Monthly Points Update June 2017

June!

Can’t believe we’re half way through the year.  It’s flown by…even though I (sadly) haven’t done that much flying.  Luckily, the summer has a lot of travel coming up:  Austin this month, Denver/South Dakota the next, and Nashville in August.  Meanwhile, I’ve been socking away points and waiting for the time to travel!

As always, you can check out my cumulative points at the Keeping Score page on the top banner.

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Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards

We’re working on one final hurrah for the Companion Pass – I’m going to snag a few vacation days, and we’ll plan 4 or 5 days in Havana, Cuba sometime around the end of the year!  Obviously, I couldn’t just let the Companion Pass sit there and collect dust.  My pass expires at the end of this year, and I knew I needed to get one more international trip.  Southwest’s limited route network left me with a handful of option, and we settled on Cuba.

Only problem?  I’m starting to run low on Southwest Rapid Rewards.

In keeping with the theme from earlier this week…that’s where flexible points come in!

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Flexible Points for the Win!

I keep meaning to diversify my points.

I have a whole pile of American Airlines miles (thanks Citi), plenty of American Express Membership Rewards, United MileagePlus miles, and a smattering of points with Alaska and Virgin America (soon to be combined anyway).  I had a healthy balance of Southwest Rapid Rewards, but I’ve been burning through those before my Companion Pass expires at the end of the year.  As for hotels, I have decent stash of SPG and IHG, but I’d like to snag some Hilton and Hyatt points, and maybe even some Wyndham, Club Carlson, or Best Western points to round things out.

Luckily, I continue to build my portfolio of points slowly but surely.  With the cards I have, I can easily get Membership Rewards points and Citi ThankYou Points in a pinch, while my girlfriend has a good balance of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points.

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Copa Club, SJO Main Terminal

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Tom seems like a practical guy.

I mean c’mon, after reading all of the terrible reviews on LoungeBuddy, you practically have to stop at the Copa Club in Juan Santamaria International.

Ever the hopeless optimist, I figured the lounge couldn’t be all bad…

To me, it was like any other lounge – a quick respite from the normal airport hustle.  I understand the folks that travel constantly; they’ll have a different opinion of lounges, and will probably have more experiences to compare with any given lounge.  For me though, a lounge is just a spot to relax and grab a few snacks.  Hell, I didn’t even know lounges existed until I started travel hacking!

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Costa Rica: The Details

Well, let’s wrap up these Costa Rica posts, shall we?

I love reliving the trip, but all good things must come to an end!  Besides, the faster I get these posts out, the more I can focus on the next trip – a weekend trip to Austin, Texas in June!

Costa Rica was short and sweet.  It was a bit too short for our liking, but definitely worth it.  When I first booked the flights, I knew the trip was going to be to short to do everything we wanted to do, but that definitely wasn’t going to stop us from going!  Between work, family, friends, and all those other things on my list, it can be hard to find the time to travel.  Now that my girlfriend is a full time high school teacher, and the kiddo is getting older and more involved with school too, I’m trying to take advantage of school vacations.

Unfortunately, everyone else is too, so the price difference between flying home on Wednesday rather than even one day later on Thursday was huge.  We opted to save the Rapid Rewards points for a rainy day, and take the earlier flight home on Wednesday.

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Rocketmiles Review

I used Rocketmiles to book a hotel for the first time this past trip – the lovely Hotel Santa Maria Inn, on the outskirts of Alajuela.

For those of you that aren’t aware of the site, Rocketmiles essentially acts as a travel agent, charges a bit extra, and throws some airline miles your way for the hassle.

Here’s my experience.

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Costa Rica: Santa Elena

Our final stop in Costa Rica was two days in the Santa Elena and Monteverde area of the country.  Known for its rolling hills leading up to cloud forests, the beautiful Central American country continued to impress me with every bend in the road.

As I hinted in my post last week, the road to Santa Elena can be a bit rough.  Coming from La Fortuna, around the north shore of Lago Arenal, the road is paved for only about two thirds of the journey.  The other third?  A bumpy, rough ride that takes about the same amount of time as the first two thirds of the drive combine.  I couldn’t go above 20 kilometers/hour, because we were getting nervous that the wheels would shake right off the rental car!

Once we pulled into town, the rest of the day was smooth sailing.

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Costa Rica: La Fortuna

After 2 hours of winding mountain roads through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen, we made it to La Fortuna.  The town’s claim to fame is the nearby Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal.  Looming over town to the east, the volcano separates the town from the man-made Lago Arenal – an important source of hydroelectric and wind power for the country.

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Costa Rica: Sarchi & the Road to La Fortuna

Man plans and god laughs, right?

We had planned to visit the Poas Volcano on our first morning in Costa Rica.  Only half an hour north of our hotel in Alajuela, we were going to get up early, drive to the National Park, and hike to the summit.  On a clear day from the top of Poas, you’re able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  There’s not many places in the world you can see both of those oceans at once, and we were really looking forward to the hike!

As luck would have it, the park was shut down due to a recent eruption!  (Check out some of these articles for some information and neat pictures – 1, 23)  It was very cool to see the news stories, and talk with a few ticos (local Costa Ricans) about it, but we obviously couldn’t go hiking with the park closed.  The government had even ordered the closest portions of Alajuela province to evacuate!

With Poas out of the picture, we changed up our road trip, and drove northeast out of Alajuela!

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