A Guide: Short Vacations & Why Costa Rica?

New Orleans was a great destination for a quick weekend trip

After taking a honeymoon that used up my entire year’s worth of vacation time before the end of January, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much this year.  That doesn’t stop me from wanting to escape though, so weekend trips have held me over until my vacation days are replenished in January.  In March we went to New Orleans and road-tripped to Memphis, and we just got back from San Francisco where I was able to work remotely for the week and sightsee at night. I used to work in academia and get a glorious 5 weeks off per year, so switching to 2 weeks per year has been a bummer to say the least. I have 3 personal days that I’ve been clinging to, and I’ll be using one day for Costa Rica. So why Costa Rica with the little time I have?

When making decisions about where to go on quick trips, I’ve found that it’s an exercise in pushing the limits of what is reasonable mixed with a fair amount of compromise. A three day weekend isn’t much, and may seem like too little time to actually appreciate any country, let alone one as diverse and dynamic as Costa Rica. And it probably is…yet my tickets are booked. Here are the factors that we considered when deciding on Costa Rica, or any destination, for such a short amount of time

1. Price. If you’re only spending three days somewhere, you don’t want to drop too much money on the trip. Usually for me this amounts to airfare. I’d have a hard time justifying a $1,000 plane ticket if I could only spend 2 days on the ground. Maybe you could justify a moderately priced hotel room for one night of the trip, but overall you don’t want a weekend trip to break the bank – save that for a longer vacation 🙂

Costa Rica – we got a great deal on a package that includes air and hotel for 3 nights for $500, which was actually less than booking the flight only. Way to go, Orbitz (although usually their cheap, posted rates are never available). If you’re not too picky about the destination, you can save a lot of money!

2. Flight time. This one is obvious, although I can’t say that we exclude too many destinations based on flight time alone. Asia is out, most of Africa is out, but Europe and the Americas are fair game for those on the East Coast of the US. That leaves a TON of options! You can arrive in Europe first thing Friday morning, and 2.5 full days, and still get back in time for dinner on Sunday night. Central and South America are even easier because you have relatively short flights as well as no jet lag.

Costa Rica (San Jose) is a five hour flight from NYC and is only 2 hours off from EDT. Minimal travel, no jet lag.

Very excited to see Arenal Volcano (photo thanks to Arenal.net)

3. Exciting but not your dream. Of course your destination should be exciting to you, but at the same time you shouldn’t try to cram seeing your dream destination into just over two days. It’s not fair to you, not fair to that city/country, and you’ll just end up coming back anyways, probably sooner rather than later. This would be a colossal waste of airfare.

Costa Rica is a destination that we’ve both had on our lists for a while, but it was never a #1 priority for either one of us. Sure we feel sad to be giving such a great country only a few days of our time, but we’d never make it down there any time soon if we only focused on our top destinations.

4. Somewhat developed tourism infrastructure. On a short trip, there isn’t room for wasting time. You need a destination that will have buses to where you want to go, reputable hotels and easy to navigate sightseeing/touring options if you’re into that.

Costa Rica is no joke – I’d figure it’s one of the most developed countries in Central America and they have really found their niche in Eco-tourism. Volcano tours, zip-lining, hiking and beyond all seem well organized and plentiful.

So there you have it – a quick guide for too short trips.  Not as fulfilling as a full week somewhere, and certainly not as relaxing, but they are definitely an option for those of us with inadequate vacation days.

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