Costa RicaCosta Rica

5 Travel Mistakes

When planning your Costa Rica vacation, common mishaps like high-priced flights  and broken budgets can be completely avoided with proper preparation. Set yourself up for an enjoyable, stress-free holiday by steering clear of these universal travel mistakes.

1. Being Inflexible on Travel Dates 

Save hundreds of dollars on airfare by being flexible with your travel dates. Try and schedule your flights for mid-week for the lowest fares. Ticket prices are usually cheapest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the most expensive on Fridays and Saturdays. If your vacation falls during major holidays like Christmas or Easter, get ready to pay a premium for flights. 

Keep in mind that May-November is Costa Rica’s low tourism period, which equals serious discounts on hotels and fabulous last-minute deals. A bounty of bargains exists for those who visit during the green season months. You can save an average of 30% on accommodations, and enjoy a wealth of attractions with far fewer crowds.

2. Trying To Do Too Much

When you’re spending hard-earned cash on your dream holiday, it’s tempting to create the most extensive itineraries – packing way too much into your daily schedule. Distances and travel time in Costa Rica can be deceiving, as even a short jaunt can take hours, due to mountainous terrain and ongoing highway repairs. While there are many appealing attractions and destinations, trying to see too much will only lead to stress and weariness.  

Don’t visit Arenal Volcano for one day, and then drive to Dominical the next and expect to have energy for tours. If you have the cash, fly domestically between locations, it’s worth it and will save you oodles of valuable time. Visiting two or three destinations – at most – is perfect for a one-week vacation, though ten days is even better.  And always leave room for the unexpected, whether it's a missed flight connection, or a traffic delay on the road. Tip: leaving a day free allows for more spontaneous adventures.

3. Under Budgeting

With today’s exorbitant airline baggage fees, hotel service charges, taxes, tips, and ATM fees, even the most careful budgeting can go awry. Make sure you account for surcharges big and little, and always read the fine print. Ask your hotel if room rates are per person or per night, and if they include taxes and breakfast. Be sure to verify all inclusions in an "all-inclusive” package. 

To be safe, try and budget an extra $25 a day for miscellaneous expenses when vacationing in Costa Rica. A little padding in your budget for unexpected costs, like a replacement battery charger for your camera, or a spur-of-the-moment taxi ride, will create a much more relaxing trip.

4. Going Strictly All-Inclusive

Unless you’re on your honeymoon and wish to stay ensconced in the lap of luxury, Costa Rica offers far too much to remain on resort grounds. Get out and discover the country’s diverse offerings, including its friendly and gregarious residents. You’ll meet interesting people and make lasting connections that way. There are plenty of posh resorts, which have their appeal, but the real Costa Rica is a rich tapestry of adventure, natural wonders and culture that affords so much more.  Eat at a typical soda, a mom-and-pop cafe that serves up delicious traditional food; take the public bus anywhere and experience travel as most locals do; and get off the tourist trail whenever possible – that’s when the real journey usually begins.

5. Over Packing

It’s easy to get swept away with your wardrobe and camera possibilities, but take our advice and pack light! If you’re sticking to Costa Rica’s more tropical locales, you’ll only need one pair of long pants – quick dry is recommended – and a long sleeve shirt, plus your warm weather clothes. Most hotels and hostels offer laundry service for a nominal fee, and keep in mind that regional airlines have strict weight limits for baggage (25-40 pounds) if you plan on taking domestic flights.

You can buy just about any forgotten or misplaced item in a number of local stores, albeit import taxes create a slightly higher price tag. And don’t forget to leave those heavy guidebooks at home. Simply use your iPhone, Blackberry or laptop to stay updated on the latest travel info, or print out your computer documents before you leave.