note of advice is going to be definitely fly overnight. I headed to JFK for a 3:30pm flight & had Five Guys while I waited ($12.18). I like to try to eat at the airport — this way I’m not rushing once I get there. Worst thing in the world is missing flights!! I landed at SJO airport at 7:30pm for an overnight overlay in Miami. I rented a car from Priceline (for about $10/day, total come out to $38.79) and hung out with Lani for a bit, which was super helpful (and relaxing). Otherwise, my plan was to eat somewhere nice and go back to the airport. It was nice to be able to leave the airport for a bit. I was able to have a Cuban sandwich for dinner at Versailles, hang out with my homegirl until about 3am & made it back to the Miami airport for my connecting, 8:35am flight. If you don’t have somewhere to stay, I recommend an Air BNB (there were some cheap ones, if you book enough in advance or hostels if you’re into that) or just rock out and sleep at the airport.
The grandest lesson I learned was to pick up baggage between connecting, international flights. I forgot/didn’t know I had to get my bags, so they weren’t in Costa Rica when I arrived!!! Luckily, I went straight to the baggage people and they put in a call for me. They were able to get my bags on the next flight from Miami!! They also drove my bag 2 hours all the way to where we were staying!! I would say, you should make sure to keep calling and keep track of you bag. Bus Shoutout to Costa Rica!! They really made it happen!
Your Duty Free options in Costa Rica are ok; there was White Hennessy for $40 a bottle. We also grabbed a ton of cheap champagne and tequila. I bought 1 bottle of White Hennessy, a two pack of tequila for about $20 and 2 bottles of champagne for about $12. We were there for a birthday celebration, so this was important. The bottle of Hennessy ended up making it home with me, but nothing else did! I also learned that you can’t buy duty free alcohol once you get back to the US. That means, make sure you purchase your alcohol before you get on your flight back home. I really wanted the two pack of Jack Daniels Honey for $40 but they wouldn’t let me buy it once I landed back at JFK even though I had just flown internationally 😦
Upon arrival, the house we were staying with set up a van to drive us all to the vacation home. Although I was going to drive, I would say this: don’t drive with friends. Unfortunately, people seem to think that if you drive, there will be no cost. The drive/roads wasn’t as crazy or dangerous as people made it seem, but there are certainly potholes that can give you a serious headache. So, take it from me & take the stress off!! I usually like to be in control of how I move, so it was hard for me, but I definitely enjoyed not having to navigate or watch my liquor intake (so much). If there is a chance you can be driven, take it!! The guy driving us was also incredibly kind; we stopped along the way for quick sight seeing spots (in Jaco and to see crocodiles) on the way home and then we stopped for groceries (and a bathing suit for me since I lost my luggage) before we got in the house. For groceries, the girls got tons of breakfast food, but I don’t eat breakfast and there wasn’t America brand cereal. I ate the instant oatmeal packed in my carry one and bought Starbucks single coffees for each day. I also got sandwich stuff (bread, cheese, turkey) which I forgot to bring to the beach, but really came in handy when I was randomly hungry 🙂
Although we didn’t have any activities planned the first day, just getting there took up most of our time and energy. By the time we got home, all we wanted to do was eat and rest. During my layover, I stopped at Rite Aide and stocked up on granola bars, candy, tea bags and instant oatmeal. These are my flight and anytime snacks. I like to buy this stuff before I fly because it’s expensive to buy snacks at the airport and a total waste of time to have to do once you actually on vacation. Luckily, there was already a place picked out and we headed to Sancho’s and had tacos for dinner.
The most terrible thing about a long drive to the hotel, is a long drive to the airport. We got up super early in oder to make my 11:27am flight out. We all ate breakfast at the airport and said our goodbyes. I love to bring my swell bottle on vacation; it works for liquor at the beach and also for making tea that the airport. On vacations, I fill my pockets with sugar/honey from Starbucks and just ask for hot water from anywhere to make my own tea. They had pretty much everything at that airport so you won’t have trouble finding food during departures. Food is a different story when you arrive; there’s only 1 small restaurant in the arrivals area — food is ok, but the menu kind of changes depending on what is done cooking in the back. I didn’t like the first meal, but I certainly got a plate when the pulled out the pork chops!
Overall, had a super smooth trip each way! Hope some of these tips were helpful! Have you been to Costa Rica? If so, do you have any other tips you’d like to leave below? Please leave questions or comments if I forgot to mention something!!