So, did we come in under budget? Yes, we did! We were over in some categories, but under in others.
Here are my general tips, and then I'll share specific numbers:
- Utilize travel points/credits/rewards for the hotel. This was the major savings for us. We've previously used an Starwood Amex for the majority of our spending. Two years worth of spending on the credit card (and, paying off each month, no interest charges) yielded five free nights in the particular hotel we wanted. We booked this 9 months in advance, as Thanksgiving is the peak season for this area. This saved approximately $3500-$4000. We didn't have enough points for the first night, so we paid out of pocket.
- Utilize travel points/credits/rewards for the airfare. Similar to the above, we tried to use mileage to book our airfare. However, that wasn't an option, even with 9 months of advanced planning. We instead used a companion fare (book one fare at full price, $99 for the second) that we had through our credit card. We also used my first class upgrade vouchers (status matching from business travel) for the flight there. This yielded us with free food, drinks & entertainment units on the flight to Hawaii, and was obviously a super comfortable experience. The companion fare saved $450.
- Maximize your hotel and/or airline status, if you have it. Free bags are a good option to explore with airlines, as it allows you to bring more from home without a fee. In our case, the hotel status was limited, as the hotel we were at is a vacation ownership property. However, we did get a free continental breakfast for two every day. It was pretty small, but we used the yogurt & cereal for snacking & the bagels for sandwiches, etc.
- Plan a budget in advance! This is always a huge help. It gives us a good idea of how much to save, and what we can spend when we arrive.
- Figure out transportation to & from the airport. We've previously parked at the airport, but given the length of stay, and the pricing on Ubers, it was cheaper to do that. Also, in this specific case, we were flying in & out of two different airports.
- Bring things you'll need from home. This is a biggie if you plan to do any food preparation at all. We brought spices, pasta, snacks, refillable water bottles, etc. Food is also very expensive in Hawaii, so anything we could bring from home minimized our grocery budget.
- Prioritize your spending. We have two kids who mostly just enjoy the pool, the beach, & the hot tub. They also like snorkeling from the beach in front of the hotel. We invested in snorkel sets at Costco on our first trip, so they've had three uses, and have more than paid for themselves. We also bring our own beach balls (one blew away - the winds were incredible one of the days!), and ordered them on Amazon vs buying at the hotel. They are 1/2 the price. We were lucky & had another couple give us their boogie board as they were leaving. We utilized that for entertainment (the boys favorite part) & then passed it along to another family when we were leaving.
All in all, we had a truly amazing time. I also ended up with $2,000 in airline credits for future trips. The full airline saga can be found here, for those of you who missed it. ;-)
And, here are all of the details of our planned & actual budget for the trip. Obviously, not including alcohol was an oversight. ;-) We bought wine & beer at Costco. We cooked every meal ourselves, save for: one dinner out, a few desserts out, and Costco pizza on the way to the airport for the flight home. So, the groceries covered all breakfasts, lunches & dinners, with those exceptions.
|One paid hotel night||555.85||555.85|
|Hotel taxes & resort fees||275||137.1|
That's it for us! Share your best travel savings tips!