Updated January 2018. It’s always easy to get caught in Hawaii’s tourism money trap. Here are 15 creative ways that run the gamut to help you reduce costs. Save on airfare, accommodations, ground transportation and on popular activities. Plus some updated tips and tricks that you may not have thought of. We look forward to more ideas from our savvy readers who are often the inspiration for own money saving ideas.
1. Travel during the off-season when you can. One of our top tips. Even coming in the shoulder seasons, think 2nd half of August, can result in far lower costs across the board, plus reduced crowding. The most expensive times to visit Hawaii are over the Christmas holidays, followed by summer (June 15 to August 15), then spring break.
2. Plan far ahead for peak seasons or be spontaneous and wait for Hawaii deals. Everything you might want to know and more is found in our Cheapest Time to Fly to Hawaii post. Airlines know that most people plan 3-6 months in advance. If you are not in peak season, our best advice is to wait it out for Hawaii deals that may happen within one to three months before travel. You can always have pre-arranged car and hotel reservations that can be cancelled.
3. Look for vacation packages. This is an area where we’ll take your guidance. Some people prefer the ease of packages, but do they really save money? Check carefully to be sure.
4. Consider travel insurance, whether or not you buy it. If you do, don’t go through an airline, tour company or cruise ship. Read how travel insurance just saved us $600. Start shopping within a few days of making your first trip reservation as waiting results in reduced coverage. Consider how much money is at risk and how much you are willing to lose in the event of a trip cancellation, early termination or loss of luggage. Shop around for the best insurance for your specific needs and do not buy on a whim. You need to do your homework in order to avoid throwing away money and perhaps even then not getting the coverage you need.
5. Be creative in buying Hawaii activities. Go to the vendors’ website and you may find online deals for a direct booking. We have seen this many times for boat tours, restaurants. Read how we saved $144 each and had a blast using the Go Oahu card. Even get 10% off the Polynesian Cultural Center.
6. If you’re coming here to celebrate, be sure to mention it. Birthdays, honeymoons and anniversaries may all qualify for that potential upgrade or other perk. Keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t always work, and it has been tried oh so many times.
7. Check restaurant websites and Yelp too. Some restaurants have discounted menus on certain days of the week or for early diners. We’ve also found discounts and freebies for Hawaii restaurants on Yelp.
8. How far are you willing to drive to save money on airfare? Consider neighbor airports. One example is San Jose and another is San Diego. Both frequently have great Hawaii deals on airfare when compared with neighboring airports.
9. Plan a 7-Day Cruise on NCL Pride of America. See four islands and have your meals and accommodations covered in one price. We’ve done this cruise twice and loved it. The food is great overall, by the way, and I’m not easy to please.
10. Subscribe in order to track airfares changes quickly. Our Hawaii-only airfare deal reporting is the standard for Hawaii travel deals. Subscribe to our free email updates and never miss a Hawaii deal.
11. In Honolulu, if you aren’t going to rent a car, consider in advance how to get from the airport into town. The Bus is definitely the cheapest way at $2.75 if you don’t have over sized luggage. Or buy an all-day pass for just $5.50. There will be a rail system in the near future. Otherwise, our pick is Uber (which can now pick up and drop off at airports). Alternatively there are many choices of taxis, shuttles or tour buses, none of which come totally cheap. See our latest guide to cheap Hawaii car rentals.
12. Car rental prices can be all over the map. Look at our recent article Ten ways to save money on Hawaii car rentals. And by the way, don’t forget to check the gas. Our last rental came to us with a nearly empty tank, but we were so busy looking for dings that we forgot to check the gas until well after we’d left the rental lot.
13. Travel with a nylon duffel bag. Especially if you’re traveling with only a carry-on, this can be helpful when buying too much on the trip and needing to check a bag on the return. Another trick is to buy an inexpensive Rubbermaid tote and use that instead of a suitcase on the return. They are sure useful at home, and we have collected quite a number of them from this trick.
14. Hawaii is replete with wonderful and abundant free activities. Take advantage of them from hiking to beaches to incredible Hawaii sunsets.
15. Purchase a buffet breakfast at your hotel. Many Hawaii hotels offer lavish buffets where you can eat enough to only need to buy dinner. Find out in advance what’s offered. When purchased with a room rate, these can often be had at about half the cost of buying them at the restaurant once you’ve arrived.