Others Paid $5000 for a Hawaiian Vacation, Shara Paid $320

This is a guest post by Shara. She and her husband have been followers of our blog since 2011 and in this post she tells us about how she got started and how they took an epic trip to Hawaii.  If you’d like to write a guest post for WorldWanderlusting, please email your 800-1500 word post and some photos to worldwanderlusting@gmail.com.  We’ll send you a $25 giftcard for taking the time to share.

The Beginnings: 

free travel

Shara and her family on their first trip with points to Florida

I started collecting miles and points at the end of 2011.  I kept getting flyers in the mail from Southwest Airlines enticing me to sign up for their credit cards offering two free flights.  I tossed them aside thinking it was one of those things that was too good to be true.

A few weeks after receiving my first mailer I somehow stumbled across your blog.  (I really wish I could remember how I found you guys in the first place!)  There was a post about the Southwest credit card, and I thought, “If they’re getting these free miles, I should be too!”  I signed us up for our first cards and we’ve never looked back since!  I always credit you guys for helping me believe in the beginning that free travel really wasn’t too good to be true!  We’ve since taken 14 round trip flights using Southwest points and we still have plenty to spare.

The Backstory: 

My husband and I have three children and we LOVE to travel with them, but sometimes I like to shed my “Mom” label (because I am never truly on vacation when I have my kids with me) and venture out to new places.  First up on our list was Costa Rica.  After reading your “Eight Great Days in Costa Rica” post my husband said, “Let’s do that!” We were still new to the miles and points game, so we mostly saved money on that trip by booking super cheap airfare and staying in really inexpensive hotels.  It was an amazing and adventurous trip.  However, seeing as much of Costa Rica as possible in just over a week and staying in questionable accommodations, was anything but relaxing and luxurious.

adventure travel

Rappelling in Costa Rica

The Planning: 

My husband and I had never been to Hawaii, so we determined with the miles and points we had it would make the perfect destination to fulfill our desire for a relaxing yet semi-adventurous trip.   We determined we would stay part of the time on Oahu and the other part on Maui.  Now the fun work began of figuring out which points to use and how to get the most out of them.

Airfare:

We used Delta SkyMiles for two roundtrip coach tickets to Honolulu. (Note: the amount of SkyMiles you need to go to Hawaii has now increased from what we spent.)  We got these points from a Delta 50,000 credit card targeted offer and existing points my husband had.  Since Delta partners with Alaska Airlines, I found the most availability using Alaska Airlines flights from Boise.  Frankly, I found no availability using Delta SkyMiles on actual Delta flights, go figure.  I booked the Alaska flights, even though we live much closer to Salt Lake City and preferred flights from there.  I figured free was free and if we needed to drive four hours instead of one we would be happy to do it.  I booked the flights about six months in advance.

A few months after booking I received notice that my flight times had changed and the new flight times were not as good.  I called Delta to see what I could do, and the agent told me to call back when the flight got closer.  I didn’t like this answer, but accepted it as the only thing I could do. About a month later the flights got changed again.  I called again and was told to wait until the flight got closer to do anything.  I didn’t want to wait; I was trying to make car rental and inter-island flight plans.  I told the agent I wanted to take care of it that day.  She was nice and asked me what I wanted to do.  In the end they switched us to direct flights between Salt Lake City and Honolulu. The new flights were on Delta so we got free luggage too (due to having the Delta credit card).  I was thrilled!  No more driving to Boise and direct flights to boot!

We also used American Airlines miles (which we earned during our Costa Rica trip) to fly the two of us one way from Honolulu to Maui.  We used United miles to fly both of us back to Honolulu for the flight home.

Hotels: 

We stayed 3 nights on the North Shore of Oahu in a VRBO rental.  We shared the cost with my brother-in-law and sister-in law who decided last minute to join us for a portion of the trip. This turned out to be great because I think if we had spent all our time in Honolulu/Waikiki we would not have liked Oahu as much.

The North Shore was very quiet and beautiful and it was nice to experience it without having to drive from the south every day.  The North Shore doesn’t have any points-accepting hotels yet, but the rumor when we were there was that Marriott was building a new hotel in Laie. Hopefully in the future that will be a good points option.

free trip to hawaii

Shara and Mike on the beach in Hawaii

After the first three nights we went to Waikiki.  We spent Hyatt points to stay at the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach for two nights.  It was a great hotel and we were upgraded to a full ocean-view room. We enjoyed our time on Oahu and did things like snorkeled at Hanauma Bay, grilled hamburgers on the beach, enjoyed the sun, and went to Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center.

We left Oahu and flew to Maui.  We stayed four glorious nights in the Andaz Maui at Wailea hotel.  My husband and I each signed up for the Hyatt credit card that offers two free nights at any Hyatt and we combined them for our stay here. This hotel cost over $600/night for a non-view room!  We were upgraded here to an ocean-view room.  We loved being able to lie on our bed and watch whales breaching out our window.  We also took advantage of the free amenities like an outrigger canoe trip and a full photo session with a professional photographer from the on-location Pacific Dream Photography.  We were also able to snorkel from the beach here.  On Maui we drove the Road to Hana, went to a magic show in Lahaina and relaxed as much as possible.

Hawaii Waterfall

Mike at a waterfall on the Road to Hana

Summary

It was a great trip that was almost free!  We only paid about $120 for car rentals and gas.  Of course we also paid for activities and food, but that was easier to swallow considering the expensive stuff was already paid for with points!  I priced out the exact trip paying the going cash rate and it added up to almost $5,000.

Flights Cost Source of Miles/Points
SLC to HNL roundtrip (2 tickets) 80,000 Delta SkyMiles Delta SkyMiles credit card offer and existing points from previous trips.
HNL to OGG one-way (2 tickets) 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Earned during trip to Costa Rica
OGG to HNL one way (2 tickets) 10,000 United MileagePlus Miles United credit card

 

Hotels Cost Source of Miles/Points
3 Nights North Shore Oahu $200
2 Nights Waikiki Beach 24,000 Hyatt points Transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
4 Nights Wailea, Maui 4 Hyatt Reward Nights Hyatt credit card

 

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2 Responses to Others Paid $5000 for a Hawaiian Vacation, Shara Paid $320

  1. Amanda says:

    Shara-

    It was fun to see a familiar face! My husband and I just got back from Maui 2 weeks ago, and we stayed at the Andaz as well! I love this hobby!

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