Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How to Save Money on a Hawaiian Vacation (or any vacation):

My husband and I just recently returned from a 8 day trip to Oahu, Hawai'i. It was our combination honeymoon/anniversary trip. We were so blessed to be able to spend our first anniversary in such a beautiful place!
As you may know, going to Hawaii can be very pricey. There are a lot of variables on the cost of a trip, such as where you are flying from, and the type of place you choose to stay, etc, but overall it can be a rather high cost place to visit as far as the USA goes, because it is an island. Food, especially, can be very costly there as it is mainly imported. Regular grocery items can cost up to twice as much.

I'm not one to normally discuss numbers and finances, but I think this may be beneficial to some, so I am posting it. With some careful planning and budget we were able to enjoy 8 days in Honolulu for $2,000.  Not per person. Yes, total. Two people, 8 days, hotel, food, rental car, activities (including beaches, hikes, jet skis, a catamaran cruise, snorkeling, a luau, and significant historic sites)= two thousand.

I have done a little research and there is not exact number as far as what a trip/honeymoon to Hawaii can cost you, but after reading several articles and travel magazines I have come to the conclusion that the average for a week is about $1,500 per person. So I think we did pretty alright.

Please do keep in mind we are a military couple, so we did get some great deals related to that. We stayed at a military resort (the Hale Koa, right on Waikiki, if anyone is interested), which was lovely and much lower priced than your average Hawaiian resort. We had a nice balcony room (which we, by favor, got as an upgrade) which we were charged about $90 a night(ground floor price). We also got a deal on the rental car, and were able to save about $200 off the extra fees they would normally charge (due to age and whatnot) because my husband is in the Air Force. But a lot of the money we saved was purely being frugal.

 Initially we had planed on taking a military "hop," but we decided that was a little to risky for us. Planes only went from our base to Hickam once or maybe twice a month and our budget couldn't afford us getting stuck there. As plan B, we got a great deal on plane tickets. We live on the West Coast and were able to fly, without lay overs, straight there. Tickets to Hawaii based on where you are flying from can be anywhere from $300 to $1,500 per person round trip. We flew Alaska Airlines and ours were very closest to the lowest possible price on that scale.  Another huge factor in ticket cost is the season: Hawaii is considered to have its peak season of tourism from November to March. Since we went in the end May, that also saved us a bunch.

I am not going to give any more exact break downs of what we spent.  On to the frugality tips...

The first day we arrived we hit up a grocery store to stock up on lunch items. Family who had been before had already warned us about the high food prices so we had packed some snack items in our luggage from home and then purchased rolls, cheese, lunch meat and the like from the grocery store (commissary @ Pearl Harbor for you military folk) and kept it in our hotel room fridge. We spent about $30 on lunch goods for the week. Since we planned to spend most mornings on the beach we figured packing our own lunches would save us a bunch rather than having to find a place to eat out or have a meal at the resort. If you figure that sandwiches or your average lunch foods would be about $20 total bill for the both of us for 8 days, that simple move right there saved us about $130. We did eat lunches out a couple times, but overall that plan worked great.

While food on Hawaii is high price, activities are fairly cheap if you choose carefully. What is NOT cheap is doing the 800 different tours the resort will try to offer you. We went to some great places: We snorkeled in Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, we hiked Diamond Head Crater, we went to Pearl Harbor and ferried out to the USS Arizona Memorial, we hiked to Manoa Falls, amongst other things. We also enjoyed many different beaches, all of which were free (except for the occasional parking fee). The resort offered all manner of tour packages for luaus, sightseeing, and museums. Heck, they had shopping center tours! But honestly, with the rental car (or with Hawaii's huge bus system) you can easily enjoy the island without paying for someone else to bring you places. Most the places we went parking was about a dollar and admission was $5-$8 per person.

Maybe in some situations would be nice, but we had a great time without them. HERE is a list of some tour options: PRICEY! As a comparison, you can do a "Pearl Harbor Experience" for $119.00. We went to Pearl Harbor. The Arizona Memorial is free to all, you just have to wait for it to be your turn for the ferry. There are other museums, battleships and monuments you can see for a charge, but we enjoyed several hours there just walking around looking at memorials and going through their Valor in the Pacific centers (mini museums). You can also purchase an MP3 tour for about $20. We also visited some other places which the tour covers, like downtown Honolulu, Iolani Palace, the Kamehameha statue and Punchbowl cemetery, all for free. Plus, you have so much more freedom to enjoy things at your own pace when you don't have to worry about keeping up with a group. This is just one example of many. Do your research in advance, use resources like Pinterest, Yelp, or Trip Advisor and figure out where you want to go and what you want to see and then just go do it for yourself! With a rental car and GPS the possibilities are quite endless! Adventures are fun!

Also on the topic of activities: CHECK GROUPON! This applies to Hawaii or any place you intend to visit. You can get deals on local restaurants, shops and activities! I browsed through the Honolulu offers several times before we left and there were many great offers for things like surf lessons, massages, fancy restaurants, and all sorts of water sport rentals. We personally purchased a lovely catamaran sunset cruise for half off its normal price. It ended up being one of our favorite things we did there!

We did "splurge" and do a luau at the Hale Koa as we felt it was worth it. There are many Luaus to choose from and they can be pricey, but it just seems necessary for the Hawaiian experience. We also splurged a bit and rented a jet ski. Decide what you want to do, save where you can and then spend where you want to!

We aren't shoppers. We do not so much like to browse and wander stores. We do not like to purchase many things. So we save money by not shopping. Honolulu had MASS amounts of malls and shopping centers but we avoided them for the most part. We did get some souvenirs, home items, clothing items and COFFEE but over all this isn't a big chunk of where our money goes on vacations.

Obviously, the best way to save on dinning is to not dine at super fancy places. On past trips elsewhere we have also gone to the other extreme and dined at places like taco bell too many times and while we saved money, we felt ill. Find a happy medium. Maybe plan for a nice romantic dinner or two, and then for the rest of the trip see what else you can find. We love local food and little less-frequented-by-tourists establishments. Farmers markets or food trucks and sometimes have great deals on local cuisine. The fresh fruit is the best! We also stopped at a flea market and got several different local handmade breads which served as snacks and breakfasts a couple days. Other Tips: Order water. Sometimes we get an appetizer (its always calamari) and split a meal. Sometimes we have salads and a dessert. Or two meals and split dessert. And then there is alcohol: we aren't what you call drinkers, but Hawaii is not really Hawaii without a few fruity rum beverages. Those $8 drinks can add up real quick and take a huge chunk out of a budget, so...just consider that.
Just as is with any vacation, with a little careful planning and budgeting you can have a great time for a relatively reasonable amount of money. Does anyone have any other tips I missed? I can't wait to post more photos and stories about our lovely trip to the gorgeous island of Oahu!


Anonymous said...

Hi there! I had a question for you about possibly collaborating on something and was hoping you could email me back to discuss? Thanks so much!

- Emma

emmabanks9 (at) gmail (dot) com

Peta said...

It's true, you don't need to spend a ton of money on your vacation. Sometimes the best things are free.

Lucy Mariana said...

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Drew Watts said...

Thanks a ton for sharing these wonderful tips on how to save money on any vacation. These tips will be very helpful for me as I am going to get engaged soon at one of destination event space NYC and we will be staying there for some more days to explore NYC.

Hawaiian luau said...

Every one loves to spend their vacation with their loved ones but when it comes to money they think a little bit. Spending holidays in Hawaii is really more cheaper and a fabulous destination for a memorable vacation.


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