Originally published January 27, 2011
In light of the most recent snowstorm to hit NYC this winter (what's up with the weather this year??), I thought it would be a good time to further reminisce about being in Hawaii. As promised, I'm going to give you some tips on how to score good deals while vacationing. I'm also going to give you some "don'ts" so you don't make the same mistakes I did.
1. This is an absolute "DO"-- get a guidebook before you go on vacation. They are soooo helpful and really give you an insight into wherever you're traveling that you wouldn't have otherwise. Also, it will give you recommendations for restaurants, tour companies, excursions, etc. I will usually do some research as to what are the best books for a particular location, but in general I really like the Let's Go series for Europe, and will use Fodor's for other places as my default if I can't find any clear book winner. For Hawaii, I heard unequivocal praise for the Hawaii guidebooks from Wizard Publications (which I had never heard of before).
I will usually check these books out of the library prior to my trip. However, the NYPL actually does not carry Wizard's The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, so I went out and purchased it (using a 20% off coupon at Barnes & Noble!). I would HIGHLY recommend this book if you ever go to Hawaii (there's a different book for each island).
2. The next tip is pretty obvious and goes hand in hand with my previous tip. Research and plan beforehand. When I'm doing a vacation involving a lot of sight-seeing, I like to have at least a rough idea of the things I want to see and do. I won't make a structured itinerary--I like to leave some flexibility-- but I want to make sure that I'll have time to do everything I had hoped to. Another benefit of researching beforehand is that you may actually save money! For instance, my boyfriend and I decided to take a helicopter tour of Kauai. We decided on one particular tour company that seemed to be the most reputable. When I looked on their website, I saw the price was $229 per person. I called the company and asked about discounts and learned that the only available discount was for AAA members. So I did a little more digging online, and found a Maui-based tour company, Tom Barefoot's Tours that was offering discounted reservations. I wound up booking through Tom Barefoot, and we paid $197 per person. While this certainly wasn't cheap, between the two of us, we wound up saving $64. Hey, it's something! And for the record, the ride was totally worth the money.
Anyway, this post is much longer than I anticipated. But I still have a few more tips so stay tuned for one last post on my vacation money-saving tips!