10 Day Hawaii Trip for Under $1,800

Last week, we enjoyed a 10 day vacation in Hawaii for under $1,800! Since our return, we still find ourselves wishing we were back on the sunny beaches of Oahu. This post will break down what we did to make the trip to the Hawaiian Islands surprisingly affordable.

According to AAA, the average cost of a DAY in Hawaii is $793 for just food and lodging. I’m happy we were able to go below $200 per day.

Ironically, this year’s trip to Hawaii cost nearly HALF as much as our trip last year! With a bit of planning ahead, we were able to make some savvy decisions and reduce the overall cost.

Airfare – $22

If you read my recent post on not recommending credit cards, you might be surprised to see we used (gasp) credit card points (ungasp) for a total of four flights. The $22.00 charge was for taxes.

If you’re thinking about getting credit cards for the sign up bonus, just make sure you avoid paying ANY interest on your cards!

We likely saved over $2,000 here as Chicago to Honolulu is going for about $800 roundtrip. I’m adding an extra $200 because we took a flight from Honolulu to Maui. $1000 x 2 people = $2,000.

Maui Lodgings – $388

AirBnb!! We love this service. I’ve used it on every non business trip the past few years and love it! The places have always been more conveniently located, less expensive, and more comfortable.

I’ve found the average AirBnb to be about 65% less expensive than staying in a hotel. That held true again for our trip as each night was $194 and the local hotels were charging closer to $550/night. I’m sure we could have found a less expensive hotel, but I’m not sure we could have beaten the killer Airbnb price or the location.

Big props to Grant from Millennial Money who helped us finalize this portion of our island hop. He went on a similar trip a few months back and had some equally helpful tips for saving while travelling.

Honolulu Lodgings – $0

We’re cheating here a bit, but I bet everyone reading has family or friends located in a location outside of their hometown. For me, the warmer locations include Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and Dallas.

If I can make my way to the location, then I know I can crash in a spare bedroom of a friend or family member.

Groceries – $247

First victory here is that we actually purchased groceries while on vacation. One of our best meals was grilled on the rooftop of our building. We enjoyed steak, potatoes and vegetables all at very affordable prices.

We also had a few trips to buy booze. Given the name of this blog, you can understand I particularly enjoy whiskey. The nice side here is the one bottle I picked up (Jefferson’s) lasted me the whole week.

Public Transit – $20

Had we used Lyft/Uber/Taxis to get around the island’, then the cost would have been well over $100. The nice part about Hawaii is that sometimes the bus gets you to where you need to go just as fast as a cab.

This was the case when we took two separate 90 minute bus rides around Maui. With one road and one lane for a good portion of the coastal route, there’s nothing we could do besides soak in the sun from the bus and enjoy our discounted fare!

Lyft/Uber – $127

This was primarily the to and back from Honolulu airport. The bus route makes about ~60 stops and we decided to shed about 45 minutes from our commute by paying $25 for the ride.

Dining Out – $972

With such massive savings elsewhere on our trip, and with our recent 90 day no spend challenge, this was something we had looked forward to for quite some time.

Hawaii is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. Granted, while we did not dine at any Michelin Rated places, we still enjoyed a lot of great meals.

We had anticipated that food would end up being our highest spend category, so we planned ahead. Thanks to that, we were constantly having a great time despite the price tags.

Activities – $6

This might seem like a no brainer, but Hawaii has tons of awesome stuff to do for free. Obviously there are world class beaches, but there are also plenty of incredible hikes with beautiful waterfalls and all that jazz.

Our $6.00 charge was for a Buddhist Temple we particularly love to go to.

Overall, we’re thrilled to have had such an awesome time on our 10 day Hawaii trip for under $1,800.

Have you used credit card points or services such as AirBnb to reduce the cost of your vacations? Have any crazy stories and tips when it comes to travelling?


13 comments… add one
  • Financial Coach Brad Jan 30, 2017, 5:39 am

    We LOVE Maui! This sounds like a great trip, with some awesome tips. I love reading about how people have traveled cheap. Experiences are worth so much more than “stuff”, so maximizing the value of those opportunities is huge!

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 30, 2017, 9:46 am

      Same here and look forward to going back someday soon!

      With two full time jobs, we know the time off from work is hard as it is, let alone the potential money drain on a huge vacation.

  • Jay Jan 30, 2017, 6:29 am

    Well done! Sounds like a great vacation. The savings on the flight alone are incredibly impressive. And glad you are able to shell-out and splurge a bit on the things you really like (such as those fancy meals!)

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 30, 2017, 9:47 am

      Exactly! Had we paid more for flights, then I’m sure the $ for food would have been significantly lower!

  • Stefan - The Millennial Budget Jan 30, 2017, 6:42 am

    Awesome Matt! Sounds like it will be a very special trip. My girlfriend and I are planning on doing something very similar to this in the summer, except for the airline miles (need to look into this more), and will be staying by relatives for a short period of time hopefully and maybe only one or two nights in a hotel. Enjoy the experience, that is what life is all about 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 30, 2017, 9:44 am

      Thanks Stefan!

      Summer offers some great rates, depenwidng on the seasonality. Many people need to travel during holidays or when their kids are off from school. If you can, try to find a less popular travel window and you’ll prolly save a bit on flights/lodging/etc!

  • ESI Money Jan 30, 2017, 8:35 am

    That’s amazing!!!

    Do you have a link to the place you stayed? Would love to check it out.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Jan 30, 2017, 8:54 am

    Ah HA! The truth is revealed about those credit card rewards points. 🙂 Congrats on scoring such a great price on a traditionally budget-unfriendly location. There are ways to make vacations work on a budget for sure.

  • Amanda @ centsiblyrich Jan 30, 2017, 9:34 am

    We are taking a big trip in 2018 when my son graduates from high school. He is pretty sure he wants to go to Hawaii, so I’ve started saving. Your trip sounds amazing for the price tag! Thanks for sharing (and I second ESI’s request – if you don’t mind sharing!).

  • Financial Slacker Jan 30, 2017, 10:33 am

    Welcome back to reality!

    We love Hawaii. It’s so easy to disconnect from the world when you’re there. Although it’s been a long time since we made the trip. Unfortunately, I mostly fly Southwest Airlines and since they don’t fly there, I would have to pay for airfare which is pretty expensive for the whole family. I like how you were able to use credit card points.

    When we travel, we also almost always stay in either AirBnB or VRBO. It’s less expensive than a hotel, you get more space, and you can cook many of your own meals.

    And I’m impressed with your food spending. Along with airfare, that’s one of the biggest challenges keeping your expenses down when you visit Hawaii.

    Great post!

  • Matt Spillar Jan 30, 2017, 1:38 pm

    Awesome job keeping costs so low! I love Airbnb, the cost/convenience can’t be beat, especially when you factor in access to a kitchen.

  • Lisa Jan 31, 2017, 5:10 pm

    I love Hawaii! We went there for our honeymoon last year and are going back this year for my friend’s wedding! If we had to do it all over again, I think we would’ve used Airbnb instead of stay at the expensive hotels the entire time.

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