Whether you're heading down to Costa Rica for a week's vacation, a month to start scouting out your big move, or finally pulled the trigger on a one-way ticket and officially are an expat, you'll first have to get to Costa Rica - and that usually entails an airline ticket.
However, the price of tickets can fluctuate wildly, from a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand bucks during the holidays and busy season. So, I wanted to put some tools and resources in your hands for finding the best (ok, just cheapest!) airline tickets to Costa Rica!
1. Use reverse searches
If you are flexible with which days you can travel, a lot of cheaper airfares may open up for you. There are several travel search engines that will allow you to search by destination without putting in a hard date.
• AirfareWatchdog.com • Kayak.com
2. Travel off-season
Costa Rica, like many countries in tropical climates, doesn’t have set winters and summers like up north. Instead, they have a dry season from approximately late November through April and a rainy season from May to November. If you don’t mind some clouds and a little rain mixed in with sunshine, it can actually be cooler (but still plenty warm) and far less crowded, meaning cheaper flights, hotels, etc.
3. Let the travel sites do the work
There are some great Internet search sites out there that will do all of the work for you. Even better, register a search to a certain destination or below a certain price, and they will give you automatic email alerts. I like:
4. Check the airline websites directly
Search engines are great, but also search directly on the airlines’ websites. They often offer private deals or promotions that the search engines can’t access. Increasingly they are running cheap deals on social media sites like Facebook, so it’s worth it to Like their page and check in.
5. The best time to search for tickets
Did you know there are up to 10 different ticket prices on the same flight? So how do you get one of the cheap seats? Timing is everything.
Airlines release their new weekly fares on Mondays, so at Tuesday by 3 pm their competitors have released their deals, making it the exact time to search.
Studies show that the cheapest time to book is 49 days before your departure, or 81 days ahead of time for international flights. Interestingly, flights booked 200 days or more in advance are more expensive, and last minute flights may be cheaper, but the seat availability is extremely limited.
If you are flying during the holidays, start searching 10 weeks ahead of time. If you’re headed to a non-vacation destination, shop on a weekend – it will save you 5%.
6. The best time to fly
The majority of air travelers want to fly on a Friday or Sunday, so you’ll find the best deals available for flights on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday.
Flights at the crack of dawn, at dinnertime, or red-eye flights over night are cheapest.
7. Follow the airlines on social media
Almost every airline has a social media page, at least on Facebook and Twitter these days, and often release specials and limited time deals that aren’t publicized elsewhere. Like or follow a few airlines ahead of time so you can track their updates.
8. Book a package deal
Booking a package usually drops your airfare into the leisure travel category, saving you money. Arranging a ticket for your hotel, rental car, and airfare together may give you access to lower prices on internet search engines, and travel agents can be helpful when it comes to these bargains.
9. Ask for organizational discounts
Contact any organizations, unions, or membership sites you belong to, like AAA, AARP, unions, Veterans groups, or even Sam’s Club or Costco, as they may offer bulk discounts.
10. Sign up for frequent flyer miles and points
Always register to earn frequent flyer miles and keep track. Confirm with the booking agent and at the check-in counter to make sure they credited you your miles, and once you get home check to make sure they were registered.
11. Use a credit card that offers award points of frequent flyer miles
Some of them are great but only give you miles on one airline. I have a Chase Sapphire card (they don't pay me anything to give them a shout-out!) that allows me to accumulate points for all flights, hotels, rental cars, or even restaurant meals. I run all of my bills through it but pay it off every month, and the result is that I get at least two free flights every year.
12. Factor the airline’s luggage policy into the total price
When booking a flight, ask about their luggage policy. Slightly cheaper tickets for your family does no good if you are paying $50 each for baggage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines make over $3 billion in baggage fees alone every year!
13. Call back the next day to see if the price went down
After you book your flight, call back the next day, within 24 hours, to check if the fare went lower. Most airlines have a policy where you could cancel and re-book for the lower fare within 24 hours without penalty.
14. Check the airline websites
While it’s convenient to go to one website and search for the best fares among all airlines and schedules, you can often find specials or the best deals on the airline’s own website. So do a little research but then cross reference with the airline.
15. Call and chat with a representative but then book online
I love getting an actual human being on the phone from the airline or travel websites because they can guide you and offer their tricks, tips, and vast experience. But if you want to book over the phone there’s usually a service charge of $15 to $50. So to save money, call and chat to identify what you want and then thank them, hang up, and book online.
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