In the new world travel paradigm, Frugal Hawaii may seem like words that cannot possibly go together. But that isn’t entirely true, as you’re about to see in our lucky 13 savings secrets.
It is easier than ever to get caught in Hawaii travel’s money trap. Whether spending $4k for airfare or $1k+ a night on Maui, it’s everywhere. That being said, we’re here on the ground and have to say there are creative ways that run the gamut to help you reduce costs. We are all reinventing ourselves. Hawaii vacations are here to stay, and doing them on a budget is too.
We will continue to bring you ways to save on travel costs, including airfare, accommodations, and the rest. Below you will find many up-to-date tips and tricks that may still be new to you. We look forward to more ideas from savvy readers like you.
1. Ride the “Southwest Effect.”
There is robust competition from Hawaiian and the other airlines too. So, if you can fly in the markets where that competition reigns, you’re set to find airfares that are as cheap as ever before.
We still expect to see fares of $99 each way, intermittently, and who knows, maybe less. Plus, the $39 interisland airfares through December. We won’t be surprised to see those continue into next year, at least for a while. Airfare sales come and go and won’t last long, so it is time to think about planning a Hawaii, well ahead of time. Besides, what’s more fun than working on an upcoming trip to Hawaii?
2. Travel during these periods for frugal Hawaii airfare.
One of our perennial top tips still rocks. Coming to Hawaii at the shoulder seasons, like late summer instead of mid-summer, will result in far lower costs across the board. Cheaper travel is also available until early December (except Thanksgiving) and from January until early June (except Spring Break).
If cost is an issue, remember that the most expensive times to visit Hawaii have been and always will be, over the Christmas holidays, followed by summer (June 15 to early August), then spring break.
3. Go long or go short. Avoid in-between.
Either plan far ahead (11 months) for peak seasons or be spontaneous and wait for low-season Hawaii deals and book within the last 60 days.
4. Book everything at the same time.
In other words, don’t just book cheap airfare and then find yourself unable to obtain reasonable room rates. Plan to purchase hotel, airfare, and car rental at the same time if you want to better control your options and costs.
5. Hawaii hotel deals – oh yes, you can.
First, we tend to use booking.com as just a starting point for searching both availability and rates. But do we book there? Typically not. We then go to the hotel’s website among other places to see what’s being offered. Most times, but not all, you’ll find a cheaper rate elsewhere. The way that works is that hotels will provide a lower rate when you are a part of their no-cost loyalty program. There are many possibilities for improving what you find on booking.com or any outside travel agency (OTA). These include less stringent advance payments, lower rates, better room options, and more. Hotels don’t provide the same rate to OTAs as you get when you are logged into their loyalty program. Costco Travel can be another sweet spot for Hawaii too, as you’ll see below.
Should you purchase a buffet breakfast at your hotel? Maybe. Many Hawaii hotels offer lavish buffets where you can eat enough to only need to buy dinner. Find out in advance what’s offered and how it’s priced. Sometimes, 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. We found that to be the case again when making a hotel reservation on the big island in October for an upcoming set of Hawaii travel reviews.
Sign up for hotel promotions. If you’re considering staying at a few hotels and are planning to book soon, consider signing up for loyalty emails advising you of special promotions.
Don’t believe in percentage savings. Compare total prices, including all taxes and fees.
Some hotel promotion examples we found included this wide range of options that include all taxes and fees:
- Outrigger Malia, Waikiki. $1,285 for a 5-night stay. $257/night. (Costco Travel).
- Marriott Kauai Beach Club Lihue. $1,427 for a 5-night stay. $285/night. (Airbnb).
- Residence Inn Maui Wailea. $3,418 for a 5-night stay. $684/night. Free full-size car included. The same room came to $4,455 on the Marriott website without a rental car. (Costco Travel).
- Disney Aulani, Oahu. Save 30% on a five-night stay. Case in point about percentage savings not meaning much. Still expensive at $6,634 for a 5-night stay, including all taxes and fees. $1,327/night. (Aulani website).
6. Hawaii activities, free and paid. Be creative.
Hawaii is replete with extraordinary and abundant free activities. Take advantage of them from hiking to beaches to incredible Hawaii sunsets and more. For paid activities, visit the vendors’ websites and find online deals for direct booking. Activity providers typically offer 10% or more savings for booking online in advance. Calling is no harm if you don’t find it on their website. Helicopter tours, for example, may offer Earlybird discounts. Other options include the GoCity Oahu pass, which can be 1-7 days. You pay one price and get access to 45 attractions.
7. Check restaurant websites and Yelp for eating out too.
Many Hawaii restaurants, will have discounted menus on certain days of the week or for early dining. Another place to look for discounts and freebies for Hawaii restaurants is on Yelp. Don’t forget it’s almost always cheaper to eat out at lunch rather than at dinner.
8. How far are you willing to drive to save money on Hawaii airfare?
Consider neighbor airports not far from you that have better deals. One example is San Jose; the others are Los Angeles and San Diego. They will have great Hawaii deals on airfare when compared with neighboring airports. It doesn’t always work, but it is worth thinking about and checking online.
9. In Honolulu, you may not need a rental car.
The Bus is the cheapest at $2.75 even coming from the airport if you don’t have much luggage. Or buy an all-day pass for just $5.50. Theoretically, there will be a rail system in the near future, although it will never go all the way to Waikiki. Otherwise, our unequivocal 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 cheap.
10. Car rental prices can be all over the map.
Watch for our next update on Hawaii car rentals, prices, and tips and tricks. And by the way, don’t forget to check the gas. Our recent 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. Ugg, that cost us perhaps $80.
11. If you’re coming here to celebrate a special event, mention this.
Birthdays, honeymoons, and anniversaries may qualify for that potential upgrade or other perks. However, remember that it doesn’t always work and has been tried too many times.
12. Travel with a duffel bag.
Especially if you’re traveling with only a carry-on, this can be very helpful when buying too much on your Hawaii vacation and needing to check a bag on the return. At least if you have to pay, you may only pay one way.
13. Head to Costco for surprise Hawaii deals.
Visitors and locals alike flock there. In fact, 1/3 of their Hawaii business is said to be visitors. The prices often just can’t be beaten, from food to souvenirs, sunscreen, drinks, and their snack bar. Regarding Costco gas, costs will run somewhat less than other options, although how long it might take waiting in line is another matter to consider.
Please share your best Frugal Hawaii secrets too!