Over the Christmas break I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks with my family in beautiful sunny Hawaii. For those of you who know me, you know I’m a bit of a beach baby. The best holiday for me is where there is sun, sand, and a beach.
Being an organized person, I tend to organize everything – including our holidays. That includes organizing accommodations, flights, car rentals, as well as our activities while on vacation. For many of you, you may be thinking, “Hold on – I’m on holidays. I don’t want to think about anything!” For my family, being organized means finding the best deals, knowing everything is planned, thought out and most importantly, knowing that I am saving our family money while on holidays!
Accommodations – For this past trip, we had our accommodations booked in February of 2011 to go in December of 2011. That’s 10 months in advance! I have found that the more notice you can give, the better deal you will receive (especially during the Christmas season). Our family also does not stay in a hotel. We book private homes or condos. There are a few reasons why:
- There is way more room in a private home/condo compared to a hotel.
- We always book a home/condo knowing there is a full kitchen. Having teenagers, they are always hungry. We find having a kitchen is a great way to save money on eating out.
- We can typically find a minimum 2 bedroom accommodations in our price range. This past trip, we had a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath in our condo. Everyone had their own personal space and more than enough washrooms.
We have booked our accommodations in Portland, Las Vegas (to stay at the MGM Signature) and Hawaii using Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). If you are not familiar with it, this website has owners list their home/condo for rent. Every transaction we have done through VRBO has been slick! All of the owners we have dealt with (for our own use or for my clients) has been nothing but stress free. I have found that all owners are very accommodating and tend to go the extra mile.
Flights – knowing we had our accommodations booked, we were able watch the various airlines for ‘deals’. I was able to watch the airlines and had scheduled time each day to check on the various flights. When we saw a flight that was in our price range (and knew it probably wasn’t going to get any better), we booked right away. By doing so, we saved almost double by doing so. We booked our flights at the end of February (almost as soon as the airline released them). When we checked back in October (just to see), the flights were almost double (per person) to what we had paid.
Car Rental – Knowing our accommodations and flights were secured, we also started to look at car rentals. We knew that we wanted a car rental to allow us to go get groceries, see the sights, etc. Again, I stared to look at various on-line companies for rentals. We ended up booking our car in June for our Dec. holiday. Did you know that you can book a car without having to put any money down? That’s exactly what we did. When we found a ‘deal’ we booked the car. We also watched for any better deals. We actually found a better deal and booked that car instead. One thing to remember is that you do have to cancel any car reservation. I kept track of who we had reserved with so that I could cancel. When we got to the Honolulu Car rental company they even said we got a VERY good deal. Just for your reference, the exact same car that cost us $485 for two weeks was actually $1200 for two weeks. Planning ahead does work!
Eating – When you rent a home/condo that has a kitchen, you will find you save yourself a ton of money! It does mean that you are cooking on your holiday. For myself and my family, we don’t mind. Hey, who wouldn’t love to BBQ while listening to the waves of the ocean? For our last trip to Hawaii, our grocery bill was roughly the same as it was at home. Oahu has three Costco(s), Target, Wal-Mart, Safeway and other smaller grocery stores. I bring along my menu planner to help with staying ‘focused’ at the grocery store and helping with menu planning. I’d like to share one example of my family eating out. We decided to go out for Christmas Day dinner. For my family of 4, the bill was just over $200.00! We did not have steak and lobster either. The price it cost my family for one dinner out was almost as much as groceries were for one week. It does add up!
Activities – This was our fourth time going to Oahu so we pretty much knew what we wanted to do. The family that was traveling with us also had two kids who had never been to Hawaii before so we did some pre-planning before we got to Oahu. By doing so, we were able to plan our budget and the various activities we wanted to do. By doing a bit of research ahead of time, we were also able to choose between various vendors.
My own family has sometimes accused me of being a bit cheap. My response is that I’m actually not cheap. I love quality things. I just hate it when I have to pay more for something when I know I can get the exact same thing for less. By being organized, our family is able to go on a two week vacation. If we were to stay in a hotel, we could only afford to go on a one week vacation. I’d rather have two weeks of sun and sand then one week.
I won’t lie, everything mentioned above does take work. It takes patience and quick decision making. But boy, it’s so worth it! Don’t you think so?