As we end our week in Hawai‘i, I’d say we did reasonably well on the cost end of things. We did end up spending slightly more than the $400/person I had originally predicted, but we were nowhere near the $793/day for just food and lodging it “should” cost for a couple, according to AAA in 2008. Insane.
1. We got a free upgrade from a standard size vehicle to a minivan at the car rental. I’m not sure if that’s typical, or just because they looked to have just one standard size car left in the lot and a whole line of minivans. Regardless, it was great to have the extra space since we spent quite a bit of time in the car driving all over the island.
2. We got free dessert for our anniversary both at lunch and dinner that day. It always pays to let people know when you’re celebrating a special occasion – it often leads to free things 😉 In the past, we’ve gotten upgraded to the honeymoon suite for our wedding night and to the honeymoon suite for our anniversary getaway to the San Juan Islands last year. 3. We visited the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens which is a FREE zoo in Hilo (though we did give donations both there and at the parks we visited – as a former park ranger, I know how much they rely on donations to survive). It’s small compared to most zoos, but it’s free, and there weren’t very many people there so it was nice to explore and see the animals up close. They also had a ton of benches painted like plants and animals at the zoo that were really fun and different.
4. We ate breakfast at the house 5 out of 6 days and dinner 3 times (though we did eat lunch out every day). Making food ourselves at least part of the trip saved us a ton of money. We stayed in an AirBNB with a full kitchen, which was key to making sure we weren’t tempted to eat out for every meal. If you haven’t used AirBNB before, use this link to save $40 off your first trip. I’ve found time and time again that AirBNB has the best price (and the best options) compared to hotel stays.
A number of the meals we did eat out for were at farmers markets / food truck style restaurants, so they were still reasonably priced. We also shopped some at farmers markets, so at least the produce we bought was really affordable – $1 for a GIANT avocado! And the place we rented had chickens so we got to collect eggs from the property as well (and my son loved feeding the chickens).
5. We got a free beer tasting flight ($8) at Mahena Brewery because I asked if they had a military discount. They didn’t, but she decided to give us a free tasting anyway (we did buy a 6 pack to enjoy back at the house).
We had an absolutely wonderful vacation, and being frugal about our choices didn’t take away from the experience in the slightest. After all, nature is free.
41 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (Vacation Edition)”
I would love to visit Hawaii one day! We have friends who have gone and all have rented a house/apartment to cut on costs too. Maybe one day when we actually take our kids on a plane… 😉
Our son was actually a rockstar on the plane flights! I think as long as you come prepared with enough food/snacks, kids tend to do pretty well 🙂
Food and snacks are the key to me doing well on the planes, too. 😉 Sounds like a fun adventure!
Haha, yes! Snacks are key for everyone’s happiness.
I admire your goals and style. Hiking in Hawaii is priceless and mostly free. We also spent years on a budget but didn’t let it stop us traveling. We are now living on those retirement savings and have stepped up our traveling. Good luck.
Awesome! And yes, the only place we had to pay was Volcano National Park – everything else was totally free! Very different from the PNW where most places require a parks pass. We did donate at various places though because I know how much it takes to keep parks nice.
Great tips and ideas! Sometimes places like the zoo you visited are better in so many ways than the crazy expensive major tourist places. It’s hard to move, take photos, and even see things.
So true! We practically had the zoo to ourselves. It was awesome.
These are great ways to save money on any trip! Stay somewhere where you can make some of your meals, find free places to go that are fun and ask for upgrades where possible! Sounds like you guys had a great trip!
We had a fantastic trip! And we definitely didn’t feel like we missed out on anything by keeping costs down.
Wow 256 usd at day? Seems very cheap, I have heard that Hawaii is really expensive, I have to give it a chance someday!
Yep! It CAN be expensive, but it definitely doesn’t have to be!
Eating some meals at the place you are staying is a huge help in cutting costs! It sounds like you got some fun freebies along the way, too.
Moral of the story is to always let them know it’s your anniversary 😉
Would absolutely love to go to Hawaii, thank you for sharing!
I can’t believe it took me so long to get there the first time! It was an incredible trip and I can’t wait to go back.
As a solo traveler and that i don’t have kids I think it will be somewhat cheaper for me but so great that you made the trip cheaper than what was advised to you and by some margin. Your trip sounds amazing, I can’t wait to get out there myself someday, but I only have myself to blame as to why I haven’t been, I had the chance a few years back to go but chose to go back to New Zealand for a 2nd trip. Ahh well, I will get to explore Hawaii someday
Well, we haven’t been to New Zealand yet, but it’s on the list! And traveling with a family is definitely different than solo, but travel is awesome no matter what way you go (as long as you don’t go into debt doing it).
Glad you all had a great time! You’re right, saving on costs for somethings doesn’t mean you wont be having fun. I’m all for having breakfast at the holiday apartment, walking everywhere and finding the free activities to do. Awesome!
It was such a fun time! And it wouldn’t have been any more fun if it had cost us double 🙂
I was so interested to read about your experience and the costing! My husband and I recently looked into booking a Hawaii holiday but it seemed so expensive (we booked Bermuda instead).. looked like a great vacation!!
Well, maybe now that I’ve laid it out Hawai‘i will be back on the list for a future vacation 🙂
The article makes perfect sense for families wanting to travel on a budget. I hope my kids turn out the same amount of frugal as me 😉
Ha! I hope so too – so far, he loves our vacations and hiking/camping, so hopefully that will continue as he grows up!
I am so jealous that you have been to Hawaii it is one place that I dream of going but it does seem so expensive so thank you for sharing thee tips about saving a few extra pennies.
It completely does not need to be an expensive trip!! As long as you aren’t there to go on 5 excursions and to buy a whole bunch of souvenirs 😉
Wow that sounds like it was a great experience and definitely for cheap!! Love the first picture! How lovely. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you! It was an amazing trip. That sea arch is down at the end of Chain of Craters Road in Volcano National Park. Absolutely stunning drive down to get there as well.
Wow u managed ur vacation for quite cheap .. Very interesting post .. Always wanted to visit now it seems like affordable trip too .. Thanks for sharing
You’re welcome 🙂 please feel free to send me any questions you might have!
Great article. As a family of 5 that travels a lot with our kids it’s great to hear of places with great value for money. I’ve never had much desire to visit Hawaii as the touristy beach resorts aren’t my thing but it’s great to know about the hiking experience.
That’s exactly why it was never high on my list – but now I can’t wait to go back 🙂