HAWAII ON A BUDGET

 
 

How to enjoy paradise without eating top ramen everyday for the next year...     

 
         
   

 

Visiting Hawaii on a budget can be challenging, but there are some ways to economize in paradise.

Aside from lodging, your flight takes up the biggest part of your budget. Flying to Hawaii is expensive and there’s no easy way around it. however, following a few tips can help shave some dollars off your ticket... Taking the time to shop for reasonably-priced airline tickets is essential. Prices for flights to the same destination can vary wildly. Very often, the same airline has different flights to the same place that have a price difference of hundreds of dollars. If your schedule is flexible, weekday flights are often less expensive than Friday, Saturday or Sunday flights. Keep an eye on fluctuating prices, but buy your tickets at least two or three months in advance if possible. Generally, prices begin to go up when a flight is about 60% booked. Prices will also vary between airports, so check flights from Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Akron-Canton and maybe even Cincinnati and Dayton. You may have to spend a couple of extra hours on the road, but the savings could be well worth it. A travel agent will shop for you, or you can use a website like www.orbitz.com, www.priceline.com  or my personal favorite, www.cheaptickets.com

When choosing a hotel, consider carefully your travel style. If you typically spend much of your vacation time in your room or by the pool... then a high-rise resort hotel may be for you. However, if you are constantly on the go (like me) and your hotel is used for little more than sleeping and freshening up, then more affordable options are indeed available. We stayed at the Aqua Waikiki Beachside, a small, 12-story hotel in the heart of Waikiki. It is one of several hotels in the Aqua Hotels and Resorts chain catering to the budget-minded Oahu visitor. Rates start at $79 per night... a fraction of most of Waikiki’s larger hotels. The rooms are modest, but clean, and everything was in working order during our visit. The staff is friendly and helpful... and the front door is just a few steps away from the action of Waikiki Beach. The rooms on the front side of Aqua Waikiki Beachside have balconies offering outstanding views of the beach below. The historic hotel provides free wireless internet access in the 1st and 2nd floor common areas... and they offer a complimentary breakfast of pastries, fruits, Kona coffee and juices. Aqua Waikiki Beachside provides the basics, and they do it very well. The outstanding location, as well as the friendly helpful staff make this hotel ideal for travelers on a budget.

Food is expensive in Hawaii... both restaurants and groceries. A wide spectrum of great dining opportunities are available, but without a strategy, dining expenses can mount in a hurry. Expect to pay at least $15 per person for a basic breakfast... and about $10 per person at a fast food place. For a family of 4, that adds up very quickly. Try to choose a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast... and chow down at breakfast time... it is the most important meal of the day, right? Don’t be afraid to snatch a couple of bananas or pastries to take up to your room for an afternoon snack. Perhaps you don’t need a sit down lunch every day. Typically, by lunch time, we are involved in some sort of activity and we just snack our way through the day... maybe with the fruit and pastries from breakfast. Sometimes we’ll skip lunch altogether. For dinner, consider a luau or some type of dinner show. Tickets may be pricy... but when you consider that your getting dinner, a full evening of entertainment, often some great scenery, and usually a few beverages... all for one price... luaus and dinner shows can be a great value. Coupon books are available in the airports, hotels and on the street and offer discounts... sometimes deep discounts on area restaurants and attractions. Load up on these coupon books and take some time the evening you arrive to look them over.

Do your research before your departure on what you’d like to see and do in Hawaii, but don’t buy tickets or make reservations for Hawaii attractions before you arrive to the islands. Often, inflated online prices are discounted to a lower, yet still inflated price... Usually, the best values are found in the magazines and coupon books that you’ll see upon your arrival at the airport.

If your vacation style is active and often includes many different attractions, then consider the Go Maui and Go Oahu cards. Available in 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 day versions, the Go Cards are all-access passes to the top attractions on each of the two. The Go Oahu card provides admission to over 35 attractions and activities, and the GO Maui card, over 20. Most of the Maui and Oahu attractions mentioned in this feature are accessible with the Go Cards, including a luau on each island, surf lessons, bike ride down the volcano, yacht ride, glass-bottom boat, Maui Ocean Center, miniature golf, Sugar Cane Train, surfboard, boogie-board, chair and umbrella rental, outrigger canoe ride, Diamond Head Shuttle and Sea Life Park. The cards also include admission to breakfast sails, lunch sails, sunset cruises, city and island tours, kayaking and kayak rentals, snorkeling tours and equipment rental, whale watching tours, Dole Plantation Train Ride and World’s Largest Maze, Hawaii Waters Adventure Park, the Waikiki Trolley, bicycle rentals, moped rentals as well as most of Hawaii’s top museums. There’s an opportunity to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center... even rent a car for a day... all with the Go Maui and Go Oahu Cards. The luaus and many of the cruises include food and beverages, providing additional savings. For those who like to see and do many different things during their vacation, Go Cards provide that opportunity at a small fraction of the price of individual admissions to each of the attractions. And if the kids get bored after 15 minutes in a museum, you don’t have to feel like you have to stick around to get your money’s worth... simply move on the the next Go Card attraction. Each card comes with a pocket size guide book with maps, easy directions to each attraction, a concise description of each attraction and discounts for many area shops and restaurants. The Go Maui and Go Oahu cards are operated by Smart Destinations, Inc., one of America’s fastest growing travel-related companies. Go Cards are available for many other destinations... In addition to Go Oahu and Go Maui... there’s Go Los Angeles, Go San Francisco, Go San Diego, Go Seattle, Go Orlando, Go Miami... and within a day’s drive of Ohio, there’s Go Chicago, Go Toronto, Go Boston and Go Blue Ridge. To find out more about Go Cards, and Smart Destinations, Inc., go online to www.smartdestinations.com.

Shopping opportunities for all budgets are available everywhere. How much you spend on souvenirs is a matter of personal preference. Hawaiian aloha shirts and t-shirts are available all over Hawaii and are usually priced reasonably. Affordable jewelry, clothing and souvenirs can be purchased at any ABC Store. Outdoor markets and Waikiki’s International Marketplace offer a huge variety of unique Hawaiian souvenirs.

Hawaii is certainly not one of the mainland’s most easily accessible destinations, but with some frugal discipline and careful planning, your memories of the island paradise will linger far beyond the costs.

         
 
        OCEAN VIEW FROM AQUA WAIKIKI BEACHSIDE       GO CARDS    
                     
                   
           

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