How to Travel to Hawaii (or Anywhere) On a Budget
If you know us , you know that we are absolutely love to travel. Our first date was an 8 hour drive to Chicago, we are always planning our next trip (Check out our travel schedule here), and Allie actually spent 7 months living in Australia and the Philippines. Within our first year of dating we had taken trips to 13 states, driven from the East Coast (like, an island in the Atlantic) to the West Cost (Venice Beach!) and back, and were already planning our honeymoon adventure to the Greek islands and Paris.
Because of this, people are always asking us how we can travel so much without going totally broke. Since moving to Hawaii, we’ve gotten even more questions about how to travel or come visit us cheaply, without making yourself miserable in the process. The truth is it is totally possible, and not that hard either, so we wanted to write this post to share our tips and strategies for traveling cheap!
Although these tips are geared towards Hawaii, a lot of them, especially the flight tips can be useful for any vacation. We’ve used this method to book $300 round trip flights to Ireland (normally $800), $400 round trip flights to Hawaii (normally $1000+) multiple times, and have even seen (but missed out on!) $250 round trip flights to New Zealand! (?!?!?!?)
Before we dive in we just want to say that this post is not sponsored by anyone, and we don’t make anything from any of the links below (besides the Airbnb referral link, if you’re new to Airbnb you’ll get $40 credit when you sign up, and we’ll get $20 after you complete a trip.) These are all just things that we actually use and love, and that we think can help you too!
Ok so we’ll start with the biggest expense: flights! It can be pretty overwhelming to look for flights, there are so many places to look, and between the actual flight cost, baggage cost, and general travel expenses, it can be a pretty overwhelming purchase, but there a few things you can do to cut the costs and travel headaches down significantly!
The first thing you can do is head to Google Flights. If you know Allie, you know she is the queen of Google Flights. She is always finding amazing flights and setting alerts for all the places we want to go, and for everyone that wants to come visit us in Hawaii. It is super easy to use and super flexible, but there area few things you can do to make sure you are getting the best rates.
- First put in your airport and your destination airport. (OGG for Maui, HNL for Honolulu, LIH for Kauai, and KOA for Kona) Then, instead of putting in your dates, hit the little calendar icon to the left of the departure date. This will show you the cheapest round trip price for each day, and you can just navigate to around the time you are wanting to go, and find the cheapest time to fly. You can set the trip length at the bottom left of the calendar or just pick a departure date, and then view prices by each return date. After you pick some dates, you can scroll down and filter by number of stops, bags included, flight times and more. You’ll also see an insights bar that’ll show you price trends, and also tell you if there’s cheaper dates around your dates!
- Just like you can see prices for different dates, you can also see the prices for different locations! When you’re entering in your departure and destination airports you’ll see a little plus at the far right of the white box, if you hit that, you can add as many other airports as you want! This is SUPER helpful, because it is most of the time WAY cheaper to fly out of a major airport. You would have to drive, and find parking in a different city, which can sometimes make the discounted price not worth it, but when the price is sometimes half as cheap, it is definitely worth it. We’ve parked our cars at friends houses and Ubered (is that an acceptable verb now??) to the airport, or parked at free or low cost train station lots to avoid the hefty airport parking fees. In the south Nashville and Atlanta are usually your best bets. On the West Coast, we have had the best luck with Seattle, Portland, and LA (it seems like most major California cities get pretty good fares as though). We don’t have much experience flying to Hawaii from other parts of the country, but it seems like Las Vegas, Denver and Houston often get good fares!
- If you don’t see anything right away, or don’t have as much flexibility in your dates, set a flight alert! If you go down below the best departing flights section, you’ll see a button that signs you up to receive notifications from Google whenever theres a change in price. This requires you to be a little patient, but the prices are constantly changing, so waiting a few days or weeks can end up really saving you a lot of money. The hardest part is really just knowing when to go ahead and buy the flights. It’s definitely a mind game trying to figure out if it’s the best price or if you should just wait. Our general rule when flying to Hawaii from the South, is anything under $600 is a pretty good deal, and under $500 is a holy-crap-buy-it-now kind’ve deal. On The West Coast around $300 and under are definitely buy it now territory.
- This one is really important. Before you buy anything DOUBLE CHECK YOUR FLIGHT TIMES. Sometimes cheap flights come with a cost, and that is overnight/really late arriving flights and really long layovers. If the flights are significantly cheaper, this can definitely be worth it, but just make sure you know what you’re getting into before you book. If you do end up booking a flight with a long layover, you might even be able to go explore the city a little bit, just make sure you’re back in time to go back through security! Either way you’re looking at least a 5+ hour travel day, 10 if you aren’t coming from the West Coast and airports are boring and the food is overpriced, so make sure to pack yourself plenty of snacks and things to do.
- Pack smart and light! Checking a bunch of bags can really negate all the money you saved on your cheap flight, but trying to shove everything you need into your carry-ons can be kind’ve miserable, especially if you are having to drag them everywhere with you during a layover. Most flights allow one personal item (supposed to be a purse or small backpack, but we’ve made some pretty big backpacks work) and a carry on (a larger backpack/duffel or a small roller) for free. A lot of the times, especially on shorter trips, we will just pack light and make these work, but if we’re going for a longer time and are trying to shove everything we own into a duffel bag thats definitely gonna end up being over the weight/size limits (normally around 20 pounds and 22x15x9 inches), sometimes its just better to pay the $25 each way to check a bag. Plus then you don’t have to worry about lugging it around with you in the airport on a long layover. We also HIGHLY recommend roller bags. We’ve done the cool, swaggy backpack or duffle only thing for a long time now, and although rollers don’t necessarily look the coolest, it is way easier to roll your stuff around the airport then lug an overstuffed backpack on each shoulder!
- Our last flight tip is to get a Travel Credit Card! Most of the good ones have annual fees, but if you use it right, you can make up for the fee and more! A lot of the cards not only allow you to earn points that you can put towards free flights, bit also can include airline credits, free checked bags, free travel insurance, and other awesome bonuses! We use the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, but have heard the Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve Cards are awesome too! There is a whole crazy world of travel card credit geniuses on the internet, just google best travel credit cards or card churning (not sure who came up with the word churning, but it is a reddit forum where they have pretty much mastered travel cards!)
All of this ultimately comes down to being patient and flexible in your dates, how you travel and where to fly from. We know this might not seem possible for everyone, you might have specific dates off for work, or not have any friends in the closest city with a major airport, but we’ve seen flights to Hawaii where changing the date by just one or two dates, or flying out of a city thats just 2 hours away, can take a flight from $1000 to $300. When you’re flying with multiple people that definitely adds up, and is worth taking those 2 more vacation days, or sending an awkward message to that friend of a friend with a nice spacious driveway near the city!
WHEW! That was a lot of information about flying! It is probably the area where you can cut the most costs, but there are other ways too!
- Stay in an Airbnb! Even though Airbnbs usually end up costing around the same as hotels, they have the huge benefit of kitchens! Going out to eat is pretty expensive in Hawaii, and although we definitely recommend hitting up some of the awesome restaurants we have (hit us up for Maui recommendations!), packing lunches, cooking a few meals yourself, and just being smart with your meal planning can end up saving a ton of money! Another bonus is that Airbnbs will usually be stocked with a cooler, and all the basic spices and oils you need to cook, so you won’t have to worry about those. You might lose some of the luxury of the hotels, but its nice to have your own space in an Airbnb!
- Take advantage of all the free things to do on the Islands. There are SO MANY insane beaches, beautiful hikes, waterfalls and just generally awesome and free things to do and see. Seriously you could go explore a different beach and hike every day and never get tired of it! And another airbnb bonus is that they usually come with beach chairs, floats, snorkel masks and body boards! (Just make sure to check the description to make sure, or ask the hosts!) If you end up staying at a hotel instead, one benefit is they might offer free shuttles to some of the closer spots!
- Rent a car off site of the airport! You’ll need to search a little to find, but there are many car rental companies that are significantly cheaper than what the airport rates are! (Also get gas at Costco! It is straight up a dollar cheaper than anywhere else!) On Oahu you might be able to get around by Ubering everywhere (which is how we normally travel), but on the other islands, Ubers are a little bit more scarce (and expensive!) and things are pretty spread out, so its normally worth it to just go for the rental car.
- Travel with friends! Every person you bring with you helps bring your costs down, and can make traveling a lot more fun! We are always trying to convince people to go on crazy trips with us, or come visit us in groups!
These tips definitely take a little more planning then normal, and may be a little less comfortable then going out to eat every night and staying at a luxury resort. But if you’re like us, you’re more excited about the adventure exploring new places (and saving all that money!),then you are worried about how big the hotel pool is! So if you do the work, and are ready for adventure, it is definitely possible to travel to Hawaii, and all over the world for way cheaper than you expect. And you can use all that money you saved to book an awesome couples shoot or elopement with us! Let us know in the comments if these were helpful, or if you have any other travel tips we should know about!!
Extra Tip: If you’re wanting to travel more, go check out Scott’s Cheap Flights! We’ve been subscribers for years and he is constantly sending out unreal flight deals to places all over the world! It takes so much of the work of traveling and is free! (There is also a premium membership for $40 a year, where he sends you around 3-4 flight deals a day, on the free you normally get around 1 a day) Again, this isn’t sponsored we just love everything they do and we’ve learned so much about finding cheap flights just from being subscribers!