Category Archives: Example Trips

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

This is the first post in the trip report of our trip to Maui.  I will have posts about: the Hyatt Regency Maui in general, Hyatt Regency Maui activities (including the Drums of the Pacific Luau, Camp Hyatt and Japengo), Ka’anapali Beach, Haleakala, the Road to Hana, the Pacific Whale Foundation, and the Northwest region and Iao.

We were so fortunate to stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.  Last year, I applied for the Hyatt Visa which came with 2 free nights at any Hyatt property.  I also got the 100,000 point bonus Capital One card.  I redeemed the points for $1,800 worth of Hyatt gift checks.  We stayed at the property for 6 nights, our kids went to Camp Hyatt for 2 hours one of the nights, my husband got mai tais at the grotto bar and we went out for a fancy dinner at Japengo.  Our out of pocket expense at check out was….about $60.

The Hyatt Visa gave me platinum status with Hyatt until February 2013 (so about 2 years).  One of the benefits of platinum status is you get “a preferred room including rooms on higher floors or larger rooms, based on availability upon arrival”.  We booked a standard double room and we were given a partial ocean view room!

Our room:

The grounds:

Our kids loved the pools.  They mainly stayed in the kiddie pool area.  The area in the pictures below show this.  There is one area where the water is only about 1 – 2 feet deep (where you see all the floating animals).  This area also has a small slide for the little kids.  The area right behind that area (beyond the nets) is around 5 feet deep.  There is a much larger slide that empties into that area.  Kids must be at least 48″ tall to go on that slide.  The slide empties into water that is about 9 feet deep.  My older son, husband and I loved the slide.  My younger son wasn’t tall enough to go on it but he loved the smaller slide.  The larger slide take 5 – 7 seconds to slide down.

There is a larger pool area that we didn’t spend any time at.  The water is deeper – 4 feet and up.  Between the kiddie pool and the larger pool is a cave area that has waterfalls at both entrances.  The grotto bar is located in the cave.

About the only “complaint” that I have is that I wish there was a pool area where the depth was around 3 – 3 1/2 feet deep.  There were some areas, right where you get in that were around that depth but they quickly got deeper to around 5 feet deep.  The kiddie pool was quite shallow and 5 feet deep is too deep for most kids.

I had read some reviews on TripAdvisor that weren’t so favorable.  Many people talked about some construction that they were doing to update the hotel.  I’m happy to say that that seemed to be over when we were there.  We saw no signs of construction.  And as you can tell from our room pictures, the hotel is very up to date.  There were also some comments on TripAdvisor complaining about parking.  We had absolutely no issues with parking even when the luau was happening.  There are 4 parking lots that you can use.  Two are fairly small in the front of the hotel (to the right as you’re entering the resort).  There’s also a rather large parking lot in the back of the resort (the entry is to the left right before the circle for valet parking).  We never had a time when we couldn’t find parking in one of those 3 lots.  However, if those are ever full, you can also park in the self-parking lot near the golf course.

We loved our stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui.  We found everyone we encountered to be very friendly.  The grounds were absolutely beautiful and the kids loved the pools.  There was so much to do at the resort and it’s located at Ka’anapali Beach.  I would definitely recommend this resort to friends.

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Maui Trip Plan

Last year, we took our first trip to Hawaii.  We flew into Oahu and spent a little over a day there, which gave us the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach.  We then flew to Maui where we spent the rest of our vacation.  I was a little worried about the amount of time it would take to get to Hawaii from the East Coast.  My husband isn’t crazy about process of getting to your destination and I wasn’t sure how our kids would do on the long plane rides.  Luckily, everyone did great.  And by the time we got home, my husband was already saying that he wanted to go back.

Fast forward a year and we’re almost on our way back.  This year we decided to only to go Maui.  It was great to go to Oahu, but we found that Maui was much more our speed.  It had a much more relaxed atmosphere but there was still a lot to do (even with kids).  We were lucky to be able to use frequent flyer miles for all 4 of our tickets.  And I got the Hyatt Visa card which came with 2 free nights.  Then I got the Capital One card when they were matching up to 100,000 miles of any of your frequent flyer accounts.  I redeemed those points for Hyatt gift checks.  So we’re spending a grand total of $115 for our airfare, 6 nights at the Hyatt Regency and $200 for incidentals at the Hyatt.

I had somewhat of an idea of what activities we wanted to do this time around.  But, I wanted to get more ideas so I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone had suggestions on what we could do.  I also got Maui Revealed from the library, since the series of books are considered the best guide books for Hawaii.  And now I have a plan for our vacation!

  • Saturday – We get in late, so we’re not planning anything except for a good night’s sleep.
  • Sunday – Sunrise at Haleakala and then the rest of the day at the hotel pools and beach.

National Park Service picture of the sunrise at Haleakala

  • Monday – Snorkeling at Molokini and Turtle Arches with the Pacific Whale Foundation.  We went on a snorkeling trip with them last year and had a great time.  They do an amazing job with kids.  They give them a marine biology lessons.  You can see my review from last year.

Pacific Whale Foundation

  • Tuesday – The Road to Hana.  I was a little worried about taking this trip with the kids but was convinced that it is not to be missed.  I’m sure I’ll be happy that we took the trip.

Picture of the Road to Hana from Go Visit Hawaii

  • Wednesday – Beach and a luau.  I scheduled items at the beginning of the week that we’d need to get up early for.  I figured that we use our jetlag to our advantage.  By later in the week, I’m sure we’ll like to have some time to just relax around the hotel and beach.  And luckily, the Hyatt also has a luau.  Last year we went to the Royal Lahaina Luau.  I’m read some bad reviews of it, but I found it to be a great time.  And they definitely catered to the family crowd, offering discounts to kids and including chicken nuggets in their buffet.  This year, we thought we’d trip another luau to get a different show.  I know that the Old Lahaina Luau is given the best reviews, but we decided against it.  Since they are a traditional Hawaiian luau, they do not have a fire show.  And that was the part of the luau that our kids liked the best. 

Picture of Drums of the Pacific by Hawaii Activities

  • Thursday – Iao Valley, Nakalele blowhole and Olivine Pools.  Last year, a local suggested that we visit Iao.  He said whenever people visit, that’s where he takes them.  Because we only had about 3 days in Maui, we didn’t get a chance to make it there.  So luckily, we get to rectify that this year.  Plus a friend suggested we go to the Nakalele blowhole and Maui Revealed talked about natural pools along the north shore.

Iao Valley

Nakalele Blowhole picture by Maui Guidebook

Olivine Pools picture by Maui Guidebook

  • Friday – Our flight isn’t until 10 PM, so we have most of the day, but we don’t want to travel far.  We’ll spend the day enjoying the beach and doing some souvenir shopping and eating in Lahaina.  I’m sure we’ll also visit KMart and WalMart near the airport for souvenirs.

Lahaina Waterfront

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Trip Across the U.S.

We have been so fortunate to take some amazing vacations because of this travel hacking game.  So I think my next vacation plan may surprise since it doesn’t involve flying.  As I wrote in my first post, when I was about 8 years old, my entire family (excluding my oldest sister) took a trip across the country.  Can you imagine taking a trip across the country with 2 adults and 10 kids in a van.  Here are a couple of pictures from the trip.  Can you pick me out of the crowd?

Now that our kids are getting older and at the request of my sister-in-law, I’m thinking we should take a trip across the country.  I’m hoping that it will be us and my husband’s twin’s family (and any other family members who would like to join us).  My sister-in-law has wanted to take this kind of trip as long as she can remember.

We know that it will take some serious planning so we’re thining of taking the trip the summer of 2013.  I have to put some a lot of thought into what we want to do and see and that may dictate our route.  Personally, I want my kids to see the Grand Canyon, the Rockies and Mount Rushmore.  What a great way to teach the kids about the U.S. and for them to get a different perspective on life.  And I’d like to sneak in some visits with friends along the way.  A lot of my dad’s family lives in California, so I definitely want to see them.  And we have some friends in Colorado we’d like to visit.

I’m going to do some research on if there are web sites to help plan a trip across the U.S. and I’ll share what I find.  I’m hoping that some of my readers will have suggestions on places we should visit.

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Vieques, Puerto Rico

First Happy New Year to everyone!  Sorry I haven’t been posting for awhile.  I enjoyed a nice Christmas break with my family.  Our boys absolutely loved Christmas.  I hope this new year brings everyone much happiness.

I’ve talked about how I lived in Puerto Rico for a year and a half in other posts.  In one of the posts, I made mention of Culebra and Vieques.  They are smaller Puerto Rican islands.  Vieques used to be the home of a US military base until 2003. 

If you are looking for a more secluded Carribean vacation, you should consider Vieques.  I spent a weekend there with my coworkers back in 1999 and it was one of my favorite weekends of my time in Puerto Rico.  It was so relaxing since it wasn’t crawling with tourists and it wasn’t over-developed.  We rented Jeeps and stayed at a remote B&B.  In 2008, Travel & Leisure named Vieques the Best Island in the Carribean, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

If you decide to take a trip to Vieques, you may feel like you’re stepping back in time when you try to find information about the island and book reservations.  Many of the hotels, rental car companies and restaurants do not have web sites.  Don’t let this deter you.  I think this is part of the reason that the island is still so remote and such a great find. 

The Vieques Travel Guide web site is a great start for planning your trip.  It gives you information about the options you have to the island, lists of various accommodations (B&Bs, luxury villas and resorts), rental car companies, attractions and beaches.  I did a quick review of the web site and it has great information.  I like that it gives you the different options of how to get to the island (make sure you check out both the Air Services page and the Getting to Vieques page).  My assumption is that most people take flights from San Juan Airport because it’s easier.  When we went to Vieques, we flew from Ceiba Airport to Vieques.  You could also take a ferry from Fajardo.  I can’t say what would be the best for you.  It really depends on your plans.  If you’re not planning on visiting the main island, you probably will want to book flight from San Juan (SJU) to Vieques (VQS).  However, if you’re going to spend some time on the main island, you might consider flying out of one of the other airports or taking the ferry.

If you’ve never been to Puerto Rico, I’d suggest spending at least a few days on the main island.  Old San Juan and El Yunque (the rain forest) are not to be missed.  In my other posts, I talked about all the other activities you can do on the main island.

If you go to Vieques, do not miss the Bioluminescent Bay!  It is a bay with micro-organisms that glow when touched or shaken.  The best way that I can describe it is it’s like fireflies in the water.  When you go on a tour of the bay, you are allowed to jump in the water and it just glows around you.  You can lie on your back and make “snow angels” in the water.

Also make sure you go scuba diving or snorkeling.  There is information about it on the Things to Do page.

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Vacation Closer to Home

So often in this travel game, we are looking to book exotic vacations.  Collecting miles has been so easy the past few years, which has made it more affordable to take those kinds of vacations.  However, we shouldn’t forget about vacations we could take closer to home.  Maybe it’s just for a quick weekend getaway.  Most of us live within driving distance from locations that people all over the world use their hard earned vacation time and money to travel to.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up outside of Buffalo, NY.  We lived about 30 – 45 minutes from Niagara Falls.  This is a dream destination for people all over the world.  However, I don’t think that I visited it until I was in college.  If I did visit before then, it was once or maybe twice when I was a kid. 

I was talking with my sister a few weeks ago about this concept.  She lives in North Carolina and was spending Thanksgiving at the Outer Banks.  We talked about how many people don’t think about the wonderful places near them when planning a vacation.  I can say that I’m certainly guilty of that.  I’ve lived in Connecticut for over 10 years and have yet to visit Cape Cod. 

Now I will say that I have been focused on visiting places that take a long time to travel to.  My mom has told us that as we get older, we won’t want to travel as far.  While I’ve heard of people in their 90s still traveling to Europe, I figure it can’t hurt to get some long distance travel done when we’re younger.  Still that is no excuse not to have visited Cape Cod.

Think of all the great places to visit in the US – Cape Cod, NYC, Revolutionary War and Civil War Battlefields, Washington, DC, the Outer Banks, so many southern cities, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Florida Keys, Wisconsin Dells, Chicago, the Lake Erie Islands, Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, LA, California wine country, the Gulf Coast, New Orleans, Nashville, Austin, the Alamo, the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, all the National Parks, Disney World/Disneyland, the Pacific Northwest and so many more.

Think of places you might not have thought of visiting before.  My husband lived in central Mississippi for a year and a half.  I don’t think I would have thought of putting Mississippi on my travel list, but I will tell you that we had an amazing time when he lived there.  The people are incredibly nice.  One of the guys at the mill he worked at decided that my husbad looked like one of his nephews and treated us as such.  Every time I came to visit, they would have us over for supper (lunch in Northern terms) as we headed back to the airport.  Glenda’s cooking was unbelieveable!

We also traveled around the state.  We stayed at a bed and breakfast that were former plantation in Nachez, MS.  We visited the Gulf Coast at Biloxi and also went to New Orleans for a weekend.  One of my favorite memories from Mississippi was a party we were invited to in the countryside.  The person throwing the party had a chef come up from New Orleans to cook the crawfish for a crawfish boil.  The “tables” were a piece of plywood held up by 2 garbage cans.  There were holes cut out over the garbage cans.  They cooked the crawfish in an outside building.  They then put it into a cooler to carry it over to the tables.  They dumped it out on the table and everyone stood around the table eating the crawfish and throwin the shells into the holes.  It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

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