Hawaii on a Budget: The Before Post
Accommodations: Timeshare (fixed monthly expense)
Airfare: $1666.50 ($555.50) per person after taxes/fees
Car Rental: $236.85 Standard Car 1 week rental
Parking: Free for DVC Members (Normally $35 a night)
I know it sounds ironic, Aulani (or Hawaii really) on a budget? But that’s what we’re aiming for this trip.
This wasn’t our original plan, I mean, we certainly aren’t millionaires (not even close) but we do save and plan for a nice vacation every summer. However, a few “hiccups” (read: medical bills) and my reduced work schedule due to nursing school have caused us to modify that vacation budget. I thought it would be nice to make a “before” post of all of our money saving ideas and then compare the before thoughts to what was actually executed in post after we return from vacation.
As I stated before, I own Disney Vacation Club (I bought it 3 years before I even met my husband) and it is paid off. We pay monthly maintenance dues, but as my husband the accountant says, “that’s a fixed cost”. Because of this our very nice accommodations that would normally run over $400 a night were not factored into our budget (only the slight transient tax Hawaii requires which shouldn’t be more than $100). Obviously this helps tremendously in making a vacation to such a nice resort fit our budget, as accommodations are easily the most expensive part.
Another large expense is airfare. Because we live in a major west coast city, we had two options to fly direct from our hometown to Honolulu non-stop. One was on a domestic carrier I’ve flown routinely for years and usually only have “neutral” things to say about them (if they didn’t offer me so many non-stop flights, I’d probably have more negative things to say, but it’s the nature of the beast I guess) and the other was Hawaiian Airlines which I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about.
We opted to try Hawaiian. Their airfare was lower than the normal domestic carrier we fly and we’ve heard great things about their customer service. This is why we ended up modifying our dates. We saved $200 per person (so $600 total) by flying in on a Thursday instead of a Friday. Originally, there was not a room available at Aulani (through DVC or cash) so we had booked a room in Waikiki because even after paying cash for one night stay, we still netted a positive gain of $400. Thankfully, I stalked the DVC website and was able to add on our first night at Aulani using DVC points (no cash out of pocket minus the transient tax).
Because we are so used to vacationing at Disneyland (where we drive and have our own car) or Walt Disney World where we use Magical Express and resort transportation we weren’t quite sure what our best option for transportation in Hawaii would be. Aulani does not offer an airport service (yet) like Magical Express. You can take a taxi or charter bus, but it comes at a hefty per-person fee. We also knew we’d want to leave the resort for various outings and to purchase groceries and items I didn’t want to pack. We opted to rent a car for our stay. I price checked various websites, but in the end using Costco Travel gave us the best deal for our rental car (pickup/drop off at the airport). We are executive members, which give us a deeper discount on travel programs.
Note: If we were not DVC members I would not rent a car for our Aulani trip from the airport. Parking at Aulani is $35 a night, but is waived if you are a DVC member. You can rent a car directly at Aulani for various amounts of time including just a day rental (avoiding parking fees).
Speaking of my love for Costco, there happens to be a Costco (and Target) about 5 miles from the resort. Our flight lands in Honolulu around 11:30 a.m. Our plan is to collect our bags and rental car and then hit Costco on our way to Aulani to pick up water, snacks, breakfast/lunch items, sunscreen, and maybe towels (they take up SO much room). This will also likely be our first meal in Hawaii, because who doesn’t love Costco pizza? There also happens to be a Target located next to Costco for other incidentals. We had groceries delivered to our room on both of our recent trips to Walt Disney World and it worked out to be a great time and money saver (plus, I really appreciated having more options for fresh fruit/juices and to be honest, Dr. Pepper).
During our trip, we plan on spending most of our time at the resort. Aulani is beautiful and offers a lot of items complimentary to resort guests. If we like Aulani, it’s easy for us to return and actually cheaper than Walt Disney World since we’re on the west coast (even airfare was cheaper). We do have a few excursions planned, but most of it will be a “wing it” (that’s right, I have no excel spreadsheet for this trip!). We made reservations for Pearl Harbor, but since it’s a national park it only cost us a nominal $4.95 reservation fee for the three of us. We also plan on taking a drive up to North Shore and stopping at Laniakea Beach to hopefully see/swim with the sea turtles (if you know E, you know she adores green sea turtles). Other than that a few maybes include: Sea Life Park, Dole Plantation, and The Kualoa Ranch.
We do have a few splurges planned for our trip since it is Hawaii after all. Because E’s middle name is Pearl and I think she’d really enjoy it, we’ll be taking E to Maui Diver’s to pick a pearl and have it set in a piece of jewelry as her main keepsake of this trip (I prefer souvenirs that won’t get trashed in a few weeks or months even if they are a bit more spendy). We also booked an excursion for E at Aunty’s Beach House. 99% of Aunty’s activities are free to potty-trained children of resort guests (it’s like a kids club you’d find on a cruise ship), but you do have to beat the rush to sign your children up each morning for activities. At the time of our booking there were two activities you could book in advance for children at Aunty’s (IE: babysitting). E will be participating in the Surfs Up with Chip and Dale. She’ll have dinner with Chip and Dale and learn to surf (in grass) and paint her own (miniature) surfboard all while mommy and daddy enjoy an anniversary, sunset, beach side dinner at the resorts signature restaurant Ama Ama.While we are there, I hope to take advantage of the award-winning spa and if we can get E signed up at Aunty’s one of the days we’re there, have A join me. Aunty’s beach house was a big selling point to me on vacationing at Aulani and while the excursion for E is a bit pricy, around $70 after tax, I’m looking forward to having a nice, grown up, adult dinner with A while we’re in paradise. We’ll be at Aulani over our wedding anniversary, just as we were in Walt Disney World for our 5th wedding anniversary (though our day looked much different).
So far, these are our “budget friendly” plans for our Aulani vacation. I’d love to hear other budget friendly ideas as well as any Oahu must-do’s from you!