By: Revanche

An island, weddings and a working vacation

June 5, 2013

One of the perks of my current job… wait, no, the perk of my job is that as long as my responsibilities are covered, I can take time off whenever I’d like and as much as I’d like.  The reason this perk is offered is because we’re “such a cool company” but in reality, in such a small company, coverage is harder to manage than you’d think.

Since much of my work is currently a combination of deadline work and “staying on top of things,” well, that’s as variable as it sounds.  But I swore not to let an unlimited vacation policy go to waste, especially since there isn’t anything to accrue, and pay out at the end of the job.

Not terribly long after this resolution, the opportunity to test my workaholic self came up: friends were getting hitched in Hawaii and I have friends in Hawaii and I have friends going to Hawaii … what’d be more natural than a long (working) vacation in Hawaii?

I made my peace with leaving Doggle behind for two weeks, booked my flight and wrote up a budget.


Transportation: The flight was $415 RT.  Not the best price I’ve ever seen but certainly quite as good as we were going to get booking that far in advance.

We needed a rental car and rental companies on Hawaii tend to be ridiculous. After stalking them for a while, and, I scored a major deal.

The flight over was some kind of miserable. A mother behind me actually encouraged her bratly darlings to kick my seat and slam the tray behind me for four and a half hours. Apparently it kept them from screaming the whole way, or so she implied.  It was about a miracle that I didn’t scream by the end of it when other passengers exclaimed about how “good” they were. So much for napping!

Housing: I shared lodgings with a dear friend for the first part of the trip and we experimented with AirBnB since all the hotels for around $100/night were … questionable.  A bit sketchy, really. Part of that was because we stayed in Waikiki but I suspect that might have applied to just about any hotel on the island.

Splitting a $530 bill to stay at a host’s condo, complete with adorable dog, was an excellent alternative. I don’t know how people choose unreviewed places for the first time but I’m so glad someone took a chance on these hosts before us.  We had easy walking access to the beach, grocery stores, a thousand ABC stores, essential dining like restaurants and malasadas. The only thing that was a bit frustrating was the parking situation but in the heart of Waikiki, we couldn’t be upset about having to pay for parking a few days out of the stay. At least we got 24 hour worth of parking out of any $15 parking fee, that salved the wound a bit. Plus I’d budgeted for $10/day originally.

MalasadaBFood and Dining: We ate breakfast at home, saving our pennies for the delicious snacks and meals later. Since I’m not big on breakfast anyway, a light bowl of cereal and fresh fruit enjoying the breeze was a perfect way to start any day. You’ll be treated to a rundown on the dining out later.

The thing that we always ruminate on when we go to Hawaii (“always”, like we go there regularly) is how expensive everything is – especially the food. Groceries are hardly more frugal than eating out, in some cases, and we’re not even talking about the Whole Foods type good stuff.

I brought my Honey Nut Cheerios from home, intending to eat it on the plane 🙂  but realized too late that I’d just make a mess. Saving it for later made it sting a little less when we had to pay astronomical prices for the milk to go with it: $4.60/half gallon, $9.60/gallon.

It’s common wisdom that you should always bring snacks and a water bottle from home to get you through the airport wait and flight, but I’ve been spoiled ordering snacks and meals on a few all-expenses-paid business trips. Those aren’t prices I’m willing to pay out of pocket by any stretch, especially considering what you get, but my palate forgets that it actually likes processed, packaged food when we get on a plane.  Actually, I have to confess the biggest part of it is being both lazy and distracted before travel days so I don’t pack healthy fruit and nut snacks.  Oh well, we can’t do what we should all the time, right?

In the end …

I couldn’t leave work behind entirely so I made the most of the trip by (oh so generously) sharing out part of my workload and only taking the most critical parts.  I probably averaged about 2-3 hours of work a day, across a 7 day work week, and kept on top of just about everything that needed doing. The time zone thing was a bit of a challenge, though, so as usual, I reverted to nocturnal working hours to get the jump on my overseas colleagues. That worked well: play all day, work some at night.

The budget was roughed out at $70 of spending per day, though I had planned to spend less on my solo days.  The two week trip came out to approximately $50/day (spending, not including transportation).  Not too shabby considering the generally high cost of living and touristing.

Our biggest savings:

1. Staying with friends: we participate in the cycle of “crashing” life by offering our spare room to visitors pretty regularly, and so take up the offer of spare rooms from good friends without guilt. It also means that we spend time with the important people in our lives too. Win, all around! It’s not always possible of course, and we don’t impose if we can tell that they’re too busy or it’s a full house.

2. Being picky about being picky: We didn’t need to do anything fancy like dine at four or five star restaurants all the time. We like great food but we’re happy with unfancy good food too. Whether it’s a cheap plate lunch or a chef’s tasting, we enjoyed our meal and the experience for what it was. And there was no need to fight the crowds to find the “top-rated attractions” if there were other fun things to do, like the swap meet!  We picked one or two important themes and stuck with it: Relax. Two beach days.

3. Not checking luggage: Aside from not paying extra fees, the limited baggage space kept us focused on only buying necessary souvenirs like thank you gifts and no more than one thing for ourselves.  Of course, we did buy one extremely heavy thing that was an absolute bear to carry … best laid plans, hm?

Edit: Sunblock, guys. I forgot to say: never forget sunblock when you’re going to be out in the sun. Third sunburn of my life and I only just stopped peeling. 

Over to you!  Vacations and travel, what’s on your mind? 

And follow eemusings as she continues her honeymoon around the world

14 Responses to “An island, weddings and a working vacation”

  1. Michelle says:

    I want to go to Hawaii so badly! That is awesome that your work is flexible.

  2. Linda says:

    I’ve heard of these new-fangled jobs that have unlimited vacation time. 😉 I get a pretty generous vacation allowance, but not unlimited days off.

    This year I”m taking a big-deal vacation to Scotland for 16 days in October. Since I can’t wait until then to get a real break, I’m spending the extended July 4th holiday with a friend around San Luis Obispo. I fly into SFO the morning of July 3rd and have most of the day to do something on my own. I’m thinking it would be great to head into SF and have a fancy lunch by myself. Then I have to get myself down to Santa Clara in the early evening (probably on the CalTrain) to rendez-vous with my friend when she’s done with work. We’ll stay at her apartment that night and drive down to SLO on July 4. We want to go to Hearst Castle, and do some hiking around Morro Bay. I fly back to Chicago on a red-eye July 7th, and may have to take a few hours off work in the morning so I can get a few more hours of sleep (4 hours on the plane won’t be enough at my age).

    I want to move to CA in about five years, so I love to explore new cities and evaluate them for their relocation potential. So far, I’m really in love with the Monterey/Pacific Grove area and Eureka/Arcata. I’ll probably love SLO and Morro Bay area, too. There are so many beautiful places in CA!

    • Revanche says:

      Heh, newfangled indeed. My crazy company. We work 7 days a week though, generally, so I suspect that’s part of why it works even with people taking the vacation time.
      I love your plans, we haven’t ever done Hearst Castle ourselves and I’ve been jonesing to go to Scotland for oh, 13 years. If I knew I’d be around that July 4th weekend (not sure), I’d suggest meeting up for a meal but I wholeheartedly support having a fancy lunch in the city instead.
      Feel free to consider the Bay Area too 🙂

  3. eemusings says:

    How lovely!!! And yay for actually using your unlimited holiday time.

    I only just stopped peeling, two weeks post-Thailand-sunburn. (Sadly, I’ve had a lot more than three burns in my life. You’d think being from a country with basically no ozone layer, I’d be a bit less complacent…)

    • Revanche says:

      Ach, I lived in SoCal where it was ACTUALLY sunny most of the time and I still haven’t managed to remember to wear sunblock all the time. Tsk. Happy healing 🙂

  4. Karen says:

    Trying to get it coordinated and head to Japan and China for a quick trip (quick for 2 countries).

  5. Sense says:

    That is a great policy!!! I pretty much have that, too, but it is quite an informal arrangement–whenever I have wanted to take off, however long, my boss has approved it, but I figure it works out since I work ALL the time.

    I’m heading to HI in December, albeit for a 17 hour layover. 🙂 I miss it SO MUCH!! I plan on a little Waikiki surf and Duke’s brunch with old friends who still live in the area, who I’ll also crash with for one night. I still haven’t outgrown staying with friends whenever possible! Doing it in Japan this July, too. 🙂 It saves SO much money, and you get awesome quality time with old friends.

    • Revanche says:

      Yay, I’m glad you actually use the policy. Ours is generally informal too, as long as we cover the work. HI AND Japan, sounds lovely!!

  6. I’m leaving for Honolulu in a few weeks for a wedding. I need to peck your brains at where you ate! I’m excited to fine a few places for cheap eats. Mmm.

  7. […] Leonard’s Malasadas: A dollar for either a sugar or a cinnamon sugar pastry. Absolutely AMAZING. We’ve decided a hot, fresh malasada is basically the best dessert in the world. [feast your eyes] […]

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