Many beachfront hotels in Hawaii can cost a pretty penny, so booking a rental home or condo through FlipKey or HomeAway can be a great option. As a bonus, you won’t be stuck with daily parking or resort fees with a rental property. Amber Myers Mamian, mother of five and blogger at Global Munchkins, likes vacation rentals but notes that some hotels, like Disney’s Aulani, also have villas with full kitchens, washers and dryers. This way you can enjoy the spaciousness of a villa, as well as the amenities of a hotel, like a pool and fitness center.
Be smart about rental cars.
Many consider a rental car to be the easiest way to get around the islands, though you may not need one if you’re staying in a walkable city, like Waikiki or Honolulu. Sarah Pittard of Solo Mom Takes Flight likes Discount Hawaii Rental Car, which she believes has the very best rates. Another money-saving option is AutoSlash, which searches for the best rates and applies any coupons they find, then re-books your rental car if a better rate is found after you make a reservation.
Drive the extra mile for groceries.
If you’re staying in a rental home or condo in a tourist area, make time to drive a few miles out of the way before picking up groceries. Not only will you find much better prices and selection, but you’ll also gain access to warehouse clubs and farmers markets. Dana Zucker, a mother of twins and blogger at MomsGoodEats, says she likes to "shop for fish right off the boats and buy produce from local organic farms." It’s a real cost saving to take advantage of budget-friendly local meats and produce when in Hawaii, especially if you have a kitchen.
Stay on cheaper islands.
It costs more for groceries, gas and take-out meals on some islands, but Karilyn Owen, mother of one and blogger at No Back Home, highly recommends the Big Island of Hawaii. She notes that you’ll find a good selection of value hotels and condo rentals on the Big Island that can bring the overall cost of a Hawaiian vacation way down. Another idea is to pitch a tent or rent a cabin at one of the campgrounds at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Arrange activities with a local concierge.
There are loads of vendors and tour operators all across the Hawaiian Islands who are eager to set up a hiking tour or a snorkeling trip for tourists, but not all are created equal. Zucker suggests working with a local concierge who can do everything from rent kayaks for the week to arrange big ticket excursions, like a private island tour. Even better, thanks to the concierge’s contacts, you can often save big money and know you’re getting the most value for your dollar.
Seek out free activities.
The Hawaiian Islands are replete with free activities, like hiking in national parks, splashing around on gorgeous beaches and taking in delightfully colorful sunsets at the end of a fun day. Every island has plenty of free and low-cost activities too, like visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor on Oahu and gallery-hopping every Friday night in Hanapepe Town on Kauai. However, you may find you’re so busy taking in the beauty of the waterfalls, lush greenery and tropical landscape to do much else anyway while on the Hawaiian Islands.
Hunt down coupons and discount cards.
Groupon and LivingSocial may not be what they once were, but they are still great places to go for deep discounts on catamaran sails, zip line tours and dolphin swims while in Hawaii. Another idea is to pick up a multi-attraction pass, like the Go Oahu Card, which can save you more than 50 percent versus paying at the gate when you arrive at an attraction. Just do the math and make sure you’ll be able to visit enough attractions to ensure the pass actually saves you money.
Be smart and strategic about airfare.
Now that Southwest Airlines has announced they’ll be flying to Hawaii in the new year, it may not be quite as tough to find a reasonable fare. You’ll still want to use tried and true tactics for nabbing low fares, like being flexible with travel days, setting up flight alerts and being smart about extra fees, but now you may want to get to know the ins and outs of Southwest’s rewards program. A great resource is Lyn Mettler’s free e-book, The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning Your Southwest Companion Pass.