My family of 4 is getting all geared up for a a 14 day stint in Hawaii (specifically, the island of O’ahu), in just a few weeks. While Hawaii has been at the top of my travel bucket list for quite some time, now, we committed to making this trip without having any sort of advanced plan or budget. This is a dangerous way to go about your vacation planning, but it’s also a way to save HUGE amounts of money on one of the biggest expenses: airfare. Our trip is happening because we scored cheap airfare to Hawaii.
So here’s what happened: my husband signed up to be a member of Scott’s Cheap Flights, which is a company that will send you deals on travel opportunities (mostly international, but some domestic, as well) via email. You can set up the parameters you like (such as desired departure and arrival locations) and then just wait and watch for the deals. The more flexible you are about where you go and where you leave from, the more deals you can see (we probably see 5 or 6 different destinations each day, and each destination usually has several potential points of departure for low prices). I also like that the site will compare the price with the typical price for that flight, and give you an educated guess about how long they think a fare of that sort will last (because sometimes it’s so low that it will likely last less than an hour, and sometimes it will probably last several days). Membership for the year is $39, which is quite reasonable for a service that will help you save hundreds of dollars, even if you only book one flight per year.
So Tim signed up in the fall and had been watching for deals to very cool sounding destinations. Two days after Christmas, a mega deal came up for travel to Hawaii from the east coast, including Atlanta, which is our nearest international airport. Tickets are typically around $900 each from Atlanta and had just dropped down to $374, for a savings of $526/ticket ($2,104 for 4). The commentary from Scott’s was that this was a very rare deal that would most likely not be seen again for a really long time, so if Hawaii was where you wanted to go most, better pull the trigger now.
And that’s exactly what we did. We decided that we really wanted to go, that this price would allow us to actually go, and that we could finagle a way to be on the island for 14 days so we could REALLY enjoy it. We decided that we’d work out all the logistical details (like how we’d pay for lodging, food, a rental car and activities) later. And folks, that really is a risky move to make (I’ll do a separate post about how expensive Hawaii is, as it turns out, and steps we are taking to minimize our financial pain). But there was simply no time to plan out a vacation and then buy tickets at this price point, so we took a leap of faith. We also knew that we had additional funds available to work with on the ground, and that’s important to know. If the airfare completely eats up the money you have available for travel, you may need to save up some more funds before you spontaneously book a trip, because it doesn’t matter if the plane tickets are a great deal if you can’t afford to eat or sleep once you arrive. Just something to keep in mind!
This strategy didn’t make use of credit card points or frequent flyer miles, which is a common method people like to use for keeping flight expenses low. Since we both don’t travel very often for work, we simply don’t build up enough miles to be helpful in any given year, and I find that my credit card reward points can be a little spotty. They are more ideal for using when we have a set destination at a set time that we want/need to go to, vs. when we are just trying to find the very best deal to get 4 people somewhere fun.
So this is how we booked cheap airfare to Hawaii. We let someone else do the searching for us each day, and we watched for the price drop to occur. It happened a bit sooner than we were expecting, but it did happen, and we jumped on it!
Stay tuned for a breakdown of our proposed itinerary, including all the amazing touristy things we WON’T be doing. 🙂