Planning Your Hawaii Trip on a Budget
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I have published quite a few posts about Hawaii. As you can tell, I am a big fan!
- Traveling to the Hawaii Islands
- Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii
- Travel Guide to Maui
- Travel Guide to Kauai
- Travel Guide to Oahu
Hawaii is a beautiful state that many people dream of visiting. With some of the most gorgeous beaches and landscapes in the world, it’s no wonder that this beautiful collection of islands carries a hefty price tag. Here are some tips and tricks to help you plan your Hawaii vacation without breaking the bank.
Island Selection is Key.
Hawaii is a collection of more than 130 islands, but less than ten are inhabited. Each island has its own unique vibe and experience – as well as its own price tag – so choose wisely when it comes to which Hawaii island you visit.
Surprise: Oahu is the least expensive Hawaiian island to visit. Direct flights to Oahu are available from every major airline, but many carriers do not fly directly to other islands, which increases the cost of your flight.
Oahu has an abundance of activities and attractions, plus a multitude of hotels and rental car options to choose from. If you won’t be renting a car, you can catch a Lyft or Uber easily.
You may be able to find some good deals on Kauai or even on the Big Island, but be sure to factor in your flight, food, and entertainment costs when comparing islands.
Time your vacation.
There are a few times in the year when it’s less expensive to visit Hawaii. Flights to Hawaii are highest from mid-December through mid-April.
Usually, September through the first two weeks of December are considered “off-peak” and will cost less. You can sometimes find deals in January and February as well. These deals will be harder to find, but with a little diligence and perseverance, you will be able to find that diamond in the rough.
There are some dates you’ll want to avoid entirely, unless you like the crowds and the festivities, like the last week of April, during Golden Week. The islands are packed with tourists from Japan and that drives prices way up.
If you can’t plan an off-peak vacation to Hawaii, watch flight prices and snag tickets when you see them drop! You’ll be amazed at some of the last-minute deals you can get if you pay attention. Use Skyscanner or another website that will email you ticket price drop alerts.
Costco is another great resource you can use to find great travel deals. Check online and in the store, usually close to the entrance or exits and you can find some great travel deals. Whether it is a lower flight or lower hotel fees. We have even found discounts on entire travel packages which include flight, hotel, and rental car. It was an amazing deal. Use all of your resources and plan ahead of time and you will have an amazing time that your co-workers and friends can only dream of.
Instead of being charged a small fortune for checked bags, squeeze everything you can into a carry-on. Get your packing list down to the essentials and focus on the fun you’ll be having in Hawaii rather than packing all the extras you don’t need. Chances are, you’ll need a few outfits and a swimsuit, and you’re good to go!
Eat on the cheap.
Food trucks are plentiful in Hawaii, and many times they’re cheaper than eating at a sit-down restaurant. A great way to eat on a budget in Hawaii is to steer clear of the tourist traps. If you visit them, do so during lunchtime so your meal will cost less.
Farmers’ markets are plentiful in Hawaii, and they offer a delicious way to stock up on food to bring back to your hotel or Airbnb. Supporting the locals and saving money is a win-win if you ask me.
Split Cost with friends.
If you have a large extended family or a group of friends to split lodging costs with, you’re going to save a nice chunk of change. Even if you aren’t all visiting for the same reasons or staying together the entire time, renting an Airbnb or a larger hotel room with others will be much cheaper than paying for it alone.
Get a resort day pass.
Rather than splurging on a room at a fancy resort, buy a Day Pass. Many resorts have these passes available for less than $50 a day, which gives you access to the facilities, pools, etc. without having to pay for the entire stay. Search Groupon and other coupon sites before you go as they often have these passes cheaper than you can get at the resort. It’s all about saving money and having fun.
Avoid tourist traps.
While it may seem like loads of fun to do tours, limit to one or two per vacation unless you get a good deal on a bundle or package. Decide which tour everyone MUST see, then look those tours up on Groupon or other deal sites. This can save you 50% or more on many main and not so sought after attractions! You may even find a freebie or two that you can do. Most of these will not be too far from the bigger attractions.
Find Free Things to Do
Beaches and many beautiful hikes are free. Use these to fill up the bulk of your exploration time if you’re on a tight budget. Pack a lunch (or split one from a food truck), and pack your own water so you don’t pay $5 per bottle.
We like to use this reusable water bottle because it keeps our water cold all day, and we’re helping reduce plastic waste caused by single-use bottles.
If you know how to surf, the only cost you’ll have is renting a surfboard. If you don’t surf, rent a boogie board and you can still get out in the water and have some fun. Another low-cost and very fun and exciting event is snorkeling. You can purchase or rent a snorkel and fins and head out to Hanauma Bay for an all-day adventure.
You can also find multiple free events, including hula shows at multiple hotels and resorts. Stumbling upon one when visiting beaches in the evening isn’t unusual, either!
I know budgeting for a vacation can be stressful, but try to make it fun. Whether you print out a tracker and hang it on the fridge or you hold yourself accountable by posting your progress on social media, the reward of a Hawaiian vacation is worth it. Keep going!
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