Cheap Vacation Not Cheap, But $2,723.77

I love to travel (everyone loves to travel). My first summer of law school, I worked my butt off at an Indian Child Welfare office and then used all my do-gooder cash to get wasted in Denmark and Norway. The next summer I skipped the work part and just used my student loan money to go to Italy. Then I had to start paying for all the fun, and didn’t travel for ages. I have a mortgage. It’s not in my budget.

But a friend’s mom has a timeshare in Costa Rica and couldn’t go this year. Would we like to take over her week? Yes, we would. Cheap accommodations and a kitchen to make our own meals gave me an in —I could justify a vacation. It would be inexpensive!

It was not inexpensive. It was $2,723.77.

And maybe there was no way it was ever going to be inexpensive. We were not backpacking through Costa Rica. When we weren’t at the time share, we stayed at some pretty nice places — not Four Seasons-nice but resort-y nice (we are in our thirties, it is more comfortable). And I’ll admit that a lot of the cash I laid out was not totally necessary (see : “spray tan” and “vacation clothes” … and “first-class upgrade”). But I had fun. Made some memories. Got a stamp in my passport. No regrets.

PRO TIP: We used a ledger system to keep track of expenses, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. There were four of us, and we split costs by taking turns. But instead of hoping it all worked out in the end, we made sure it did by ledgering everything, basically, a list on an iPad (fancy), of who paid what. In the end, one girl owed me $45, one girl owed me $30, and I owed the third dude $30. It was a great system, and it worked out pretty pretty pretty well. PURA VIDA!

The trip cost me $2,723.77, which is … a big number. Here’s where it went:

Plane ticket, $775.00 (Seemed pretty reasonable. Purchased approximately two months before travel time.)

PDX pre-flight drinks on the flight out, $18.00 (Expensive airport prices…get a double!)

First class upgrade, $118.00 (My friends did this the night before and I basically felt peer-pressured into this. BUT: I think it was worth it, though I put it on my credit card and that thing is getting up there again, ugh. We got to go to the United lounge in Houston and eat and drink for free. Also free drinks and food on BOTH flights.  So I probably got my money’s worth.)

Spray tan, $40.00 (I’m from the Pacific Northwest, which means my skin doesn’t really get any sun for approx. 9 months out of the year. I’m also as pale and pasty as they come so sometimes I like to spray tan before I go to sunny places. However, I do not remember it being $40 and I was shocked when the girl rang me up for $40. I even had a coupon for a two-for-one spray tan but I found out when I got to the tanning place I couldn’t use it since I’d been there before. LAME.)

Shellac nails and regular pedicure, $35.00 (Hot pink on my nails; bright purple on my toes.)

Vacation clothes/swimsuit/chacos, $250.00 (This is a little ridiculous but it’s fun to buy clothes before you travel and I needed to get some swimsuit cover ups and Chacos for activities and I’ll probably have the Chacos forever, right?)

Share of massage for friend’s mom, $28.00 (My friend’s mom let us have her timeshare points and basically made this whole trip possible. We bought her a thank you massage.)

Share of timeshare $87.50 (Accommodations for six nights in Costa Rica for under $100…sign me up anytime!)

Share of Tamarindo Hotel, $66 (Since our flight was delayed a day, we were able to change our return trip at no cost rom Friday to Saturday, which meant we had an extra night. We decided to go to Tamarindo and stayed in a really amazing hotel called Hotel Jardin del Eden. I want to go back.)

Share of Arenal Resort, $54.50 (We wanted to check out the Arenal volcano for an overnight trip. We signed up with the tour company affiliated with our timeshare resort and they recommended the Arenal resort we stayed at. It was pretty sweet — waterslides, swim up bar and hot springs.)

Arenal activities, $264.00 (For this price we got zip lining, canyoning and transpo to and from Arenal. The road up the volcano was pretty pothole ridden and it was nice not to have to drive. The activities were some of my favorite memories from the trip, but also the most expensive. I was scared to try both ziplining and canyoing, especially ziplining because I’m afraid of heights, but it was super super fun. And our canyoning guides were all really cute.)

Transpo from airport to timeshare, $15.00 (Boring.)

Transpo to airport from hotel, $26.67 (Boring.)

Souvenirs for me and friends/family, $120.00 (Shirts, Britt coffee, a hot pink pair of Havianas, bookmark, hippy headband, hot sauce that they took away from me at the airport.)

Transpo (taxis and cars all over), $110.00 (A friend who visited Costa before we did rented a car and said it was very stressful and recommended against it. So we took cabs for the most part.)

Drinks (out), $175.00 (We had a couple of big nights out but nothing too crazy. During the day we made drinks in our water bottles and brought them to the pool or beach so that was cheap.)

Drinks (in), $50.00 (See above day drinking strategy. We would also freeze soda water or juice or whatever and then poor in chilled booze so the drink would stay cold longer. So smart.)

Food (out), $250.00 (One of my favorite things about Costa Rica was “typical food” or Casado plates, which usually had rice, beans, plantain, a little salad and chicken or fish or something. It was usually pretty cheap and delicious. We splurged on a couple of meals but I could have eaten typical food every day.)

Food (in), $75.00 (Drinks and food and stuff are not cheap. We were lucky to have a kitchen in our resort and we went to the super mercado and bought a bunch of stuff and usually ate at least one meal a day in our room.)

Ambien for flight, $10 (Necessary. Health insurance is awesome.)

E-books, $20.00 (50 Shades of Grey 1 and 2 … pretttttttttttttty crazy. How are they going to make these books into a movie??? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.)

Chicago accidental layover, $101.10 (What was supposed to be a three-hour layover turned into a 27 hour layover.  Good times. The airline put us up in a hotel and gave us $30 in food vouchers to use at the airport, which went nowhere because airport food is NOT cheap. Neither are the drinks we needed to get through that challenging time.  Chicago is cool though and one of the friends I was traveling with used to live there so we had fun. It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day, and I was a little bummed we didn’t get to see the river dyed green. Long layover not long enough.)

Misc. Crap $35.00 (Aloe, Labello, etc.)


Jill Reynolds is happily not a lawyer in Portland, Oregon. Photo Credit: flickr/seantoyer



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