Trip Report: 12 Days In Hawaii For Less Than $1,400

I have been planning our Hawaii trip ever since we won free roundtrip tickets from Alaska Airlines! I've thoroughly chronicled my Hawaii trip planning process, along with a follow-up post, and now we're actually back from our trip! So let's get right down to the nitty gritty of our travels as well as add up all of our out-of-pocket costs!

 

 
 

Flights - US to/from Hawaii

Because the closest Hawaii route that Alaska Airlines flies out of is Atlanta, I had to get off of work early on Friday so that we could make the drive there. We got on the road later than I had hoped, as baby girl's nap time is right around noon, but thankfully she woke up at a decent time for the supposed 3 hour drive. Traffic was horrendous, and it took us close to 4 hours to get there -- NEVER AGAIN! If we ever have another flight out of ATL, we'll just do the short 45 minute Southwest hop from GSP -> ATL! Thank goodness for CLEAR and TSA Pre-Check, because we cut it close, even with all that line passing!

Wifey and I obviously didn't have to pay for our flights since we won those round trip tickets, and we decided that for this trip we were going to get baby girl her own seat, so as to have more space, and so we could strap her down into her car seat. This ended up being a horrendous idea, as she did not sleep a wink on our outbound flight, even though it was right at her usual bed time. I had also mistakenly thought it was a good idea to get 2 first class seats (thanks to travel friends who hooked up the Alaska Guest Gold Upgrades!) and split us up - having wife and baby girl in first, and myself in economy. Baby girl DID NOT like that. Let's just say a screaming, inconsolable, puking (5 times) toddler was not what most 1st class passengers wanted on their flight. HAHA, yeah, we were those people.

I used some of the miles I earned from signing us up for Alaska Airline's Visa Signature Card (referral link), to book baby girl's flight. It cost us 12,500 miles for the flight from ATL -> SEA, and 20,000 miles for the flights from LIH -> SEA -> LIH. We were unable to book the SEA -> HNL leg for her with miles because there was no availability, so we just paid $317 for that 1-way ticket. The cost breakdown is as follows:

Alaska Airlines

  • Our Costs: 32,500 Alaska miles, $302 for 1 ticket leg (FREE, since we used our Barclay Arrival+ travel credits), and $26.20 for taxes & fees.
  • If we had paid in cash, it would've been a minimum of 3 x $366.50 = $1099.50, and this is not even taking into account the first class upgrades!
  • Benefits: We definitely over packed, so we had 2 huge suitcases, car seat, stroller, hiking backpack and each of us a carry-on; thank goodness for the 2 first class upgrades, because that took care of the 4 checked pieces immediately, gate-checked the stroller, and brought car seat on board; had we not had the upgrades, we would have had to pay at least $25 x 2 pieces = $50
  • Downside: Closest airport ATL; close-in 1st class upgrades were unavailable so that all of us could sit together; 6 hour flight to West Coast, then another 6 hours to Hawaii.

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $26.20

 

Lodging - Seattle, for both to/from Hawaii

Because of the total 12 hour flight time AND adjustment to both time change to PST then HST, we broke the trip up with an overnight stay, both going to and from Hawaii, in Seattle. I booked a cash and points rate going there on my account (as I hold Diamond status, so I'm trying to save more points on my account to maximize), and just used 30,000 of wifey's points coming back. Due to my status, we ended up getting upgraded to a King Studio Suite on our way to Hawaii, but got a standard King room on our return.

 Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle-Airport/28th Ave

  • Our To Cost: 12,000 points and $58.20
  • Our From Cost: 30,000 points
  • If we had paid cash, it would have been 2 x $191.96 = $383.92

I didn't take any pictures as the room was very basic, but did it's job. It was a solid one-night stay, with breakfast provided. If we ever layover in Seattle again, I wouldn't mind staying here again.

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $58.20

 

Lodging - Oahu

I would say that we actually quite enjoyed this property. It was very centrally located and close to lots of good food spots. There was bus access right outside the door, and Waikiki Beach was only a short walk a block away. I will write a more in-depth review on the hotel in the coming days.

 Hilton Waikiki Beach

  • Our Cost: 320,000 points (40,000/night, but every 5th night is free when booking with points, which means 32,000 points/night) x 2 rooms (1 for us, 1 for dad)
  • If we had paid cash, it would have been $240.46/night x 5 nights x 2 rooms = $2,404.60
  • My dad mistakenly booked his flight out a day later by accident, so I paid $226.79 for his extra night (but negated with Barclay Arrival+ travel credits)

My Hilton Diamond status got us higher floor ocean view rooms, and access to the lounge for breakfast, but that's pretty much it!

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $0

 

 
 

Flight - Oahu to Kauai

Both American Airlines and United are partner airlines with Hawaiian Airlines. I believe redeeming with United Airlines would cost you 5,000 United miles for a 1-way to Kauai, but because we still have a slew of AA miles, we went that route. Since baby girl is still under 2, we just opted for her to be a lap child for the short flight.

However, we still had all the same pieces of luggage (4 checked bags), but no longer any 1st class seats, so how did we get out cheap on this one?! Well, normal fees are $25 per bag, but if you are a HawaiianMiles member, first bag is $10 and second bag is $25! Oh, you know I signed us both up for HawaiianMiles accounts the night before!

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Our Cost: 7,500 AA miles x 2 = 15,000 miles - 10% discount due to holding Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and/or Barclay Aviator Red cards = 13,500 AA miles and $11.20 in taxes and fees.
  • Baggage Cost: 1st Bag per passenger ($10 x 2) + 2nd Bag per passenger ($25 x 2) = $70 (but ended up being free because I put it on my AMEX Platinum card which has a $200 airline fee reimbursement, which baggage falls under)
  • If we had paid cash, it would have been at minimum 2 x $69 = $138 for the flights and $70 for the bags x 4.

Out-of-Pocket Costs:   $11.20 

  

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Lodging - Kauai

In my planning follow-up post, I had mentioned mattress running for status to ensure a suite upgrade at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. However, our stay started on 3/2, while the new World of Hyatt program and my newly earned Globalist status started on 3/1. Had I received my status much earlier in the year, or had our trip been much later, then standard suite availability would have ben more likely, and I would have been able to apply a Confirmed Suite Upgrade for our stay. I had booked a cash + points stay with hopes of doing so, but not taking account when I would actually receive my status.

Regardless, we were upgraded to a Ocean View Club Room, which we were happy with. There was suite upgrade availability for the first, and only night of our stay, but we decided against having more space for one night and then having to move and downgrade for the subsequent nights. Again, will write a more in-depth review on this hotel in the coming days!

 Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

  • Our Cost: 62,500 points (12,500 points/night) + $1,044.28 ($150/night + $30/day resort fee + taxes + room service/poolside food + hat/inner tube purchase). This cash cost will again be covered by Barclay Arrival+ travel credits (some earned from credit card sign-up bonus, most earned from manufactured spending)
  • If we had paid straight cash, the upgraded Ocean View Club Room would have clocked in at $899/night and a total of $5,235 for the entirety of the stay (taxes/fees included)!
  • When my brother joined us, we just got a rollaway for him to stay with us in our room

What was so incredibly great about our stay here, was that because of my Globalist status, we were upgraded into a Club Room, and therefore had access to the Club Lounge. We saved SO MUCH MONEY everyday since we ate breakfast there, had afternoon snacks there, had "dinner" during the cocktail hour there, and then dessert afterwards! The quality of the food was excellent, especially compared to the Hilton Waikiki. Obviously we had to take care of lunch ourselves, and did have several dinner meals off-site.

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $0

 

Flight - San Francisco to Kauai

My brother and sister both reside in California. My dad had already met up with us in Oahu, so I thought it would be nice to have my brother out in Kauai with us for a couple of days. I've mentioned this before, but a big reason why I have points is so that I can help not only us travel for cheap, but to also have the ability to help/bless family and others! The last time my brother was able to see baby girl was this past December when we had our annual family trip and gathered in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The West Coast is so great to get to Hawaii. I did two separate bookings for going to Kauai and back - the first I redeemed using Singapore Airline miles on United, and the second using British Airways (both Chase UR transfer partners) Avios on Alaska. Confusing, I know, but using these partner programs are often times cheaper than using United and Alaska's programs themselves!

Singapore Airlines

  • Cost: 17,500 1-way, $5.59 taxes and fees
  • If we had paid cash, the flight would have cost at minimum $392.71

British Airways

  • Cost: 12,500 1-way, $5.60 taxes and fees
  • If we had paid cash, the flight would have cost at minimum $322.20

My brother's flight ended up being delayed, and he would have missed his connecting flight at LAX to LIH, so instead of making it out to Kauai on Thursday, United put him on a direct flight the next morning. We may have lost half a day with him, but so glad he still made it out!

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $11.19

 
 

 

Ground Transportation

I had signed off my follow-up planning post with one last thing to decide - drive our car to Atlanta and pay to park or rent two 1-ways to save money. I ended up deciding on the latter. My go-to for car rentals is usually Costco Travel + Autoslash (wrote about this before). Doing it this way, I initially had reservations with Budget Rental Car for both ways, however, with Autoslash, I ended up with Hertz for our drive to Atlanta. I couldn't find a good rate coming back, as GSP is a small market, and every rental company was charging by the mile, so I ended up using a rental code for National, which came out to be the cheapest.

I had planned on renting a car at some point while in Oahu, as I wanted to take us to the North Shore as well as Lanikai beach, however, the weather and timing didn't work out. I specifically did not want to rent a car from the airport, as most Waikiki Beach hotels were charging $30/day to park ($150 for the week just to park, yikes!). If we had rented a car for a day to do North Shore and/or Lanikai, it would have cost us approximately $100. In Oahu, we utilized Uber to/from the airport, from the hotel to/from Costco, and took the bus to Diamond Head, as well as to Ala Moana Mall. Uber was pretty cost efficient for us as I have a bunch of $20 referral credits I was able to apply to our rides.

We however did rent a car in Kauai, as there was no Uber presence (though I got an email while there, that they were starting the Friday that we were there!). This was definitely the most expensive car rental of the few we had, but it was nice having an SUV and space, something that we don't even have at home!

  • Uber from home -> GSP to pick up rental car: $19.30 (-$20 credit) = $0
  • Home -> Atlanta: Kia Soul = $54.98
  • Oahu Ubers: From Airport $43.97 (-$20 credit) + Diamond Head to lunch $11.50 (-$20 credit) + Costco for gifts $30.80 (-$20 credit) + To Airport $43.96 (-$20 credit) = $68.73
  • Oahu Bus Rides: To Diamond Head $15 + To Ala Moana Mall $12.50 = $27.50
  • Kauai: Nissan Pathfinder = $210.04 (Free - Barclay Arrival+ travel credits)
  • Atlanta -> Home: $113.89
  • Total spent on gas for entire trip: $70.11

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $335.21

 

Food & Miscellaneous

This category is usually the highest for us when on vacation, as we love to eat, and we don't hold back because normally we're pretty frugal and strict with our weekly grocery budgets! Eating while traveling is also hard, as you can't use travel credits to lessen your food costs! Fortunately, my dad was there with us, and he would not allow us to pay for many meals, so we could have incurred even higher food costs!

  • Airport & airplane food (meals bought on Alaska) - $102.55 (-$52 from Amex Platinum airline credit)
  • Luggage cart rental - $10
  • Uber/Hotel Tips - $15
  • Food - both dining out and groceries for baby girl - $596.70
  • Gifts from Costco - $59.13
  • Shopping - $220.74

We highly suggest getting gifts like macadamian nut chocolates and such from Costco, as it is waaaaay cheaper. And some places that we ate at and thoroughly enjoyed - Jamba Juice (this was a daily thing), Leonard's Bakery, Me's BBQ, Island Vintage Shave Ice, Marukame Udon**, Fish Express**, Keoki's Paradise, Da Crack, Lappert's, Puka Dog, and Hamura's Saimin!

Out-of-Pocket Costs:   $952.12

 

Conclusion

We spent a total of 12 days and 10 nights in Hawaii, spending a total out-of-pocket cost -- including airfare, 17 total hotel nights, ground transportation, food, and other miscellaneous items -- of $1,394.12! If we had not had our airline/hotel points and travel credits, our total out-of-pocket costs would have amounted to a minimum of $11,952.89!  This means we saved approximately 88% of our costs!

My pro-tip would be to plan a vacation such as this as far as a year out. Since we've returned from our trip, I have had 2 consults asking me to help them get to Hawaii as well. However, due to their 3-6 month time frames, there is far less award flight and award stay availability! It pays (or in my case, not pay, heh) to plan early!

For more of our trip pictures, visit my Instagram (#chiusdohawaii2017)!

*Disclaimer: All airlines/hotel prices, except for the 3 x roundtrip Alaska Air flights, were researched post-trip. I basically found the least expensive flights/hotel stays mirroring ours, and closest to our time of travel. The weeks leading up to our trip were super busy, so I forgot to price out how much our actual flights/stays were costing us! 

*Are you still skeptical about travel hacking? I've laid it out pretty clearly that IT CAN BE DONE! Purchase a consultation with me so I can help you and your family plan your next amazing trip!