how we travelled to hawaii for less than $2,500 (including airfare & stay!)

November 27, 2017 • By

This year, Rob and I took our first big trip together. Deciding on Hawaii was an easy decision. Growing up, my family went there every Christmas and so I fell in love with the islands early on. I had been pestering Rob for years (and continue to pester him almost daily) that “we should just move there for a year.” Of course, my bubble gets popped pretty quickly when I think of the actual logistics of making that happen and what it would entail, BUT nonetheless, I just wanted Rob to experience Hawaii and be as much in love with it as I was.

I started doing a little research to see if it would be a feasible option. I put together some numbers and had a full plan created to show him that we could, in fact, afford to go to Hawaii. Does anyone else do this with their S/Os? I’m all for setting yourself up for a YES when you go to make the ask.

So, here is how we managed a 9-day trip to Hawaii for less than $2,500, including airfare, rental cars and lodging.

Sandy Beach – almost got sucked into a current after this photo despite being a fantastic swimmer!

First off, there are things I am cool with dropping some money on and things I am not. Airfare is one of those things. It is massively expensive, ends up eating up most the budget, and is rarely an enjoyable experience. I detest paying for flights if I can help it. Instead, we use airline award miles. For this trip, we used miles earned from Citi AAdvantage sign up bonuses and ended up paying $11 and some change each for our flights. The flights we took would have cost us over $900 a person, so right there, we saved $1,800.


Hanauma Bay – excellent fishies

We flew into Honolulu and then island jumped over to the Big Island for the remainder of our trip. We knew we would need a rental car for both islands. Honolulu has public transit, but it is tedious and expensive, and we knew we would prefer to have the freedom of having our own car. There’s no way to get around needing a rental car on the Big Island. For the first one, we paid for the lowest grade car out of pocket, but got upgraded to a convertible, which definitely helps sweeten the deal! For the second one, we definitely wanted to have a convertible the whole time and were able to use points from the Capital One Venture Card to avoid paying for that.

A quick note here: If you’re renting a car in Hawaii, get a convertible. We were so happy we did! One of my favorite memories of the trip is being stuck in traffic along the coast, singing at the top of our lungs to early 00’s love songs. Seriously, we were driving ALL OVER the Big Island, and the convertible made it an experience as opposed to a drive.



Rainbow Falls – that monstera!

Namaste Estates

I mentioned that we island hopped. We used Hawaiian Airlines for those flights, and just paid out of pocket as they were relatively cheap… and we were out of miles. 🙂


Black Sand Beach and Lily Pond

Since we were looking for on-the-cheap lodging options, we opted to use Airbnb in lieu of a resort, which turned out to be a great decision! In Honolulu, not going to lie, the place we picked was very much a crash pad. But it was in the middle of the city, had a pretty view and we were only there 2 nights. Funny enough, they were filming Hawaii 5-0 right outside the apartment, which was fun to watch!

The second place we stayed was really the highlight of the three Airbnbs we stayed in. Called Namaste Estates, it was a yurt in the middle of the rainforest with meditation trails, the biggest fiddle leaf fig I’ve ever seen and a dog named Mango. It felt like such an adventure! And, it was only $65 a night.

Last, we stayed in Kona, which was probably the most touristy destination of our trip, but still a lot of fun. Next time, we will probably skip Kona, and spend more time on Oahu.

AIRBNB: $963

Right below Mauna Kea Observatory – star gazing galore


So that was the bulk of our expenses! There were a few times we splurged, however. We treated ourselves to a spa day ($400) and wanted to go on a boat ride to see dolphins ($320), but other than that kept everything relatively lowkey.

We pretty much lived off of acai bowls and sushi while we were there, and of course, there were some other expenses like gas, parking and entrance to state parks but that didn’t add up to a whole lot. For souvenirs, I like to stick to postcards and pins, so we made sure to pick up a few everywhere we went.

Since our trip to Hawaii, I’ve gone even deeper down the rabbit hole that is the world of travel hacking. I find it fascinating! If you don’t know what travel hacking is, it is the art of optimizing credit card sign up bonuses and frequent flier miles to get free airfare, hotels and tours and more. Over the past year, Rob and I have used credit cards to pay our rent and our bills (i.e. stuff we would pay for anyway) to rack up miles and points. Nomadic Matt, The Points Guy and Zero to Travel are all great travel hacking blogs to check out, and I also highly recommend this crash course on Udemy.