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Tips to Save in Hawaii

April 12, 2023

Filed in: Travel

We just returned from Hawaii and I wanted to share my tips on how we reduced our spending as Hawaii is VERY expensive. Kevin and I are pretty frugal but that’s how we afford to travel quite a bit. We choose carefully where to spend our money and sacrifice some small things in order to afford the big things.

So why would we choose to go to notoriously expensive Hawaii?

Well, it’s been on our travel list forever. I had been once but 20 years ago and Kevin had been but not since he was a small child. The kids really wanted to go but anytime I had looked into flights or accommodations it was way out of budget. Fast forward to Christmas Day 2022. I was perusing YYC Deals – my favourite site for finding flight deals – and saw there was a Westjet seat sale for just under $400 to Honolulu – yay! When I plugged the flights into my Westjet account and Kevin’s, with our Westjet dollars we got the price down to $780 for ALL 5 flights! Okay, now at about $150 a ticket, Hawaii has become more affordable.

Flights $780.00 5 round trip tickets Calgary – Honolulu

So number one way to save money? Wait for a seat sale. YYC Deals just posted another deal for Hawaii under $335 a ticket.

Our hotel lanai at night.

Next was accommodation. Now this was our biggest spend and I think the most we’ve EVER spent on accommodations (we usually stay under $200) but I would highly recommend our hotel. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Waikiki. For a family of five it’s always harder to find hotel rooms that will accommodate all of us. These suites had a living room with a pull-out sofa, a bedroom with a small kitchenette, two balconies, it was nice and spacious. It also included a very good breakfast buffet with made to order omelets AND my favourite part, between 5-7 was cocktail hour.

Each adult was given two drink tickets per day and kids could have as much pop or in my kids case, Shirley Temples, as they wanted. During cocktail hour they would also serve snacks. So we would play cards on the lanai, have our drinks and eat our chips, veggies and dip and nuts/pretzels and sometimes this would end up being dinner! We could have saved more money on a hotel, so if this is out of your price range there are options that are less especially if you’re a family of four or less.

Accomodation $5553.67 9 nights

The hotel was also in an amazing location, in the heart of Waikiki Beach Walk with tons of shopping, restaurants. One hotel back from the beach and one block from Kalākaua Ave. I specifically picked a hotel that I knew would be a bit more money but was close enough to all the action that we wouldn’t need a car. We were able to walk everywhere from our hotel and only rented a car one day of our trip, saving us a ton. Parking at the hotel was $45US a day so this would add up to almost $600 Cdn if we had a car just for parking!

We also took the bus several times, to Diamond Head and China Town and the airport. It’s very easy to figure out, with Google Maps you can even see the bus in real time on the way to your stop, and they were always on schedule. Our cab ride when we arrived in Honolulu to take us to the hotel was $87. We decided to take the bus to the airport when we were leaving and it was only $10 – quite a difference.

Transportation $352 (1 day car rental, 1 day parking, gas, bus tickets and 1 cab ride from the airport)

Food hurt. Oh did it hurt. So much money to eat there. We saved the most by booking our hotel with the included breakfast and snack hour. On top of that we only ate out once a day, if that. The restaurant below our hotel, The Yardhouse, had an excellent happy hour between 2-5 that featured half price pizzas and appetizers. We ate there several times and saved a lot of money by either waiting to eat a late lunch or having an early dinner.

We also bought snacks to eat in the hotel room but here’s my biggest tip. Do not buy food at the ABC stores. I remember them 20 years ago as being a cheap place to grab food, sunscreen, knick knacks. Now, they are very convenient as they are everywhere, but the prices are astronomical. $7US for a loaf of Wonderbread, a single yogurt for $3.50US – to put that in perspective, one loaf of bread and 5 yogurts was going to cost me $32 Canadian. We found Target grocery prices to be much more reasonable.

Food $980

Now activities. I’m someone that likes to go, go, go on vacation. Two days of sitting and lounging is more than enough for me but I really had to change my mindset on this trip as we just could not afford to do many activities. I looked into booking surf lessons for the five of us. For 1.5 hours it was going to be $945 CDN – ooh boy, I could not justify that. So we went to Target and bought the kids boogie boards they could use the whole trip $15 each. I really wanted to do a Luau – again, almost $1000 CDN. Ouch.

So we did the Diamond Head hike, $37, explored China Town, drove up to the North Shore, snorkeled at Paradise Cove for free (rented snorkel gear for $20 each) but mainly just enjoyed the beach and pool every day. And the kids loved it. They were totally happy to do that. After our last trip to Italy (should I write a similar post about that trip?) where every day we had something to do, they enjoyed the more relaxed nature of this trip.

Activities $227

Last, but not least, my favourite take away from our trip. Family photos of course! I am just in love with our photos we had done by Natalie from Flytographer. The location was amazing and I love having family photos taken while on vacation. I’m relaxed knowing I don’t have worry about taking photos, I’ve hired someone to do it for me! If you booking using this LINK you will save $25 if you book Flytographer for your next vacation photos!

So altogether, flights, accomodations, food and activities our trip was $7892 for a family of five for 10 days. I hope that helps you if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii. You could do your trip for a lot more if budget allowed and even less if you wanted. I find it’s helpful to get real world numbers on how much trips cost. It helps me plan when I’m looking to book a vacation so I always appreciate the transparency from others. Have you been to Hawaii? What are your favourite ways to save that I’ve missed?

Interested in more travel tips? Read this post about our family trip to Germany and our time in Berlin!

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