If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, you do NOT want to miss these 17 secrets to make your vacation go smooth. Take a look!
17 Secrets for Planning a Trip to Hawaii
Note from Laurie – I'm so excited about Shannon's post for planning a trip to Hawaii! Note that this was SEVERAL years ago, so some things have changed.
Of course, there may also be COVID restrictions in place right now too, so keep that in mind if you're planning a vacation to the islands. If you've been to Hawaii before I'd love to hear your suggestions!
Recently my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in Hawaii. Besides mission trips, this is the only major trip without the kiddos that we have taken since our honeymoon. So, for us to splurge and go on a trip that is not missional was definitely out of our comfort zone. (And still is). We live very frugally though, which allowed us to go on this trip debt free.
My husband is a planner. He spent countless hours researching and asking me what I wanted to do, then made a schedule. (Can anyone tell he is an engineer?)
Here are a few things tips for planning a trip to Hawaii that we learned along the way . . .
1. Use Frequent Flyer Miles if you can.
If you have frequent flyer miles with an airline you may want to see if you can score a free ticket. If you don't have them, sign up before your trip since points to Hawaii would be a great start towards another trip.
2. Use websites like hotels.com, travelocity.com, tripadvisor.com, or expedia.com to find discounted hotel rates.
Also, talk about your plans to others who've been, and see if they have suggestions on places to stay (and possibly even family discounts they can offer you if they have family nearby.)
3. Decide whether to rent a car (saving time) or take the bus (saving money.)
Hawaii has a great bus system, and we debated whether we should take advantage of it to save a little money or splurge on a car. After talking with some friends we decided to rent a convertible, but used the cheapest rental car discounts we could find.
Some good friends of ours said if we were going to rent a car, make it a convertible while you have the chance. Since we were staying for several days we got a discount by using the weekly rate , and we didn't waste travel time waiting on the bus.
Still, take into consideration that most hotels have pricey parking fees, and gas may be more expensive than you're used to (although we used less than a tank for the whole trip). Also, several areas of Waikiki did not have parking, so we had to walk to most of restaurants at night.
4. To Hop or Not to Hop?
A lot of people island-hop when visiting Hawaii, staying at one for a few days then going to another. We decided to stay at Oahu only, which gave us time to see the entire island. Obviously you'd get to see more islands by island hopping, but it would cost more money and give you less time to enjoy each area, so just be mindful of that before you go.
5. Determine the best season to go to Hawaii.
During the peak season in Hawaii you'll see significantly more traffic and things tend to me much more expensive. Fall and Spring tend to have less traffic, but do your research to find the best time of year to go. Go HERE to learn more.
6. Groceries are expensive in Hawaii.
Oh my goodness . . . I could write a whole post on groceries in Hawaii! Food is just expensive there . . . like crazy expensive.
Expect to pay $7.69 milk on sale and $7.99 for a box of Frosted Flakes. We decided that we didn't want to eat at fast food restaurants or places that we have near our home, so most meals cost $50-$60.
However, before leaving for Hawaii I packed granola, flax seed, peanut butter, Flat-out bread, and lots of snacks (protein bars, granola bars) in our suitcases. Once there we took advantage of our hotel's mini-fridge and spent $20 on milk, yogurt, individual size cereal, bananas, and chips. While those groceries were still expensive, that $20 covered most of our breakfasts and several lunches, saving us $300 and several hours waiting at restaurants to eat.
7. You won't catch a bargain eating out.
8. Bring your own water bottle.
Bringing your own water bottle will save big in the airports and throughout your trip. Airport security allows you to bring an empty thermos when you travel, and then just fill it up once you're through to your gates.
Our hotel had a water filter in the lobby, so we filled up every morning before leaving and while site seeing we found water fountains to fill up.
This saved us a lot of money. (At the Dole Plantation a bottle of water is $4 ~ crazy!)
9. The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is a must see.
Order tickets online the day before you plan to visit for $3. 1300 free tickets are given out daily too, but for the cheap online rental rate you can guarantee your tour time instead of chancing having to wait for a couple of hours.
Visiting Pearl Harbor was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip, which I totally didn't expect. Definitely include a few hours as you're making your plans!
10. Budget money for snorkeling.
You can rent snorkeling gear for $20 per person at Hanauma Bay, however we decided to purchase our own gear instead while we were there. (You could easily bring this with you in your suitcase and save money by purchasing in the states.)
Before our trip I bought waterproof cameras for $9 at Wal-Mart, compared to $18 in Hawaii.
11. Take a few hours to go kayaking.
We had fun kayaking at Kailua Beach and got a 15% discount by reserving online at Kailua Beach Adventures. The waves were crazy and starting out was hard, but once we got going it was fun. I told my husband it should be a marriage builder experiment. 🙂
12. Don't miss Diamond Head.
My husband and I decided to walk from our hotel all the way to the top of the mountain and back which was about 3 hours total. The one tip I'll offer for easier accessibility is when you get near the top of the mountain top and see a steep staircase to the right, go left instead. (Trust me on this.) Diamond Head only costs $1 per person for walkers or $5 for parking.
13. Hiking in Hawaii is incredible.
In addition to hiking at Diamond Head we hiked Manoa Falls to see the most beautiful waterfall. It is a must! And all you had to pay is $5 for parking.
14. Everyone says you have to go to a Luau while in Hawaii.
Luaus are pretty expensive in Hawaii, and we chose a highly rated one during our trip. Honestly, we didn't enjoy it as much as we'd hoped, and if you're not into dancing this may be something you can skip.
15. The beaches were gorgeous.
I grew up in Florida, but their beaches just can't compare to the six beaches we saw in Hawaii. In addition to the beautiful beaches the mountains are right there, so you really get the best of both worlds.
16. Dole Plantation is a must, simply for their famous Dole Whip.
Okay, I love pineapple, and their Dole Whips are just incredible. They also have the world's largest maze which was super fun, because my husband did the guiding. We would still be lost if I navigated. 🙂
17. There is an awesome swap meet at the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors to get souvenirs for you and the family.
The prices are great (especially for Hawaii), and the people didn't pressure you at all. Definitely do this instead of souvenir shopping for souvenirs at all the expensive tourist stores.
I hope this helps if you're dreaming up a trip to Hawaii soon! I've you have any tips or questions I'd love to hear them ~ leave a comment to share.
Looking for more travel tips? Check out these 7 things you need to know before bidding at Priceline and Hotwire.