Hawaii is an aspirational vacation for many people. The convenience of being in the United States coupled with the perfect weather and scenic geography is a unique combination for many travelers. However, flights and hotels in Hawaii are not the only expensive part of the vacation. Once in Hawaii, prices for food, tours, and transportation can add on serious costs. Most couples need to save at least $5,000 to vacation in Hawaii for a week. My wife and I recently spent a week in Maui for under $2,000. Here are some tips that helped us save money!
TIP #1: BOOK WAY IN ADVANCE or LAST MINUTE, AND KNOW WHEN THE PRICE IS RIGHT
When looking for the cheapest flights, know what a good deal is: From the East Coast or Middle of the Country, fares under $800 round-trip are available during peak times if you book way in advance. Sometimes, last minute flights are even cheaper. Flying from Detroit to Kona next month is only $373 round-trip! From the west coast, never pay more than $400 round trip. Tickets as low as $300 are occasionally found. Use google flights to track prices for a few weeks before pulling the trigger.
TIP #2: IF NOTHING CHEAP IS AVAILABLE, USE MILES
The following airline currencies are the best value for redeeming miles to Hawaii: Air France Flying Blue, Korean SkyPass, British Airways Avios (from the west coast), Alaska MileagePlan, and Singapore KrisFlyer. All of these airlines offer round trip tickets to Hawaii from the mainland for 25k--35k miles. Availability is often difficult to find, so you really need to research how to redeem these currencies and which airlines they partner with. As a comparison, Delta, American, and United offer flights to Hawaii for more than 40k round trip.
TIP #3: STAY IN A PLACE WITH A KITCHEN
Unfortunately, dining options in Hawaii are quite expensive. Each meal can cost more than $75/couple. Using groceries stores like Costco and spending time cooking at home can save lots of money in a week. My wife and I asked for a microwave in our hotel room, and only spent $150 all week on breakfast and lunch by eating in our room and packing sandwiches to go.
TIP #4: TRAVEL TO THE BIG ISLAND
All of the islands in Hawaii are spectacular. The big island (also known as Hawai'i) tends to be the cheapest for accommodations. Because the island is more spread out and less congested than Maui or Oahu, prices for Hotels and AirBnB's tend to be cheaper here, while there is more to see on this beautiful island than the smaller island of Kauai.
TIP #5: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HAPPY HOURS
When eating out, we found amazing happy hour specials on both food and alcohol in nearly every restaurant. Food would be discounted nearly 50% and many drinks were cheaper as well. Beer and Wine tends to be much cheaper in Hawaii than cocktails. We spent two meals at Maui Brewing Company and saved over 50% on our bill by ordering pizzas before 5:30pm! Our dinner bill never went up past $75 using this strategy.
TIP #6: USE AUTOSLASH FOR CAR RENTAL
When renting a car, use the company AUTOSLASH! We were able to get a luxury car for the week in Maui for only $270. However, if you want to cut costs even more, avoid renting a car for the days you want to relax by the pool or beach. Car rental companies are available in many tourist areas around the city, not just the airport. Renting a Jeep or Convertible for a few days instead of a week could save you hundreds!
TIP #7: USE INTER-ISLAND FLIGHTS TO BE CREATIVE
When my wife and I were looking for mileage tickets to Hawaii during our spring break in Boston, we couldn't find anything available to Maui since it was vacation week! I ended up searching flights to Lihue airport on the smaller island of Kauai and found an amazingly cheap flight back to the mainland. This allowed us to use our Delta miles, see Kauai for a full day, and take a scenic inter-island flight on Hawaiian Airlines. Flexibility is usually the key when traveling during peak times.
TIP #8: THE BEACH, WEATHER, AND WATER IS FREE
The activities and tours available in Hawaii are seductive. From whale watches to snorkeling excursions, each of these activities usually costs more than $100/person and can quickly add to the cost of your trip. Hawaii has so many beaches, waterfalls, and volcanoes that can be just as entertaining. Bringing your own snorkeling equipment and snorkeling yourself can give you a similar experience to the expensive tour companies. We snorkeled with turtles and were only 20 feet off-shore in a public area!
TIP #9: VISIT PLANTATIONS AND FARMS
Another great thing to do is visit the local agricultural scene. Coffee plantations, banana farms, and other local businesses often welcome visitors to their properties without any costs. Make sure to stop at local pop-ups by the side of the road for fresh fruit, popsicles, or baked treats. The banana bread at the halfway house to Hana was the best 5 dollars we spent!
TIP #10: SKIP THE RESORT AND FIND AN AIRBNB INLAND
The prices for resorts in Hawaii can be outrageous. The dining options in these establishments can be even more shocking. The savings of staying further away from the ocean in an AirBnB can be more than 50%. If you rent a car, you can still access the water almost anywhere quickly. Using AirBnb can not only save you money on lodging and food, but can give you much for space for a family or even two! Sharing your Hawaii vacation with friends and family and renting one AirBnB can lead to huge savings on your trip! There are options as low as $40/night on the Big Island.