This post may contain affiliate links. This full disclosure policy can be found here
This post has been updated and moved to our travel blog, check it out here!
How to save on a Hawaii Vacation
I am currently planning my fourth trip to the Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on earth and a very popular vacation destination. Unfortunately, traveling to Hawaii can be very expensive. That being said, there are many ways to save on a Hawaii vacation. These are the tips that I am personally using to save on my next trip to Hawaii, and I know they will work for you too! I mention the Big Island because that is where I’ve spent most of my time on the islands, but most of the tips will apply on any island you choose to visit!
The very first part of booking a Hawaii vacation usually includes booking the flights. Flights to Hawaii from the mainland and other countries are always going to be fairly expensive, it’s the most remote destination in the world! The best tip that I can give when it comes to saving on airfare is timing. I have found that flights booked at 5-6 weeks out generally have the lowest fares. You can sign up for alerts on flights to see if the price goes up or down. Longer flights with more stops might be cheaper, but that isn’t always true. I prefer to book packages through Orbitz. I like to book flights and car rentals together, but you have to price everything to see what ends up being the best deal.
If you’re flying to Honolulu, you might be lucky enough to get a non-stop flight. If you’re flying to the Big Island, Maui, or Kauai, you may not be as lucky, especially if you live in the midwest. I love the Big Island, but there aren’t any direct flights from where I live. Unless you live on the west coast, you will probably have at least one stop. Another tip: Try to weigh the price of a shorter flight into your considerations. A shorter flight might mean more time in Hawaii and less stress overall. If you’re only talking about a few dollars, it might be worth it to spend $30 on a flight that’s several hours shorter.
Another airfare tip is to sign up for individual airlines newsletters. You might be one of the first to find out about sales and promotions. Fun fact, Alaskan airlines will give you a free mei tei on flights to the Hawaiian islands if you’re over 21! Are they good? Not really, but they are free. Packing light on your trip to Hawaii will save you $35 or more, per bag! Almost all airlines require a fee for checked bags, so it might be worth it to pack light. I never check a bag, and I always have plenty of room for all of our stuff.
Last time, we only had two bags that were technically considered personal items. Remember that you won’t need much more than shorts, tank tops, bathing suits and t-shirts in Hawaii! In general, the attire is very casual. If you’re planning to go up Mauna Kea, you might need something a little warmer. I always wear the heaviest clothes (real shoes, hoodie for going up the mountain, etc.) on the plane. Planes and airports and generally cold anyway.
If you don’t rent a car in a package deal, I highly recommend renting a car from Hotwire.com. I don’t recommend Hotwire for hotels in Hawaii (only because I don’t recommend staying at a hotel) but I personally use Hotwire almost every time I rent a hotel or car. The prices can’t be beat. You won’t know what you’re getting until you book with Hotwire, but you can always upgrade later if you don’t like it. Use this link to get $10 Off $150 Hot Rate Rental Cars. Again, it’s best to do some price comparison and see whether or not it is cheaper to get a combo deal with Orbitz, or to book separately. I have seen it go both ways!
I recommend renting a car no matter what island you’re on. Getting around Honolulu is fairly easy using public transportation or walking, but you don’t want to miss out on the North Shore just because you don’t have a car. On The Big Island, having a car is very important since there are so many things to do and they are moderately spread out. If you have any plans to drive up Mauna Kea or down to Waipio Valley, it might be worth it to invest in a 4-wheel drive for at least part of the time. You can always book an inexpensive car through Hotwire or Orbitz and then upgrade at the counter if you decide to get a 4-wheel drive. You will save money doing it this way!
I love the idea of staying in a vacation rental in Hawaii. So much so that I already wrote a blog post about it! Vacation rentals are a great idea for so many reasons. The biggest reason is that, overall, it ends up being quite a bit cheaper than a resort. If you’re trying to figure out how to save on a Hawaii vacation, lodging might be one of the biggest ways to save. On the front end, staying in a hotel might be cheaper, but don’t forget to factor in the costs. Many of the hotels have “resort fees” per night, even if they aren’t technically a resort. If you’re used to free parking and wifi, you might have to pay for those too.
Make sure to really look into the details when doing cost comparisons for lodging. The most appealing part of the vacation rentals for me was that most have fully equipped kitchens. Being able to cook one or two of your own meals each day is going to save a lot of money. You could even go to the farmers market and buy fresh fruit for smoothies. Many vacation rentals will also have their own washer and dryer, and they might even supply laundry soap for you to use along with other toiletries.
Seriously, you don’t need that much stuff!
Remember when I talked about packing light? It’s a lot easier to pack light knowing these items are waiting for you! Our last vacation rental even had boogie boards, snorkels, coolers and beach chairs. Rentals on these items aren’t expensive, but they can add up and it may be worth it to try to find a rental that includes these amenities.
My favorite way to find a great vacation rental is through AirBnb. Make sure to use my link and get $40 off your first stay! You can find a room, or a full home, on just about any budget. I have seen rooms (on the Big Island) from around $25 for a shared space to thousands of dollars for a luxury home.
Being flexible with your trip dates can really make or break your budget. Last year, we stayed in an ocean front vacation rental with a large wrap-around lanai (deck) for a great deal. This year we are going a little earlier, and similar condos were either booked or quite expensive. I feel like it goes without saying, but you can always get a better deal on something that isn’t ocean front or ocean view if that isn’t in your budget.
Most rentals have higher rates in December-March, you might be able to get a better deal in the spring or summer. The temperature in Hawaii doesn’t fluctuate much, but it seems like most vacationers want to escape colder climates during this time of the year. If you’re looking to travel to the Big Island in October, check for the Kona Ironman dates. I haven’t been to Kona in October, but I have noticed that the rates are substantially higher. Unless you’re going specifically for the Iron Man, I’d recommend choosing different dates!
The number one way to save money on food is to stay in a rental that is equipped with a kitchen. This can be found in some hotels and resorts as well as the vacation rental condos and houses that I already mentioned. If you are staying at one of the resorts, know that the resort restaurants are going to be very pricey. You will probably save by leaving the resort for at least some of your meals. Going out for lunch and cooking dinner is a good way to save, since lunches can be cheaper at some restaurants. Most restaurants will have a happy hour, with specials on both drinks and appetizers.
I haven’t stayed in one personally, but I did see a couple of vacation rentals that included free fruit, nuts, coffee, and other fun Hawaiian foods. I can’t think of a better way to try all that Hawaii has to offer, for free!
Most of the “tourist-y” stuff is going to be expensive in Hawaii. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find ways to save. Booking a condo or resort that has amenities included can save quite a bit of money. Booking through lesser known companies is another way to save. When visited Kealakekua bay, we saved about 25% by booking through a smaller kayak rental company. It’s actually a funny story. We got lost and a man stopped us and asked if we needed directions, he happened to have a kayak rental company!
Companies that advertise a lot have to pay for those advertisements somehow, so it might be worth it to check into smaller companies. It’s also a good idea to ask for discounts or coupons through the hotel or resort where you’re staying. If you’ve booked a vacation rental through a rental company, they might also know about savings and coupons.
I touched on packages earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. You can save a little when you book a flight, hotel and car together. Look at your options and price things out separately and together. I have booked a package with flights and car rental and it ended up being cheaper. I always recommend Orbitz for package deals. Remember that staying in a hotel might not be as cheap as it initially looks (resort fees!) and you might get a better deal on a car booking through Hotwire than booking the car with a flight. Just do your homework to make sure that the package deal is actually a deal. Sometimes companies inflate prices to make it looks like you’re getting a great deal, but when you do the math you realize that it’s not. I have seen it work both ways, so it is worth comparison shopping.
I hope this blog post helps you save on a Hawaii vacation! Please comment below and let me know where you’re going, or if you have any questions that I can answer. If you have any of your own tips or tricks on how to save on a Hawaii vacation, please share them!
P.S. Do you like reading posts like these? Make sure to sign up for my newsletter to get the latest straight into your inbox! I only send one e-mail per week, and will never spam you (I hate junk mail too!)