Enjoy Your Vacation Without Going Broke!

If you are thinking about a trip to Maui, a little budget planning can ensure you get the most for your vacation dollars.
Marc Elpel

Plan in advance
We travel to Maui every year with the goal of staying as long as possible! Each year as we plan funding for the trip I take some time to review trip costs and plan the vacation expenses in advance. Although on several occasions we have attempted to adjust the budget planning to reduce costs, we find each trip comes in near the same amount.

Trip expenses fall into three major categories -- flight, fixed daily, and per person expenses.

Maui flights
There are a wide range of options for flights to Maui including direct flights from many west coast cities, and connecting flights via Los Angeles or Honolulu. Costs per ticket from San Francisco typically runs $350 to$650, depending on specials and availability. Flights from LA are about $50 less, and from other western cities $50 more.

As a web-savvy traveler, I watch the Maui flight costs regularly, and booked our first few trips online. Surprisingly though, I have gone back to booking through a travel agent as they offer better flight availability, and lower rates! The travel agent competes by buying blocks -- groups of seats at a discounted rate to resell with travel packages. On our last trip we not only purchased flights for less, but also got seats on the exact flight we desired -- one that was sold out online! Traveling with kids can be challenging, so getting a daytime, direct flight is quite desirable.

Fixed daily costs
While staying in Maui there are a number of expenses that are essentially independent of number of travelers. These expenses include the rental car and lodging as the biggest items.

Rental cars
The car will run $30 to $35 per day standard. One word of caution -- Maui rental car agents put used car dealers to shame when it comes to rental practices. The process includes all the "? insurance with that? extra driver? gas coverage? upgrade? ? ." To control your rental costs, there are a few things you may consider.

First, read your insurance policy as you may be covered in a rental car already. Choose a primary driver and pass on the "extra driver expense." Finally, be ready for the pitch and know what you want before entering. Maui does have "used" car rentals as well. They will pick you up at the airport and have reasonable rates and cars. If you are taking the flight-car package discount this will not be an option.

Lodging is the area you can have the most significant impact on travel budget management. If you book a vacation through a travel agent, they will offer you standard hotel packages. Hotels are easy, and generally provide nice accommodations. The downside of hotel vacations is the higher prices, single room and no kitchen.

The following lists a small sampling of the published hotel rates for 2004 for the more popular Maui vacation hotels.

Grand Wailea
$465 to $785
(Suites to $10,000)

Maui Hyatt Regency
$325 to $670

Maui Marriott
$294 to $338

Kaanapali Beach Resort
$169 to $380

All rates are based on web published rates on 12/29/03.

Our first family trip to Maui (including wife and infant) was to a lower-cost vacation hotel in Kaanapali. We found the accommodations less than desirable and ventured out to find an alternative. We ended up at a condo in Kihei the remainder of the trip, and have returned to the same complex every vacation for the past six years!

When you stay in a condominium you get a fully furnished "home" to use for your vacations. Unlike hotels, this includes bedrooms, kitchens, dishes and dishwashers, TV and VCR, many have washer-dryers, and a lanai. Like hotels, most condominium resorts have pools, some have activity centers and workout rooms. The rooms typically are only cleaned when you depart.

Condominium rates range as low as about $45 per night to about $400. A sampling of some of the popular destinations in Kihei is provided in the following table. These numbers represent only one-bedroom units; two-bedroom units run approximately 30% more.

Maui Sunset
$80 to $120

Kamaole Sands
$90 to $120

Luana Kai
$89 to $160

Kihei Alii Kai
$89 to $110

All rates are based on web published rates on 12/29/03 found on www.vrbo.com.

Finding a vacation condominium online is easy. Many are linked through the standard search engines. For one of the most complete listings, check www.vrbo.com. (Vacation Rentals By Owner -- One of the largest listing sites).

Per person expenses
Once the flight, car, and lodging are covered, the remaining costs are for normal daily activities and entertainment. For simplicity, we group our general and entertainment expenses.

For a family of four, we plan $100 per day to cover the general expenses. It runs about $25 per person, although the first person runs more and additional travelers less. If you are staying in a hotel, this number will be significantly higher as you will have to eat out for all meals. Conservative living could reduce the daily expense further, but keep in mind, you are on vacation! The last thing you want is to travel to Maui only to sit in a room to save money.

We enjoy our vacations by balancing a few touristy events with days on the beach, by the pool, or snorkeling. We planned one extended vacation based on a reduced $75 per day, but found at the end of the trip we blew our budget and still came in at $100 per day -- money well spent.

Bottom line expenses
If you are traveling on budget, here is a summary of what to expect. Legal disclaimer "?all travelers are different so results may vary?enjoy your vacation!"

$400 per person (US west coast)

Lodging & car
$135 / day (condo assumed)

General expenses
$25 per person per day

Couple -- two weeks

Family of 4 -- two weeks

Maui on a Budget means getting the most vacation for your money. By planning your vacation spending in advance, you can be sure to enjoy the most within your travel budget. Knowing your options when booking flights, cars and lodging, can free significant amounts of money to enjoy on other vacation activities. For us, Maui on a Budget means spending wisely and staying longer! PregnancyAndBaby.com

Tags: hawaii maui

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