How we spent a week in Hawaii for $1000

Aloha in our lives: Hawaii is a wonderful family getaway if you can make it affordableHawaii is awesome.

But Hawaii is also very expensive. It’s a high COLA and it’s only somewhat cheaper to have fun there if you’re resident because you can take advantage of the kama’aina rates. Otherwise, it’s expensive to buy groceries, eat out, and get around.

Part of this was possible because – well, I was going to say “we lucked into basically free accommodations” but that’s not accurate – our accommodations didn’t cost anything out of pocket but it wasn’t precisely free. We offer home-cooked meals, the guest bedroom, and rides to and from the airport to a variety of friends and family. This costs money, time and effort on our part but we don’t begrudge the hospitality because we have learned to set boundaries and offer only what we can truly give.

On occasion, and without any hints or nudges from us because we don’t expect it, some friends will offer us the same, either in their home or wherever they’re traveling.

In this case, friends happened to be traveling to Hawaii, had a free room in their rental home, and offered it to us. We were responsible for all our other costs, but we were welcome to stay for free and that was most excellent.

When free isn’t exactly free

Now you know me – when someone says “I have a free room for you in Hawaii”, I’m gonna say, hold on, lemme see if I can afford that “free” room. It costs something to get there, to get around, and to survive there, ya know! But it’s Hawaii and it’s been years since our last real vacation where I wasn’t pretty much working the whole time so of course I was going to find a way to make it work.

And indeed I did.

Our travel cost breakdown

Lodgings, $0 (est cost for 1 week, non-fancy: $2100)
Airfare for 3*, $35 (cost if we paid cash: $1500)
Groceries and eating out, $230
Gas, $20
Rental car for 1 week, $130
Taxi, $50
Boarding, $450
Gifts and things, $150

total: $1065

How did that happen?

After a few hours of research, I settled on flying United, hoping to snag a pair of fancy First Class / Coach class combination flights. The extra stop and short leg in Coach class meant that it was a Mixed Class booking and therefore would cost fewer miles.

If that worked out, I theorized that we could manage not buying a seat for JuggerLB who, even several months ago, was already unbearably wiggly. I succeeded in piling up enough miles with a couple of credit card bonuses, but failed to finalize the booking because we weren’t allowed to combine all our miles into one account to book the two seats at the same time. Drat.

Never mind, thought, we still had enough miles then to book three coach class seats which gave us the wiggle room that was sorely needed with JuggerLB.

The car rental nearly torpedoed my hopes when I saw the rates trending around $300-400 for the week. Put together with the fee to board Seamus, I just couldn’t see spending $1000 before we even left the airport.

ENTER: credit card membership benefits! It turns out if you hold a specific kind of CitiCard, you get complimentary Hertz Gold membership status and also extra discounts. I hadn’t seriously considered Hertz because they tend to be the most expensive but after combining that with our AAA membership, I saved us 60% on our week-long rental. And we were back in business!

Actually, those were the four biggest expenses, in order: accommodations, airfare, dog boarding, and car rental.

We simultaneously economized and didn’t.

On food. We treated our friends to a few meals out, at varying levels of expensive, and they bought enough groceries to provide us breakfasts and light lunches. We supplemented with deli lunches and other small desired delicacies.

We loaded up on mainland treats for our friends’s kids and some of our own foods for the week so that we wouldn’t have to pay $9 for a box of cereal or $7 for a jar of peanut butter.

On boarding. We could have gone with a cheaper sitter but we know and trust this one, and I’m still traumatized from losing Doggle in the hands of an irresponsible sitter. Seamus was in good and caring hands with this person and that’s the only way you’re going to get me to leave him behind.

On tourist stuff and having fun. Having a kid that still has to nap twice a day seriously limits your options when most attractions take half a day or more because of traffic or distance. We used to skip one of the two naps on occasion for special occasions but JuggerLB has hit a phase where skipping a nap means being too tired means ze will bite, usually me, and it HURTS.

I would have loved to swim with dolphins but, in the end, couldn’t bring myself to pay nearly $300 for less than an hour of fun.

Making a virtue of my cheapness and JuggerLB’s required rest periods, we enjoyed the sun and the water that was practically at our doorstep, free movies, and the free ice cream social. Also the free parking. I hate paying for parking so much that I celebrate a little extra when we travel and don’t have to pay an astronomical amount to leave my car in a safe space for a while. Oh, and each other. We had a lot of fun just hanging out together, chasing JuggerLB, and relaxing. I haven’t gone 24 hours without thinking about working, working, or thinking about work problems in I don’t even know how long.

I’d also forgotten how much the aloha spirit and relaxed island attitude toward time melts away my stress. There’s something magical about island time: it seems to pass three times more slowly. It was totally worth all the work and trouble to make it happen. Though technically I guess you’d say we paid $1000 for three of us to go and one of us NOT to go to Hawaii.

:: Have you visited Hawaii? Is it your kind of vacation? If not, what is? 

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Finally Friday #5

Finally Friday #5: the $100 dinner, puppy doctoring, hunting down a diagnosis

Mood: resigned

  • We had a lovely dinner earlier this week, our treat, with an old friend who is passing through SF. They are so seldom in CA we were lucky they could fit us in their hectic stay but it was so good to see them all. Unfortunately the only place that could accommodate our party wasn’t particularly reasonably priced. On the other hand, at those prices, service was quite good and the location was perfect for everyone to relax for an hour or so.
  • I didn’t get to fully enjoy the visit because I’m still in thrall to the evil that lurks in my respiratory system. It keeps getting worse and by this point, I’m not entirely sure how I’m still sitting up in defiance of the laws of physics and good sense.
  • My doctors have a plan of diagnosis but so far we’re striking out. There must be an answer to what’s plaguing me, they think they’ll find it, but a somewhat skeptical side of me wonders if it’ll just come up as something else that’s not curable. Because that’s what we were really missing at this party!
  • Poor Seamus is also on the medical merry-go-round. I’m treating a few more problem spots and his vet and I have an agreement about how we’ll take things since his problems are chronic too. We’re calling them allergies for lack of a better diagnosis but in general the poor guy is just made miserable by whatever’s going on with him.
  • I’m awful tired.

:: Has cold & flu season gotten any of you? How are you keeping well? Do you have Memorial Day plans? 

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Just a little (link) love: Diggs and Odom Jr edition


We didn’t foresee this problem with Slack? It’s basically a huge chat room. Of COURSE you’re going to get distracted.

Penny knows when she’s going to make a 6-figure salary. Would that bother you?

Tonya asked “Did we forget about the Recession?” and I was just wondering the exact same thing. We visited old family friends recently. We haven’t seen them in years, and it sounded like they were doing well for themselves, but as usual appearances were deceiving. The mounds of excess, toys, electronics, more space than they needed, all of that was what they had instead of financial security – they don’t have any savings.

For me, there’s just nothing less appealing than having a bunch of STUFF and having to cancel greatly anticipated holiday plans because you can’t afford it anymore.

The powerhouse that is Lin-Manuel and Hamilton continues and it brings a tear to my eye. And another when I realize I missed my window of opportunity to get tickets, probably.

Warren Ellis on the work that is writing.


I love the Qwerkywriter – The Retro Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard

Chris Evans’ Face as He Finds out Sebastian Stan’s Nickname in China Is Chubby Dumpling


Depression is indiscriminate of its victims.

Kameron Hurley can bring tears to my eyes. But it might have been the grandmother thing. “Not everyone is crazy. There is a world worth saving. A world worth fighting for. There are people who think this is all garbage, just like I do. People fed up that we keep fighting the same fucking battles, but who keep fighting, all the same.”

87-year-old, Jane Little, dies performing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” A fitting way to go for someone who’s been performing since 1945.

Cait’s intentional lifestyle bag analogy resonated today: I was brushing my teeth and contemplating a friend’s toxic soon-to-be-ex. If they don’t split, it’s going to be difficult spending time with the friend and their kids because I make it a point not to spend time with people who suck.

Why some of us don’t talk about our illnesses. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve been asked “Did you try…” as if in the 20+ years that I’ve been fighting these illnesses, I’ve really just been sitting here clutching a teddy bear wondering what I should try. Everyone is well meaning but rarely are they also thoughtful.

I need to read more about The Worst Journey in the World

Leslie Odom Jr and Daveed Diggs: watched 100x

“Hamilton” Stars Open ESPN Upfront from ESPNFrontRow on Vimeo.

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30 mostly free ways to say I love you

I caught this question on Twitter and loved it. Without saying those three words, how do you tell your loved ones that they’re loved?

Bonus points if it’s free!  Well, ok, most of mine are free in the sense they don’t cost money but they cost time and often expertise.

Love: there are so many ways to tell your family and friends you love them. How I tell PiC I love him

  • I finished our tax return.
  • The baby’s down for a nap, hit the gym if you want to.
  • [midday text] Dinner will be on the table in 30 minutes.
  • Save room for dessert!
  • You have fresh bath towels and clean underwear in the drawer.
  • Booked our tickets for Hawaii/vacation for $35 out of pocket!
  • Seamus and I already went on long walks.
  • We’ll go out AFTER you take a nap.
  • Merry Christmas, we own more stock.
  • I bought us an investment property.

How PiC tells me he loves me

  • I’ll walk the dog, just relax. Also, here’s your tea and a couple of biscuits.
  • I’m going to the gym, back in 1.5 hours.
  • Thanks for raising the kid today.
  • I’ve got the baby, go back to sleep.
  • LB and I went to Costco.
  • Did you want to do some writing? We can go for a walk.
  • There’s a cookie for you in that box.
  • Want to go to NY and see Hamilton?
  • Menu planning is not just your job. I can plan too.
  • All the dumplings / sashimi is for you.

How I tell friends I love them

  • Check your mailbox.
  • Check your inbox, I edited that thing for you.
  • Tell me when you’re in town, I’ll take time off.
  • I’ll be over in fifteen minutes to change your bandages.
  • No gluten? No sugar, dairy, meat? No problem.
  • You can have the last brownie.
  • Angry Cat’s ears are clean now. So are Grouchy Dog’s.
  • I still have to work but I’ll come over and work so we can talk.
  • I’m lending you this awesome comic book.
  • Go do your thing, I’ll watch the kids / walk the dog.

:: What are your ways to tell people you love them? Are you a splash-out indulgent sort or is that only for special occasions?

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