After a quite successful first travel hacking trip to Las Vegas and a lot of fun planning along the way, I had decided to make this a travel lifestyle and take our second trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Flights: Saved Approximately $400
I used my FREE Spirit miles and booked our flight with Spirit Airlines. I know that Spirit does not get a lot of positive publicity, but if you keep in mind that it is a budget airline and you follow some tips outlined in this post that will set the right expectations and help you prepare accordingly to maximize your comfort and minimize your costs.
Total actual cost paid: $22.40
2 x $11.20 = $22.40 for govt. taxes
For anyone who read my post All about My First Hacked Travel Trip and how I saved $1,023.88 remembers that on my first travel hacked trip, one charge I could have avoided was the $60 in booking fees. This time, I planned the trip far enough in advance that none of the booking fees applied.
Accommodation: Saved $292
To save on accommodation we not only book through AirBnb, but also used a combination of other techniques to bring my actual costs paid down to zero. I signed up for AirBnb and received $25 off my first trip and used my BarclayCard rewards to pay the remainder of the cost. Sign up through this link to receive $20 in free Airbnb credit to spend on your first trip
We stayed at the Coqui Del Mar Guesthouse, which was only a quick 3-minute walk away from the beautiful beach.
The guesthouse is in a semi-gated community, which gave me a sense of security. It is located in the residential area of Condado, so you have an opportunity to experience the real Puerto Rico, live among the locals, with a few local shops and restaurants in walking distance.
The property itself was very cute with a tiki-style decorated walkway that leads to a nice courtyard, where you can enjoy the breeze in the evening and play some cards or other games and socialize.
My favorite part about the guesthouse though was the Jacuzzi on site.
There are bicycles, boogie boards, and other beach items, such as coolers and chairs that you can borrow free of charge, which is a very nice aspect of Coqui del Mar. All of the ‘check-in’ details are provided to you ahead of time, so when we arrived, we were able to conveniently access the property and the unit immediately without having to wait for someone else to check-in.
We stayed in the ‘El Coqui’ unit, which is kind of set up like a small studio apartment with a queen bed in the main living space, a kitchenette with a coffee maker, refrigerator, counter and cabinet space, and a small bathroom with the toilet and shower sharing the same space (which was probably my least favorite part of the unit, but manageable). There is free wi-fi accessible from the room or the courtyard and a flat screen tv in the room as well, which is practical, because as we learned, the weather can change quickly and you may end up spending the evening in the room, so at least you have some form of entertainment during those times.
Unless of course you have the same bad luck we did on our first evening in San Juan, when a bad thunderstorm moved in with lightning that had knocked the power out, leaving us without electricity until the morning. The staff at the guesthouse immediately checked on us when the power went out and each room is also equipped with a large flash light.
If you ever plan to visit San Juan, I would highly recommend Coqui del Mar.
Total actual cost paid: $0
Transportation: Saved $70+
We started our journey from the FLL (Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood Airport). To save some money on parking, we pre-paid for off-airport parking, which is only about 1 miles from the airport with a free shuttle to the airport and paid only $25, versus paying $15 per day (4 x $15 = $60).
Our plan was to take the public bus from the airport to the guesthouse; however, unfortunately we were not patient enough to wait for the right bus with our luggage without knowing the schedule and being able to communicate with other bus drivers who told us it might take another hour before our bus would come, but it wasn’t guaranteed… so we ended up taking a taxi for $18. If we our ‘stuff’ in backpacks versus the duffel bags we had, it would have been much different.
The remainder of the trip however, we only used public transportation, which only cost approximately $0.50 per ride, overall saving us a lot of money. Once you get familiar with the routes and bus stops around you, it actually is quite simple to get around; just make sure you give yourself extra time.
Things to do in San Juan
Old San Juan
Old San Juan is the oldest settlement within Puerto Rico with beautiful colonial architecture in bright colors that bring the whole city to life. Walk along the old walls, overlook the sea, grab a bite of authentic Puterto Rican food to eat on Fortaleza street, and continue on to reach Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal.
The San Juan National Historic Site
A remarkable World Heritage Site definitely worth a visit, including the well-preserved Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal with hundreds of years of history, strategically located on the city’s coastal edge.
The entry only costs $5 per person (kids under 16 can enter for free) and if you visit both forts on the same day, keep your receipt as you will not be required to pay a second time.
I won’t bore you with the history of this place in my blog post; when you visit Puerto Rico, plan a day to visit this fascinating site and then take time to read about the history and really absorb it when you are there to see it, feel it, and touch the 400+ year old walls, see the cannons they used and the views from the different levels of this site.
And while you are there, definitely take advantage and also visit Cementerio Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis located next to Castillo San Felipe del Morro; it is a very well maintained, beautiful sight of bright white graves, some dating back hundreds of years where many important historical Puerto Ricans were buried.
You can see it without having to enter the cemetery itself in case you feel that you would be disrespectful to enter.
Approximate Costs saved: $872
Total spent: $82.40 + around $90 additionally for food and souvenirs
Not too bad for my second try.
Feel free to share any other great things to do in Puerto Rico that you would recommend.
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