Like you, we keep reinventing ways to help save money on Hawaii vacations. We want Hawaii to remain part of your vacation plans as we all travel more. Balancing costs and retaining a semblance of budget is an essential part of the new travel paradigm. When we travel, we may spend more on accommodations and then look at ways to spend less in other areas.
Here are many ways to spend smart with the crazy airfare, activities, and hotel costs.
1. Leverage the continuing “Southwest Effect” to cut the cost of airfare. The competition isn’t getting reduced one iota. And you can count on that to help moderate airfare costs, no matter which airline you fly. If Southwest flies in a Hawaii market, the fares from them and their competitors will be significantly less. Remember that since Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags, that can save you up to $75 a person for two checked bags.
This week we again saw the return of sub-$100 Hawaii airfares. Plus, the $39 interisland airfares are also back. We won’t be surprised to see those continue through the remainder of this year or beyond. The nature of airfare sales is that they come and go quite quickly, so it’s ideal to be prepared to pounce when they are available. Planning vacations and checking airlines and Google Flights is nearly as much fun as your vacation itself, so get going today!
2. Travel dates greatly influence costs and can give you more bang for your buck. One of your editors scored 2/3 off the price of summer airfares for travel starting in August. Coming to Hawaii later, instead of mid-summer, will significantly lower Hawaii vacation costs. In the fall season, lower prices are available until early December (except for Thanksgiving), and next year, from January until early June (except for Spring Break). When cost matters, avoid the end-of-year holidays, as well as June 15 to early August, first and foremost.
3. Go last minute or plan a year in advance to find a sweet spot. Either far ahead plans (11 months) for the peak times mentioned above or choose spontaneity and watch for low-season Hawaii deals, usually within the last 60 days before travel.
4. Check airfare, accommodations, and car rentals all at once before locking it in. Remember you have 24 hours after booking any airline travel to cancel entirely without charge (LINK?) Use that time wisely! No matter where you start your Hawaii trip planning, validate hotel, airfare, and car rental simultaneously. Otherwise, you may find that the dates you booked will not yield budget results across all of the greatest Hawaii vacation costs.
5. Find smart Hawaii hotel and Hawaii vacation rental deals. Start your search on an OTA like booking.com to get a lay of the land. Then consider booking directly on your chosen property’s website for the best price, better terms, or more amenities. Hotels and vacation rentals often provide lower rates when logged in to their loyalty programs. Other benefits include better cancellation terms, more room options, etc. We mentioned this before: check Costco Travel too.
Visitor and regular commenter PatG added, “BOH, why didn’t you mention short-term rentals? People who come here find fabulous deals for those, usually half the price for twice the space!”
6. Don’t bundle things that don’t really make sense. One example is a hotel breakfast buffet. While some Hawaii hotels have great breakfast buffets, they don’t come cheap at all. We’ve recently paid more than $60 per person, for example. So do some research in advance before deciding. Sometimes breakfast bundled with a room is a good value, but not always.
7. Sign up for hotel loyalty emails. When your choices come down to a few, and you aren’t ready to book, try signing up for those properties’ email lists and their loyalty programs, so you can be first to know about discounts offered.
8. Remember to comparison shop using the total price. Look for total costs, including all taxes, fees, parking, etc. Don’t rely on promotional wording like 50% off. It’s the bottom line that counts.
9. Free and paid activities abound. Do your research. Hawaii has so many great free activities, from hiking and beaches to indescribably beautiful Hawaii sunsets. However, when shopping for paid activities, check vendor websites first, and find online direct booking offers that can be worth 10% or more when booking in advance. Or try calling. Don’t rely on a street kiosk where commissions are shared between multiple companies.
10. Restaurant websites can yield offers, as can Yelp, even on expensive restaurants. Many Hawaii restaurants have early bird dining offers. We suggest eating out at lunch, especially at expensive restaurants, since lunch is almost always cheaper than dinner.
11. Consider neighboring airports and other airfare tricks to win. San Jose is often the cheapest airport in the Bay Area. That’s just one example. Consider neighboring airports that may be worth a drive or even add to the experience.
12. Can you skip the vacation-long Hawaii car rental? In Honolulu, it is very doable, using the $2.75-a-trip “The Bus” system which also has day passes for $5.50. That’s a great deal in any city. We use Uber a lot there too. Hawaii taxis, shuttles, and tour buses don’t come cheap.
13. Car rental prices – yes, there are deals. We like a nice car from one of the top majors only. Scour for them on Kayak, or combine them with hotels on Costco Travel as just two examples. Don’t prepay in case prices drop or plans change. We ended up with Discount Hawaii Car Rentals for our upcoming trip to Oahu.
14. Travel with a collapsable insulated travel 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. And we like these when driving around to keep food cool in the hot Hawaii sun.
15. Use Costco for Hawaii deals for visitors. Visitors arrive here in droves, as do residents. Since a third of Costco’s Hawaii income comes from visitors, you can be sure to find things that will appeal. That can range from food to souvenirs, sunscreen, drinks, and the snack bar. Costco gas costs less than other options, although beware of long lines that may not be worth the wait during your precious Hawaii vacation time. We always try Costco Travel. It has never entirely worked for us so far, but based on may reports, it may for you.