The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel ‘s resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She’s always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
Karla writes, “Recently Divorced mom with two teenage girls, 17 and 13, is desperately seeking an affordable vacation spot for spring break, between April 3 through 11. We live in the Seattle, Washington, area. They want something exotic to tell their friends about, [and] I need to relax. Sleep? We all enjoy sports for fun and relaxation. Zip Lining, parasailing, biking, [and] backpacking???? We are vegetarians, but can usually find something we like on most menus. I like to travel light and can definitely do rustic. Any ideas would be appreciated and I anxiously await your response.”
First off, I’d like to commend you for wanting to take your daughters on a memorable vacation during, what I am sure is, a difficult time. They are lucky to have a mother like you. With that said, let’s find a place that is not only worth boasting about, but is also a nice place for you to relax.
Since you are an active bunch, several tropical destinations known for outdoor activities flooded my brain canals, including places in Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Mexico. I typically hate picking just one of anything in life, but in this case Costa Rica, with its canopy tours, zip lining excursions, rainforests, and beaches, won hands down as an ideal match for your needs. Plus, you can avoid the extra legwork in planning, and instead go with a reliable vacation provider that offers everything bundled in one neat little package.
One thing to consider is your dates do fall at the very end of the country’s high season, so you may find prices are a bit more expensive than they would be a little later in the year. However, high season also happens during the dry season, so you’ll likely have nice weather for your visit.
There are two options when booking a vacation. You can search for a package that includes airfare and lodging, which means you are free to explore as you wish, or you can book a tour that includes lodging, ground transportation, and all activities, but you will have to find your airfare separately.
The first option offers a lot more freedom when you land, but also requires a lot more planning. If this appeals to you, then begin searching vacation providers like Pleasant Holidays and CheapCaribbean for deals. These two are good starting points for finding ideas for your ideal getaway. You can also choose to go through an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz, which will make it easy to search for an exact price for your departure city and travel dates.
For instance, I priced a package starting at $860 per person (with taxes and fees), or $2,580 for the three of you, through Expedia. The deal includes round-trip airfare from Seattle to San Jose, Costa Rica, leaving April 3 and returning April 11; accommodations at the Hemingway Inn; and daily breakfast. It’s then up to you to decide if you want to explore the surrounding areas and, if so, you need to figure out how to make arrangements.
The second option is to find a provider that lays all of the ground work (pun intended) for you. An example is G.A.P. Adventures, where you can find a range of tour itineraries to places all over the world at a reasonable price. Two of their tours stuck out as good fits for you and your girls: Volcano, Hot Springs, and Cloud Forest and Costa Rica Shipwrecked.
The first tour starts at $659 per person (without taxes and fees), and includes four-nights’ accommodations, transfers, ground transportation, meals (four breakfasts, two lunches, and one dinner), a group leader, and activities. You’ll start your trip in San Jose, and from there you will visit a volcano, hot springs, wetlands, a city in the clouds, and a biological reserve.
The second tour starts at $529 per person (without taxes and fees), and is centered on a more relaxed vacation itinerary. The deal includes six nights at the Hotel Escape Caribeno in Puerto Viejo, six breakfasts, a guided hike in Cahuita National Park, a group leader, airport transfers, and ground transportation. During your stay, you can relax on the beach or take a day tour to go river surfing, horseback riding, or visit a wildlife refuge. Plus, on your national park tour, you’ll more than likely encounter natural wildlife like monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and parrots.
These two tours both provide endless opportunities for a fun and exciting vacation, but you’ll still need to book your airfare separately.
I priced round-trip airfare from Seattle to San Jose, Costa Rica, starting at $712 per person (with taxes and fees) leaving April 3 and returning April 11. This will bring the total cost for the first tour to $1,371 per person (without taxes and fees), or $4,113 for the three of you. The second tour will cost $1,241 per person (without taxes and fees), or $3,723 for the three of you.
These are only a few of the many options when it comes to finding the right vacation. I urge you to explore the Internet with the same gusto you would a new destination. Search for vacation providers that seem like a good match for your needs, and then read reviews of those providers.
I wish you and your girls happy and safe travels on your vacation, as well as in life.
As for my other readers: Is there a better destination to send Karla and her daughters? Have you been somewhere that seems like an ideal match? Tell us what you think by filling out the form below.
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All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.