I thought I'd share a bit more about our trip, while it's fresh in my mind. I do not consider this trip to be frugal, by any stretch of the imagination, but we instead treated it as a major splurge. Even treating it as a splurge, we made sure to prioritize the most important aspects of the vacation, and not waste money on things that weren't important to us.
Here's how we planned:
Savings/budget. It goes without saying that we had cash to pay for the entire trip, and had the money tucked away in our savings. Because we didn't travel much (at all) in 2020, we had carryover travel money available in 2021.
Flights. We needed six flights to Hawaii (ours, and my parents). Because of COVID, Alaska Air allowed you to carryover your companion fare to 2021. We took advantage of this, and split our travel into two groups. I added Nick as my companion, and used the 2020 companion fare, and then booked M & Sam together. This allowed us to use both companion fares, driving the cost way down. I also used miles for both of my parents flights. I booked early, when flights to Hawaii were still pretty reasonable, from a mileage trade in perspective.
Lodging. This one was harder for me, and I went back & forth quite a bit. After a lot of research, it was clear we'd need to choose our highest priority: having a kitchen, access to the beach, number of included activities, or best available hotel rooms. After polling the group, we decided that we wanted to prioritize the number of included activities, for a few reasons.
- Booking water sports for six people was really, really expensive
- Access & availability to the activities were highly varied
- The activities were the things the kids/my parents were most excited about. In fact, when we planned this trip, the boys & my dad sat down & planned out all of their preferred activities. The hotel we stayed at had a resort fee that included: stand up paddle boarding, snorkel/boogie board gear, kayaking, canoeing, work out classes, ukulele lessons, bingo, etc. We took advantage of all of these, saving a lot of money.
Once we decided what we prioritized, I started looking on Costco travel, which we consistently find to have the best deals on hotel prices. My first choice hotel wasn't available, so I booked something else (it had a few included activities, but not as many). I kept looking, and eventually found what I wanted. Hotels booked via Costco also come with a car rental. Given how difficult car rentals were to book during our trip, this was wonderful. I upgraded to a mini van, so we could have room to transport all six of us.
Food. We requested a fridge & microwave for the room, but the food prep options were pretty limited, which we knew going in.
We all decided that breakfast wasn't a big deal to us, as we'd be doing water activities in the morning (the water is smoothest, and best for things like kayaking & paddle boarding). My mom made & brought two giant loaves of bread (pumpkin & banana), & we bought bananas at Costco. This served as breakfast.
We bought snacks & drinks for the pool at Costco, which helped us avoid pricey hotel purchases. We were able to bring some of the snacks on the return flight as well.
For lunches, we went out to an inexpensive fish & chips restaurant one day, and the other few days shared some things at the pool bar. We were able to use our bingo "winnings" to offset some of the cost there. For our arrival day, and departure day, we stopped at Costco to buy snacks & fill up on gas (respectively) & the boys had lunch at the Costco food court. As you can imagine, that's always cheap. ;-)
Dinners were a different story, and we knew they would be a splurge. We planned for a mix of restaurants, and our main goal was to ensure the menu suited the diners, and whenever possible, have a view. Because of the huge surge in travelers to Hawaii, and current labor shortage, it was pretty challenging to get reservations anywhere. In the end, it worked out great. M & I had a special dinner out for his birthday, while my parents took the kids to a different place. All of our other meals were together & were fantastic. And, not cheap. :-)
Other stuff. We were able to pack all of our stuff in three small carry on bags (for the four of us) & took advantage of the hotel's free laundry. This allowed us to get into & out of the airport quickly, and ensured we had no baggage charges. We also needed very little in the way of new things for the trip. I bought one new dress to replace one that no longer fit. The kids needed a pair of new trunks, and one pair of "dressy" shorts for dinners out. I found the shorts at Marshalls, for $8/each, so they were quite a deal. The trunks were 2/$12 at Costco. I used a gift card for the majority of the cost for my dress.
And, there you have it. That's how we planned, budgeted & prioritized our trip. What about you? How do you plan for travel? Do you make a similar list of priorities?