We’ve got SPIRIT, yes we do, we’ve saved money, how about you?

small spiritWell, we did it. We flew Spirit airlines, for the first time ever. And we survived.

There are a lot of negative posts out there about Spirit, and yes – I perused them all months ahead of our scheduled trip. And they definitely made me hesitate. I was ready to forget about Spirit and go with an airline that I was familiar with (American), which had a direct flight from Costa Rica to Dallas, and we had done several times with no hiccups. But I soon discovered a pattern in the dis-Spirited comments about Spirit – it seemed that mainly people were complaining about hidden and extra charges that they knew nothing about.

So I did some more research, and then some more research, talked with Greg, kept looking at the $600 savings in ticket prices for the two of us, and finally decided to just take the plunge. Life is an adventure, right?

And lo and behold – our experience with Spirit was GREAT. It was a smooth, awesome, no surprises or hiccups flight. We loved it!

Here’s my advice on how to make SPIRIT work for you:

  1. Read the fine print online (www.spirit.com).
  2. Refer to #1 above, and repeat as necessary.

Yep – that’s it.

If you look at their website, they tell you upfront they are a BARE MINIMUM FLIGHT. Meaning you pay a low fair for your plane ticket. And then if you want ANYTHING extra (and I mean anything), you pay for these things separately.
Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.59.25 AMThey explain that in order to have their low fares, they do not have a lot of “frills” on their flights (no reclining seats, no videos, no wifi, no free carry-on’s, food or drinks). And because they pack more seats on their planes (with little to no leg room for tall people) and have a lower pound limit for checked bags (40 pounds vs. the normal 50), they can have more people on each flight, causing the price per person to go down. I think it’s genius.

You have to pay for your checked-on luggage (where do you not, these days), your carry-on bag, extra leg-room seats or larger seats, food, and any type of drink (I think even water). The only free item you get is one personal item, like a purse or small backpack. Also it pays to be organized as the fees for checked-on bags, carry-on bags, extra leg-room or larger seats are all cheapest if done online ahead of time. Once you are 24 hours out the fees go up, and if you wait to do it at the check-in counter the fees go up again. You also need to have your boarding pass printed out before you get to the airport, as they will charge you for printing it at the check-in counter.

A few tidbits to know when departing from Costa Rica on Spirit at the airport:

  1. Look for the longest line. While all other airlines have signs at their check-in counters, the Spirit sign only comes up on the digital screen occasionaly. Instead – just look for the longest line.
  2. Exit fee not included. When leaving Costa Rica, there is an exit fee per person ($29 each), most airline tickets are including this price when you purchase the tickets, but not the case for Spirit. So go to the exit fee counter FIRST before getting in the long line at the check-in counter.
  3. Print Boarding Pass. Remember you must have your boarding pass printed before getting to the airport (or they charge you to print it).
  4. Scale.  They DO have a scale in the middle of the check-in line, which is nice – so you know before you get to the counter if you are over the limit or not and can start re-packing before you get to the check in counter.
  5. Measurement Place. There is also a place to check your personal item and carry-on bag measurements (must fit in the boxes provided, see picture below).
  6. NO LIQUIDS.  This one is a Costa Rica only requirement (all airlines, not just SPIRIT) – you are not allowed any liquids in your carry-on’s or personal items.  No 3 ounces of face cream in a zip lock bag, no small water bottle (even if purchased after security). They actually go through your purse/carry-on’s again after you give your boarding pass to the agent to get on the plane.

Longest line…

Personal Item and Carry-On Measurement Place

 We inevitably saw a lot of people in the Spirit check-in line that were NOT as prepared as we were. One girl swung her large suitcase on the scale and exclaimed “Oh yipee! I’m only 0.2 pounds over the limit! No problem!” while her friend said “Oh no honey – you are at 50.02 pounds – you are 10.02 pounds over the limit.” The poor girl had no clue, and discovered she was going to have to pay a hefty fee for being overweight.

The check-in counter next to us was American, where we saw a couple AT the check-in counter totally sprawled out on the ground with their suitcases open, clothes flying everywhere, trying to reorganize the weight at the last second (no scale in their line before they got to the counter).

When we got up to the check-in counter, there was a German back-packing couple next to us (I heard them talking in German earlier, my 2nd language. Er, at least a language I studied once upon a time in high school). They were totally put out that the ticket agent was telling them they had to have their boarding passes, when they had their “e-mail tickets/receipt” printed out and they thought that should be all they needed. They obviously did not read the fine print like I did.

The ticket agent checked us in with no problems. But then, she took our boarding passes and tore them up – right in front of us! I must have had a horrified look on my face, as she said “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll print you knew ones”.   So we printed our boarding passes ahead of time to avoid an extra charge, all for the agent to tear them up anyway. Interesting.

The flight was smooth and great. We paid for the extra leg room for my daddy-long-legs-husband ($25 for each leg of the flight, one leg being Costa Rica to Ft. Lauderdale, another leg being Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas) – but it was so worth it for Greg. Look at all this leg room he had!

I was also impressed with the customs process in Ft. Lauderdale – we barely stood around in line at all. They had new kiosks where we scanned our passports in, it matched our faces with a recent picture it took, and we were off to wait for the next leg of our flight to Dallas.

Spirit definitely knows how to have fun, too – kinda like Southwest Airlines.  A lot of joking around in their “safety delivery speech”, especially from the Florida to Texas flight (like you need to swipe your credit card before air will flow from the oxygen mask, and let’s face it – you can’t afford any more charges – if you could, you’d be on American or Delta sipping champagne, not Spirit!).  I also love the back of their boarding passes:

ticketAnd when the agent tears the boarding pass part off when you enter the plane, you have helped save (shave) Major Moola’s hair (how clever is this?):
shavedSo, overall we saved $600(!) by flying Spirit vs. the next cheapest air fare (American).  And this was with purchasing the extra leg room seats for BOTH Greg and I, as we wanted to sit next to each other.  We went to Dallas with no carry-on’s and one check-in suitcase each, and coming back to Costa Rica we will have two checked-in suitcases each.  And STILL we saved $600!  So worth it to me.

spiritThat’s all for now!  Till later mi amigos! — Jen


I quit my job in my early 40’s, sold everything and retired early to live a simple life in Costa Rica!

Check out my book: "Costa Rica Chica" - the book.

Check out my Arm Candy: Costa Rica Chica Arm Candy.

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18 Responses to We’ve got SPIRIT, yes we do, we’ve saved money, how about you?

  1. I fly them almost every flight unless it is somewhere they don’t go. The price is just too big a difference.

  2. Jen, your Spirit experience was interesting. During the building of my house, I would fly back and forth with Spirit all the time. Haven’t used them in years now, but probably will in the future.
    Thanks for writing about your experience.

  3. Glad you got there safe and are having a good time with family! You are the spirit of Costa Rica, dear Chica! Thanks for sharing! Pur Vida!

  4. Hey Jen – glad to see your post and perfect timing! Kristi and I are heading back to CR in August and I took the plunge with Spirit! I also splurged for the bigger seats – since it will be our first trial with them, I didn’t go “all-in” — figured we’d see how it goes and then on future trips trim some more $$ off the price if it seems doable. When I compared flight prices AND baggage fees, etc – it was a no-brainer. As you noted, almost EVERYONE charges for checked bags these days. I also joined their Spirit club and saved $$ on flights, bags, etc..

    Our flight gets to CR at 1:30am-ish, so we will get a local hotel to catch some Zzzz’s before going to get our car and start our trip – no biggie – and, as you said, it’s all just a big adventure right!!? :-). And I love that we got a direct flight to CR and back – figure we can tolerate most anything for 3hours to save $$$$.

    And – I LOVE their humor/tongue-in-cheek attitude (Yupe, like SW Air) – just check their videos on how to pack…. A guy & a girl stripping down to their undies!!! Too funny!!

    Thx again!!

    • That’s awesome – didn’t know about the packing video, so cool. You are lucky you can get a direct flight on Spirit, that is way cool. Can’t wait to see how it goes for you! Pura vida!

  5. We have had a good experience with Spirit as well. One thing we found out on our trip to CR last month is that you can go to some banks and hotels ahead of time to pay your exit tax. We paid for ours at the Residence Inn in Escazu. That saved us one long line and a lot of time at the airport.

    • Thanks for that scoop Jane! We thought maybe our exit fee was included in our tickets (it looked that way from the itemization Spirit sent us, but hard to tell exactly)… so we had to wait till we got the airport to know for sure.

  6. Wow, you did do a lot of research! So happy it paid off and as is usual you are sharing it for others to benefit from. Enjoy your stay and may the return flight be just as smooth! Pura Vida!

  7. It’s nice to finally see a positive post about Spirit! I’ve flown spirit numerous times due to the fact that it’s so much cheaper and I’ve never had any problems with them. Also thanks for the tips within the airline,
    I knew some but not all! The only thing I have to question is the no liquids out of Costa Rica rule. I just got back from a trip there and when I was leaving I had liquids in my carryon and purse and I got through security just fine!

    • Wow – you must have been one of the people that they didn’t find the liquids when they looked – you got lucky! Trust me, there were several angry people around us who had their face cream and water bottles taken away – they were NOT happy! Good to hear you have flown several time, all with good experiences too!

  8. Appreciate this post! First, it’s nice to hear a different perspective about Spirit, along with how you came to your decision to try Spirit. You don’t do anything willy-nilly, and I love that about you! It’s what makes you and Greg such reliable resources. Your generosity and openness to sharing your experiences, whether positive or not-so-great, is what life is all about, in my book! Glad to be on your list.

    • Thanks so much Linda, would have definitely written about this if it was a bad experience as well. Also – I know some people do have bad experiences with Spirit, maybe it was just a good day for us, but everything truly went surprisingly smooth – we were very happy! Always love hearing your thoughts, thank you. 🙂

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