As I just recently came back from vacation from beautiful Oahu, Hawaii, the idea for this blog post was born naturally. I have decided to write it in two parts because of the loads of information I am about to share as well as the amount of pictures I have selected for you to enjoy.
How do you plan your dream vacation in order to make sure that the days spend at the beach are going to be stress free? What checklist should you keep in mind when planning you trip? Just to be specific, I am going to use my recent destination as an example. All the bullet points can be easily applied to any kind of destination, so do not feel discouraged if your plan is to visit sunny Mexico, for example. To those who are pros in planning and organizing their trips, well, just enjoy the photos. I have plenty of them☺
We have to start with airfare. For those who live in Seattle, Hawaii makes a perfect vacation destination. It is close (around 5-6 hours of flight) and easy to find a direct flight. If you prefer less air time and more driving then your option is to drive to Portland, Oregon and fly to Hawaii in much shorter time from there.
When looking for tickets and planning your trip overall, consider such factors as the season and days of the week. The tourist season starts in December and booms till mid-April. It is a little cooler at that time but still sunny enough to get a perfect tan and not to live the ocean for hours. Tourists like to escape winter by spending holidays under the palms and that is something you need to be aware of. Anytime from April till December is less crowded (even though this time at the end of September, Oahu was packed with travelers) and really hot. Like really, really hot. Airfare tickets are also higher on the weekends and during holidays, so consider an option of arriving and departing the island during the workweek Expedia.com, Cheap Air Tickets, Kayak, Cheap Flights etc. will give you the best deals they have, but do not forget to check specific airlines websites, too. Sometimes you can get a better flight or seats by booking your tickets directly from carriers.
Continuing our planning with finding a perfect accommodation. Today luckily, such options are unlimited. You can definitely stay at a hotel and enjoy all the amenities that come with your stay: a pool, a gym, a restaurant (very often the hotels in Hawaii have few of them on their property), housekeeping services, room service, fresh daily beach towels, and many others. The important thing to remember about staying at a hotel is pricing. The hotels in Hawaii are not cheap. Period. I am talking about good quality hotels that are rated around 3-4 stars. These can cost you something like $250-400 a night. Do not forget to add parking or valet fee if you plan to rent a car. These fees can be %15-35 a day. Another important spending category is daily tips that you leave in your room for the housekeeping crew who take care of your room, the valet crew who park your car for you and bring it when you need it, and the hotel concierge who deals with your check-ins, check-outs, and other inquires. Separately, these fees do not look that much but when you start adding them and multiplying them on the number of days you plan to stay at the hotel, the amount becomes significant.
Another option that you have for accommodation is to use services like airbnb.com or search for a pace to stay via craigslist.com. Those can be great options if you do not care about hotel amenities and are on a tight budget. I would recommend being careful with renting a place through craigslist just because the deal is going to be only between you and the owner of that place. Nobody else can be involved in your arrangements and nobody can help you if something goes wrong (place does not look like it was described, price went up the day you arrived, and so on). Such problems arise not because of the Craigslist service itself but because of a particular host. So just be careful while discussing your stay.
I personally prefer using Airbnb (as an alternative to hotels) because of the following factors: the prices are definitely lower there, you have many options to choose from, and you can customize your search results as you wish. Free parking? No problem. 1-2 bedroom and free wifi? Sure. My must-have customizations are: free parking, entire residences (which means no shared rooms with other guests), washer and dryer (I know, you can hem and haw about who is going to do laundry on vacation. Believe me, you do want to have an option to deal with your daily towels and swimwear the fastest way possible), free internet, a kitchen (I do not cook on vacation, but the cheapest and fastest way to have a healthy breakfast in the morning is to boil some water and make oatmeal and cup of coffee. Then go strait to the beach while the sun is not burning yet rather than drive all over the place in the need of a decent breakfast), an upstairs unit (if you are not renting condos in high-rise buildings then the housing is going to be made out of wood. There is nothing pleasant about coming on vacation, looking forward to long nights with good sleep, and then be awaken every single morning at 5 am because of the upstairs neighbors who decided to hit the beach a little earlier).
Secondary requests as I see them are usually easy beach access, a nice view, and having some snorkeling equipment and beach accessories available (it can also save you some extra dollars). Do not hesitate to contact the host of the place you like and ask questions. One more helpful thing about Airbnb is that if you are not happy with the place you rented and it defers from the pictures or description you were provided with, you can file a request within the first 24 hours and the web service’s team will help you to find a proper accommodation.
My husband and I tried both of the options (hotels and Airbnb.com) over the years and both of them worked just fine. The right choice depends on your budget and personal preferences.
Car rental. Being honest, here I do not have much experience with not renting a car. Personal transportation gives you a lot of freedom, not to mention comfort. When you stay miles away from the beach I doubt you would be happy to spend 30 minutes standing at a bus stop with your arms full of beach essentials under the Hawaiian sun. Having a car means having an adventure. Just packing some snacks and water and driving across the island is something you definitely want to do at least once during you visit! Having an extra set of clothes, shoes, and to have instant shade from the sun are strong enough incentives to rent a car. This time for our vacation, we had decided to stay at the hotel right at the Waikiki beach (ok, like a 4 minute walk to the beach from the lobby of the hotel). When we booked the room, I had this crazy idea not to rent a car and just enjoy the closeness of the gorgeous beach. And… We ended up using a car every single day.
If you still want to see how it will go without wheels, make sure you familiarize yourself with the local public transportation and bus stops, and you have all the essential to spend time under the open skies handy as well as a comfortable pare of shoes and a carry-on. You are going to walk a lot. If you decided to give a car a chance, consider looking for your options online first. If you can find a car you like at reasonable price right away, that’s great. If not, you can always rent something when you arrive. Just be ready that your options can be limited to whatever is left at that moment. Using your own insurance can save you some money too so look at these option as well. Budget, Avis, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz and others usually have good options for a couple of travelers and for bigger families as well. If you have a group of four or less traveling together, do not rent a big car: it will “eat” your gas money pretty quickly and it is not always easy to drive on the Hawaiian roads and on the highways with large number of other drivers from different states and countries with different driving habits and culture.
To be continued….