Costa Rica: Travel Days

This post is alternately titled “Spirit Airlines is Horrible” 

We have been talking about this trip for over a year. We started planning it in March of 2012. We found a house (which actually got destroyed in an earthquake… so we found another house, which worked out even better) and then it came time to book our airfare… *whomp whomp whomp*

International flights are pricey. So, we were pretty excited when we found what we thought was “reasonably priced” flights to Costa Rica on Spirit Airlines. It ended up being around $500 a person from DFW to San Jose. We traveled with 8 people, so that was around $4000 total just on airfare. After we booked the tickets we didn’t think about it again until the weeks leading up to our trip when we started to catch wind of their baggage fee rules. If you neglected to pay attention to this… frankly, you’re screwed. If you register for their special club (a $59.95 upsell) pre-pay for your checked baggage before online check in it is $20 each way or $30 each way without their special upsell. If you wait until travel day to pay for your checked baggage it is $50 each way or $100 round trip. They do you the favor of allowing you one “personal item” as a carry on, but if you want to use the overhead bin you have to pay extra for that too. $35 each way. If you wait until the gate to pay for your carry on… another $100!

So lets do the math here… 8 tickets @ $500 = $4000
Upsell for lower baggage prices $59.95
$40 round trip checked baggage charge for 8 bags – $320

Luckily none of us had to check anything at the gate.

We left STL and flew American  to DFW to meet up with the hubs family so we could all fly to San Jose together. We left STL Thursday afternoon and got back to his Uncle’s house around 10ish… got to bed closer to Midnight and were up at 2:45am to take our shuttles to the airport for our flight to San Jose.

We flew from DFW to Ft Lauderdale for our first half of the adventure. We quickly realized that EVERYTHING is an upsell with Spirit. Their seats don’t recline and are SO uncomfortable. If you even want a drink of WATER… $3. FOR WATER, PEOPLE!

We got to Ft Lauderdale and daaaang that airport is a hot mess. The spirit airlines terminal in particular. Over crowded with only 1 hot food place open and not enough bathrooms to accomodate everyone. This is where things really started to go downhill. Mind you, we were also running on less than 3 hours of sleep.

We boarded our flight from Ft Lauderdale to San Jose, which was already running late. Then there were some “passenger issues” where a guy got kicked off the flight for being drunk. Just as we were getting ready to leave the flight attendant realized the people in the seats behind us put their 3 year old on his dad’s lap, which is apparently against the rules. Turns out Dad’s seat was in the front of the plane and instead of trying to get it moved he just took his 3 year old’s seat and put the 3 year old on his lap. Said 3 year old then continued to have a total melt down that he had to sit in his own seat and his mom moved across the aisle. Screaming at the top of his lungs for FOURTY FIVE MINUTES. The flight attendants did NOT deal with this well at all. Did I mention they were right behind us? Poor Aaron had to sit next to them! This is how Payton felt about our Spirit Airlines experience


We eventually got to San Jose. late.


Then we went through immigration. Finally got to baggage claim. and guess what? Spirit lost Chris’ grandma’s walker. She needs that to get around. and they lost it. So we sat at the airport for another 30 minutes filling out lost luggage paperwork. Through customs and then to the rental car shuttle. Realized we had crazy amounts of luggage.


Got to National, which we have used before and never had a problem. We are even Emerald Club Members. It took for-ev-er to get our cars and turns out in ended up costing TWICE as much as we thought. Then they gave us directions to get out to the main road. and a GPS. Neither of those worked. We got lost in San Jose for 2 hours. Talk about the longest day ever! The trip from San Jose to Quepos/Manuel Antonio where we were staying, which should take us 3 hours at the most, took us 6 hours. SIX HOURS. We were up for around 20+ hours most of which was spent traveling.


When we finally got into Manuel Antonio and met up with our rental agent to take us to our house it was raining. The roads are windy and full of hills. It turns out our rental house was at the top of a steeeeeeeep hill. We had 200lbs+ of luggage in the back of our tiny rental SUVs. We drove for 6+ hours on top of the worst flights ever. We tried to get up the hill…. and we didn’t make it. The car started to slip backdown the hill. The clutch was burning. We got back down to the bottom and poor chris was so tired. He decided to try one more time and gunned it. We barely made it to the driveway of our house. but we made it!

The house was beautiful and we were just excited to be done traveling. We spent the evening in the pool and then hit the sacks. The next day some of the folks went on a jet ski excursion but I was still exhausted and Nana still didn’t have her walker, so I stayed back with her and Payt. We ended up getting in touch with our concierge and had a walker delivered from San Jose. It cost a total of $150, including delivery fees. Thanks, Spirit.

I’ll be writing separate posts for our other excursions: ATVs, Waterfall Repelling/Zip Lining, Catamaran, and White Water Rafting.

After an awesome week in Costa Rica we were ready to head home. We woke up early to drive back to San Jose and got back in less than 3 hours, hallelujah. It took for-ev-er to turn the rental cars back in to National. We got to the airport an hour before the Spirit Airlines check in counter was open, so we were literally like first in line. When then finally opened it took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to check in. That isn’t waiting in line. That is standing at the ticket counter working with an agent. Also, it turns out Spirit Airlines puts a 40lb weight limit on their baggage (which we already paid an outrageous amount just to check in the first place) so 7 out of 8 of our bags were over weight. That’s an ADDITIONAL $25 per bag for a total of $175. So far that is $4554 for 8 of us to travel on Spirit airlines. That isn’t including the drinks and snacks that were purchased. Riding Spirit Airlines drove me to drink the most expensive and smallest bottle of Jack I’ve ever had.


Oh yea! Speaking of paying for drinks… when we got through security in San Jose we got snacks and drinks. And guess what? As we boarded the plane… They searched every one of our bags and made us throw out all of our drinks we just bought! I’m guessing it is so we had to purchase THEIR drinks on our nearly 3 hour flight. Ludicrous.

Our flight from Ft Lauderdale to DFW was extremely oversold. And late. No surprise.

All this to say never EVER ride Spirit Airlines. Like Ever. They may seem cheaper, but in the long run it just isn’t worth it.

The good news is we got there and back safely. even if it wasn’t on time.

and we had a heck of a time.

Have you ever flown Spirit?
What is your worst travel story?



14 thoughts on “Costa Rica: Travel Days”

  1. Oh my gosh, what horrible travel days! I am glad the rest of your trip made up for it. Airtran hit the hammer in my book. They left me stranded twice on two separate occasions in an airport with no accomodation credit (not even an offer) forcing me to sleep in an airport terminal chair/floor in LAX and then a severely delayed/oversold flight Memphis to Orlando to get home – then to drive another 2 hour home to Tampa totalling 18 hours of travel time – it normally takes 4 hours (the problem was in the 1 stop layover). I can drive faster from MEM to TPA! I havent flown Airtran since.


  2. I’ve never flown Spirit, but have had terrible service on Continental and will never fly them again. When I want to Costa Rica last year, my sister and i got coffees right before our 6am flight out of San Jose, and they made us toss them before getting into the waiting area to board the flight, too! I was so pissed. Couldn’t chug a huge coffee, no way!

    Baggage fees are quite literally the worst and stupidest. There’s just no way a giant plane like that is “troubled” by extra bags or a little weight, ya know? I am not a psychics major, but it just seems like another way to get more money out of us poor travelers.

    I’m impressed that you guys rented a car. The driving was so scary (all those hills, as you discovered), especially when it rained… if you didn’t have something with wicked 4×4, you were stuck! And sometimes that didn’t even matter! Glad your made it okay.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your trip. I had such a great time in Costa Rica – such a beautiful country.


  3. I flew Spirit Airlines to Chicago with your brother Bruce just this past November….Found out exactly what you wrote. I never heard of them before that, and tell anyone I can NEVER to fly that airline. I did investigate all the luggage details before I purchased, but many fees they don’t inform you about (none of which I had to pay thankfully) If you don’t preprint your own boarding pass, you can do it at the airport for $5. If you check in at the counter (for ANY reason) $30. Because I researched the luggage fees & it was a short trip for me, I packed everything I would need in my 1 12x14x15 free carry on bag. I bought your brother & myself a drink (better deal to buy 2 drinks together than separtately of course) We met a girl flying to Chicago for the weekend also, who didn’t know about the luggage fees. It turned out, she paid more for her luggage to fly than for her roundtrip ticket! They are rediculous in every way. I will never fly with them again and will be surprised if they stay in business for any length of time. I am sad for you guys and your experience. Lessoned learned – and now we learned, cheaper is not always cheaper & definately not better.


  4. Yikes, I’ve never flown SPirit but have not heard good things 😦 We just returned from COsta Rica too but were on the Pacific side, love CR 🙂


  5. Oooh, my worst travel story!

    The summer I was twenty I got invited to spend two months with some dear friends who live 20 minutes outside Rome.
    My first international flight (and incidentally my first flight alone). Seattle to Heathrow (London). I got food poisoning eating something at the Seattle airport. I threw up about 5 times on the plane (thank God for the sweet people next to me who were really nice and gave me their puke bags). When we arrived, a stewardess came and got me and I sat somewhere while they called medics. The medics said, “Well, it seems you have food poisoning, but there isn’t anything else wrong. Whether you want to catch your 2nd flight to Rome is up to you.” I am type A and kinda independent. I said, “I think I can tough it out.” Stood up, practically fell over. They ended up taking me in an ambulance to a London hospital. I waited throwing up (bile, at this point) into a bucket till they found a “room” for me. And then I didn’t get an IV or anyone to check on me for hours. Yikes. They finally got something in me and I spent 11 hours there before I was better enough to go back…and spend the night on a bench in the airport.
    But I lived! And Rome was incredible. And I had ZERO jetlag after all the craziness, which was a huge win!


  6. I’m sorry you had that horrible experience. I’m a travel agent and we don’t sell Spirit, it isn’t worth it in the long run. Hope the rest of the trip worked out for you!


  7. That’s too bad to have such a horrible experience on the flights! Must’ve been nice to finally land and deal with all the pretty scenario and just relax!
    That is the saddest picture of your baby, too!!


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