Our “cheap” vacation in Hawaii – the good, the bad, and the expensive.

Originally, this was going to be a cool post on how awesome and cheap our last minute Hawaiian vacation was. But as you can tell from the title, things did not go according to plan. Apologies if this comes across as negative, but as far as a vacation goes, this one was not what we had in mind.

A series of unfortunate events…

My husband switched jobs, and we decided to take a last minute vacation before he settled into his new company. We used travel points to book a vacation to Kauai, the garden isle of Hawaii. With all of our points, we managed to get a hotel, plane tickets, and a car rental for around $1300. Not bad! The hotel was a very nice resort with a glorious pool right on the bay. We were very excited to go back to Hawaii since our first vacation in Oahu was so amazing. It had been almost two years since we had taken a real vacation so we were really looking forward to our trip.

I took this pic while on vacation in Oahu a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start even before we left. Two days before our flight, our air conditioner’s drain clogged and the pan started to fill with water. We had to get it fixed immediately. Honestly, we are lucky it happened while we were at home and not on vacation. If we hadn’t been here, we would have had quite a mess to clean up when we got home.

The morning of our flight, we wake up hours before dawn and jump into our car, bleary-eyed but happy to be off. In less that 12 hours, we were going to be in Hawaii! YAY! We drove to the airport and had JUST made it through security, when my husband looked at me and said, “I think I threw out my back.” After a rather uncomfortable journey for him, we finally touch down in Kauai. He is in a lot of pain so we decide to take it easy for a few days.

The Good….

The first day was kind of cold and rainy so we drove up to the north part of the island. We checked things to do and stopped at cool spots to take pictures..

Hanalei


Day two, we drove down to the south part of the island to check out Poi’pu beach. We took some pictures but didn’t spend a lot of time there.

Poi’pu beach

Instead, we drove out to Waimea canyon and took pictures from the look-out point.

Waimea Canyon

Not as cool as hiking through it, but it was pretty none-the-less. I could even see a distance waterfall cascading down a mountain.

It was super nice out. Right around 70 and breezy. I had to zoom in to get this pic.

On the drive back, we stopped at Island Taco, which is a great place for people with food allergies btw. They have both gluten and dairy free options and the staff was very friendly and accommodating.

Shrimp Tacos with POG! If you are super sensitive to gluten, I would double check that the corn chips are gluten free. I had no reaction.

Next day, we checked out Wailua River State Park and took some pictures. We also drove up to the north shore to check out Limahuli botanical gardens and take some pictures of the Ke’e beach. Both very pretty.

Limahuli botanical gardens
mistakes we made on our hawaiian vacation
We did a few a few things wrong on our last vacation to Hawaii. Don’t make our mistakes

We also went back to Poipu beach and decided to check out the spouting horn (yes, that is what it is called). We ate at this really awesome sushi restaurant called Makai Sushi. Its inside of a grocery store but one of the only places you can get a gluten and diary free poke bowl. Just outside, we had shaved ice at Loco Coco which used all fresh fruit syrups.

Pic doesn’t do it justice.

The Bad….

Still, poor Mr. Cent’s back did not get better even after all of the relaxing we did. To make matters even MORE fun, he catches a cold. A cold that bothered his asthma enough that we spend almost a whole day in urgent care and the pharmacy. And then he gives the cold to me (and I’m still fighting it off).

Even though we were both feeling a bit under the weather, we decided to try to see the Na Pali coast by boat (Mr. Cents was heavily medicated at this point. lol). Unfortunately, the cruise company cancelled our trip due to weather and we didn’t have time to reschedule. Oh well.

Pic from our hotel balcony.

The rest of the trip we took it easy, and we spend most of it at the hotel. The resort had a nice pool which we frequently took advantage of. Also, their beach was relatively calm so decent for swimming. However, I was disappointed by the housekeeping at this particular resort. They kept neglecting to clean our room! This resort was part of a chain that will offer you points if you opt out of daily room cleaning. You simply hang a skip-cleaning sign outside of your hotel room door for up to three days and they will add 500 points to your account. Free points! Yes, please! We don’t need our room cleaned everyday for sure. The sign said you could opt out of cleaning for UP TO three days. Well, they DO NOT tell you that if you use this program at ANY POINT during your stay, you must schedule an appointment to have your room cleaned even after you remove the sign. After a few days of them skipping our room, I finally catch on and called to schedule a time. Even then, THEY STILL FORGOT!!! This caused many problems for us including running out of toilet paper and having no clean towels after several days. To make matters even worse, they neglected to get our small bag of laundry on time, and we almost didn’t get it back before we left. Thankfully, one of the bellmen knew the owner of the dry cleaners who handled all of the resort’s laundry. He was able to get our laundry to us a few hours before our flight. Benefits of growing up on a small island. Still very disappointing for a large, expensive hotel company.

View of the bay from our hotel balcony

Also, the last few days we were there, they were repainting the top of the hotel. The construction covered our balcony in paint dust, and for two days, we could hear nothing but sanding and scraping. Yet another reason why we spent most of our time at the pool and beach. Very disappointed.

The Expensive….

My friends…  the amount of money we spend on food and drink at the resort was shocking. We basically dropped more than a months food budget in week.  Way more than I remember spending on Oahu. I humbly suggest that you leave any resort for food, or find accommodations that will allow you to make your own meals, if you are willing. One of the problems I ran into, is that the cheaper food options immediately off of the resort were not things we were able to eat due to our food allergies. Even on the resort, finding both gluten and dairy free options was limited and pricey. In order to find things we could both eat, we had to drive or suck it up and pay $30-$50 per person.

If you drink, make your own cocktails, or go to happy hours. Some of the happy hours were $6-9 for a drink which isn’t terrible for a mai tai with a gorgeous view of the Hawaiian coast.

Also, most people know this already, but watch out for the gift shops here. I wanted to buy some Hawaiian rum as a souvenir and found out that the resort gift store had marked up a bottle of rum almost twice what it was in Safeway. If you are really wanting to get a nice souvenir, try Walmart, Costco, or Safeway. We got a huge tub of chocolate covered macadamia nuts from Costco for like $23. After seeing the rum’s markup, I avoided buying any souvenirs at the resort store.

All in all, we spend a lot more than we budgeted on this trip so it really wasn’t that cheap. We don’t regret it though. I would still go back, but maybe with a little more planning next time, and I will definitely stay somewhere else.

Have you ever had vacation that didn’t quite turn out the way you wanted? Leave a comment!

Top 3 Mistakes I made with my 401k

Regret…. that feeling that creeps into your brain after you know you did something dumb. Sometimes in happens quickly, like yesterday after I knew I’d eaten too many french fries. Sometimes it take a while, like years, for you to realize that you made a dumb move.

Ben is watching. Don’t disappoint him. Contribute to your 401k.

There are definitely things that I’ve done (or not done) that I sincerely regret financially. Most of them have to do with saving money for retirement.

I started early, but not early enough. Pretty much any financial expert will tell you that its best to start saving for retirement as early as possible. The first job I had out of college, I didn’t take full advantage of their retirement plan. They contributed an automatic 1% of my salary to a retirement account regardless of whether I contributed anything. No matching, so I didn’t contribute. Plus, I knew that I wouldn’t be at that job long. My husband was looking for a job in a different state, and we were saving up for moving expenses. Still, if I had contributed just a LITTLE BIT, that money would be worth more now.

Save for retirement by saving money early, invest in your 401k, and max out your retirement contributions
Learn from my mistakes. Don’t make these three mistakes with your 401k. Save early and invest.

I saved, but I didn’t invest. My second job had a much nicer retirement plan. If I saved 5% of my salary, they would match it. Even though I’d never really thought about retirement before, I thought “yes! that’s free money!” I like free money, so I will definitely contribute 5%! But I had NO IDEA which fund to put my money in. I looked at my options and was just confused. WTH is an S&P 500 index fund? Sounds fancy. I didn’t trust myself to chose a good fund so I just checked the box next to the safest investment I could choose…bonds.  I SHOULD had done a quick google search on the other funds and tried to understand what they were. If I had, I wouldn’t have been afraid to invest in them. Also, this was just before the 2008 market crash. If I had invested wisely, I would have been contributing to funds at their cheapest price in recent history.  Ugh.

Avoid these mistakes with your 401k.
Invest wisely. Research your retirement plans so you understand what you are investing in.

I’m still not maxing out my contributions. This regret is going to be remedied soon! First, Mr. Cents and I are going to pay off our car and student loan debts, and then we are going to max out our contributions. If everything goes according to plan, we will pay off all of our debt minus our house in the next three years.

How about you? Do you have retirement-savings regrets?