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Category Archives: Example Trips
When we visited Maui, we had the pleasure of going on a snorkeling trip to Molokini and Turtle Arches with the Pacific Whale Foundation. Molokini is a crescent shaped island off the west coast of Maui. It is a partially submerged volcanic crater.
We chose the Pacific Whale Foundation because they had discounts for kids and I’m glad we did. They were one of the first boats out. As we headed out on the trip, they offered rental wet suit tops for $10 each. I highly suggest getting them. Even though the water is fairly warm, we were definitely more comfortable with them and they provide extra flotation. They provide all other snorkeling gear for free including corrective masks which my husband loved.
We got to Molokini before any other boat, so we had a great location. I couldn’t believe how clear the water was. The ocean floor is more than 100 feet down and I had no problem at all seeing to the bottom. The island blocks the waves so the water is quite still. Everyone who worked on the boat was a marine biologist and could answer any question we had for them about the marine life. They even called all the kids to the front of the boat to give them a marine biology lesson.
The second stop was Turtle Arches. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see a lot of this location because my sons decided that they didn’t want to snorkel much. We did enjoy the lunch provided during the trip including barbecued chicken, fruit, salads, and pretzels. They also had alcohol for the adults (only allowed after the snorkeling was done).
The entire trip was about 5 hours and we enjoyed every minute. We saw several whales during the trip even though that wasn’t the point of the trip.
Our family took our first trip to Hawaii this past February. It was an absolutely amazing vacation. We cannot wait to go back. I talked about the basics of the trip in a previous post. I’ll cover the details of the trip in a series of posts.
Our trip started in Oahu. We got in late Saturday night and we left on a Monday morning flight to Maui. We stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki. Our stay at the Sheraton was great. However, there were some issues leading up to the trip. I booked our stay at the Sheraton Waikiki using Priceline Name Your Own Price in May (9 months ahead of our trip). I called a few weeks before the trip to make sure they had the reservation. Two days before our trip, I received an email from Priceline stating that the hotel was overbooked. It said they were going to move us to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. They would give us an ocean view room, free breakfast for 2 one day, and access to the Sheraton Waikiki pools. Priceline also gave me a $50 coupon to be used on a future booking. None of that was acceptable to me. While the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is nice, it is not the same quality as the Sheraton Waikiki (which is located right on Waikiki Beach). I was less than happy to put it mildly.
I called Priceline’s customer service line to complain and tell them that this was not acceptable. They just kept saying that I could either cancel my reservation for a refund or accept what was offered to me. Canceling wasn’t an option since we were traveling sure winter break and almost no other rooms were available at any hotel in Waikiki. I spent 45 minutes saying that those options weren’t acceptable only to have the representative say that’s all they could do (and they said it was the hotel’s fault). So I decided to try Starwood’s customer service. They told me that they sell blocks of rooms to Priceline so this issue was Priceline’s fault.
I was about to give up when I decided to try calling the hotel directly. I told them about the email that I received. The hotel representative said she wasn’t aware that they were re-booking people at the Princess Kaiulani. She asked if she could look into it and call me back. I said yes, not thinking that they would actually call me back. But they did. They told me that there was a glitch in the system that allowed them to overbook the hotel. So they contacted Priceline so they could let people know about the situation before they arrived. She told me again about what they were offering. I told her that wasn’t what I wanted and I didn’t think it was fair that I should be moved considering I booked this room 9 months in advance and they obviously weren’t overbooked then. She said that luckily they had some cancellations that day and they would still be able to accommodate me.
I talked to my sister who used to work at a hotel about what happened. She said that this happens a lot with hotels; she said that hotels overbook rooms just like airlines overbook flights. And the hotels will try to move the people who paid the least for their rooms to a sister hotel. So the moral of that story is to call the hotel directly if it happens to you. Make sure you resolve it before the trip if you can or before accepting the room if it happens when you arrive.
With all that unpleasantness before arriving at the hotel, we were skeptical that we would have a good time when we actually got there. But we were so happy that we were wrong. The hotel was amazing. It was literally right on Waikiki Beach. You walked down some stairs from the hotel to the beach. The hotel had an infinity pool for adults. And they had a pool that had a water slide for the kids. I think our kids would have been happy to spend the entire day at the pool. Heck, I even loved the water slide. I would definitely recommend this hotel to friends. The location was amazing and the staff was great.
This last February I was lucky to take my first trip to Hawaii with my husband and kids. I spent a lot of time planning for the trip months ahead of it. I know 2 people who live in Hawaii so I asked both of them for tips. The most basic question I had was which islands I should visit. They gave me descriptions of the islands. She said:
- Oahu – this island is the most populated. This island is good for people who like to go out to clubs and shopping. It also has a lot of historical sites including Pearl Harbor.
- Maui – this island is a balance of remote activities and urban activities. There are many high-end resorts. This is a popular destination for honeymooners. You can drive the road to Hana, bike down Haleakala, or take in a round of golf at world famous PGA courses.
- The Big Island - this island is known for it’s volcano, ecological diversity, and history.
- Kaui – this island is known as the Garden Island. It is known for it’s remote destinations and hiking.
- Lanai – this island is remote but has 2 top resorts.
Based on those descriptions and flight availability, we went to Oahu and Maui.
Airfare: Last year, my husband and I both got the British Airways 100k credit card sign-up bonus. We used those points to get all of our airfare. Since each ticket cost 35k in miles, we needed 140k for all of us. BA allows you to create a household account so you can combine miles for anyone who lives in the same house. We did this so that we wouldn’t have remnant miles in our single accounts. After getting our tickets, we still had 60k in our household account. We flew into Oahu and out of Maui. We bought puddle-jumper flights between Oahu and Maui on go!Mokulele.
We were worried about the long flights down to Hawaii. We weren’t sure how our boys would behave being couped up for a long time on flights. I have to say that I was really surprised at how well they did. We bought them both a DS before the trip so they would have something to keep them occupied. They also enjoyed looking out the windows and seeing how high in the air we were. And jet lag wasn’t too bad of a problem either. We made sure to tell them before we left that we would expect them to sleep at the hotel when we got in. We got in around 11 PM, which in east coast time is about the time they get up. But I think because it was dark outside and the long day of traveling, they didn’t have a problem sleeping.
Rental Car: Since we were going to 2 islands, I had to make 2 rental car reservations. I booked directly with Budget for our rental car on Oahu. I found a great discount code by Googling “Budget car discount code”. I booked our rental car for Maui using Priceline (after checking Better Bidding and Bidding for Travel).
Hotel: After consulting, Better Bidding and Bidding for Travel, I used Priceline to book a hotel on Oahu. I used the method described in a previous post to bid. I was able to get a room at the Sheraton Waikiki for $110/night (when the lowest you could find using traditional sites was $260/night). I used Starwood hotel points for one of our nights on Maui at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas. And I used cash and points for 2 of our nights there so it only cost us $90/night.
Activities – Oahu: The first thing I did was figure out what activities we wanted to do while we were in Hawaii. I knew we wanted to go to Pearl Harbor. Since we were only on Oahu for about one day, we knew we wouldn’t have time to do much more there. We figured we’d go to Pearl Harbor and spend the rest of the time at our resort and on Waikiki Beach. We made sure to get to Pearl Harbor early because tickets to the USS Arizona are handed out in the morning. If you don’t get there early, you may get a time very late in the day or not at all.
Activities – Maui: On Maui, we wanted to go to a luau, see whales, go snorkeling, and my husband wanted to bike down Haleakala. One of the people I know who lives in Hawaii lives on Maui. She told me that we would see whales from the shore. We shouldn’t waste our time with a whale watching trip. If we wanted to see them up closer, we should just do anything on the water. Her husband also works for Maui Sunriders which does bike tours down Haleakala. My husband booked a trip with them. We killed 2 birds with 1 stone by booking a snorkeling trip. We got to snorkel and see whales. There are tons of companies who do snorkeling trip. We went with the Pacific Whale Foundation because they had discounts for kids. Kids 6 and under were free. And kids 7 – 12 were only $35. For the luau, I searched on-line and researched in travel books. Luaus can be quite expensive. Since it was our first luau and we were going with kids, I didn’t want to book a super expensive luau. I found Maui Hawaii Luau which offered discounts on luaus (I believe the web site is run by Boss Frog’s because that’s where we picked up our tickets). We booked the Ka’anapali Beach Luau (which is really the Royal Lahaina Luau) because kids 3 – 11 were free with a paying adult. Plus they had a kids buffet which included hotdogs, chicken nuggets, and chips.
In another post(s), I’ll give reviews of the places we visited. It was an incredible vacation. We are looking forward to going back again next year.