Visiting Hawaii On The Cheap: Part 1 (Lodging)

Hawaii isn’t normally a place known for its low cost. Generally it’s quite the opposite.  Most of the state’s economy revolves around tourism, which usually means high prices. So how does a millionaire who’s hoping to stay a millionaire do Hawaii on the cheap? Let me tell you how…


Flights to Hawaii

One of the big things I learned from working in the online travel field a few years back:  Airfares are actually very competitive across most carriers.  There’s not a lot of savings to be had here.

Sure, you might be able to find a few dollars in savings if you shop around, but in my experience it’s not worth it. Using a lower cost online travel agency (for flights) usually means getting bad service for those $5 saved.  It’s probably not worth it.

For our Hawaii trip we booked directly with Alaska Airlines (one of the few with a direct flight from Seattle). Hawaiian Airlines is another option that we’ve used with good success.  Both provide great customer service and got us here on-time.


Hawaiian Lodging

Next to airfare, lodging was one of the largest costs for our trip.  For online travel agents, that’s where the biggest margins are.  That’s also why all the online travel agencies try to sell packages that include lodging.  There’s opportunities for big savings here.

First off, if you want to save some money, stay away from the big resort areas. They’re just plain overpriced.  By staying outside of the normal tourist areas, we saved tons of money.  Probably about $200 a night.

As I mentioned previously, hotels are not really the best option for families. The standard travel amenities (a bed and a mini-fridge) found at your mega-hotel chain just don’t cut it anymore.

Families like ours need a kitchen, and a washer & dryer.  Why a washer & dryer? Kids get really messy. Rather than carry endless sets of clothes with us, it makes sense to have facilities to clean their clothes and dry towels.

washer_and_dryer_combo   kitchen
We ended up splitting the cost of a house with family (incidentally, they did pay me back for the lodging expense).

The house is in Waikoloa area (just north of Kona). We booked through HomeAway. Airbnb didn’t have the kind of properties we were looking for (at a reasonable price), but I’m pretty happy with what we found on HomeAway.

Here’s what it looks like:

patio  patio2  Open Floor Plan
Yes, it has a private pool! At a cost of $214/night split two ways, ($107/night) is extremely affordable.  Yet, everything seems brand new.  The house has 2 separate bedrooms, each with their own private bathrooms.

One of the cool features of the house is the main living area can be opened up (or closed) via a BIG sliding door that extends the length of the living area.

  Open Sliding Doors  sliding door

Rental Cars

Rental cars are also a very competitive segment, but I’ve noticed you CAN get great deals on rental cars if you shop around.  Here again, I don’t recommend the big online-travel agencies.  Instead, take a look at alternative travel agencies; like Costco Travel.  Normally Costco Travel wants to sell travel packages, but rental cars don’t require a package (and still have great prices).  Win!

Snappy Mini-van

We went with that snappy white minivan.  The total cost added up to $355 after taxes (which are significant on Hawaii).   We’re going to split it with other family members.  This is nearly $150 cheaper than “traditional” online travel agents.  It pays to shop around with rental cars!

Got any great Hawaii money saving tips?  Let me know!

P.S. There are more posts in this Hawaii series.  Check here for: Part Two, and Part Three.

7 thoughts on “Visiting Hawaii On The Cheap: Part 1 (Lodging)

  • April 1, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    My wife and I have been looking for a potential cheap trip to Hawaii from Vancouver this year or next year. This article comes very timely. The accommodation you rented looks fabulous. With HomeAway do you always rent an entire place?

    • April 1, 2016 at 11:38 AM

      They have all different kinds of properties. On Hawaii, it seems like the most common properties are condos. They usually have shared amenities with other residents. We like to rent a house for the privacy and the quiet.

  • April 2, 2016 at 12:34 AM

    Awesome, a private pool for $108 a night, sweet! Pictures look awesome, including the weather.

    We did do the free Luau at the Marriott through one of these time share sales talks. Was great fun driving the sales person mad trying to get us to sign. Free food and entertainment 😉

    Have fun you guys!

  • April 11, 2016 at 11:22 PM

    Thanks for sharing. The photos on the Activities blog look wonderful.
    I’ve been recommended HomeAway too, we are currently researching an apartment for our family of 4 instead of hotels or AirBNB. Considerably cheaper and with a few creature comforts like a washing machine – handy with kids.

    • April 12, 2016 at 12:06 AM

      Japan is a great place to visit, and easy/convenient to travel around, but most people from the States (or Australia) won’t be used to all the walking. 10k-20k steps a day is not an unusual day when touring in Japan. I recommend you and your kids be prepared for that. Planning rest days might be a good idea.

      Kyoto is the go-to place for most visitors, due to all the fancy old temples and shrines. Nara (the old capital) is also a good place to visit. That’s what I call ‘old Japan’.

      To see modern Japan, you need to visit Tokyo and Osaka. They are mega-cities. There’s tons of stuff to see and do in those cities. Dotonburi, Shinjuku, Akihabara, etc. Tokyo has some great museums, and Tsukiji fish market is pretty fantastic too. You *could* spend an entire vacation just in Tokyo, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

      There’s lots of factories that give tours in Japan, but unfortunately a lot of them don’t have English tours. I think they’re still worth it though!

      Checkout the Japan Rail Pass. It’s a huge money saver if you’re going to be traveling around the country. (Not sure if they have this for Australians or not)

      Japan also has some unique classes of travel lodging, which are great ways to experience the culture and save money. Ryokan tend to be on the expensive side, but Minshuku offer a similar cultural experience at a lower cost. Business hotels, while not targeted at western travelers, can also be a great value.

      Shoot me an email via the contact form if you have any more questions.


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