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Finalizing Hawaii Spring Break Trip on Miles and Points

Although it still seems so far away, our Hawaii Spring Break trip is happening in less than six months. Yippee!

We are a family of five, and our trip will be 10 days, with 6 nights in Kauai and 4 nights at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Oahu. We went to Hawaii for the first time in 2015, with our flights and hotels completely covered by miles and points. I thought that would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii. However, we actually fell in love with Hawaii, so here we go again!

I recently finalized our flights and hotels. Although we are not covering 100% of our expenses with miles and points this time, we are covering our flights and the Kauai portion of our hotel stay. Our trip is significantly cheaper than it would be if we had to pay all cash.

Hawaii Spring Break Trip Using Miles and Points

Credit Card Bonuses Used for Hawaii Spring Break Trip

Chase British Airways Visa—Both my husband and I applied for these cards last year when the bonus was 50,000 miles for spending $2000 in the first three months plus an additional 25,000 miles for spending $15,000 during the first year. We both hit the first bonus threshold, and I hit the second bonus threshold for a total of over 140,000 British Airways Avios. We did have to pay the $95 annual fee on both cards. This card is not subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

Merrill + Visa by Bank of America—Earlier this year, we both applied for the Merrill + card with 50,000 bonus points after spending $3000 in the first three months. With our grand total of 100,000+ points, we had enough to redeem for four $500 flights (that’s $2000 of free flights combined!). No annual fee! According to Doctor of Credit, this card will be discontinued on September 18, but until then you can apply for it over the phone with a special code to get the bonus.

Chase Sapphire Reserve—My husband was approved for this card last summer when the bonus was 100,000 points. Although the annual fee is $450, we were able to get $600 in travel credits, so I will not count that fee as part of our trip cost. The points are worth 1.5 cents each in Chase’s travel portal, so the points we accumulated were worth over $1600 for hotels, airfare or other travel expenses. Note that the bonus on this card has since been reduced to 50,000 points.

Hawaii Spring Break on Miles and Points

Capital One Venture Rewards Card—I received a targeted invitation for this card a few months ago with 50,000 bonus points after spending $3000 in three months. Those points are worth $500 in travel credits. The annual fee is waived the first year.

Flights to Hawaii

My strategy for flights was to use our British Airways Avios for one way to or from Hawaii and our Merrill + and Capital One points for the other way. So in April (11 months before our trip), I started stalking award space on AA.com.

I lucked out, and I was able to book five tickets from Dallas to Lihue, Kauai (with a stopover in Seattle) on Alaska Airlines (partner of British Airways). I called British Airways to book these tickets, as I couldn’t combine both legs online. Each ticket cost 22,500 Avios + $5.60 in taxes for a total of 112,500 Avios + $28.

Return Flights

Flying home would be the easy part. With the Merrill + points, I just needed to find return flights around $500. Our points would cover four flights, and then I would use my Capital One Venture Rewards points for the fifth person.

There were a lot of flights from HNL to DFW under $500, so it was just a matter of choosing the best time. Most of the return flights from Hawaii are red-eye flights and include a stopover on the West Coast in the middle of the night. Not my first choice, especially with kids!

A few weeks ago, I saw flights on Delta for $524 each that left HNL at 7:15 a.m. and arrived at DFW later that same day. Sold! No red-eye for us!

I used our Merrill + points to book four of those flights. Then, I had to call Delta to book my oldest son’s flight with my Capital One points, since he is 13 and couldn’t be booked by himself online. Delta linked him to our reservation numbers so that he is no longer considered unaccompanied minor. I was short a few Merrill + points, but I had enough Capital One points to charge the remaining balance and use those points. Total for return flights: ~166,000 flexible points + $0.

Inter-island Flights

Now that I had flights to Kauai and flights home from Oahu, I just needed to get us from Lihue to Honolulu during the middle of our trip. And honestly, if we had to pay cash for those flights, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. I found flights as low as $70-$100 each on Hawaiian Airlines.

However, my husband had some AA miles from work travel. Inter-island flights on Hawaiian Airlines via AA miles cost 7500 miles + $5.60. Total cost: 37,500 miles +$28.

Kauai Hotel

Earlier this year, I debated if I should use our Chase Ultimate Rewards points to stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Since we needed two rooms, it would cost us 50,000 points per night.

I decided that instead we should book a condo through the Chase travel portal. A condo would offer us more space and save us money on going out to eat. Also, we would have a washer/dryer in our unit, so we could pack less.

After pouring over reviews, I picked a two-bedroom condo that fit our budget. Although I had questioned if I should pay extra for an ocean view, I decided to skip it and use that money on excursions instead.

Hawaii Spring Break on Miles and Points

Although we paid for the condo with UR points, we will still have to pay a daily resort fee ($20 per night) and a cleaning fee ($250) when we check in. Total out-of-pocket cost for 6 nights in a 2-bedroom condo: ~$370

Oahu Hotel

For our four nights in Oahu, we are splurging on Disney’s Aulani Resort. Yes, it’s a big splurge. And yes, we could easily stay for free in another hotel chain using points from a credit-card bonus (like Hyatt or Hilton).

However, we really enjoyed Aulani on our last trip, and we wanted to return while our kids are still young. The included child care at Aunty’s Beach House can’t be beat! Plus, Aulani is one of the few hotels with special teen activities.

Hawaii Spring Break Trip Using Miles and Points

Pool and beach at Disney’s Aulani Resort

Right now, we have four nights booked at rack rate. But just like Disney World resorts, Disney usually releases discounts closer to travel time. Assuming we will get a 25% discount, our total will be about $3000. And yes, it’s worth it to us!

Note: In a future post, I will cover ways to “travel hack” Disney’s Aulani Resort, including the Citi Prestige’s 4th night free benefit and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus.

Crunching the Numbers

Flights: The cheapest cash flights I could find for our dates and itinerary are ~$1200 each, for a total of $6000. We are only paying $246 in out-of-pocket cash for credit card annual fees and award ticket taxes.

Hotels: For 10 nights in our chosen hotels, the cash cost would be ~$4970. We will be paying $3370.

Total Cash Cost: $10,970

Our Out-of-pocket cash cost: $3616

Total Savings: $7354 or 67% off

As you can see, this trip is not free, mainly due to our decision to splurge on Aulani. But, we are still saving a significant amount of money by using miles and points from credit card bonuses.

Hawaii is Very Doable on Miles and Points

My strategy for getting my family to Hawaii on miles and points is just one of the many combos available. If getting to Hawaii is your goal, please reach out to us. We will help you find the right credit card bonuses to get you there!

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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28 thoughts on “Finalizing Hawaii Spring Break Trip on Miles and Points

  1. Nancy, that’s so exciting. I’m like you. We went to Hawaii the first time thinking we’d only go once, but I just booked our third trip. I loved Kauai and let me know if you need suggestions about what to do while you are there. I was able to get our Maui tickets with the AA Barclaycard. I still can’t believe I basically paid $95 in fees to get a r/t ticket to Hawaii.

    • @Jennifer Wow, 3rd trip! That’s so exciting and wonderful that you were able to get flights with the AA Barclaycard. I’m planning to do a separate post with our itinerary to pick readers’ brains about suggestions and priorities in Kauai. My problem is that I have too many things I want to do!

      I hope that your home and city are ok in the aftermath of Irma!

      • Thanks. I’m not sure yet how we fared. Our town wasn’t supposed to get it but ended up getting slammed. I evacuated so I will have to wait and see the damage. I was supposed to be at Hyatt Coconut Point this week instead of evacuating! 😒

      • @Jennifer I’m sorry you had to miss your time at the resort this weekend. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon and you can reschedule.

  2. Thats amazing!I cant wait to read about the Disney travel hacking. I hope to soon write a similar post about our Cali trip – didnt pay much for hotel or flights. yay!

    • @Momma To Go–I never dreamed I would be able to afford to travel to Hawaii with my large family. And now we’re doing it twice! I’m glad you were able to use some miles for your recent trip.

  3. You’re going to think I’m stalking you. Our son picked the Disney Alaskan cruise for his high school graduation trip next summer. Our daughter is 2 years behind him and has already picked Hawaii for her graduation trip! Will definitely be paying attention. Thanks to you, we have Hyatt in Vancouver booked next summer using points.

  4. Do you have recommendation for activities in Oahu outside Disney? We’ll have 2.5 days next spring break with 8&11 years old. Also question about transferring Amex to BA: w/ 40% bonus: AA doesn’t have a lot of domestic from Denver. AA DEN to Europe has 23 hr or longer or on BA metal with outrages fees. Other use will be AerLingus from Boston to Europe. Agonizing a speculative transfer on 65K MR. Any thought? Help please.

    • @Agnes On Oahu, my whole family loved Kualoa Ranch. That side of Oahu is absolutely gorgeous! My husband did an ATV ride there, and I took my kids on the jungle expedition ride. The guides were really great with the kids and we learned a lot! We also really loved visiting the North Shore. We had the best fresh coconut shrimp and fish tacos from some food trucks there, as well as the famous Matsumoto’s shaved ice. We combined our North Shore visit with a trip to the Dole Pineapple Plantation (which was neat but we liked the North Shore better). We also hiked up to the top of Diamond Head. Awesome views!

      As far as your question about transferring Amex to BA: I wouldn’t speculatively transfer. I would only transfer if you know of a specific route you will definitely take that usually has award availability. Plus, these transfer bonuses pop up from time to time. You might be better saving those miles to transfer to a United partner, since you would probably have better luck with United award tickets out of Denver. I hope that helps!

  5. Nancy, thank you for all your advice. United is way easier to find award in economy. I will wait to transfer MR to Kris to fly United metal. Not to worry about low season is a plus. Thank you!

  6. Nancy, sounds like you’re getting some great deals. What are you doing for car rentals? That’s where I never have enough points so I end up paying cash. Thank goodness I’ve been able to get great deals through Costco expecially for Hawaii.

    We did the Afternoon 3 hour Napili Coast tour with Holo Holo Charters on Kauai — a bit pricey, but it was worth it. It’s one of the only ways to see the sea caves. They also sell discounted gift cards through Costco – that’s how I did it and ended up saving $150.

    • @Stephanie We currently have a car reserved with discounthawaiicarrental.com, but I might end up using AA miles instead. I’m sure I’ll write a post on it at some point. 🙂

      For your Napali boat tour, were you on one of those inflatable small boats? I’m unsure if we are going to do a boat tour. It seems like a great way to see that coast, though.

      • @Nancy our boat had seats (but no shade) as we had my inlaws and kids with us, and I heard the inflatable boats are hard on your backs and knees. It was definitely worth the extra money for the comfort as it does get really bumpy on the ride back to Hanalei Bay.

        Just email me if you have anymore questions. Don’t miss out on Waimea Canyon either. On the way back from the canyon, we stopped for a late lunch @ The Saddle Room (best Mai Tai’s and decent bbq food & burgers).

  7. I enjoyed this post, because my family of six just came back from our very first trip to Hawaii (Maui) a couple of weeks ago. We were able to do this trip because of miles and points, and luckily were able to get tickets on Alaska from our West Coast home for 150,000 Avios. We also used Chase points for a snorkeling tour and for a van rental, and we saved bank bonus money from this year to put toward our condo rental. We also loved Hawaii, and I think we might try to visit a different island next summer! Our trip wasn’t free, but it was definitely heavily discounted. I can’t wait to hear what you think about Kauai.

    • @Andrea I’m so glad to hear you had a great time in Maui! And that you were able to offset expenses with miles and points! Maui might be next on our list.

  8. First of all, have an amazing time on this vacation – it sounds incredible! Second of all, I am officially blown away at all of these strategies you used to save such an incredible amount of money. It’s amazing! Thank you so much for sharing these tips – I think it will come in handy for many – I know I can’t wait to try them 🙂

  9. WOW! I wish we could plan vacations far in advance! My husbands job has very unpredictable hours and we can’t plan vacations because something always comes up and his vacation doesn’t get approved so we tend to go on closer to home spur of the moment trips! I wonder if we could save up some really good rewards not traveling on “big” trips that really rack the points up!

    • @platformsandpacifiers Trying to plan a trip with unpredictable hours is very tough! We earn the vast majority of our points through credit card sign-up bonuses. You could always sign up for a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which currently has 50,000 points good toward $500 in travel expenses. You could book a resort closer to home with a refundable rate with your points and cancel if your schedule gets shifted.

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