Vacation time again for the Young Budgeteer. Saving your way to Hawaii.

You have to know, when I say the Young Budgeteer, I could be talking about myself or I could be talking about all you young people ( of course including the young at heart ) that may or may not be taking a vacation in the near future and want to have a good idea how to save and a good example of how I am saving right now for my vacation to Kona, Hawaii in January.

In in this post, I set out to explain a few things:

  1. Why I have the goal of saving for Hawaii. (Which is to take my wife to Hawaii for the first time; with my parents. Again, why save money if it isn’t for something)
  2. My original idea of how to save
  3. My new way how to save
  4. Cost of the vacation (and how I did it)
  5. What the journey has been like from paycheck to paycheck

The Situation:

So my parents are going on vacation to Hawaii in January. I am not here to say that my parents can to to Hawaii and therefore life is paid for. In fact, if you’ve ever paid for you’re own flights to anywhere let alone Hawaii, you know that they can be expensive.

I “am” going to show you what I’ve done to find good flights that are reasonable, have good enough amenities, and the places to find them. Truth: it’s easier to find a good flight for a reasonably good price than to find the “Golden Nugget.” Instead of being able to “Do Hawaii on $100”, I am showing the way to “Do Hawaii right by saving early and taking manageable steps”. I am a normal person and my wife and I get paid on a normal schedule like everyone else. We haven’t made it big, and we aren’t doing something crazy to get there. We just made a plan, and we’re keeping to it. (With a little biting and pulling of hair by her heehee)

So let’s get into the steps.

1. Why Save for Hawaii

Here is my reason. Yours could be that you have the money and just don’t know the steps to Hawaii. Maybe you feel like you need a goal to get you through read email after email at work. My wife has never been to Hawaii and though that’s far from the worst tragedy that could happen, (Bless the people in California losing their homes) it is something that I feel needs to happen.

Vacations and sharing time with family and your spouse is one of the greatest things you can do in this life. It’s arguably the most important thing. I mean, if you had all the time and money in the world, would you be working 40 hours a week?

2. My Original Method Of Saving

So because I try to keep a balance budget of what I make and what I spend money on, I have a good idea that after all bills are paid each month there is a little money left over. Most times, the thought is that this is the free money we can spend on anything.

In my old mindset’s mind (that sounds deep) I would just continue growing this extra barrier instead of spending it. In my old way, that untracked money always goes somewhere, even if some of it is still there. It just didn’t work. When you want to go on a $1500-$2000 trip, you have to be on top of your money. Even if that means putting it under your bed and sleeping on it.

3. My New Way Of Saving

Okay so this part sounds a lot of “easier said than done” at the start but it is almost too simple and it works on so many levels. Ready for this?


Wow, that wasn’t super exciting, was it? And it never really is. The key to going wherever you want is to study it out a few months before or just plan it longer in advance.

When we decided to go to Hawaii in January, it was the end of September but we had known we wanted to go on a trip like this since around June.

The first thing we did was open up a bank account that takes our purchase amounts, rounds them up to the next dollar, and deposits the extra into the savings account. At first, I was a bit unsure about doing this because I felt like it would quickly add up and I would not have money for my emergencies or even regular purchases. It turns out that I don’t swipe my card a hundred times a month so it doesn’t rack up super fast, it is just a helpful vehicle towards your dollar amount.

Hint: Some people hide the account from their account view and then use this from the start of the year, open the view up before Christmas and use the “Magically new found money” on Christmas instead of having to save and stress in the last quarter of the year.

We made a goal to transfer part of our paychecks each payday to these accounts. (Our vacation accounts) If at first you aren’t sure how much you can put towards this, start off with $25-$50 dollars each paycheck. Over a 4 month period you will have 8-9 paychecks which will add up to $200-400! We’ll go over how much you will need for a trip like this but I’m trying to give simple tips and actionable items that you can do today to move towards your dream vacation.

4. The Cost of the Vacation

Okay, let’s do some numbers and get out some of those tips that I’ve learned from going to Hawaii almost every year recently. Specifically I’m just going to quickly blow through:

  • Flights
  • Condos
  • Vehicle Choice
  • Food (expensive)
  • Entertainment (different islands vary but the idea is the same, the fun stuff)
  • Souvenirs (a.k.a. reminders of your good times)


I know that other times of the year are most expensive and that is why we usually go around January – February because for some reason, flights are cheaper during this time. It’s probably because it’s winter in the continental U.S. but who knows; All that matters is that it’s cheaper.

A typical flight to Hawaii can be anywhere from $500-$800 round trip per person. We got our this trip for around $560 so you know we play by the rules. It’s great if you have connection, or if you find a cheaper flight than this which is totally possible. Here are the reasons why we paid what we did and why we feel great about $560.

  • We are flying out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Therefore, we have to do a stop (two this time) in Portland and one in LAX before we start our 6 hour flight over the ocean. Salt Lake City is not the closest airport we have but it is the biggest airport that is close and big airports are almost always cheaper.
  • We chose this because well, you have to get to a coastal places to flight to Hawaii and also because it breaks up the monotony. Doing this cuts what would be around $700 to the $560 that we got.
  • I use Expedia for almost every flight I take. Sometimes I will use Southwest because who doesn’t want to fly for $100 round trip somewhere. The reason I use Expedia is that I can see all of the flights for different airlines and most of the time, they will cut deals with the airlines to get the prices even cheaper than you can on their own site. Example: Our flight on Delta was around $630 on the Delta site. On Expedia, same flight was $560 plus flight protection came with it at about half the price for that. (I recommend buying Flight Protection when getting flights this big. It’s not worth it to have something happen and lose $600 a piece when you just saved that extra amount by choosing Expedia. It just makes sense, plus it allows you to back out if needed.)


This one is simple and I take it from my dad who gets his flights, condos, and car for half the price of other people. I mainly use VRBO and I can’t say I have a ton of experience here as some of my vacations are run by other couples or my parents. What I do know is that it doesn’t take a lot of skill to open these apps or websites and look for cheap places. I recommend these over AirBnB just because they are usually better kept, cheaper and every time that we have done it, the cleaning fees have seemed less. (Maybe that is just because of the overall price.) You’ve searched for your flight, you’ve got the know-how to find a good room. Good luck!

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Car Rental

The best deal on this is if you have a Costco Membership. (If you don’t, it is usually only like $50-60 which you will save if you use this Costco Membership deal!) We’ll hit both scenarios. Assuming you do have one, Costco does their car rental packages for way cheaper than I’ve seen on other legitimate trustworthy sites.

We had planned to get a Standard Package car at some place like Hertz or Enterprise (Hertz isn’t always a bad deal either) but for a week, the car would cost anywhere from $225-$275. Costco on the other hand got us a van for $135.
Side note: I’ll have you know, because Costco allows you to cancel packages until you leave for your trip, we had actually snagged three other car packages before this and were able to cancel as we found better deals.

Sounds like they are good for more than just bulk food and their amazing pizza! Yes, this links to my review of Costco’s pizza because it is just THAT good and affordable, no membership needed!

Food Expenses (Eating out and Groceries)

I’m not sure about the best way to pitch this one to you. Hawaiian food cost money and if you eat out a lot, you could probably say that it’s almost robbery how much it cost. But that being said, here are a handful tips with this challenge. We are planning to have about $50-$75 for food to have at the condo (breakfast, lunch, some dinners, snacks) and another $50-$70 to go out to eat with.

Shrimp Burrito and chips

  • The big island, Kona, has a Costco on it. Costco in Hawaii cost almost the same as Costco in the continental U.S. Take advantage of that for meals that you cook back in the nice little kitchen your condo has.
  • I honestly couldn’t tell you the best places to eat because there are lots of islands and lots of restaurants to choose from on each island. Coconuts is on almost every island, is pretty delicious and here is the menu so you can check our their prices and menu items.
  • Restaurant prices vary but typically you can find a good meal for about $10-15 a person per meal. Coconuts has some cheaper items but other places can be stupid expensive for simple items. We got a medium pizza from Round Table on Maui and it cost us $17.
  • You will be in the sun a lot and you will be swimming in the water so you will get hungry and you will no doubt get thirsty. Snack are a heaven sent.
  • Water bottles are great to fill up at the Condo and take for each half of the day. They also sell Nectar like drinks that are Hawaii brand and are both delicious and pretty cheap. Nothing beats the heat like a cold refreshing drink.


Now comes the question, what do you do now that you’re in Hawaii? Honestly, whatever you want. I would recommend that you don’t spend your whole time inside your condo reading about Hawaiian vacations on Instagram and Twitter, but you paid the money so knock yourself out.

I will be writing a post solely on the different entertainment ideas later but for now, here are some of the bigger ideas for being able to see a lot of Hawaii while still relaxing.

  • Search for beaches you want to go to. Going to a beach cost nothing except sometimes for parking at bigger beaches. It is typical that your day will be broken up into Mornings (8-12), Afternoons after you eat, (1-5 or 1-6) and Evenings (Sunsets, dinner plans, good time for relaxing in your condo). After planning our your other non-beach activities, you will want to fill in these slots with seeing and being at beaches. Example: Maybe you sit on the balcony and read a book overlooking the ocean in the morning, spend your afternoon at Black Rock Beach at the Sheridan on Maui and at sunset, watch the Hawaiian fire runner dive into the water before you go get fish tacos at Coconuts.

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  • Scuba Diving and Snorkeling: Being a Certified Scuba Diver, I have been diving in some of the most beautiful parts of the U.S. and the Caribbean. Many dive shops sell two tank dives (you get to go down twice for about an hour each) for around $100-$150. This January we will be doing a two-tank Manta Ray Night dive which is supposed to be just spectacular. They shine lights all together into one area and the Manta Rays just swarm around. & foot wing spans and 3 foot open mouth filters. When you go diving, you will be immersed in some of the most beautiful environments that the world has to offer. Snorkeling is just as great and it is free beyond buying a mask and snorkel. Most beaches have reef and rocks that are swarming with fish, crustaceans, anemone, and even TURTLES!!

  • Hiking and Volcanoes: If you are a bit active, there are tons of places to go hiking and view the islands from elevation. The are also Volcano National Parks that have tours, hikes and viewpoints of active and inactive volcanoes where you can learn about the rich history of the Islands.
  • Waterfalls and Pools: Along with hiking, you can go and see big and small waterfalls and play in the pools that they create. Most of these are short hike distances from where you can park, others include steeper hikes to bigger waterfalls.


Okay, let’s talk about what you want to bring home. I know that I can’t say what is the best item or items for you but I do have a good idea of things that have reminded me of Hawaii and have given me the motivation to go back or to remember the good feelings I had.

Here are some great items to get / bring back from Hawaii:

  • Shells: Shells are both free, very pretty for decoration, and incredibly fun to find. If you want to feel like a treasure hunter, these can be some of the best decorations to make a home feel more beachy.

  • Decorative items such as Paintings or Wooden Statues of Turtles, Dolphins, Manta Rays and other animals
  • Maps, Coconut items

I’ll also mention Pictures that you take with your camera here. Probably one of the best habits that I have formed on vacations, is to just take pictures of a lot of things. It is not so much that I know every good shot or that I have great lighting or other, but when you take 100 photos on a vacation, a few are bound to wow you. These are the ones that my family has always taken and made into a Shutterfly Vacation Book. It is only about $30 and it has some of the best reminders of our vacations; Restaurants we went to, turtles and fish underwater, the beaches, and of course, the sunset. Here are a few of my recent photos from our last trip.

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The last thing you can bring, and I would highly recommend it, is an action sports camera. The first thought that you have I’m sure is, “I can’t afford a $400 dollar GoPro.” And you’re right. This is why there are other options. You can also check eBay for older GoPros such as the Hero 4 which is usually around $125-$150. I made up my mind to go with the Akaso sports camera because it can shoot in 4k, it comes with a waterproof case and a few other connections so you can go right in the water with it, and it only cost me about $80! You should definitely check it out! and if you do like it, the “Accessory Items Pack Thing” comes with almost 20 attachments and extra helpful things and only costs about $19, originally priced around $70 I guess.

5. The Journey from Paycheck to Paycheck

This felt exactly how I thought it would from the start until now. The first few paychecks I was really hesitant to put aside money right at the start of the paycheck. I try to keep my money in good order already but throwing money into a “jar” at the start meant that I would have less when things came up.

After the first few paychecks, it become so much easier. Would I love to have that money to use on other things? OF COURSE I WOULD! But I also want to go to Hawaii again. And it’s never been this easy before. Honestly, at this point, I don’t even think about that money as my own. My trip is pretty much already paid for and I learned to do my finances without it so I pretty much just feel like it was a free trip paid for.

When we don’t have to fund our trip I will probably cut the number in half and save half for the next vacation until we decide where we want to go next and put the other half into savings so I can eventually do vacations full-time. 🙂


Alright, so I know that I have gone through a lot of things here but the most important part is that, whatever you choose to do on your vacation, here are some key takeaways:

  • It is wholly possible if you start your saving for it early and you just simply keep to it each paycheck.
  • Expedia for flights. Flight Protection is worth the $36 per person if life doesn’t want you to go to Hawaii. $500-$600 x 2 = $1000-$1200
  • VRBO and are some of the best house situation finders for Hawaii. We have stayed on beach side views with balconies every single time and we’ve paid less than $140 a night and housed 6 people. $140 x 7 nights = $980 (split between people)
  • Costco for Cars. (and shopping if you are on the big island) Their deals are amazing. $135 for a van for us this time, sometimes cheaper for regular cars.
  • Eating out is expensive but worth it for a few nights. Making food at your place saves you money and allows you to relax between adventures. Snacks are heaven sent. A meal for 2 = ~$30-$40. Groceries = ~$50-$75
  • Plan out a handful of things (Waterfalls, scuba diving and snorkeling) and fill the rest with beaches. That is what Hawaii is known for. Scuba diving = ~$125-$150. Waterfalls are free after gas for driving, beaches are free unless it’s a big beach and you have to pay for parking.
  • Relax and enjoy yourself.

Next time I will write a post on some of the best Scuba Dives and places to hit while in Hawaii and Maui. I’ll also talk about packing needs as far as clothes, Sports Camera and Scuba Diving gear as well as sunscreen, towels and other necessities.

Also, for your ladies, writes a great article on how to pack / travel with makeup needs and all of the accessories that you girls know and stress so much about. Definitely worth a read. I know she just posted about some cool zipper packing boxes that fit perfectly into a suitcase.

Catch you next time and safe travels!

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