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Thread 1: Planning for our first Hawaii trip

bbodb1

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Background for this thread: 
Like a good number of travelers, Hawaii has been on our bucket list for quite some time. Ever since we started traveling this country using our timeshare resources, we knew that we had to make a trip to Hawaii at some point in our travels. That time is about to come to reality.

My goal in writing this thread is to share some of the experience we’ve been through to date planning wise for this trip. This is my version of what I’ve learned along the way. So much knowledge has been available here on TUG - but interestingly enough, there were times when the amount of information bordered on (and perhaps exceeded) overload.

In sharing what I’ve learned to date, I hope I can repay (in some small way) those individuals who provided me this information by paying it forward to the next person(s) who start down this same path of taking their first trip to Hawaii. If nothing else, I hope to consolidate a good amount of information in each of these threads I plan to start.

This is thread 1: Planning for our first Hawaii trip. I don’t know how many threads will follow this one, but I will try to name them consistently.

Here goes!

Planning for the Hawaii trip: what I’ve learned:
  • The number of points required for a Hawaii stay takes some planning a year (or two) prior to actually taking the trip.
  • When you haven’t been to Hawaii, each island looks equally attractive.
  • I booked the resort first (with the airline and schedule somewhat in mind), then secured the flight reservations.
  • The value of frequent flier miles is not what it seemed to be (on Southwest Airlines anyway).
  • Once a bug was identified and corrected, AutoSlash has helped me save money on a car rental.
  • As a result of some past experience and a corporate relationship between my wife’s employer and Hertz, I prefer Hertz car rental.
  • I purchased a Costco membership in order to possibly secure lower car rental rates and to take advantage of lower fuel and grocery prices while in Hawaii.
Now, here is some details on each of those sections:
  • The number of points required for a Hawaii stay takes some planning.
If you are just beginning your planning for a Hawaiian vacation and your previous timeshare travel history has not included high point destinations, you will be surprised the amount of points it will take for a stay of reasonable length in Hawaii.

Stated in other words, we knew if we were going to Hawaii this was NOT going to be a one week stay (as it turned out, closer to 2 weeks). I knew I needed to have around 500K points available if I was going to make this trip make sense. While we always want to extract the maximum value from every vacation we take, the cost of getting to Hawaii alone should certainly force you to do a mental calculus with respect to the trip and determine if the cost to fly is worth the number of days you plan to stay.

For us, when it came to a Hawaiian vacation, something approaching 2 weeks was our calculated vacation length. Of course, YEMV!
  • When you haven’t been to Hawaii, each island looks equally attractive.
Many suggestions pointed to websites, forums, books and other resources to help determine the ideal island for your first visit. So many in fact that I ended up at a point of analysis/paralysis with so much data to work though. You may quickly find yourself at a similar point.
Since all of the islands have their individual charms, I decided that any island would be fine for a first visit. So instead of picking the island first, I decided to see what was available for a specific date range we wanted to travel.

I should note that I started this process in January with a travel date range of late May / early June. Since I started this search so late, my options were somewhat (but not too) limited.

Since I knew this vacation would be utilizing Wyndham points, I took a look at the Wyndham resorts in Hawaii on the TUG Resort Reviews, then sorted them by their ratings in descending order. Wyndham Shearwater / Pahio (70), Wyndham Royal Sea Cliff (34), Wyndham Kona Hawaiian (91) and Wyndham Pahio at Ka’Eo Kai (90) were (at the time) the four highest rated Wyndham properties in Hawaii (the numbers in parenthesis represent the number of reviews available at the time). If one looks hard enough, it isn’t too hard to find something bad about any resort but since all of these resorts were rated fairly high at the time (8.45/10 or better), I would have been happy with any of these properties.

As it turned out, this really simplified the selection process for our trip since Royal Sea Cliff was the only Wyndham property with availability at the time we wanted to travel AND the minimum desired unit size (2 BR or larger).

I am not suggesting this process is the best way for determining where your first visit to Hawaii will be best, but when all islands are new to you, it may be the easiest method to employ.

I booked the resort first (with the airline and schedule somewhat in mind), then secured the flight reservations.

For the most part, this was fairly easy EXCEPT for the fact I wanted to use Southwest Airlines for this trip. We had (what we thought anyway) was a pretty hefty miles balance (about 55K miles - more on that in a bit) but in making the flight reservations, I discovered I had to make two flight reservations each way for each traveler. We will be flying into Oakland (hopefully arriving around 11 a.m.), then boarding a flight to Kona at 6:30 p.m.). So we need to hope for no delays on the first flight! Fortunately, we leave from Little Rock and that airport has a pretty good track record of staying on time.

Once I had the flight reservations, I realized I would need a hotel in Kona for one night as we usually travel one day in advance of our resort reservations just in case we hit some sort of travel snafu. However, after looking at the price for hotel rooms in Kona, I called Wyndham customer service and asked if they could add one day to the front end of our reservation (we still had more than enough points to add a day) and the representative took care of this on the phone while I waited. This was a nice touch by Wyndham because I initially thought I would have to cancel my resort reservation then rebook it after the points were refunded to my account simply to add one weekday to the front end of my reservation. Wyndham customer service was able to do this with one phone call so we no longer need a hotel room going to Hawaii. Coming back, we will need to stay one day in Oakland.

Lesson learned: don’t be reluctant to call Wyndham customer service - not every problem is best solved on their website!
  • The value of frequent flier miles is not what it seemed to be (on Southwest Airlines anyway).
With 55K Southwest Airline miles, I initially thought I would come a lot closer to offsetting the airfare for two people to Hawaii than I eventually did. The final bill for airfare was a bit over $1,100 (two travelers, round trip) but given what I have paid for travel to other destinations, this ended up being not too much more than we would spend for a vacation flight so I ended up booking this trip using Southwest.

I had dreams of trying to find business or first class tickets at something approaching a reasonable price, but that dream quickly went poof!

Lesson (to be) learned: I am going to have to find better ways of accumulating frequent flyer miles. The challenge will be the fact we just don’t spend that much that can be put on credit cards each month. This experience simply demands I reexamine the credit cards we hold and see if our credit card spending can earn better rewards elsewhere (in other programs).
  • Once a bug was identified and corrected, AutoSlash has helped me save money on a car rental.
While this actually occurred a few months ago, I wanted to note this here in case your experience was similar to mine. When I tried AutoSlash previously, I never saw any email from them. Part of me just dismissed this thinking I must have had the lowest rate possible but after posting about this experience elsewhere on TUG, an AutoSlash representative interacted with me and we eventually determined there was some sort of incoming block on the email address I was using. So that I could see these emails quickly, I was using my work email address (I’ve used my work address for other outside communication). But my place of work is using the free services of Google in every way possible and apparently some setting, somewhere in my work place’s set up was blocking incoming email from AutoSlash. AutoSlash emails were NOT showing up in the junk mail or SPAM filters - they were somehow being blocked.

Lesson learned: AutoSlash is DEFINITELY a service you should use as part of your effort to get the lowest rate possible on auto rentals. If you sign up with AutoSlash and DO NOT receive any email from them, something is likely blocking your email address from receiving emails from AutoSlash (and may be out of your control). If this happens to you, try setting up an account on Gmail, Yahoo, or other similar mail service and use that to communicate with AutoSlash.
  • As a result of some past experience and a corporate relationship between my wife’s employer and Hertz, I prefer Hertz car rental.
Many of the better deals AutoSlash has found for us to date are with other auto rental companies, but the number of horror stories I read about auto rental companies over selling their inventory in Hawaii has left me a bit gun shy about using anyone but Hertz for this trip. The last thing I want to have happen is arrive in Hawaii around 9 pm only to find my car rental reservation is not available due to overselling. I know this will end up costing a bit more for the rental, but AutoSlash has already found me lower prices within the Hertz system.

I purchased a Costco membership in order to possibly secure lower car rental rates and to take advantage of lower fuel and grocery prices while in Hawaii.

Somewhere, I think Dave is smiling but if ever we were going to give Costco a try, this seems like the time to start. I did try looking for a lower car rental rate with Costco, but their rentals apparently do not include Hertz so I won’t get much of a benefit from that perspective. However, since we will be on the big island for almost two weeks, I think we will definitely take advantage of Costco for food and fuel if nothing else. Also, as we take trips to other areas of the country (where Costco may be), we can take advantage of that resource when available. I’ll also be adding Costco to my list of sources to check for future travel pricing. I cannot say for sure if we will get $60 worth of value from our membership, but it will be fun to see where we can derive benefit from a Costco membership with no physical Costco location within 3 hours of our house.
 

flindberg

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I cannot say for sure if we will get $60 worth of value from our membership, but it will be fun to see where we can derive benefit from a Costco membership with no physical Costco location within 3 hours of our house.
I wouldn't be surprised if you make up that $60 on your inbound "stock-up for the week" shopping trip at an Island Costco. Especially if you throw in a boogie board, sunscreen, hat or some new slipaahs.
 

WalnutBaron

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Congratulations on booking your first visit to Paradise. There's a reason so many of us love Hawaii. One thing you'll immediately notice when you get off the plane is that Hawaii even smells beautiful, with wonderful fresh air and the scent of tuberose and ginger leis. You'll have a wonderful time, no matter the weather, though I do hope for your sake that you get lots of sun. And don't worry about the rain: Hawaii rain typically comes in spurts in the form of light showers followed by more rainbows than almost any other place on earth.

If you have any questions or need travel tips, just PM me. We've had the good fortune to have visited the 50th state 17 times, including a wonderful 10-day trip just last month.

Aloha!
 

Luanne

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Just a note on the SW points. I booked a round trip for my older dd to Maui for this March. Since I originally booked her flight I have been able to go in at least a couple of times when there was some kind of sale and get points back. So keep checking those fares.
 

DaveNV

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You've done well with your planning. I hope you have a fine trip, and enjoy yourself to the fullest.

A few comments:

I don't know where you're starting from, but Southwest may not have been your best choice of airline for this. That seven hour layover in Oakland seems really long to me. If you paid $1100 for airfare, I wonder if you could have booked something shorter for similar money? Or used Southwest points to get to a west coast airport, then booked a sooner flight on another carrier?

I can't make a recommendation for the best credit card to use for air miles, but you may want to consider a card that pays cash rewards instead of miles. I also don't spend enough on credit cards or fly often enough to justify a card only for that. I know others here are greatly experienced in juggling cards and rewards, so perhaps someone will chime in with a recommendation. Lately I've been using a combination of the Alaska Airlines card from Bank of America, (the annual Companion Fare for ~$120 is hard to beat, and there are other perks), and the Citi Visa from Costco, which pays back in cash in varying rates for all purchases, not just at Costco. I don't run balances on the cards, so the interest rates aren't an issue.

Yes, Costco Travel doesn't use Hertz. In my experience, the best car rental rates in Hawaii are with Budget or Alamo. I've been to Hawaii a whole bunch, and I've never had them not have my rental available when I arrived. But then, I've also never arrived at 9:00PM. I'm also seeing car rental rates in Hawaii being higher this year than in recent years, so I'm not sure who does/will have the best rates for your dates.

Your Costco membership will absolutely pay for itself on this trip, in two ways: If you shop at Costco for your gas purchases by getting gas at the Costco Gas station when needed, including the day you turn in the rental, you will save more than $60 quite easily. Costco gas prices are the cheapest on the island, by quite a lot. The Big Island is definitely big, and you will need to buy more gas, if you do any amount of driving. Costco is not far from the Kona airport, so is very convenient either coming or going.

The other Costco savings that will pay for your membership is your load-up of supplies. The prices on meat and alcohol alone will easily save you more than $60 for a two-week vacation. Eating one fancy meal in, rather than pay restaurant prices, will save you that $60, easily. WalMart and Safeway in Kona also have good stores for "grab and go" things, (and are both open 24 hours, if I recall correctly), but Costco is definitely the best for any kind of stocking up you need to do. The Costco in Kona is the only one on the island.

Keep in mind, if you get back home and decide you aren't using the Costco membership enough to justify the cost, you can cancel it at any time during your membership year, and receive a full refund of your $60. So you have nothing to lose.

Remember, it's not always about scrimping to save every dollar. Hawaii is a wonderful place to visit, but you have to get out and DO things. Don't lessen your experience by balking at the cost of some things that interest you. Hawaii is about the inclusive experience, not about how cheaply you can do it.

I have a friend who absolutely hated it, but when I asked about the things they did, it turns out she and her husband didn't do anything. They ate baloney sandwiches and sat in the room all day. No local food or activities. They didn't get out and see anything, and just complained about how hot and crowded it was. I just shook my head in disbelief. Why go all that way and act like you were sitting at home? I'm still amazed at her attitude about the place. I lived there for five years, and have visited dozens of times since. I can't ever get enough of Hawaii, and in fact, we're going back this Summer to spend three weeks on three islands. The woman I mentioned is horrified that I'll be so bored. She actually said, "Why don't you go someplace nice?" LOL! :D

Have a great trip, and be sure to report back on how things go for you.

Dave
 
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Luanne

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Another note on Costco. We already have a membership, so decided whether or not to get one just for a trip to Hawaii isn't an issue for us. We don't stock up on food at Costco. We found the portions were just too large, even when there are four of us. But what we have been stopping to get on our way in is sunscreen. It's much cheaper than buying it in the stores, and much easier than packing a bunch to bring with us.
 

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I am sure your planning is real good. But please don't overdo it. Don't spend 1000 hours thinking about the 100 waking hours you are going to have the ground. Dial in your best trip, then arrive and relax. Do not continue to plan and second guess and over adjust when you are here. Your time is short. Just relax and enjoy your stay. Let God do the rest.
 

brianfox

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Regarding using airline miles to get to Hawaii, there are MANY better ways than SWA (unless you are able to use a Companion Pass).

The Points Guy is a great source of info. Here is an article specifically talking about using points to get to Hawaii

If traveling from the west coast, the current leader is 26K miles for a round trip coach seat.
The method is quite roundabout, which speaks to the number of ways one can game the system.
You get that rate by booking the flight on British Airways (using their points, called Avios), using their partner airline (American).
Booking the exact same seat on American itself would require 45K points!
But because you are using British Airways points, you get to use British Airways rules.
BA point redemption is distance based, and LAX-Hawaii happens to fall into a sweet distance tier.
American has loads of seat availability all throughout the year for this route. If you see award seats available for 22.5K miles one way on the American website, then that would be a seat you could immediately book on BA for 13K Avios.
It is completely counter intuitive when you think about it: Fly to Hawaii on American Airlines by booking the flight on British Airways (which does not fly to Hawaii)...
But this is how you game the system.

To get those Avios points, you don't need a British Airways credit card. You can acquire Chase Ultimate Rewards points or AMEX Member Rewards points - both of which transfer to Avios at a 1:1 exchange rate. AMEX has at least one bonus per year where you get an extra 30%-40% points when you transfer.

The best thing about earning Chase and AMEX points is that you are not tied to a specific airline, which may devalue their points at any time. (British Airways just devalued their points a month ago. The same LAX-Hawaii trip used to be 25K points round trip instead of the current 26K.) Instead you have a variety of airlines to choose from. You can transfer the points when you want to - once you know the seat you are looking for is definitely available.

And by picking the right AMEX and Chase cards and spending habits, you can easily earn 2+ points per dollar (on average) on all purchases.
5 points per dollar spent on rotating categories (gasoline, groceries, Amazon, etc) (Chase Freedom)
4 points per dollar spent at grocery stores or restaurants or fast food (AMEX Gold)
3 points per dollar spent on anything travel related (maintenance fees, rental cars, Uber/taxi, cruise, train, hotel, parking, baggage fees, airfare, Wifi) (Chase Sapphire Reserve)
1.5 points per dollar spent on everything else (Chase Freedom Unlimited)

So assuming you did everything perfectly, a round trip could cost you:
26,000 Avios = 18,600 AMEX points (with 40% bonus) = $9,300 in credit card spending (assuming you are earning only 2 points per dollar on average).
If that RT flight were to have cost $500, then you are effectively getting about 5.4 cents in travel back on every dollar you spend. Not bad at all.

If you only were using a SWA credit card to earn points, which are worth about 1.5 cents apiece and are earned 1 per dollar spent, that $500 flight would cost about 34,000 points, or about $34,000 in Southwest credit card spending. Not good at all. Even a Companion Pass only brings the spend to $17,000.

But because you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest, 34,000 Chase points would mean about $17,000 in Chase credit card spending (assuming you earn 2 points per dollar on average). And if you had a companion pass, the spend would only be $8,500.

Admittedly, there's a ton to unpack there...
 
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Kapolei

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I have gone the Avios route. But now I find the Alaska fares from Bay Area and San Diego cheap enough that I just buy the ticket and earn the miles. I opened the Alaska Air credit card for the sign on bonus, the luggage, and the companion pass. Then I just log the miles for a future upgrade if I am flying Alaska to East Coast. I have Avios in the bank. Just haven't use them lately.

I thought SWA to Hawaii would be a good thing. But I haven't found their pricing attractive to the mainland. So I haven't bothered with the credit card.
 

Luanne

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I thought SWA to Hawaii would be a good thing. But I haven't found their pricing attractive to the mainland. So I haven't bothered with the credit card.
I haven't flow SW to Hawaii myself, we've been using dh's United miles to fly there. But I did book a flight for our older dd for this March using points. After I booked SW had a couple of sales and I was able to get quite alot of my points back. Her trip started out being 34,306 points when I booked in October. I have changed it three times, the latest change was at the beginning of January and the trip is now 21,443 points. So I had 12,863 points returned to me. If you can hit them during their sale periods you can do quite well.
 
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brianfox

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I have gone the Avios route. But now I find the Alaska fares from Bay Area and San Diego cheap enough that I just buy the ticket and earn the miles. I opened the Alaska Air credit card for the sign on bonus, the luggage, and the companion pass. Then I just log the miles for a future upgrade if I am flying Alaska to East Coast. I have Avios in the bank. Just haven't use them lately.

I thought SWA to Hawaii would be a good thing. But I haven't found their pricing attractive to the mainland. So I haven't bothered with the credit card.

Just a FYI: Alaska is a BA partner airline, and the distance based awards on BA might be something to look into.
 

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Just a FYI: Alaska is a BA partner airline, and the distance based awards on BA might be something to look into.

I have booked Alaska through BA. ONT to SEA. I have also booked HNL to LAX on AA through BA website using Avios. The availability is very limited. Never able to get a round trip.
 

brianfox

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I have booked Alaska through BA. ONT to SEA. I have also booked HNL to LAX on AA through BA website using Avios. The availability is very limited. Never able to get a round trip.
Availability is plentiful about 5 months out, then it shuts off. Then at about 2 weeks out it opens up again.
Best way to do it is to use ExperFlyer. It's a paid service, but it checks daily for you and notifies you when the award seats are available.
 

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I agree that SWA is not the best during high season for Hawaii. But, I noticed that the fares were outrageous just on Alaska and Hawaiian out of the Bay Area when there was no competition. Alaska is great for the companion fare as others have mentioned. My in-laws are in Seattle, so it is a no-brainer to carry the Alaska card. I agree, too, with Dave that the CostcoVisa from Citi is great. I am expecting my rebate check any minute now. Kona Costco is very convenient and the gas station on the Northern end is easy to access. The meat, dairy and alcohol prices on Hawaii are insane and you get Mainland prices at Costco. I buy Ziplocs from Woodland ad repack the meat for grilling over the stay. You must get out and see the dolphins, turtles or manta rays at night. Plan to drive to the South for the City of Refuge or the snorkeling at Two-Step. Tour the coffee plantation or shop the organic Farmer's Market. There are a million things to do, nature-wise, or to see. Go the Waikoloa and catch a sunset at the restaurant to the south of "A-Bay." Enjoy and congratulations on a well-planned trip.
 

NHpauls

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You've done well with your planning. I hope you have a fine trip, and enjoy yourself to the fullest.

A few comments:

I don't know where you're starting from, but Southwest may not have been your best choice of airline for this. That seven hour layover in Oakland seems really long to me. If you paid $1100 for airfare, I wonder if you could have booked something shorter for similar money? Or used Southwest points to get to a west coast airport, then booked a sooner flight on another carrier?

I can't make a recommendation for the best credit card to use for air miles, but you may want to consider a card that pays cash rewards instead of miles. I also don't spend enough on credit cards or fly often enough to justify a card only for that. I know others here are greatly experienced in juggling cards and rewards, so perhaps someone will chime in with a recommendation. Lately I've been using a combination of the Alaska Airlines card from Bank of America, (the annual Companion Fare for ~$120 is hard to beat, and there are other perks), and the Citi Visa from Costco, which pays back in cash in varying rates for all purchases, not just at Costco. I don't run balances on the cards, so the interest rates aren't an issue.

Yes, Costco Travel doesn't use Hertz. In my experience, the best car rental rates in Hawaii are with Budget or Alamo. I've been to Hawaii a whole bunch, and I've never had them not have my rental available when I arrived. But then, I've also never arrived at 9:00PM. I'm also seeing car rental rates in Hawaii being higher this year than in recent years, so I'm not sure who does/will have the best rates for your dates.

Your Costco membership will absolutely pay for itself on this trip, in two ways: If you shop at Costco for your gas purchases by getting gas at the Costco Gas station when needed, including the day you turn in the rental, you will save more than $60 quite easily. Costco gas prices are the cheapest on the island, by quite a lot. The Big Island is definitely big, and you will need to buy more gas, if you do any amount of driving. Costco is not far from the Kona airport, so is very convenient either coming or going.

The other Costco savings that will pay for your membership is your load-up of supplies. The prices on meat and alcohol alone will easily save you more than $60 for a two-week vacation. Eating one fancy meal in, rather than pay restaurant prices, will save you that $60, easily. WalMart and Safeway in Kona also have good stores for "grab and go" things, (and are both open 24 hours, if I recall correctly), but Costco is definitely the best for any kind of stocking up you need to do. The Costco in Kona is the only one on the island.

Keep in mind, if you get back home and decide you aren't using the Costco membership enough to justify the cost, you can cancel it at any time during your membership year, and receive a full refund of your $60. So you have nothing to lose.

Remember, it's not always about scrimping to save every dollar. Hawaii is a wonderful place to visit, but you have to get out and DO things. Don't lessen your experience by balking at the cost of some things that interest you. Hawaii is about the inclusive experience, not about how cheaply you can do it.

I have a friend who absolutely hated it, but when I asked about the things they did, it turns out she and her husband didn't do anything. They ate baloney sandwiches and sat in the room all day. No local food or activities. They didn't get out and see anything, and just complained about how hot and crowded it was. I just shook my head in disbelief. Why go all that way and act like you were sitting at home? I'm still amazed at her attitude about the place. I lived there for five years, and have visited dozens of times since. I can't ever get enough of Hawaii, and in fact, we're going back this Summer to spend three weeks on three islands. The woman I mentioned is horrified that I'll be so bored. She actually said, "Why don't you go someplace nice?" LOL! :D

Have a great trip, and be sure to report back on how things go for you.

Dave
Dave: since you’ve been so many times, can you answer a question? My hubby and I are VERY intolerant of humidity. We just can’t function in it (and maybe that was your friends problem....). Is there any month that has less than 65% humidity? Is there one island that has less humidity than the others? If it isn’t something that affects you, maybe you can’t even answer the question. Once we were in 110 degree weather in Utah on vacation. It was hot but we were able to do the activities (Pink Jeeps!) we wanted to. Why? You guessed it: it was dry heat. So it isn’t the temp... it’s the humidity. Any suggestions?
 

vacationtime1

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Dave: since you’ve been so many times, can you answer a question? My hubby and I are VERY intolerant of humidity. We just can’t function in it (and maybe that was your friends problem....). Is there any month that has less than 65% humidity? Is there one island that has less humidity than the others? If it isn’t something that affects you, maybe you can’t even answer the question. Once we were in 110 degree weather in Utah on vacation. It was hot but we were able to do the activities (Pink Jeeps!) we wanted to. Why? You guessed it: it was dry heat. So it isn’t the temp... it’s the humidity. Any suggestions?

Air conditioning. Not all Hawaii TS's have it; yours should.
 

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May through October is seasonally the most humid period on the islands. The south end of each island is the driest and least humid part of each island. Normally trade winds moderate the feel of humidity. You will be staying on the south end of the Big Island so the humidity should be tolerable.
 

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Air conditioning. Not all Hawaii TS's have it; yours should.
AC yes.... But then I’m stuck inside like the woman who complained.... I’m not traveling from the east coast to Hawaii to stay indoors.
 

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I have enjoyed this thread very much. We have been fortunate enough to go to Hawaii 8 times, 3 different islands. Loved the Points tips for flying. We got the SWA cards and managed to get the companion pass only to end up with the MAX 8 debacle and didn't use it. Would still NOT fly on a MAX 8 even if it were FREE. Just us.

We use Costco for car rental, food and gas. Our favorite island is Hawaii - the Big Island. We just like the space. :0) Love the vistas that you don't get on Maui or Kauai. Again, just us. We have flown American and United only to be left stranded in LA with American and Chicago with United. Our first trip was on Aloha airlines! Oh My - loved Aloha Airlines! Have flown 5 times with Hawaiian. Prefer them over SWA. Not sure I could handle SWA for 5 hours from West coast. We do fly SWA on shorter flights.

It appears you have done an excellent job of research. My only suggestion is to pack light. We travel for two weeks to Hawaii with carry ons only. Have done that 8 times. I put the carry ons on the bed and what fits inside goes - what does not fit stays home. Take only your favorites and the most comfy. Make sure everything coordinates with something else. MAIL any souvenirs home. Saves so much hassle. Have a great trip to Hawaii. Hope it isn't your last. And yes, staying two weeks helps to justify the cost of flying :0) We don't DO a lot that costs a lot of money, but have visited the historic sites and driven to Hilo. Was able to walk out to see the lava a few years back. Unforgettable. The beaches are a lovely way to spend the day and A-Bay has shade :0) We love the up country as well. Cooler there and completely different scenery. We do eat out a few times. Prefer to have a few very nice meals out and the rest in the condo. We LOVE Four Seasons breakfast brunch and the view is fabulous. We usually eat here 2 or 3 times and love to stroll the property afterwards.

We love Browns Beach House for dinner. The loveliest of settings with live entertainment and wonderful food and service. https://www.brownsbeachhouse.com/
 

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Dave: since you’ve been so many times, can you answer a question? My hubby and I are VERY intolerant of humidity. We just can’t function in it (and maybe that was your friends problem....). Is there any month that has less than 65% humidity? Is there one island that has less humidity than the others? If it isn’t something that affects you, maybe you can’t even answer the question. Once we were in 110 degree weather in Utah on vacation. It was hot but we were able to do the activities (Pink Jeeps!) we wanted to. Why? You guessed it: it was dry heat. So it isn’t the temp... it’s the humidity. Any suggestions?


I like the shoulder seasons in Hawaii. May and September are my preferred months to go there. May, because the winter rains have subsided, and things are lush and green. Summer heat hasn't started yet, kids are still in school, and the crowds are down. September can be great because the warmth is still there, but daytime temps are a bit cooler, things are drier, kids are back in school, crowds are down, and the fall rains haven't yet started. In either month you get a variety of weather, most of which is sunny, but without the more humid days in the height of Summer.

To be honest, I've never measured the humidity there, so don't know if it ever gets below 65%. (Checking just now on weather.com, humidity in Kona is currently 58%, and Honolulu is 53%. So there's that.) I understand about Utah's dry heat (Utah is my second favorite place in the world to visit, right after Hawaii.) I can't say whether one island has less humidity than another - for me, it's more about the leeward/windward sides of the island, and how good are the tradewinds on a given day. If I'm on the windward side of an island in a good tradewind breeze, I don't feel the humidity to be an issue. if I'm sweltering on the leeward side of an island without wind, I feel the humidity is excessive.

Dave
 

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We’ve visited Hawaii annually from DFW for more than 20 years! Here are some general observations/conclusions:
1. Best to book airline miles exactly one year in advance...the day they go on the airlines website.
2. Be willing to travel a day before or day after to get best airline availability.
3. Car rental rates from places like Costco are never the best! Try Hotwire or Carrenrals.com. Try repeatedly... rates change routinely. I’ve see rates as low as $8 day at times.
4. Costco is excellent for food and gas. Walmart prices are materially lower than local stores.
5. Buy a local paper daily...you may see local coupons!
6. Recognize that everyone is “on the take “...your hotel concierge is getting a kickback!
Mahalo
 

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Thank you so much for the tip about Autoslash.com. My family of 12 are going to the big island in March. We have secured reservations for rooms and flights, but have been shopping for rentals for two mini-vans for a couple of weeks. I thought I had checked all the rental companies and travel sites using all my available memberships. I booked on Autoslash and saved $180 on a weekly rental on one minivan. The second one wasn't as cheap so I'll check again tomorrow. Thanks for a forum to share the greatest tips! Have a wonderful trip. We have been before and loved it and are taking our children and grandchildren this time to our HGVC timeshare at KingsLand in Waikoloa.
 

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We've only been to Big Island once, usually we go to Oahu. Sounds like your plans are good and well thought out!

Costco will definitely help save you costs on gas for your rental and also some groceries and other supplies.

Find out if there's any local farmer's markets near your timeshare, as those usually have great fruits, veggies, coffee, local snacks and gifts.

Find and try the local foods, bakeries ( for mochi, try Two Ladies. for malasadas, some like Tex or Manuela or the trucks!), shave ice, plate lunches (chicken katsu, loco moco, spam musubi, lau lau, kalua pork, teriyaki, poke, etc.) or even try the Zippy's chain. You can try a google search or yelp. I don't know much about Big Island since we don't usually go there, but someone posted a question about Maui before and I posted my local friend's recommendations for Maui since she grew up there. Each island usually has really good places to eat!

Have a fun trip!
 

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I like the shoulder seasons in Hawaii. May and September are my preferred months to go there. May, because the winter rains have subsided, and things are lush and green. Summer heat hasn't started yet, kids are still in school, and the crowds are down. September can be great because the warmth is still there, but daytime temps are a bit cooler, things are drier, kids are back in school, crowds are down, and the fall rains haven't yet started. In either month you get a variety of weather, most of which is sunny, but without the more humid days in the height of Summer.

To be honest, I've never measured the humidity there, so don't know if it ever gets below 65%. (Checking just now on weather.com, humidity in Kona is currently 58%, and Honolulu is 53%. So there's that.) I understand about Utah's dry heat (Utah is my second favorite place in the world to visit, right after Hawaii.) I can't say whether one island has less humidity than another - for me, it's more about the leeward/windward sides of the island, and how good are the tradewinds on a given day. If I'm on the windward side of an island in a good tradewind breeze, I don't feel the humidity to be an issue. if I'm sweltering on the leeward side of an island without wind, I feel the humidity is excessive.

Dave
Very helpful! Thank you!
 

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Thank you so much for the tip about Autoslash.com. My family of 12 are going to the big island in March. We have secured reservations for rooms and flights, but have been shopping for rentals for two mini-vans for a couple of weeks. I thought I had checked all the rental companies and travel sites using all my available memberships. I booked on Autoslash and saved $180 on a weekly rental on one minivan. The second one wasn't as cheap so I'll check again tomorrow. Thanks for a forum to share the greatest tips! Have a wonderful trip. We have been before and loved it and are taking our children and grandchildren this time to our HGVC timeshare at KingsLand in Waikoloa.
The rate for our SUV rental on Maui just went down again. Tracking through Autoslash.
 
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