photo of my dad and daughter on our 2012 trip to Hawaii – the most precious memories made.
Tips for saving on your next Hawaii vacation
Are you dreaming of a tropical beach vacation? Let’s talk about Hawaii. . . and specifically, let’s talk about how you can save money on your next vacation to Hawaii. My husband and I went to Maui in 2004 for our honeymoon and we traveled to Kauai again in January 2012 for my sister’s wedding – it was love at first sight for both islands. We are so excited to make our way back to Kauai this year with our kids and I’m going to share some ways that we’re planning to stretch our travel dollars for our Hawaii trip.
Save on airfare to Hawaii – One of the biggest expenses of a Hawaii vacation is getting there! Depending on where you are leaving from, airfare from the continental United States can run you anywhere from $300-$2000 a person.
- Check nearby airports – You may save money by being flexible about the airport you depart from. For example, if you live in Western Washington check ticket prices from both Seattle and Portland. . . if both are within a reasonable driving distance you might find an extra 30 minutes on the road to a different airport could save you hundreds on your airfare.
- Be flexible about island choice – When looking at tickets, compare fares across multiple islands! Maybe you had your heart set on Maui but you found a super airfare price for Kauai.
- Consider Alaska Airlines or other airline credit card – We’ve had an Alaskan Airlines credit card for 20+ years and although airline credit cards aren’t for everyone – we love the perks. We use ours like a debit card and pay it off every month. For every $1 we spend, we earn a mile. Miles can be redeemed for air travel! We also get one companion fare a year per card! Companion fares are a great option for more expensive tickets, like Hawaii. Basically when you purchase a regular fare ticket – you can add a companion ticket to your reservation for just $129! We will be traveling to Hawaii using our airline miles this year – saving us nearly $8,000 on what our tickets would have cost at face value (quoted at today’s prices). Other perks include 2-free bags for every ticket and more.
- Check airline websites on Tuesday or Wednesdays – You’ll find airfares are cheapest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Alaska Airlines for example usually sends a deal email every Tuesday.
- Check for flight price changes – Depending on your ticket reservation some airlines will allow you to change your flights without a change fee. If you find a less expensive flight it might be worth changing reservation!
When traveling as a large group, consider a house rental like this one we rented for my sister’s wedding in Kauai
Saving on lodging in Hawaii – Lodging is another big expense when planning your trip to Hawaii.
- Consider the benefit of a condo vs. hotel room – We’ve stayed in hotel room, a condo and a house rental during our trips to Hawaii. For a family of four our favorite choice is a condo. Condos are a great option because they have a kitchen – allowing you to have food on hand in a fridge and to make your own meals (saving on dining out). They also provide greater privacy (kids can have their own room) and more space to sit out and relax than a hotel room usually does. Hotel rooms on the other hand, although missing perhaps a kitchen, might have more accommodations when it comes to a pool or cabana area. You’ll have to prioritize what is most important to you and choose accordingly.
- House rentals for bigger families or groups – Traveling with friends and family to Hawaii can be an amazing way to save on your vacation rental! If you’re able to split the cost of a 3- or 4-bedroom house with two or three other families you’ll likely find your average per night cost is less. . . and your accommodations are probably nicer! My sister did this for her Kauai wedding – renting a large house for the wedding party and guests – versus everyone getting separate hotel rooms.
- Save money by staying off the beach – You can save a quite a bit of money by getting a condo or hotel without an ocean view. You’ll find that if you’re willing to walk a short distance to the beach that you’ll likely save a lot of money on your accommodations.
Costco, before and during, your trip – Costco can be a great help in saving you money on your Hawaii trip.
- Check Costco travel for packaged deals or rental cars – Costco Travel regularly has Hawaii travel deals. You’ll find perks like earning 2% back on your Costco rebate, Costco shop gift cards and extra room credits. We like to use Costco for rental cars – the prices are good and we like that we can cancel or change without fees – and you get a second driver for free added when you pick up the car!
- Shop Costco before you go – It’s likely that food prices are higher in Hawaii than your home city. I’ve heard of many of people who bring an extra suitcase with snacks or food from Costco to help offset food costs on the island. This can be especially helpful if you’re traveling with small kids who snack often or have specific food preferences. By the time your trip is over that “extra” suitcase is a great way to bring home souvenirs!
- Shop Costco when you arrive – Costco is the first place we stopped when arriving in Hawaii. By shopping Costco on the island you can avoid buying convenience foods and limit dining out. This can be especially true if you have a favorite tropical drink or desserts – by making them in your condo you can save big bucks by skipping the bar or snack hut at the beach. Be sure to only buy what you need though – it’s not a deal if you end up having to throw it away at the end of your trip. On our recent trip to Kauai I scoped out the Kauai Costco prices and did a whole blog post on Kauai Costco region items and pricing.
My son snorkeling (2012) – we bought snorkels ahead of time at Costco before traveling.
Shop ahead of time for your tropical needs – If you know you’re going to be going to Hawaii in six months – it’s a good idea to start looking for things like sunblock, swimsuits, luggage, snorkel gear – as soon as you know! If you can shop for these items during the winter, you’ll save even more as it’s off-season.
- Make a list of the needed essentials – This is a big one! You don’t want to get to Hawaii and be in a position to buy something you’ve forgotten to pack or purchase (like a phone charger, sunglasses, swimsuit or water shoes). By making a list you won’t overbuy and you won’t forget the essentials when you’re packing.
- Shop secondhand – Often times you’ll find tropical attire or gear at a local thrift shop before your trip. Things like Hawaiian shirts, sun hats and beach bags are often purchased while on vacation and only used a short time before being donated or discarded when they get back home. They can be brand new or lightly used – and a fraction of the price that you might pay at a department store or on the islands.
- Check out Facebook groups for “Pass it On Beach Gear and More” for Hawaii – Thanks to the suggestion from Becky over on the Queen Bee Facebook page she suggested searching for “Pass it on” groups for Hawaii – a place for travelers to pass on their pre-loved beach gear, strollers, car seats etc when leaving Hawaii. I didn’t realize groups like this existed but after a quick search I’m seeing lots of wonderful sharing of useful items between tourists. I did see a local group for Kauai – check for other groups!
My daughter, 1.5 yrs old, checking out the shells
Take advantage of free activities – No matter what Hawaiian island you go to, there are countless options for free activities. Hiking, beaches, sight seeing, local events – there should be no shortage of free activities to enjoy.
Budget and plan so you can splurge and shop local – I’ll always be an advocate for saving money and stretching your dollars. . . but once you get on that plane and you’re on your way to your vacation – relax, enjoy the trip and try not to stress about the little things. We are purposely cutting corners on things like groceries and activities before our trip so that we can purposely “splurge” when we get there. If I can save on things like airfare, car rental or swimsuits – I can use those extra resources to support the amazing local small businesses and families that make Hawaii the special place that it is! Remember that tourism is a HUGE part of their economy and when you shop small, stay with a local condo owner, eat at a local restaurant – that your dollars are supporting the local community and that is a wonderful thing.
Here’s a wonderful trip. . . Memories will be made, family moments will be shared, and more than anything you want to enjoy those moments – because if we’ve learned anything these past couple years, it’s not to take your family or opportunities like this for granted. Aloha!
My kids in 2012 during our last Kauai trip – so many amazing memories made!
What are your favorite ways to save when visiting Hawaii? What’s your favorite island or place to stay? We’d love to hear your favorite activities or things to do while you’re on the islands.
We’ve always been a fan of Andrew Doughty’s Hawaii guide books! These best-selling books have lots of “insider” tips and advice for your Hawaii travels.
Taken in Kauai 10 years ago of my son and daughter – wonder if I can get them to recreate it for me this next trip. 😉