Hawaii 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
Rental car for 1 week, $130
Gifts and things, $150
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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