Mastering The Art Of Thrifty Hawaii Travel In 2024

Mastering The Art Of Thrifty Hawaii Travel | 2024 Edition

It’s time to plan your 2024 Hawaii vacation while making the most of your hard-earned money. Embarking on your long-awaited trip to Hawaii requires strategic planning to outsmart sky-high travel costs. Read on for unique insights into savings in Hawaii, including airlines, restaurants, accommodations, car rentals, and activities. Please share your tips in the comments below, and let’s make more budget-friendly Hawaii travel a collective adventure once again.

Section 1: Saving on Hawaii Airline Costs and Fees.

  • Book online at the best times. Sometimes, that’s Tuesday and Thursday, but not always. It might also be Black Friday, or for example, yesterday’s Secret Hawaiian Airlines Black Friday Sale | Unadvertised Savings To 64%. Obviously, the best deals are online only. Calling airlines went the way of calling the operator. Plus, there can be an additional phone fee if you even try. So get your phone, app, and browser ready and find the best deal.
  • Change fees and unchangeable airfares hurt. When you try to change the lowest-priced tickets (except on Southwest) the fee can range from expensive to a complete forfeit of the price paid.
  • What about “holding a fare?” Most airlines offer a fare hold feature where, for a nominal fee, usually under $10, you can avoid committing before you are ready. It can be a week to 14 days, depending on the carrier. We’ve used this ourselves when there was a cheap airfare that’d soon be gone, and we just didn’t have all our Hawaii travel ducks in a row in order to commit quite yet. Remember before you buy that you are always entitled to a 24-hour hold without additional cost.
  • Carefully consider the options of basic economy, regular economy, and premium economy. Is Basic Economy worth the savings of up to $60 each way that goes with big limitations? Also, is premium economy worth the extra cost of up to nearly $300 in addition to the economy ticket? Read our latest Guide to Basic Economy to Hawaii.
  • Forgo checked bag fees. Ouch! Southwest doesn’t charge for two checked bags per passenger. On the other airlines, having their branded credit card will eliminate fees on the first checked bag. But those cards have fees. Otherwise, consider full-size carry-ons and no checked bags.
  • Compare your carry-on and checked bags against airline rules. Don’t get stuck paying for being out of compliance. Checked bags must be under 62 total inches of measurement and up to 50 lbs. Anything more, and you’re in for a surprise.
  • What food will you be eating on your Hawaii flight? If edible, is it complimentary or paid? It’s best to check ahead of time so you don’t get surprised. A nearby passenger on our recent United flight was incredulous that he had to pay for food via a payment method saved on their app, which had to be handled prior to boarding. Needless to say, he went hungry for those six hours. And airlines don’t take cash! Our bottom line is don’t rely on the airlines for food in any class of service. Bring something you’ll be happy with for food and snacks, and be pleasantly surprised if you get anything from the airline.
  • Be sure to book with the airline directly. Booking with an online travel agency, like Expedia and others, will lead to problems should issues arise.

Section 2: No overpriced Hawaii restaurant meals and drinks.

  • It’s far too easy to pay a lot for food in Hawaii restaurants and come away less than satisfied. This can also unnecessarily break your budget.
  • Check the restaurant’s website for specials and hours, too.
  • Try Yelp for Hawaii restaurant reviews and discounts.
  • Eat your restaurant meal at lunchtime when even the most expensive restaurants may charge far less than for dinner.
  • Watch for early bird specials that are common.
  • Consider a cocktail at a gorgeous Hawaii beachfront restaurant and eat dinner at your condo or elsewhere.
  • Shop at our fabulous Hawaii farmers’ markets and stop at local produce stands. This is the best in Hawaii!
  • Pass on most hotel restaurants and buffets. Costs are high, and quality usually isn’t great. If you think you’re going to go for it anyway, do yourself a favor and check the reviews first.
  • Skip Hawaii accommodations that don’t have at least some basic kitchenette. Without any way to prepare the simplest of meals, you could be eating out constantly. Refrigerators and even microwaves are common in Hawaii hotels. These will save you money and time to do the things you most desire with your precious vacation time. Vacation rentals do it even better with full kitchens.

Section 3: Saving on Hawaii car rentals.

In renting cars around the Hawaiian Islands, we note that prices of car rentals have definitely dropped. We’re paying under $50 a day next week in Honolulu, as one example.

Remember to repeatedly scour sources, including Discount Hawaii Car Rental, AutoSlash, Kayak, Costco Travel, and others. Do that until the day before you travel.

Don’t prepay and be prepared to change reservations multiple times for the best price.

When renting a car, join the free frequent renter program, which will, in most circumstances, let you skip the long line. Remember we recently encountered a 2-hour line at Dollar/Thrifty at Honolulu Airport!

Never believe that the best car rental deal is always from the same source. That simply isn’t true.

Decide if you really need a car rental the entire time in Hawaii. In Honolulu, you may not. On neighbor islands, however, it may work best to have a car the entire time.

Avoid ridiculous Hawaii hotel parking fees.

It just leaves us feeling ripped off to pay up to $65 for hotel parking when it can be avoided. Check the cost of parking before booking your accommodation, and avoid nasty surprises.

Read our updated 2023 article on Free And Cheap Parking Waikiki.

Watch out for Hawaii bank/ATM fees.

These tend to come as a bad surprise in Hawaii. Figure out how you’ll handle this prior to visiting.

  • You won’t find most mainland banks in Hawaii, or be able to locate a network ATM without fees unless your financial institution has some agreement here. The two major banks here are Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank, and they both love fees if you use their ATM’s and aren’t a customer.
  • Get cash back without a fee at Hawaii grocery stores.
  • Use bank ATM finders to find places in Hawaii that don’t charge a fee.
  • Many credit union members can access ATMs for free in Hawaii.

Don’t prepay for things in Hawaii.

  • That includes meals, activities, and flowers. It’s not really possible to advance plan for what you’ll end up wanting here.
  • Consider which things to book in advance. This depends mostly on the time of year you’ll be in Hawaii. When visiting during peak periods, some pre-booking may be needed to avoid disappointment. At other times, that may be less true.

Choose activities wisely.

Hawaii has fantastic activities of all types. But when and where to buy them and how much to pay is a different matter.

We suggest purchasing activities directly from the provider rather than going through any commissioned broker. And never be afraid to ask for a discount or check for online savings.

Always get the best price.

Feel free to courteously inquire about the most competitive price available. Opt for direct purchases from the original travel source to maximize flexibility. When booking, inquire about any exclusive specials with your hotel or vacation rental company. Some hotels provide special incentives for those who make direct online reservations with them.

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5 thoughts on “Mastering The Art Of Thrifty Hawaii Travel | 2024 Edition”

  1. We always book our rental car through AAA or Costco Travel. Never pay in advance, even though it may be cheaper. We will keep checking back on prices and if/when they drop, just cancel the reservation and make a new one at the cheaper price.

    We stay away from resorts. Condos don’t have all the extra fees (parking, WiFi, etc) but offer the full kitchens and often laundry in the unit. Hit up the Costco or local grocery store beforehand and stock up on stuff for breakfast and some dinners out at the BBQ grills.

    Download the airlines’ apps! I got notified of a huge one-day Southwest sale this past summer through their app in which we got our second fate to Hawaii half off. The push alerts can offer some great deals!

  2. If you want to purchase rental car gap insurance because your CC doesn’t cover it anymore (a few still do), might be a good idea – Honolulu traffic has never been worse – avoid the 30 to 40 dollar a day cost of coverage at the rental counter and prebuy online from insurers such as Allianze for a Much cheaper rate – my last 2 week trip in May cost just $154 vs the $420 Enterprise would have charged me. Many local car rental places are more expensive.

    Best Regards

  3. I prefer the local car rental companies these days. Cheaper and you blend in (more, anyway), and if you happen to scratch the car at a beach parking lot it’s usually no big deal.

    1. Golly, I hope it is not a big deal. Social media says the opposite, and it is a huge worry. They mention how often car dings and break ins happen. This stresses me way out so that I will only use the major car rentals and know that my local insurance backs them up. I would rather deal with local car rental to help the economy, but too many other factors. Its just such a shame to have to worry about this any more. I guess even the large corps try to charge you for damage that did not exist. Glad im on the outer end of travel in my state of life. Its getting to complicated.

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