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my wife and I lucked into about two weeks of vacation time together this summer and were hoping to make something happen with Hawaii. Our question is this: can Hawaii be done affordably, and if so, what is a typical ballpark figure for an "affordable Hawaii vacation"?. Our ideal trip would include stops to Kauai and the big island. We are both active and would be looking to do some combination of beach time, hiking, sight seeing, water sports, etc. what is the best way to do lodging?

At the moment, flights look to be around 1000 per from the east coast for a simple round trip. What would be the best way to package/arrange flights to make our trip more affordable, or would some different combination of islands be better? I welcome all input and any advice you might have for me!


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    "Affordable" is in the eye (well, wallet) of the beholder. Do you have a total amount you'd be prepared to spend? There's everything from cheap motels in Waikiki to the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton.

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    Agree with sf7307--a price range would be very helpful. DH and I have done many affordable (for us) vacations to the Big Island over the last 10 years or so. We usually save money on lodging by renting cottages or houses and having many meals at our lodging (though I guess I'm unusual in that I like to cook on vacation--love going to the markets). For example here's a link to a place we have stayed many times http://www.vrbo.com/293127 The pictures don't do it justice--and it is well located for activities--especially on the west side of the island.

    And here is another link to houses available at Kapoho Beach Lots http://book.bigislandvacationrentals.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?pageid=10301&cat2=7612 on the east side of the island. It’s a nice area with lots of volcanically heated tide pools for swimming and is only about 20 minutes from Hilo and about 45 minutes from Volcano—which makes a good home base to explore the east side of the island These are just examples of what you can find with a little research.

    Also as soon as your plans firm up--look for your rental cars. I usually check Costco (if you're a member) and Discount Hawaii Car Rental http://www.discounthawaiicarrental.com. And a couple of times have bid on Priceline very close to our dates and have gotten a deal (As soon as I know our dates I always make the best cancellable car reservation I can so as to lock in a cost and then keep checking for lower prices (sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't).

    We haven't been to Kauai for about 8 years - so really can't help you with lodging there.

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    How long can you stay in Hawaii? One week = One island; Ten nights = Two smaller islands or Big Island and a few nights on another island; Two weeks = Three islands unless one is Big Island. You need a minimum of a week for Big Island if you want to stay both sunny/beaches Kohala (NW) and near the volcano (SE).

    Think hard about how much time and money you want to spend flying between the islands. A 'hop' will cost about $100 pp and you must 'do time' in an airport with the same TSA shuffle you have before any flight.

    Summer is busy. Any time mainland school are on vacation is busy. Busy means more expensive -- airfare, lodging and rental cars. (You need a car everywhere outside of Honolulu.)

    We fly Chicago-Hawaii to escape winter at home. We prefer 767's or 330's and nonstops into HNL. (Then we hop to Maui.) We avoid 757's and west coast connections, but they may be cheaper -- if you can fly into your Island #1 and home from your Island #2.

    "Hawaii for Dummies" is a quick read with a quiz to help you choose your island(s).

    Most of us on forums prefer to stay on an island, but there is a cruise (NCL). It departs Honolulu every Saturday and gets you to major sights on three islands. People rent cars at some ports instead of booking every ship's tour. It's not a deluxe cruise, but it is a sane way to see that much in one week.

    You'd save by staying in a condo where you don't have to eat (and drink) 'out' all the time. Condos are more logical for stays of at least a full week.

    You don't need to do a lot of paid 'activities'. You can drive yourself to most sights. Just being on Island Time, soaking up the Aloha, is lovely!

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    dollar savvy vacations are the first topic with almost all guests from accomodations to activities and food...seems airfares are the biggest expenditure.
    Plenty of choice little places to stay, private or otherwise. The adage"you get what you pay for" should be retained. Ex; Theres a little surf shack in Hanalei, 30 second walk to the bay and 3 minutes to hanalei town, tiny kitchen, king size bed with a fold out couch for a child, bikes/boards included for 90/night....no need car unless touring the island, have someone stock the fridge from costco, almost daily farmers markets are where we and most visitors get fruits/veggie locally grown and not flown in, cruise the local beaches and reefs for safe snorkeling, rent a board your self(SUP or surf)etc...takes little planning and so much fun to flow with it. Local eateries have fish tacos, fish markets with local poke and sushi rolls to go so eating out doesn't have to mean pricey restaurants every night. Plenty of hikes, coves, beaches to just savor unless really craving a helicopter tour. all depends what resonates with you.

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    Great combo of islands, Kauai is my favorite but Big Island was terrific and would love to return there. Summer should be great up on the North Shore of Kauai with mostly calm seas. Look into renting a condo on vrbo or others (just make sure it is a legal rental, unit should have a TVR number). You can eat breakfast in and also pack some picnics if you wish. Plenty of stuff to do that is free or inexpensive.
    I agree with martym about Discount Hawaii Car Rentals, got a nice Avis car from them my last trip.

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    The most economical Hawaiian vacation can be had by staying on Oahu in Honolulu/Waikiki. Because it's the easiest island to get flights in/out, and has the largest collection of lower priced hotels available. And you don't need a rental car to get around.

    My overall comment about Hawaii is *YES* it can be affordable (I know because I do it on the cheap). If you choose a modest place to stay, don't move around a lot, and don't do a lot of over-the-top expensive meals or activities.

    But if you stay at a fancy resort, eat at high-end restaurants, and do every show, helicopter ride, sunset cruise, lots of shopping, fly to different islands, etc. etc. than it can be very expensive.

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    I go to Hawaii every year and I never would have thought I could to do that in the past, because I didn't know how affordable it could be with good planning - when I used to think of Hawaii, it was because someone just came back from their Honeymoon and said it was very expensive! Obviously, they stayed at luxury resorts and ate all their meals at resort restaurants, luaus, etc.

    I think to save the most on airfare, you probably would need to spend some of the vacation on Oahu. Oahu is the major hub so most flights will stop there first before continuing on. We also fly from the east coast (NYC) and Hawaiian Air's direct flight to Oahu has been wonderful the last 2 times we took it. You can also connect to other islands as well for more $. Get signed up for price alerts on kayak.com or Hawaianair.com so you can be the first to jump when there is a fare sale. Although since your trip is in the summer, it is getting close and there may not be that much availability right now. Do you have any mileage/points programs you are a part of? May be worth checking to see if you have enough for one ticket even if it means pulling your miles/points together. American Express membership points can also be transferred to Hawaiian air, for example.

    One of my most inexpensive trips ever, was a week in Honolulu several years ago, since I was just starting out a new job, I didn't have much to spend so me and my husband (boyfriend at the time) learned where all the local cheap-eats places are. Learning about "plate lunch" and "poke bowls" and trying the different ones all over was a lot of fun, filling, and most of all cheap. Most portions are very large too so each meal would last us 2 meals or we would share one. Also inexpensive, are local produce and baked goods. Malasadas (fried donuts) are usually a buck or so and 2 of these fill me up! We rented a low-key condo in Waikiki and it was great. Definitely look at VRBO, Homeaway, Dwellable, Flipkey etc. for condo rentals on any island. Being able to cook with the fresh ingredients purchased from Farmers Markets saves money and is delicious! Having a condo also saved us a ton on parking fees as there was a parking spot included with the rental. We drove all over the island, and visited Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, a load of beaches, and we snorkeled at Hanauma Bay too. It was great, and aside from a small fee at Hanauma Bay, it was all free.

    Activities are mostly free if you don't use a company or guide. We like exploring on our own too. Big Island is great for that, so much to see, snorkel, explore! We loved the Volcano, kona coffee belt, snorkeling at place of refuge, hapuna beach, Waipio valley, Punalu'u black sand beach and South Point (Ka Le). On Kauai, the Waimea canyon is amazing, and we loved Poipu beach, all the beaches on the North Shore, and the Napali Coast which we viewed from a helicopter (epensive but recommended as a splurge).

    I usually do priceline for car rentals or use miles/points where I can. Costco is the cheapest for gas, just in case you have a membership. Oahu is the only island that I think you can get away witout a car but I still think you should rent a car for a day or 2 to check out the North and east sides. If you're set on Kauai and Big Island, then you would definitely need a car the whole time on both islands.

    We love all the islands and we now know we can save money if we do our research. I do like a little bit of indulgence too - so a split stay - doing few nights at a luxury resort after a week at a condo has always been something we look forward to now as well. Have a great trip!

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    We also live on the east coast, and I have found that flight prices depend on the airport and the day of the week. But you can save a bit of cash by staying at bed and breakfasts, which we have done on all the islands, including Kauai and the Big Island. Most of them are not on the water, and a few are in what you might call suburban neighborhoods. But you are never far from the beach -- on Big Island and Maui, just a short drive away. We also saved money by eating locally -- fish tacos on the road, etc. And you might be surprised at the specials you find for the resorts.
    As for what you like to do, I would agree that Kauai and the Big Island will give you the best mix of sightseeing, outdoors activities and beach time. Maui is also a good option for variety.

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    Condo for me is the cheapest as it can cost about the same as a hotel and you have the option of eating in with a few dinners out. Going this summer, you might have a hard time finding something this late. To me a car is necessary on all islands but Oahu (waikiki) where you can rent a car for a day if you want to explore the North SHore. Try VRBO for condos on any island.... Hope you find something.

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