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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.