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West Maui in March: Book vacation package or book everything separately?

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Sep 29th, 2011, 12:38 AM
  #1
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West Maui in March: Book vacation package or book everything separately?

I was in West Maui in July. I am planning to return in March 2012 for 4-5 nights. I am departing from the West Coast (US). Hotel choices would be Kaanapali Beach Hotel or The Whaler. Sheraton is getting too $$ at that time.

I have a few questions about planning and booking. I try to list them in a more sensible way. Any comment is welcome and greatly appreciated!!

1) Is the first week of March a good time for whale watching? Would I be able to see dolphins as well?

2) Should we book a Whale Watching trip to see whales/dolphins or a Lanai snorkeling trip is better because we can see both and do snorkeling too? Maybe a dolphin will swim by us while we snorkel?!

3) Should I book now (5 months out) or wait? Many airline tickets are non-refundable or have a very high change/cancellation fee, unless I opt for a Flexible ticket which could be 30-50%+ higher, esp Hawaiian air or Alaska air.

4) Book Flight+Hotel package or separately? Is the savings (about US$200-300 for 2ppl) worth the decrease in flexibility (ability to change/cancel hotel booking)?

5) Would a package deal (from airline or 3rd party sites like expedia) make it difficult to change room if we find the room undesirable after check-in?

6) Has anyone used Online Travel Service (offered on the Kaanapali Beach Hotel site and Hawaiian Airline site or other sites)? Any problem or issue with their service?

7) I am assuming construction is done by March at The Whaler.
Is booking via Hotel site better or via VRBO (private owner) for a Studio in terms of ocean view and cleanliness?
VRBO seems to have better rate but would there be any hidden fees?

8) For folks familiar with the Bay Area, is it easily doable to take a taxi from Oakland airport to SF airport in 1 hour on a Monday night?
The return flight to Oakland is at 845pm and I have an international flight at SF airport at midnight. (considering plane taxi time after landing, customs, baggage claim, walking)
Should I reroute the return to SF airport instead? The extra cost is about $250 for 2ppl.


I know I have lots of questions. I want to post all questions in one post instead of too many posts.

ANY comment on ANY of the questions is much much appreciated. THANKS!!!
tinto is offline  
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Sep 29th, 2011, 04:09 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
orbitz.com priceline.com best Maui packages

Also have bid Westin's betterbidding.com from $80

Joined spg.com for club floor upgrades worked great

booked my flights independently

airtech.com cheapoair.com kayak.com/buzz cheap flights

Happy Hunting!
qwovadis is offline  
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Sep 29th, 2011, 05:33 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2005
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March is great for whale-watching, and we have seen lots of spinner dolphins while heading over to Lanai on the Trilogy day-trip.
We did several bookings with VRBO, and have not had any "hidden charges". Be careful to ask questions about the condition of the units, especially when they were last updated. When booking with VRBO, though, if you don't like the unit, there is usually no other option, but if you book a condo through an agency, they often have other units that you can easily switch too. At Turtle Bay last year, the agency let us choose from 5 different units, and the price was no higher than most VRBO listings.
We have also switched rooms without trouble, even when booked on a package, but only when something else was available, of course.
kanunu is offline  
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Sep 29th, 2011, 07:05 AM
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1) The earlier in March the better
2)If you have just a few days, the Lanai trip can double as a Whale Watch
3)I book ahead for best deals
4)I find Hawaii packages worth the loss in flexibility
5)I have booked with 3rd parties like Expedia, never had a problem switching rooms
6)I havent used them
7)Often VRBO+air will be higher than packages, but for some lower. In the few cases they are lower the main difference you will often see is a lack of daily maid service.
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Sep 29th, 2011, 07:36 AM
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Be aware that the units in The Whaler, even if rented by an agency, are all indivduAlly owned, decorated and refurbished. One is not necessarily as nice as another.
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Sep 29th, 2011, 07:41 AM
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Thanks qwovadis and kanunu. It is great to know March is a good whale month. I too plan to book a Trilogy trip.

I've search the 3rd party sites for hours, it seems the prices are the same as the respective hotel sites. Maybe the "Best rate guarantee" offered by hotels really make their prices competitive.

I find free upgrades or room change are less available in recent years. I stayed at a hotel for 6 nights at a 15% reduced rate using their Best rate guarantee. When I requested a room with a more open view than the one facing another building, they asked me to try the next day. I thought they would be able to see their booking for the next day on their system and to give me a more definitive answer. They said no, so I said "No worry, something will likely to turn up in the next 6 nights." They just smirk and said "or maybe not".

I guess luck and circumstance play an important role.
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Sep 29th, 2011, 12:05 PM
  #7
 
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My friends and coworkers call me the Queen of cheap Hawaii packages, here is what I do:

First, look at the potential hotel's website for their best rate and to check out specials, which it seems like you have already done.

Find out the price of a rental car from Carrentals.com or a discount site like Costco, if you have one.

Then, search almost daily for package prices at Expedia and Travelocity and whatever package company the Kaanapali Beach Hotel uses. This will give you a ballpark price to keep in mind.

Also search almost daily among the usual airlines' sites: United/Continental, Hawaiian, American, Delta, US Airways and Alaska. Don't bother searching on the weekends, airlines usually post their bargain fares on Wednesdays then they disappear by Saturday. I have seen some very good fares between Oakland and Maui.

As the airfare fluctuates, so do the package prices. You mention an 8:45 return to Oakland, are your dates at all flexible?

Continually compare the package pricing between the hotel and car and airfare separate pricing, you never know which will turn out best. If you have a package, often you can buy up to a better room when you get there for $10 or $20 a night. Beware that it is possible to get a really lousy room with an Expedia etc. package, although I don't think the Kaanapali Beach hotel has any really bad ones.

Do this for a month or two then when you see good pricing, jump on it and buy it. The hotel and car prices don't change much, but the airfare is all over the place and a good fare can disappear the next day. Now may be a bit early to actually buy for a March trip, but start your searching now so you will have the prices in your head. For our early September trip to the Big Island, I was freaking out all spring because the prices looked so high, then in early June I found a good package. I won the game this year because the price never went down after that, only up.

The Kaanapali Beach hotel is really neat. I would advise against getting a room that has a straight on ocean view, in the afternoon they get blasted by hot sunlight.

Aloha!
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Sep 29th, 2011, 01:00 PM
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gigib, that's a great tip on airfare!

The connecting flight at SFO airport is pretty fixed for me(only at midnight or 11am). Spending another night in SF would add extra cost. Other option would be leaving Maui early and endure long layover somewhere like LAX, SEA or somewhere before reaching OAK.

I have read quite a bit of negative reviews on KBH on TA(mainly dirty, motelish). If you have stayed at KBH previously, which building or room is good for an ocean or partial ocean view?
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Sep 29th, 2011, 02:42 PM
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KBH isn't a luxury resort, it's a little old, but we found it very comfortable and the location is great, on the best part of Kaanapali beach. It's spacious, the buildings are sort of U-shaped around a lovely lawn area, opening out to the beach. We stayed at the "bottom" part of the U, facing north to Black Rock (the rock at the end of Kaanapali beach that the Sheraton sits on). We were sort of at the back and didn't actually look at the water, but we were happy looking out over the lawns and trees. Often a room on a high floor will have a nice treetop view and lots of privacy. They have a nice little bar in the middle with nightly music and a hula show, very low-key and enjoyable.

I am often at a loss to explain those horrible TA reviews of a perfectly nice place...picky people, I suppose.
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