Are you wondering what to wear in Costa Rica? This guide will share some essential tips for making your Costa Rica packing list and a few of our favorite products. It’s a pretty easy destination for travelers to pack, as there are only two seasons, and the country is famed for its lovely warm weather. However, it does have its share of humidity and rainforests.
It’s not all a rainforest despite its small size, but it contains many varying climates. In Costa Rica, you can find everything from the steamy jungles of the Osa Peninsula to the cool cloud forests of Monteverde or the arid beaches of Guanacaste. With this in mind, most travelers head to the semi-arid region of Gaunaacte in the dry season due to its stable climate. Of course, this does come with a sacrifice, as travelers may miss out on the natural wonders of the country’s rainforests.
A few easy-to-pack items like a rain jacket, hiking shoes, and synthetic clothes will ensure you’re prepared no matter the destination within Costa Rica. We’re here to help make your Costa Rica packing list with ease. That way, you don’t end up with unnecessary items or forget something important.
What’s The Weather Like In Costa Rica?
Costa Rica enjoys warm weather all year. It’s a tropical climate with daytime temperatures ranging from 22-28°C / 70-85°F. Costa Rica has two seasons which are wet and dry.
Heavy rain showers and high humidity from the east dump lots of rain on the country from May to November. Most days are still sunny during the wet season, but afternoon thunderstorms are frequent. September and October are the rainiest months, with May and November being the shoulder season months.
The dry season runs from December to April and offers low humidity with cooler evenings. It’s rare to see rain in popular beach destinations like Gauncaste, but rain in Monteverde or Arenal can happen any time of year.
If you have plans to spend time in the cloud forests, it’s a good idea to bring a jacket. Temperatures in these forests range from 12-18C, which can feel very chilly without a jacket in the wind.
The Caribbean Coast is an exception to all of this information. Its seasons are reversed, so you’ll experience dry weather from May to October and rainy weather from November to May. It’s not where most visitors travel, despite being a beautiful coastline stretch.
Seasons in Costa Rica
|Wet||You don’t get rainforests without plenty of rainfall, and the wet season can see torrential downpours with high humidity. Most days are sunny with afternoon thunderstorms.|
|Dry||Costa Rica’s dry season is the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, from November to May. You’re more likely to receive glorious sunshine and stable weather. It’s easily the best time of year to visit Costa Rica.|
|Shoulder||November and May are the shoulder seasons in Costa Rica, a mix of warm temperatures, high humidity, and occasional showers. It can be an excellent time to visit as crowds and prices are low.|
What Luggage To Bring To Costa Rica?
Travel Duffel Bag
Before we jump into what to wear in Costa Rica, let’s cover luggage. We have two bag recommendations for a trip to Costa Rica. The Peak Design Travel Duffel and Osprey Farpoint/Fairview travel backpack. Any backpack or duffel bag will do, but we prefer these bag styles over traditional hardshell suitcases.
While you can easily use a traditional hardshell suitcase, you may want to stay away from a rolling bag, as most of the country is very hilly with dirt/sandy paths. Outside the five-star resorts where bellhops will whisk away your suitcase, a duffel or backpack is a better fit for Costa Rica. If you are heading to a resort or prefer a suitcase we love the Delsey Helium Aero.
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Travel Duffel Bag
Osprey Travel Backpack
What to Wear In costa Rica
Costa Rica is a casual destination, and the country has no dress code. Most touristic destinations are along the coast, so the average outfit in Costa Rica consists of shorts, a shirt/tank top, and sandals.
Towards the country’s center, temperatures are cooler and wetter, so we recommend you wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, and a light jacket. If you plan to visit higher elevation destinations like Monteverde or Arenal, you’ll want to pack a light jacket and long pants.
Costa Ricans or “Ticos” dress casually, but wearing pants and collared shirts is most common in public spaces. As with many destinations in Latin America, most Ticos are religious and remain conservative in dress.
This will have the most significant impact on women. It’s unusual for local women to wear leggings or to revealing clothing, so expect some looks if you dress like this in more traditional towns and cities.
Clothes To Pack For Costa Rica
A classic tee will never go out of style. While it’s best to avoid graphic t-shirts in most destinations, in Costa Rica, they’re perfectly intertwined with surfing culture and laid-back vibes. If you have a cool surf shirt, throw it in your bag. We love the quality and ease of ordering from Bombas if you’re after a classic cotton tee.
Some regular cotton tees are great, but we recommend a shirt material that handles humidity better. Thanks to antimicrobial properties, synthetic shirts (polyester/nylon) do a much better job drying in damp environments and avoid getting funky. We love the Outdoor Research Echo shirt line for hiking or working out in humid destinations, but they’re a little too athletic for everyday wear.
If you’re not a big fan of synthetic products, we’ve fallen in love with wool tee shirts and travel clothing. A merino wool shirt is a worthy investment and one of the best travel clothes. Wools shirts stay fresh longer and do an excellent job at temperature management. I’ve tested a lot of wool shirts out, and my favorite for travel so far is from Unbound Merino.
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Long Sleeve Technical Shirt
Pack a long sleeve technical shirt if you head up to the cloud forest or other rainforest destinations. There are a lot of little critters in the jungles of Costa Rica, and bites are a damper on your holiday. The long sleeve Outdoor Research Echo is a great choice. It’s also great for sun protection on the water for sports like kayaking or SUP.
Or you can opt for a classic technical shirt like the Columbia Tamiami II. The Tamiami II offers UV protection and is lightweight, quick-drying, and rugged. It has excellent features such as a vented back, front pockets, antimicrobial treatment, and mesh panels, making the shirt perfect for Costa Rica.
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OR Echo Shirt
Columbia Tamiami II
If you have plans to explore or travel around Costa Rica, you’ll need to pack a rain jacket. In case you didn’t know, Costa Rica has a rainforest. It’s a safe bet that you’ll see one of the country’s many showers.
If you are traveling to Costa Rica in the wet season (May-December), a rain jacket is essential, but I would bring one any time of year to be safe. The rain is typically short-lived, but you won’t want to get soaked during that time.
Hiking is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica, so we like to travel with shell jackets designed for hiking. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. Any rain jacket will do, but the top-dollar ones will hold up and hold up in inclement weather.
We spend a lot of time hiking and mountaineering, so we have top-of-line Gore-Tex shell jackets. If you’re looking for a more affordable jacket, we’re big fans of Patagonia’s Torrentshell Jacket, as it’s a great value. We share our favorite packable rain jackets in this post if you want more recommendations.
Our Rain Jacket Recommendations
Warm Fleece Jacket
It’s a great idea to pack your favorite fleece or lightweight jacket. This all depends on where in Costa Rica you are traveling, but you might be surprised that parts of Costa Rica have cool weather in the evenings. This includes many popular tourist areas, such as Monteverde, San Jose, and Arenal. San Jose even sees the rare freezing nighttime temperature.
Fleece is an excellent option as you likely won’t need a winter jacket for Costa Rica. Ensure it’s lightweight, as you may only need to wear the jacket a handful of times. That also makes it easier to carry on to a chilly flight. One of my favorite fleece jackets for travel is Patagonia’s Better Sweater. We also recommend more in our post about the best fleece jackets for travel if you’re after something different.
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Technical Pants or Shorts
Technical pants like hiking pants are water-resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable on long walks. Traditionally these pants were pretty ugly, but now times are changing, and pants look similar to chinos or khakis. They’re a welcome addition to your Costa Rica packing list if you plan to take some rainforest hikes.
We suggest the prAna Halle that rolls into capris for women and the men’s KUHL Renegade Rock Pants. They are both tremendous pairs of hiking pants at a reasonable price. These pants won’t hold up in truly heinous weather, but they look suitable for casual walks around town.
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Women’s Halle Pant
Men’s Renegade Pant
Joggers Or Relaxed Pants
We live in joggers or relaxed pants when traveling or at the beach. Athleisure has come to dominate fashion now, and it’s a trend we can get behind. Joggers or relaxed pants are a terrific way to remain comfortable and stylish.
Vuori Clothing makes fantastic Performance Joggers that look sharp, offer excellent performance, and feel great for travel days. They make for exceptional travel clothes and remain one of our favorite items. Plus, they double as lounge and gym wear, saving space in our bags.
Other great options are the men’s prAna Vaha Pant and women’s Kanab Pants, some of our all-time favorite pants. We pack them for every trip; their relaxed style and comfort never let us down. The Vaha pants and shorts are excellent men’s yoga clothing options — perfect for Costa Rica.
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Because of its warm and tropical climate, you’ll want some shorts for your trip to Costa Rica. They’re also easy to pack as they take up less space in your luggage and can be easily washed. As temperatures average around the 80s F (26+ C), we spend most of our time in shorts.
I like to pack two or three pairs for versatility, such as gym shorts, bermuda shorts, and technical travel shorts. Shorts are one of those items that I find to be acceptable as cheap cotton items. We’ve tested a lot of travel shorts out and only been impressed by a handful.
Our recommendations for men’s shorts are the Western Rise Evolution, Quicksilver Amphibian, Vuori Kore Shorts, and Outlier OG Freeway. Recommendations for women include the prAna Elle Short, Vuori Dash, prAna Kanab, and Patagonia Baggies. We suggest whatever suits your style and recommend they do not involve cargo pockets.
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We can’t imagine heading to Costa Rica and not enjoying some of its splendid beaches. A swimsuit is an obvious addition to any packing list. We recommend packing two suits, so you always have a dry one. It’s an easy decision for your Costa Rica packing list.
For a fantastic women’s swimsuit brand, we recommend Londre. They make high-quality swimsuits for women. Many of their pieces are stylish yet supportive. So if you’re planning to go surfing, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, or play beach volleyball and want to ensure your ta-tas stay intact, these swimsuits are for you.
Vuori makes fantastic lightweight Cruise Board Shorts in various prints and colors. They’re super comfortable, quickly dry, and the cut is perfect. We’re not a fan of board shorts that are too long or loose, as they look sloppy.
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Women’s Clothes For Costa Rica
Cute Summer Dress
A nice outfit is a beautiful idea for those date nights and stylish resorts. We recommend a classic dress like an exposed shoulder top, slip, maxi, or your favorite summer dress. I love to wear a cute summer dress in Costa Rica.
Right now, my favorite summer dresses come from Salty Crush. They make a bunch of quality bohemian-style summer dresses. If you’re after something more trendy, we love the styles and offers from Lulus.
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With all of the eco resorts and surf culture Costa Rica is a hub for yoga retreats in the Americas. Most big resorts even offer yoga classes in the morning or evening. Pack at least two pairs of yoga pants in your suitcase.
Our favorite yoga pants and sports bras come from Handful – you won’t find higher quality for the price – trust me! Best of all, they have a lot of initiatives to support women fighting breast cancer.
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Men’s Clothes For Costa Rica
Linen is as practical as it is stylish. It’s great as it tends to dry faster, feel lighter, and cope with sweat better than its cotton counterparts. Pair a linen shirt with sandals, shorts, jeans, or shoes, or even go barefoot. It’s a versatile shirt that looks great on both sexes and works at the beach or a restaurant.
We find it the perfect resort wear, but you won’t feel out of place walking around a sleepy surf town. It’s tough to find decent linen shirts online, but I love the quality of Everlane’s linen shirts.
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If you have plans for a night out at a resort, pack a nice pair of pants like chinos. It’s a classic look that, when combined with a dress shirt. I always have a pair of dressier travel pants in my bag! In Costa Rica, it’s a solid choice for resort wear or even a hip bar if that’s where you’ll spend your time in Costa Rica.
My favorite travel pant is the Western Rise Evolution 2.0 Pants in Dune. A versatile color that can match almost any shirt and looks sharp with a t-shirt or dress shirt. Be warned; they will become your favorite pair of pants!
Bluffworks specializes in men’s travel clothes and makes some awesome pants, shirts, and blazers. Their travel clothes are all comfortable, wrinkle-resistant, and stain-resistant. Amazing for travel!
Men’s Travel Clothes
Hat Or Cap
We usually advise travelers to avoid the baseball cap, except in a few locations where that is an exception, like Costa Rica. Hats are great as they help keep the sweat and sun out of your eyes on a hot sunny day. At the very least, you’ll experience some hot and humid weather in Costa Rica!
As self-professed hat snobs, our recommendations include the Patagonia Lo-Pro Trucker Hat, Outdoor Research Swift Cap, and Western Rise Versa Hat. Each one is a different style. They’re all technical, so they handle sweat and pack well.
Footwear For Costa Rica
Sandals are never bad at beach destinations and should be on every traveler’s Costa Rica packing list. Our favorite brand is Rainbow Sandals, as they last forever and are super comfortable once the leather forms to your foot.
Another attractive option for women is the Sanuk Yoga Sling 2. If thong flip-flops aren’t great for your feet, choose something with more support. Some great options would be the Birkenstock Arizona, Teva Original, or Chaco Z/Cloud.
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Costa Rica is a destination worth a walk in the jungle. We went on many hikes to waterfalls, through the forest, and sloth searching. If you don’t have many hikes or exploring plans, opt for a comfortable trail running shoe like the Hoka One One Speedgoat.
However, we suggest ankle-high boots if you plan to spend time hiking in Costa Rica. We have seen numerous venomous snakes on hiking trails in the Osa Peninsula, so ankle protection is vital. Not to mention, there is no shortage of insects and bugs that bite in the rainforest. Plus, with the abundant rain in Costa Rica, trails often have mud and standing water. We recommend the Merrel Moab 3 hiking boot as it offers a ton of value and generally fits every foot.
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If you plan on many visits to waterfalls and it’s worth it to pick up a pair. They will help you grip the slippery rocks and protect your feet from cuts. Check out Tropicfeels for a couple of travel shoes that double as water shoes.
Water shoes are great for walking around Costa Rica’s rocks, cliffs, or waterfalls. I’ve been caught a few times without them, and my feet have paid dearly for my mistake. The other option would be to bring a pair of hiking sandals that hold better than traditional sandals.
Awesome Water Shoes
Costa Rica Packing List
A stylish pair of sunglasses is an excellent addition to an outfit. Everyone owns at least one pair of sunglasses. It’s best to ensure they have UV protection for the health of your eyes. We travel with two pairs of sunglasses as we’re pretty active.
A pair of Smith Optics for outdoor adventures and a couple of stylish sunglasses to wear at the beach or around town for the day. Our two favorite stylish brands are Persol and Raybans, which have a timeless look. Smith is a brand name you’ll see a lot in Costa Rica, especially in surf towns, as it’s popular with surfers — and ski bums like us.
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Grayl GeoPress Water Filter & Purifier
Costa Rica has excellent water quality with an abundance of rainfall. We like to travel with a water bottle that purifies water in Central and South America. Our favorite is the Grayl GeoPress purifier bottle. It saves money, reduces plastic waste, and ensures that our water is safe and free of viruses and other waterborne illnesses.
The Grayl bottle is not only practical but also innovative in design. A press-like system effectively filters out sediment, bacteria, and heavy metals, leaving only clean and safe water. Its wide-mouth top makes it easy to drink and fill, and its sleek design fits comfortably in any bag or backpack.
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Quick Dry Travel Towel
We always recommend you pack a travel towel for almost every destination. Quick-dry towels are great when you’re out exploring Costa Rica. You can take an impromptu dip in the ocean, dry off, and head for fish tacos and an Imperial (local beer).
A towel is also tremendous when you hike to one of Costa Rica’s numerous waterfalls, as the towels are small enough to throw in your daypack and leave room for additional items. Most hotels don’t appreciate you taking their towels along for day trips.
The biggest complaint about travel towels is that they often feel nothing like the plush cotton towels we are accustomed to at home and in hotels. With PackTowl, you can forget that because they set out to create a towel that mimics its cotton counterparts with the technical features of a travel towel.
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If you have any plans to go surfing, it’s a great idea to pack a rashguard. It offers protection from a rash due to the wax and sun. Sun protection is a big one as it’s easy to get burnt out on the water when you’re near the equator. I find they also provide warmth when the water is a little cold.
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Costa Rica has year-round warm weather and lots of rain, which is a breeding ground for mosquitos. They love to hand around forests, ponds, lagoons, or anywhere with still water. We recommend packing a bottle of insect repellant with DEET so you’ll scare away those annoying biting demons.
And in a worst-case scenario, it reduces the chances of Dengue Fever — although it’s rare in Costa Rica. Remember that DEET can destroy plastics, so mind your sunglasses or camera when applying.
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Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Costa Rica, as you’re close to the Equator. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house, as you will find much higher prices in Costa Rica.
We highly recommend getting an eco-friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals. They’re mineral-based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our oceans. If you’re not going to swim in the ocean, go with a reliable name brand — granted, runoff often still ends in our oceans.
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Walking around and participating in everyday activities in Costa Rica can get pretty dirty. While Costa Rica is one of the cleanest and greenest countries we’ve ever seen, many local soda shops still lack hand soap in the restroom.
It became a reoccurring theme to find hand soap nowhere. You can’t go wrong bringing some hand sanitizer and baby wipes in your bag — consider it a travel essential anywhere.
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A pair of binoculars is excellent if you’re going on a jungle trek in Manuel Antonio or Corcovado National Park. Binoculars offer you the chance to view wildlife much better than your bare eye – and you’ll likely see lots of wildlife in Costa Rica.
We’ve spent a lot of time on safari and can’t recommend a pair of binoculars enough if you’re a birder or hope to see wildlife. Our recommendation for a pair of binoculars is the Nikon Monarch 5 8×42.
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In Costa Rica, you’ll hear the words “Pura Vida” many times. Pura Vida means Pure Life, which is not just a saying but a way of being in the country. You’ll find many yoga studios around Costa Rica, and we highly recommend going to a few. We often travel with a yoga mat, so it’s on our Costa Rica packing list so we can practice wherever.
Manduka has a lightweight travel yoga that we now use for travel. It’s not as robust as a regular yoga mat and can be painful on hard surfaces. However, we like it on a soft carpet, on the beach, on a towel, or over a yoga studio’s public mats for a more hygienic experience.
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Costa Rica is undoubtedly an easy place to lounge around and do nothing. A travel hammock that you can string up between trees or railings is excellent when you want to relax. It’s perfect for those times when you want to relax in nature.
The ENO Hammock was the original producer. Now, you can find many cheap ones online as they’re easy to manufacture in China, and people love to buy and sell them on Amazon. I’d stick with the original.
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After driving across Africa, we learned that a headlamp is never wrong to pack in your bags. Our BioLite headlamp came in handy when we did night walks in the jungle, searching for frogs and staying at a treehouse community off the grid and without power.
We almost always pack a headlamp in our bags as it’s always helpful to have a light. A great option is a rechargeable headlamp like the BioLite 330 or 150.
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With all of the water around Costa Rica, it’s a great idea to bring a dry bag. They’re great for adventure activities on the water or in the rainforest. It’s also a wonderful item for the beach if you want to protect your electronics. We love this one from Sea Line, but they’re a bunch of cheap options on Amazon.
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We chased a new waterfall daily, hiked through the rainforest, or enjoyed the beach. I love a versatile size around the 30L mark if you only have one pack. The size gives enough room for gear-heavy days when hiking in the mountains, but it’s light enough for light short treks in destinations like Costa Rica.
Of course, any nice backpack will do the job if you don’t have plans for extensive hikes. You can also get a cheap foldable bag that will do an excellent job securing your things.
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Costa Rica Packing List Electronics
A smartwatch is often an overlooked travel staple, but having a watch on the road has become a must for me. It helps keep me on time when I’m out in the water, on a hike, or catching the next plane on a layover.
Costa Rica is a vibrant destination, as two of the most popular activities are surfing and hiking. A smartwatch can track your fitness and help monitor your health vitals. We got our watches before a trip, which have become a part of everyday life. I use and love the Garmin Instinct.
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A GoPro is a perfect camera to bring to Costa Rica; you’ll see them everywhere. Costa Rica has plenty of adventures, from surfing to hiking or ATV Tours to Snorkeling.
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I love traveling with a power bank to ensure my electronics never die. I usually don’t need to use it on long flights as some new international flights provide entertainment systems with USB ports! (Always make sure your charging cable is handy when boarding the plane)
We also make sure to find a charging point during layovers, but getting to a new city without your hotel reservations and map can be a significant pain. I recommend purchasing this power bank because it’s a great value with solid reviews.
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A Kindle is an essential travel accessory for travelers who love to read. As much as we love an actual book, they are too heavy and take up too much room in my suitcase. We recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite and love it.
It’s small, has touchscreen functions, and has a backlight to read at night without a harsh glare. We can’t think of a better way to disconnect in nature than a good book.
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You Need This to Travel to Costa Rica
We never travel without travel insurance with Heymondo. With all the risks of travel in a foreign country and insurance coverage, we never have to worry about a good health plan. Heymondo offers incredible flexibility and great plans!
You never know if the worse could happen while you’re abroad, and your insurance plan at home often will not cover medical emergencies abroad. Having the peace of mind that we have a good backup plan helps us sleep at night.
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Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get ultra low.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.