3 Easy Hacks to Save You Thousands on a Trip to Hawaii

Updated: Aug 4

Moonset Sunrise Over Poipu, Kauai

Here at The Minivan Bucket List, we don't always limit ourselves to road trips in the minivan. But when we do venture out for a change of scenery that requires an airplane to get there, we still try to make it as affordable as possible. Hawaii is one of those places.

Hawaii is a bucket list destination for many people and for good reason! Beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, incredible hikes, massive waterfalls, great food, Hawaiian culture and the Aloha spirit provide for endless options for an amazing vacation. The only downside is how incredibly expensive it can be, especially when traveling with kids. The hotel, flights, and of course the minivan rental can all add up quick! Plus, if we can save a ton of money on flights and hotel, then we feel better splurging on some bucket list adventures like sailing the Na Pali Coast or riding a helicopter to the Jurassic Park waterfall. We’ve had the good fortune to check Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island off our bucket list a few times, so we’ve learned some money-saving strategies along the way that we want to share with you.

The Na Pali Coast by air, sea, and land. Whether you ride a helicopter, sail, or go on an 8-mile hike to a remote waterfall, bucket list-worthy adventures abound in Hawaii!

1. Know the Best/Cheapest Time to Go to Hawaii

Most blogs and travel sites will tell you that the best weather (warmest temps and least rainfall) is in the summer and thus the best time to go. But summer vacation is the most expensive time to go, along with Christmas. The truth is, there really isn’t a bad time to go to Hawaii, weather-wise. It can be a little rainier in the winter, especially on the leeward side of the island. But even if the forecast calls for rain, it rarely rains all day and many times it’s a brief morning shower or a little “liquid sunshine” until the sun fully comes out again for most of the day. It also tends to rain more on the leeward side of the island. For example, on the island of Kauai, it might be raining cats and dogs in Princeville (North Shore – leeward side) but sunny in Poipu (South Shore – windward side).

If you’re trying to save money, the best time to go to Hawaii is late October/early November or late January/early February. This shoulder season is when flights and hotels are the cheapest. And if you’re worried about the weather, don’t - or just stay on the drier side of the island:

  • Kauai – Poipu, Lihue, Kapaa

  • Maui – Lahaina, Kihei

  • Oahu – Honolulu, Kapolei

  • Big Island – Kailua-Kona

Flights during the shoulder season can be half as much as during peak season. This tip alone could save several hundred dollars per couple or thousands of dollars if you’re taking your kids!

A secret red & black sand beach on Maui near Kihei

2. How to Earn Sky Miles to Save on Flights to Hawaii

Flights during peak season can cost between $700-900 or more for just for regular Economy tickets (or between 70,000-120,000 Sky Miles on Delta). To save money, use Google Flights to find the best dates during the shoulder season mentioned above.

But my favorite way to save money is to earn free flights with miles. My frequent flier program of choice is Delta Sky Miles. Pre-pandemic I flew a decent amount for work – not a ton but enough to earn about 25,000 Sky Miles a year. Obviously, things have changed a bit since then and I haven’t traveled for work let alone gone to the office in over a year. Luckily, physically flying in a plane isn’t the only way to earn frequent flier miles.

The best way to do this is with travel credit cards (you’ll need to register for a Sky Miles account first, if you don’t have one). We are big proponents of debt free living so we only advocate for using travel credit cards if you have good credit and can be disciplined enough to only use them for things you can pay cash for and if you pay off 100% of the balance every month.

There are two ways to earn miles with credit cards:

  • Spending – depending on the card and what you’re spending on, you can earn at least 1 mile per dollar spent, sometimes 2-4 miles or more

  • Sign-up bonuses – if you’ve never had that card before, they always offer you a big sign-up bonus, usually enough for a free domestic flight

The Delta SkyMiles American Express card is offering an awesome signup bonus right now for 70,000 miles (normally 40,000 miles). If you want get the card, we get a small miles bonus for referring you, so we'd appreciate it if you used our link to sign up. With the signup bonus alone, you’d have enough miles for two tickets to Oahu, Maui, or Kauai, or one free ticket to the Big Island. If both parents get one, you’d have enough for four free tickets. I searched for tickets from my home airport of Salt Lake City to show how many miles you'd need for a free ticket but this could vary by location.

  • SLC>Oahu – 29,000 miles

  • SLC>Maui or Kauai – between 35,000-40,000 miles

  • SLC>Big Island – 60,000 miles one

To find the best deals on flights with Sky Miles that work for you, just go to delta.com and check the boxes for ‘Shop with Miles’ and ‘My Dates Are Flexible’ in the search area.

In addition to saving money on flights, the Delta Sky Miles Amex gives you the benefit of free checked bags for everyone in your party. This could add up to another couple hundred dollars in savings, depending on how many kids you have. Overall, this tip could save you $1,000 or more (or over $2,000 if you both get a card)!

You'll save enough on flights that splurging on a helicopter ride to the waterfall from Jurassic Park won't break the bank!

3. How to Use Points to Save Money on Hotels in Hawaii

Most hotel chains from Best Western to Hilton to Marriott all offer their own rewards programs for frequent travelers, but my personal favorite is Marriott. Now that they’ve acquired Starwood and merged the two rewards programs, it is the largest hotel chain in the world with dozens of brands from budget-friendly hotels like Fairfield Inn to luxury resorts like the Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis. You can sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program here (you’ll need to do this before getting a credit card).

The Marriott Chase Visa card is also offering a great signup bonus right now of 3 free award nights. These are e-Certificates that you can redeem at any hotel that costs up to 35,000 points per night. Just keep in mind that each credit card will have a minimum spending requirement, so you may have to choose one or the other or spread out when you sign up for the card.

Here are some hotels in Hawaii that you could use the Marriott Chase Visa eCertificates:

At the current nightly rates for 2021, this move will save you over $800 (or over $1600 if you both get a card)!

How to find the best deals using points:

Step 1: Enter the location in search bar on marriott.com, check the box for ‘Use Points’, and click ‘Find Hotels’

Step 2: Click ‘View Rates’ for the hotel you’re interested in, scroll through different calendar months to find best/cheapest dates

Can you spot all 10 sea turtles in the picture? Ho'okipa Beach, Maui.

If taking your family to Hawaii is something you’ve always wanted to do, following these tips even partially will add up to some big savings and make your bucket list adventure more attainable. You can also check out this helpful post for more tips on affording family travel.

We don’t get paid for sharing these travel hacking tips but we will get a small referral bonus in points/miles if you use our links. So, if you found these tips helpful and plan on signing up for either the Delta Amex or Marriott Visa card, please consider using the referral links below:

Enjoy your budget-friendly Hawaiian adventure! Aloha!