Forrest and I decided to go to Costa Rica in 2 weeks! There is a lot of stuff to decide on and reserve!
Another (backdated) blog post, another travel adventure! (Yes, yes, I know that both our Zurich/Munich and honeymoon trips aren't written up. Quiet, you.)
Why Costa Rica?
Google is very generous with its paid holidays. For the fourth of July, they not only gave us Wednesday, July 4th, but also the following Thursday and Friday. Which of course meant that pretty much everyone took Monday and Tuesday off to get nine days off for the cost of two vacation days. It's a good thing no serious bugs or outages happened then, because I'm pretty sure there were no (American) Googlers at the office to fix anything.
So Forrest (also a Googler) and I had this big block of time, and we knew we wanted to go on an adventure. We thought about going to Alaska for a while, but the plane tickets were surprisingly expensive. So we started looking at Latin America. South America was expensive, presumably 'cause it's just so far away. And then we looked at the average July temperatures for Central America; Costa Rica seemed "less hot" than other Central American places, and that seemed as good a reason as any.
So we decided to just do it: we picked Costa Rica and bought the tickets on the very same day, just two weeks before we'd be leaving! That didn't leave a whole lot of time to plan a ten-day vacation to a country neither of us knew, but honestly, that was part of the excitement. (Both Forrest and I have always thought it would be exciting ... and maybe a little scary ... to do that clichéd thing of going to the airport and buying a ticket for the next plane flying to an "exotic" destination.)
Pretending to be a travel agent
I took point on doing the bulk of the research and reservations. Forrest looked up what was up with the cell phone situation and determined that we should be able to buy a local SIM card in-country to get internet. But pretty much everything else about our trip, I figured out for us. It was crazy-intense: there are so many moving parts to a ten-day trip in a foreign country! I can definitely believe that travel agents earn their fees.
So I did lots of googling, lots of travel book reading, lots of forum-reading and -posting. For pretty much the entire two weeks, I lived and breathed Costa-Rica-trip-planning. I took notes on what sounded interesting and gradually (but not too gradually! I only had two weeks!) formed an idea for what we might do while in Costa Rica. I sent the list over to Forrest for comment, and we were both pretty much on the same page. (We really travel well together, because we're both into the same sorts of things and like the same pace.)
(Here's where I'm going to plug TripIt as a great resource for not only storing your travel documents but also planning and coordinating a trip with others. It was super helpful!)
I made reservations mostly by email, but I did have to call one hotel via Skype because they only had a local Costa Rican phone number and no website or email address at all. And of course the phone call was entirely in Spanish, so that was challenging and exciting! (This was a non-tourist hotel in a non-tourist town.)
The woman on the phone at first spoke at me like I was fluent, but I quickly got her to ask simpler questions (and by simple, I mean simple: ¿Uno o dos personas?, hehe). She asked me for a local phone number, but I didn't have one yet. She didn't seemed bothered by this. Then she confirmed the date, how many people, that the room had a private bathroom, the rate, and ... hung up. Without taking any contact or payment information from me. So I was like, "Um, I think we have a reservation for the first night..."