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Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Dream" Vacation Realized on the Cheap

My kids are weird. Maybe it is because they have weird parents. A year ago we asked them if they could go anywhere for vacation where would they want to go? No Disneyland here. Nope. Hawaii was sung in unison by two kids who never agree on anything.
In October Delia had the genius idea of making a Hawaidy fund. She got out the old plastic water jug and tried as best she could to write Hawaii on it. She calls it Hawaidy so that is what we wrote on it. Delia put all of her extra money in the jug. She had a few cupcake sales, did chores for the neighbors and swiped a few dollars from unsuspecting relatives. Drexler didn't put nearly as much in, but he did help collect cans and get them ready for recycling refunds. After after seven months they had nearly $400. First, we checked out our local travel agent. While I love to shop local, this was option was WAY too expensive. Next we looked at other online options (think Expedia, Travelocity, etc.). Still pretty pricey. One night when my husband was leaving Costco he grabbed a flyer and decided to check their travel packages out. BINGO.
Our package included flights, ground transportation, a lei greeting, and our hotel for six nights. We booked it and began to plan and save. We decided we wouldn't tell the kids and surprise them. They kept saving and we kept saying, "Next summer we will go to Hawaii." We made payments on the trip and had it paid off in April.
My husband and I are both teachers and any big items we purchase have to be planned out and saved for. I picked up some extra "gigs" to help pay for the trip and began to sell furniture and other items to help fund the trip. We do make an annual trek to the Oregon coast for a week each summer (and it ain't cheap), but this was about twice as much as that trip. In the end we were able to make it work.

We came up with an elaborate plan to surprise the kids. They are pretty perceptive and usually know when things are coming down the pike. This time they were clueless. We told them we were taking my sister to the airport and afterwards we were going to breakfast with my friend from high school and her kids (I knew Drex would try to stay home and not go to the airport). The day before I packed everything while the kids were out and about and put the bags in Nana's car. The morning of the trip everything else was subtly stowed in the back of my sister's trunk. We were off.
We got to the airport and my husband turned on the recorder. "Delia, Drexler get out of the car." They thought they were in trouble. They hopped out and dad told them we were going to Hawaii. Pure shock. Utter joy.

As I write this we are in Hawaii (by the time I post it we will be back) and down to our final day and a half. We are a bit sunburned and exhausted from a day of snorkeling and body surfing. We have had a terrific time. We haven't blown too much money and spent wisely. It has been worth every penny we saved. Here are a few of the money saving tips I will share:

  • Costco Travel- I would check all sources out, but we found them to be the easiest and most trusted to work with the most safe guards. A caveat, my co-worker is also here on a a Costco vacation and had an issue with construction outside their room. They were upgraded and Costco ensured every little thing would be all right (I have been on an island for five days after all).
  • Groupon- I signed up for Oahu Groupon right after we bought the tickets. I purchased a double decker bus pass (good for 24 hours), pizza, hamster ball "rides" (don't ask), a catamaran ride, and a moped rental. All of these Groupons worked and the plus side is that if they didn't Groupon has a great refund policy. Be sure to check out the location of your lodgings and make sure you will be able to access them on your trip.
  • Pack Snacks- I packed several zip lock baggies of snacks and we have gone through them. This has saved me from having to buy them at expensive stores.The other benefit of this is when we return we will have extra room in our bag for trinkets.
  • Grocery Store- When you arrive try to get yourself to a grocery store. Wal-Mart, Target, Safeway, or whatever. Buy snacks, breakfast items, etc. Breakfast adds up and if you can get by without buying it at a restaurant you can save. Our hotel didn't offer full kitchens (in Oahu most don't because they want you to eat out so you spend money), but we had a fridge and were able to heat up water for Cup O' Noodles and and a few other things.
  • Research- Talk to people before you go and do your research. There are tons of people here trying to sell packages and day trips. Most of them are WAY out of our budget. For example a trip to snorkel cost $60 per person. This would have cost our family $240. We were able to rent a car for the entire day and make several stops PLUS snorkel for $160.
  • Eating Out- I admit to "checking in" with Foursquare. I don't publish my whereabouts on Facebook or anything, but have found looking at tips via Foursquare is a good source of info. Be aware when you eat out. My son loves him some McDonald's. I would rather skip a meal than eat there most of the time. Last night we looked in McDonald's and did the math. It would have cost us $27 to have dinner. We ended up at a local place and had fantastic food for $37. It was worth the $10 to have WAY BETTER food provided by locals.
I am sure I could come up with some more tips, but it is time for us to hit the streets and check out the night life here on Waikiki. More memories to be made. Muhalo.

1 comment:

  1. What great ideas! It looks like you all had a wonderful time. :) Megan