Hawaii’s on My Mind…

Hawaii, oh Hawaii. How we miss thee… It’s become about a monthly question from my 5 and 7 year old about when we are going back to Hawaii… Yes, kids, it’s been on my mind a lot too. How could it not be when friends are lounging by the pool at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai as we speak? The Hyatt’s pools and the Aulani resort in Oahu (a Disney Vacation Club property) are two of the most memorable hotel experiences my kids have had. Add in awesome weather, amazing scenery, and a very chill vibe and you get a vacation for the ages… And we’ve vacationed a lot.

The salt water lagoon with sand beach at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Perfect for young kids.

The question becomes when are we ever going to find time to go back and how are we going to get there when fare sales to Hawaii are basically non-existent. I have been contemplating these questions for months now…

The answer to the first is pretty simple but we’re still struggling… We have to go over some part of the kids school vacation. We won’t go for less than 8 nights and taking the kids out of school for that long is a non-starter for us. We have made exceptions for vacations to other countries that are likely once in a lifetime experiences for us, but to go to Hawaii for what will be their third visit doesn’t warrant that much time off from school. Alas, our current and upcoming winter schedules are full so we may have to wait until 2019. The horror… Our plans do tend to change a bit so just maybe in 2018?

The answer to the second question is a bit easier, surprisingly, but it does involve a deep dive into the best way to get there these days. You see, back in the day, we were able to tag on a trip to Hawaii to another trip because award rules were more lax with American and United Airlines. Both have since discontinued their flexible stopover policies so we’re stuck with a good ole traditional award search from Boston to Kauai/Oahu and back.

The infamous water play structure at Aulani…

So let’s see what the airlines are requiring for miles to Hawaii these days for Right Coasters in coach…

  • United: 22,500 miles each way
  • American: 22,500 miles each way
  • Avianca: 22,500 miles each way
  • Delta Airlines: 22,500 miles each way
  • Korean Air: 12,500 miles each way (requires a roundtrip booking)
  • Alaska Airlines: as low as 20,000 miles each way

Whoa! Did you see that? Korean Airlines charges only 12,500 miles each way to Hawaii? I didn’t know that Korean Airlines flew from Boston to Hawaii. Right. They don’t. But they partner with Delta who does. So, we could fly on the same Delta flights from Boston to Atlanta to LAX to Kauai (for example) for 10,000 fewer miles than Delta charges, each way? Yes, please. And the icing on the cake? You can get a stopover and an option jaw. So, if we wanted to break up the trip, we likely would fly to LA, maybe spend a day, maybe just a night and then would fly onto Kauai. On the return we’d fly from Honolulu back to Boston using Honolulu instead of Lihue as our departure airport (an open jaw). We would have to connect ourselves from Lihue to Honolulu on our own, but that cost is fairly minimal.

So, how does one get Korean Air miles? Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer directly to Korean Air Skypass accounts as do SPG points. And do you have a plethora of Marriott Rewards lying around, you could transfer those to Skypass via a Flight and Hotel Package. If you have questions on the best ways to get these points, just ask and I’m happy to point you to the best credit card offers available.

This award such a steal that I would not be surprised if Korean Air raised the required miles at some point down the road. Which makes me want to take advantage of it soon… But are the other airlines really over-charging for a trip to Hawaii for someone from Boston? I would argue no. Everything is relative but those same airlines generally want 30,000 miles to Europe and a trip to Hawaii is twice that distance for us. So, by comparison, it still isn’t a horrible value if we went with another program. (On a side note, I reiterate more now than ever, right now is a terrible time to use miles to Europe. Sales are so plentiful and a roundtrip flight to Europe for under $400 is becoming fairly common; follow Our Frugal Life on FB and you’ll see that it makes no sense to use miles).

Of course flying in business class is a priority for us on long distance travel and would be great to Hawaii, but it’s a whole other ball game in terms of the miles required and a discussion for another time. For us, there are no aspirational business class products that fly to Hawaii so it’s not worth the mileage premium. Breaking up the trip with a stop on the west coast almost achieves the same goal and makes the slog so much easier…

Our one business class trip to Hawaii…

I’ve already mentioned where we’ll stay when we go… The Grand Hyatt in Kauai is our favorite basically because Kauai is our favorite island and we love the location of the Hyatt on the island. We’ve certainly stayed at much nicer hotels, but the GH Kauai remains a fave for the pools, location, and the fact that it’s a Hyatt so we’re able to use points. We likely will pursue another two free nights via the Hyatt credit card and combine that with a cash and points booking. At 12,500 Gold Passport points plus $150 per night it’s not cheap, but it’s much better than the $500+ rate per night. And we certainly aren’t swimming in Gold Passport points so 25,000 per night is too rich for our blood.

The picturesque Grand Hyatt Kauai

While we love Kauai and all that it offers, my kids fell in love with Aulani. Oahu on the other hand… not our favorite. A metropolis on an exotic island is still a metropolis… But Aulani is great. Tons of fun for kids of all ages. And the water activities there were unforgettable. So, we’d likely return on DVC points for two or three nights and probably not leave the resort other than to go to dinner down the road.

KA WAA at Aulani

I have mentioned it in the past but we’re Disney Vacation Club owners. We tend to go to Disney World every few years and only own enough points to do so that frequently. However, we tend to need more than we actually have all the time (don’t ask me how it happens… maybe because we sometimes go more than once in a two year span?). And when we’re short, we rent them. For an unplanned trip to Aulani, we’d likely need to rent. Why not just book the hotel with cash you ask? Let’s take a look…

A two night stay in February of this year would cost us about $1171 by booking directly with Disney. That’s $585 per night. Pricey. But if we rent points, that cost comes down to about $250 per night. Still pricey but given that the entertainment is also part of the experience, it’s pretty reasonable, especially when compared to other hotels nearby.

I’ve shared my thoughts on renting points before so I won’t go into detail here as nothing has really changed but it’s definitely something to consider if you’d like to stay at Disney resorts in Florida, Hilton Head, or Hawaii. We’ve saved a ton of money this way. And you probably know by now, Disney does it right… These are high end hotels and ones that my kids talk about incessantly.

So I think I may have talked myself into a trip to Hawaii. This all sounds so lovely… Now if I can only find the time…

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