35 useful tips, from traveler to traveler. You are planning to go somewhere…. Finally, somebody tells you about Costa Rica… and maybe your secretary or your daughters friend went last year and came back talking about it like Paradise. And you take the decisión! Costa Rica is it!
And the planning starts!
There is one bottom line to say here… travel agents and their packages, tailored made or not, have better rates. If you are planning to go for an online reservation system… Make a Budget and try both ways… You will probably be surprised at the end!
Use an “Incognito Window” and clean your cache afterwards, when searching for flights. Companies usually boost the prices because you’ve been searching the web. (A sort of “For your eyes only” treat).
- If you’re looking to buy a flight ticket, the best is to wait for 1 a.m. on Wednesday to snag the deals that didn’t get taken on Tuesday. But he also recommends calling the airline and talking to a ticket agent in person, so this one is for the most dedicated money-savers. However late studies say that you should get them on weekends… as airlines want to attract leisure buyers. My advice? If you see an airline offering a deal on Monday, make plans to buy your tickets on Wednesday 1:00 a.m. (Airline time). If there are no deals going on, buy on the weekend…. But remember! Incognito Window!
- Want a travel cheap into Costa Rica? Opt for a trip during the first two weeks of May or the last two weeks of November. If into the Caribbean Coast… try September and October also. It is not raining yet (Or very little), low season rates are on, and hotels and attractions are empty. Tours are usually private and attention is the best! (Ask about hotels having restoration or such… and avoid that!).
- Ask about promos and discounts… to a human. Travel agents sometimes know so much more than the online stuff! And they can also get better rates… Believe it or not! And the reason why is that, in general terms, everyone makes commissions… OTAs do (Online travel agencies: Booking, expedia, hotels.com, etc.), and local travel agents do, however local travel agents… are there! They know the hotel owner and sends his children Christmas presents… And you know, for Latin-Americans (even in business!) family and friends… are first!
- Always check the reviews when booking hotels… Yes! But! Check on the reviewers also! There are several scams in review sites… Thousands of the reviews are actually fake! So, check on the reviewers, check if the bad reviews have economic reasons behind: “There were lots of cockroaches and they charged me $20 for six beers…” I can believe the second, but not the first… Lots of people will create a bad and false review just to get even for a charge they believe is high or unfair. And ask a local travel agent about what you read! They go to hotels, they stay in hotels. Is part of their job to do that.
- Check on your chosen airline’s baggage fee policies. Most airlines recently changed policies and are charging for the bags. Ask how much (Usually $50-$60). In the ones coming to CR, I do know Avianca does not charge for luggage (Except for overweight of course) up to two pieces. Check this chart on the U.S. airlines: http://i.slimg.com/sc/sl/photo/u/ul/ultimate-guide-to-airline-fees_092914.pdf
- Placing a dryer sheet at the bottom of your suitcase will keep your clothes smelling fresh and clean during travel.
- Nothing is more annoying than having your phone, laptop, and/or iPad chargers tangled all over your suitcase. Organize these pesky little chargers in a spare glasses case or a small Tupperware.
- Packing your jewelry together in a baggy can cause severe frustration when you want to use it in terms for untangling it, specially of you are going for a special dinner and the rest of the group is waiting for you! Use pill containers to keep them separated (and avoid tangles!)…. Or a small Tupperware! Again…
- Rolling your clothes instead of folding them will to save precious baggage space!
- Put your shoes in separate plastic bags to make sure the dirty soles don’t end up getting surrounding clothes dirty, too.
- Use a Tic Tac container for your bobby pins so you’ll always be able to find one easily when you’re in a pinch.
- Mark your bag with “fragile.” Airport staff will frequently get your luggage on top of the others—meaning yours will come out first at the baggage claim. Isn’t this a cool tip?
- Throw a couple of plastic grocery bags in your suitcase. You never know what you’ll need it for, and it can make organizing things in your bag a heck of a lot easier once you’re on your trip. (Hello, wet bathing suits!)
- If going on a multi-day tour in Costa Rica (Or any other tropical destination) rain is always a risk, and luggage on top of the van always a possibility. Get all your clothes in plastic bags. This will avoid them to get wet!
- Make sure you pack the right bras (And tops) for the types of shirts/dresses you might wear (i.e. strapless, sports, etc). Costa Rica has several different climates and in some areas tops are the easiest and more comfortable!
- For any items that you don’t want damaging your clothes or electronics—like toothpaste, makeup or shampoo—use Ziploc! There is nothing worse than getting to the first hotel to find that half your luggage is stained with tooth paste or hands cream!
- Never mind how beautiful they are… keep your favorite six-inch heels at home! And try shoes that are comfortable, easy to walk in, and decorative. Costa Rica is not famous for its even sidewalks (In cities and towns) and there is nothing that will make you feel as ridicule as to walk in high heels in soft sand or dirt.
- Depending on the hotel you booked, pillowcase may be sketchy and even in the most expensive hotels, if surrounded by rainforest, humidity is a problem, together with mildew. Better if you pack your own.
- Pick a suitcase that’s an unusual color or pattern or tie a very brightly colored ribbon around the handle. This will make finding your bag a heck of a lot easier at the baggage claim.
- Anything that may break, from make up to perfume (Packed in plastic bags) place them in the very middle of your suitcase to cushion them!
- To protect any fragile products, pack them inside your sneakers since the cushion can help to protect them. If you aren’t opting for sneakers on your vacation, wrap each fragile item (Inside of a plastic bag… always!) inside a pair of rolled socks.
- To be extra safe with bottles (From cough medicine to Chanel #5), duct tape any caps or pop-top openings.
- You know about the irritating popping that happens to your ears while on an airplane. That can happen to your beauty products too! Make sure to get all the excess air of any packages before packing them to minimize the risk of exploding beauty products on the plane.
- Put a complete change of clothes (Including underwear and socks) in your handbag. If your luggage is lost, this becomes a blessing!
- If you forget your USB wall plug, some TV sets have a USB that you can use to charge your devices.
- Forget your charger completely? Always check with the hotel front desk—some previous guests accidentally leave their chargers and the front desk usually has a box of them.
- Turbulence on flights can really be annoying. To diminish it, pick a seat near the wings of the plane.
In Costa Rica:
- Make sure to bring voltage converters… CR is 110 V… everywhere!
- Bring a couple of 50v light bulbs if you like reading at night. Due to the Certificate of Sustainability several hotels have very dim light in their table lamps.
- In Costa Rica it rains… Never mind you are coming in the middle of the sunny season… Go up a volcano, the cloud forest or a jungle hike? It might rain! Bring good rain gear and waterproof hiking boots.
- If you have long hair, bring enough hair bands. You will need them! First: If going into the lowlands and coast lines… it is hot and humid… Second, humidity turns hair into a nightmare! Third, for adventure tours such as horseback rides, rafting or zip lining… helmets are obligatory. And so are hair bands.
- If you bring 3-pronged appliances, make sure to bring a converter, as many of Costa Rica’s outlets are still 2-pronged.
- Most hotels and restaurants sewer systems cannot process toilet paper. If there is a trash can placed strategically close to the toilet, discard your paper products there.
- There are no coin laundries in Costa Rica. Instead, you’ll find “lavanderias” throughout the country, where employees will wash, dry, and fold your laundry for less than $5 per load. Many upscale hotels and resorts offer laundry service for a reasonable fee (Find out, in your itinerary which one offers better rates).
- Don’t change money in the airport and bring small bills. The airport charges over 10% for changing and U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere and restaurans, stores and others will give you change in colones. Euros are much harder to change.
Written by Olga Sáenz-Carbonell for Camino Travel