I recently went on a nice 4 night/5 day trip to Maui with my girlfriend. Part of what I like about traveling vacations is figuring out how to get there and where to stay. Several things impacted my decision to go to Maui. Since I don’t get a lot of paid time off of work, I knew the time away would be limited. This is also due to my girlfriend’s schedule during the Summer. Everyone knows that travel can be expensive so my goal was to do the vacation without much out of pocket.
Planning the Flight
The hotel we stayed at did sway the decision of where we went, but the bigger influence was the flight. In February, I got the Alaska Airlines Visa Card. Not only did it get me 25,000 miles, it also got me a companion pass. This companion pass gets me a an economy-class ticket for $99 with a paid fare anywhere Alaska Airlines flies. They fly to several popular destinations in Mexico but neither of us wanted to go to Mexico. So we decided to go to Hawaii, but didn’t know which island.
For those that don’t know, my girlfriend doesn’t live near me. She actually planned another trip just before the dates we had in mind to go to Hawaii so she was arriving here late the night before we planned on leaving. What I didn’t realize was how limited the options are to go from Southern California to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines. They have daily flights from San Diego to the 4 main islands, but the flight times were way too early for us to get there with a reasonable amount of sleep. Since American and Delta fly to Hawaii from LAX and Alaska is partners with them, Alaska does not offer non-stop flights to Hawaii.
We decided on Maui based on the flight times going there and coming back, and our preferred hotel availability. We ended up taking a morning flight to Portland and then on to Maui. We had a short connection, but more on that in the next post.
Getting a Suite at the Hotel
Much like the flight, the decision of where to go was influenced by the hotel availability – and partially by a credit card in my wallet (again). Last year, I paid for a MilePoint Premium Membership. MilePoint is a popular frequent flyer forum and part of the membership was Platinum status at Hyatt Hotels. I intentionally waited to apply for the Chase Hyatt Visa card until the Platinum status clears so that in addition to the 2 free nights I would also get 2 suite upgrades. Hyatt has properties on Kauai, Oahu and Maui. The use of one of the suite upgrades was a requirement in picking which hotel (and therefore, which island) to stay at. Unfortunately the Andaz Maui was not open yet but I did try to stay there.
With the help from @HyattConcierge on Twitter, I found out the Hyatt Regency Waikiki (on Oahu) and Hyatt Regency Maui had suite upgrade availability. I felt like Honolulu would be too much of a city to fully relax; I equated it to South Beach Miami even though I’ve never been there either.
I booked the Hyatt Regency Maui with a AAA breakfast rate. Getting discounts on hotels is basically the only reason I got AAA. On this trip alone is has more than paid for itself. I got 10% off the daily room rate, and included breakfast. The breakfast was at the buffet and would have cost over $25/person.
On top of that, I still had one of my free nights from the Hyatt Visa. At the time of booking, there wasn’t any availability. I kept looking and about two weeks out I was able to use the free night award for the last night. The free night is not in a suite (unless you’re a diamond member) so I knew there was a possibility of changing rooms in the middle of my stay. As luck would have it, I was able to stay in the suite that last night. The hotel has no obligation to let you stay in the suite so your mileage may vary if you tried it.
After booking the flight and hotel, next came the rental car. A car is almost definitely required on Maui. I can honestly say that this was my first time renting a car for a vacation – I’ve had to do it for temporary car replacement before. My first search yielded almost shocking results…almost $80/day. I looked for several days straight before resigning myself to that rate.
A couple of years ago, I heard of a website, autoslash.com, that would automatically look for the best rental car rate and automatically rebook you. From what I remember, it sounded like an easy way to get a better rate than just booking it and not looking again. The website has changed since then. Now you put in your existing reservation and it will alert you if it found a better rate.
I put in my reservation details at $240 and a week or two later I got an email saying it found the same car for $170. While that’s still not cheap, it was better than $240 and I chalked it up to being an island and it’s more expensive.
Here’s where a simple rental car reservation gets interesting. The above mentioned MilePoint Premium membership also came with National Executive status. While at the time I had no planned use of it, I figure I would see how National adds up to the other guys if there was a need. Renting through National was even more expensive than the $240 rate. Not even a week before I was supposed to leave, I read a post on another blogger’s site about Hertz and that it is possible to status match. I emailed Hertz my account reflected my new Five Star status the very next day. I looked to see how much they would charge me and I was surprised that it was about $120 for 4 days!
Cost and Savings
Flight – Two round trip tickets to OGG cost about $800 on Alaska. Tickets go for about $650 each on other carriers. That equates to about $450 in savings.
Hotel – Two paid nights at $300 each including breakfast. The regular rate, not including breakfast, was $330. Breakfast would $25 per person per day. Doing the math, I paid about $600 instead of $1365, not including taxes and gratuities. Keep in mind, these rates are for a regular room – I’m not going to try to figure out how much the savings on a suite would be (but according to the sign behind the door, rack rate is $2500/night)
Car – Originally the reservation was for $240 but due to persistent searching and a status match, I only paid about half of that.