Travel Costs

 

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Playa Beisanz

 

Total Cost of the Best Trip Ever: $2400


Total Airfare for Two: $770

This covered two roundtrip tickets with Copa Airlines from November 28 – December 5. We booked through Canadian Fares online. I know that this was likely cheaper because the dates fell before peak season.

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Meal on Copa Airlines

Copa Air was impressive – flying with them took me back to how things were before food and alcohol became additional. We were shocked when they came out with the drinks – including alcohol – near the start and end of the flight. I got so nostalgic that I just went for the guava juice – something I hadn’t had since I was a kid. Then came the meals! I had to pinch myself. I haven’t eaten anything on a flight without whipping out my credit card in years.

Another plus side when booking with Copa: When you leave Costa Rica, you apparently have to pay a departure tax of $29 USD. This fee was included in the airfare. There are a few airlines that will automatically include this fee in the price and Copa is one of them. Otherwise, if you don’t have US cash or the Costa Rican equivalent to pay at the airport, you pay this tax at the booth by a cash advance on your credit card. Oh, and we didn’t have to pay for our checked baggage.

The only downside to this airline was having Barry Manilow’s song, “Copacabana,” earworm its way into my head for the entire flight going there and back.


Park ‘n’ Fly: $185

Our flight was at 8 AM. It made the most sense for us to stay at a hotel where we could park our car for eight days while we were away. With such an early departure and late arrival, I appreciated being shuttled to and from the airport. We usually book our park ‘n’ fly using points, but this was more of a last minute booking and we couldn’t swing it this time around.


Manulife Travel Insurance: $48

This covered the two of us. Neither of us is covered by any insurance plans at work, many of which also includes basic travel insurance.

There were times in the past when I thought travel insurance was a waste of money…until the one time I needed it and it was totally worth it. The insurance covered all the costly medical bills for this one unexpected incident.


Total cost of Airbnb: $327

We went on this trip for three reasons: 1) We always wanted to go to Costa Rica, 2) We wanted to have a warm getaway, and 3) JP and I are considering buying property somewhere nice and warm.

We decided to check out a place that was easy enough to get to near a lot of beaches. That way, if we bought a property that was accessible and attractive to many tourists, it would be easy to rent out on Airbnb. We settled for the town of Herradura, which is near the locals hangout, Herradura Beach, the bachelor party capital, Jaco Beach, and the surfer-covered Hermosa Beach. We booked a house through AirBnB which was a quick drive from all those places.

It was our first time booking anything through Airbnb. What an experience! We made friends with the neighbours and had them over on most nights where we shared food and drinks. They even took us on a hike through a river to these local waterfalls. They showed us around some resorts, beaches, bars, etc. I’m sure that’s not what usually happens with Airbnb and that this was more of a unique opportunity to make new friends.


Car rental: $258

We booked through Dollar in Costa Rica ahead of time, snatching the best online deal we could find. There are a number of car rental desks at the airport where they shuttle you to their actual locations off-site, as there is no spot for them at the San Jose airport.

We got a basic car with basic insurance. They tried to pressure JP into getting the premium insurance plan, but he wouldn’t budge. The guy became a bit of a prick after we said no! Apparently, all the cars in Costa Rica are standard. (Really?) The driving there is more aggressive in that there is no room for hesitation. JP really liked driving there!


Duty-Free Booze: $98

20171209_1330461036299762.jpgOn the way to Costa Rica, our stopover was at the Panama Airport. The next time we head to this area, we are definitely going to Panama! Well, we were drawn to all the duty-free stores glowing with enormous bottles of rum and tequila. We didn’t know how hard/easy it would be to find alcohol in CR when we arrived in the evening. We shopped around and bought a bottle of rum ($17 USD) and one of tequila ($24 USD) equal to $53.76 CAD. On the way back to Canada, we bought two big bottles of rum ($34 USD = $44.35 CAD). We just knew we couldn’t find bottles of this size and price back home. We paid with credit card both times.


Cash for food, gas, etc: $588 = ₡240,000

We read that most places only took cash. Credit cards could be used at more expensive places and you could still be charged extra transaction fees for using it. We figured to bring about $600 worth of CR Colones. We ordered the currency from our bank. The exchange rate with them was much better than at an exchange house. We just had to wait almost a week for the money to arrive (which came the day before we left!).

On our way to our accommodation, we stopped over at some food stands and stores to load up with enough chow to tide us over the next few days. We bought tropical fruits, tomatoes, beans, nuts, and rice. We nearly fell over after we figured that the few bags we purchased amounted to $80. The food prices in Costa Rica rival Japan’s. I mean, I have never tasted more exquisite avocados and pineapples, but come on! However, alcohol is much less expensive there. On most days we ate a lot of fruit and made our own meals. The place we stayed at had a great kitchen where JP whipped up the best dishes.

We allowed ourselves a couple of extravagant days when we bought day passes to hang out at a nearby resort which gave us access to the poolside bar/restaurant and beach. A pass cost us $30 USD each.

After a week in Costa Rica, we blew through most of our cash. We had enough to refill the gas tank before returning the car to the rental agency. With all the driving we did, including a day trip to Manuel Antonio in the south, we used only one tank of gas. Filling it up cost around $45 CAD. We gave the remainder of our colones to the shuttle driver who took us to the airport.


Roaming: $96

We paid $10 a day for data. We needed to navigate a lot on Google maps. Fun fact: They don’t use addresses in Costa Rica! Everyone uses landmarks. There were a couple of days when we didn’t need data, but I forgot to put my phone on airplane mode before midnight.  Before leaving, I also had to make a phone call from Canada to the caretaker of the house to arrange for the key exchange.


If you added the food we bought at the airport while waiting to depart in Canada, Panama, and Costa Rica, it comes to another $25 CAD. All told that is about $2400 or $1200 per person. Not bad for one of the most incredible trips I have ever taken. We went to four different beaches, witnessed the most stunning sunsets, saw so much wildlife, made new friends, and learned so much about that amazing country. Would we consider buying property there? Claro que si!

 

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Playa Herradura

 

‘Tis the Season to Spend Wisely

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Make a shopping list and start early

This is the time of year when the shopping frenzy begins; what follows is the eating and drinking. It’s all a big winter feast, after all! The easiest thing to do is close your eyes and just run with it knowing that in the new year, you can promise to make amends to your suffering bank account and bulging waistline. This frustrating cycle happens each year for so many of us.

I started doing my Christmas shopping about two months ago. Beforehand, I created a rough shopping list. I was able to keep an eye out for when these items went on sale. Seasonal items, like fudge, are typically more abundant and therefore cheaper closer to Christmas. I’m okay with getting these in December. This is a saner and more budget-friendly way to shop. It’s an easier way to monitor spending and not lose sight of financial goals. 

I’m not always this ready and organized. Last year was unusually busy for me. I only managed to do a quarter of my shopping online ahead of the holidays. The rest I bought at Metrotown and Downtown Vancouver the few days leading up to Christmas. For anyone who lives in Greater Vancouver, you know that these shopping areas are already super busy on a slow day. Big crowds mean it takes forever to get anywhere. Buying presents at the last minute left me feeling stressed out and under pressure. I was exhausted and frazzled by the end of it. The part I dreaded most was returning home and having to add up all my receipts. The final total caused me enough grief and gave me the motivation to plan ahead this year.

I know that a lot of people are drawn to the bustle of holiday shopping. The inviting Christmas displays that retailers put up invoke warm fuzzy feelings of generosity and make you want to give to others as well as yourself. A lot of awesome things go on sale at this time. We just have to remember that sales happen all year round. It’s not the only time that we can do our Christmas shopping. Although I handled last year’s Christmas differently than other years, I am aware that I’m prone to making bad, desperate choices if I don’t plan ahead. 

I’ve got some big financial goals that I want to follow through with over the next year. I can’t let overspending in one season delay my long-term goals. I recognize that I typically spend more this time of year, but the important part is that I budgeted for it.


Stock Talk

I keep saying this like a broken record: I find this toppy market quite dodgy to trade in. I usually can tell when my best trading ideas are higher risk, lower odds. I did, however, still look through the market. Here’s a list of stocks with decent charts:

  • UR.TO
  • POT.TO
  • BB.TO (Aggressive entry for a possible swing trade.)
  • CIX.TO
  • G.TO
  • WPM.TO

It looks like the precious metal charts are starting to shape up, although I’m just not interested trading the metals right now. Weed stocks have been getting a lot of recent action. As tempting as it is to jump into these, I would wait until they settle down and consolidate before buying. I’m watching and waiting for these to take shape again, so I’ll keep you all posted on new trade ideas for weed stocks. I might still trade some of the stocks listed above, but I’d take fewer shares and keep my outlook shorter term.

 

 

 

 

Catios

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Our catio. We’re halfway there!

This week, I barely remembered to do my monthly deposit of $150 into my RRSP. I admit I have not paid any attention to the markets nor my investment accounts. This happens from time to time, and I’m mostly okay with that. I’ll get back into it this week or next week.

Instead, I found myself doing a lot of personal stuff that I’d put off all summer, such as returning and exchanging items, pursuing refunds, cancelling magazine subscriptions, closing useless accounts, etc. I’m also trying to stay on top of my study schedule. What has taken centre stage though, is the designing and building of our cat enclosure, also known as a catio. Yes, we’re nutty cat people.

JP and I relocated this spring/summer. It was a long, gradual process. Unlike our other moves, this one involved a lot of research trips and planning in the beginning. Once we officially decided to move, I ventured out first in the spring. I sublet an apartment in student housing, and boy was that a shift in lifestyle! After moving into a room smaller than my bathroom back home, I looked for work and found a job. After that, I found a house for us to move into. This house needed a lot of cleaning and fixing.

During the week after work, we cleaned and painted the new place and then on the weekends, went back to our place in the countryside. JP and I had to clean, repair and re-paint with the goal of getting our own house ready for renters as of September.

The biggest job was the decluttering process, which actually took a couple of months. We’d been holding a lot of stuff on behalf of our families. We adopted a ruthless policy in deciding what was coming with us and what would be sold on Kijiji or in our big garage sale. We made several exhausting trips to the dump and donation centres. Even after we moved everything, we still got rid of unwanteds as we unpacked. Overall, we got rid of over a third of what we had at our old place. There is nothing more freeing than having in your possession only the things you really want and need.

Our next priority was figuring out what to do about our cats. They’re both wild, country boys who moved in with us on their own — we discovered that this is how many cats and dogs become pets in the countryside, by the way! One moved in five years ago one very cold winter and the other started coming in on his own as of last summer. We had an open door policy with them that allowed them to come and go as they pleased. They were undoubtedly going to have a hard time adjusting from five acres of farmland to a city with so many neighbours around, in addition to being around a lot of traffic. There’s a good chance of them wandering far, becoming lost, or much worse.

We first tried to put collars on them with trackers. They HATED the collars so much, that no amount of positive conditioning was going to work. Introducing a leash led to many traumatic moments, and we nearly lost one of them. So, we opted to build an enclosure in our backyard. We got a lot of ideas from YouTube where people posted handy videos on how they designed and built ‘catios’ on their own. Some of the designs were a little weak, but others were so creative and simply amazing.

We knew some parts of the construction would be beyond our abilities so we spent a couple of weeks finding a contractor. Try explaining what a catio is to anybody…then try having people take you seriously after you tell them all this trouble is for your cats! Honestly, with many cities implementing new by-laws that don’t allow you to let your pets roam free, these pet enclosures are going to be the next hot thing. They solve a lot of problems from losing your pets to preserving bird populations. Also, your pets will be happier and healthier not being stuck indoors.

Through a connection at JP’s new job, we found some willing contractors who were more curious than anything. We had a great time working with them yesterday and hope to be completed next weekend. The head carpenter even wants to take JP under his wing for upcoming jobs and teach him the tricks of the trade. If he gets good, who knows? Maybe catio designing will be our next side business! Look at the catio empire this couple has started.

This project was not ‘cheap’ but it’s worth it as we’re investing in our pets’ health, safety, and happiness!

 

MOVING IN

Buddy and Tiny, my cat babies