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. 

Hike down to Waipi’o Valley

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. 

Free dessert – shared 4 ways

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). 

Homemade banana French toast with coconut syrup

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. 

38 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (Vacation Edition)

    1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  2. 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!

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  3. 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

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  4. 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!

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  5. 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!!

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  6. 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

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  7. 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.

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