Hawai’i by the numbers

These little guys are all over the place. Pretty, but apparently a bit of a menace.

September 10, 2014 | Posted in Budget, Hawaii | By

The Hawai’i trip was a fluke add-on to the beginning of our mini retirement thanks to some cheap tickets that popped up. We knew it was an expensive place, so we approached it as a little experiment in frugality. We made our goal to be $75 per day, including all flights, but realized that would be a bit unrealistic, so made a hard cap at $100 a day. This is much more than we intend to spend on the rest of our travels, but is still low considering how much flying around we’d be doing.


The BS

Nights total (inc. Atlanta): 35
Nights in hammock: 2
Nights in tent: 17.5
Nights indoors: 14.5
Nights on plane: 1
Paid nights: 9
Rainbows: Hawai’i turns the rainbows up to 11!
Miles biked: 66 miles
Counties bagged: 4
Wallets lost: 1

How did we do with the dough?

Our grand total expenditures came to $3,359.88 over 35 days, or $96.00 per day, just barely under budget. Yikes! That is an expensive trip for us and adds up to over $35,000 a year. This clearly is not a sustainable level of spending, especially since it does not include health insurance or any other bills (basically just phone and website costs, both of which are pretty negligible). At this rate we’ll be back in the office in no time. Luckily we’ll be offsetting that with many VERY cheap months in other parts of the world. Of course, $3,400 is still pretty good compared what a lot of people spend on a Hawai’i trip. The results of a quick Google search hint that an average Hawai’i trip will cost more than that for just a week! Holy crow! I didn’t realize there were so many investment bankers and CEOs out there.

Expenditures by type:

Alcohol  $189.36
Banking  $13.45
Clothing  $20.00
Coffee  $61.53
Entertainment  $40.00
Food  $631.62
Gear  $13.92
Gifts  $5.16
Hygiene  $11.85
Laundry  $3.50
Lodging  $466.80
Misc  $25.00
Transportation  $1,877.69

How did we stay on budget?

First of all, I think it is important to note that we approach travel a little differently than most people. Travel is our hobby and for now, our lifestyle, not a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip, or big event in any way. It is not a way for us to get away and relax, so we don’t feel any need to spend money on luxuries or doing expensive excursions. We didn’t go on any helicopter rides or whale watching tours or take surf lessons. I’m sure these things would be awesome (although helicopters are horribly intrusive and obnoxious and everyone hates them). We would have done them if they’d come up for free, but they didn’t and we still had a really incredible time and fell in love with the place. Let’s take a closer look at some of these categories and see what’s going on.

Alcohol ($189.36)

This is quite low, despite the high prices in Hawai’i. It’s easy to spend a lot on drinks when traveling, but with us camping most of the time, it just didn’t make sense to carry heavy warm beers around. Hawai’i also isn’t much of a party place. People are here for the outdoors, so things tend to roll up once it gets dark, except in overpriced touristy places, but we avoid those anyway.

Entertainment ($40.00)

The best entertainment in Hawai’i is natural, and there is plenty to do without forking over a lot of cash. We saved a few bucks by riding with friends with parks passes for both national parks we visited. I think the entire entertainment budget was spent on one concert on Maui.

Food ($631.62)

This is a bit frustrating considering the poor rations we had. It is the only part of the trip that at all suffered because of the budget, but it’s important to note that I had totally forgotten how boring our diet had been until now thinking about it, and in fact, I had been raving about the food in Hawai’i. The reason our food was bare-bone actually had as much to do with logistics as budget. We spent a lot of time camping, but didn’t bring our cooking implements because we were taking so many flights and would have needed to discard the fuel on every island. If we’d stuck in one spot, like we probably would if we go back, we would be able to cook more at home and also take advantage of the awesome farmers markets.

Gifts ($5.16)

This is another huge savings for us. I stopped doing souvenirs after my first trip abroad when I realized that my only options were to spend half of my trip looking for great gifts, or buy some useless generic crap made in China. If I come across something special that I know someone would appreciate, I’ll pick it up, but that is pretty rare. I enjoy sending and receiving postcards, but we just didn’t got around to it in HI.

Lodging ($466.80)

Oof, this one can really break the budget for a lot of people and is where we really were able to keep the costs down. This really comes down to experience and a willingness to rough it. The more you do budget travel the easier it is to figure out how not to pay for closing your eyes for a few hours. We were lucky on this trip in that we were able to stay with friends for a good number of nights, but even without those friends we probably would have kept this cost down pretty well. Almost half of the lodging spending came from our camping permits on the Kalalau hike, which were very expensive. Other than that we only spent four nights in a hostel and two nights at the farm in Poho’iki. The rest of the nights were free camping, staying with friends, or staying with people we met. In the future we’d probably not move around as much and rent a flat or work at a hostel or farm for room and board. Paying $100-$300 a night for some hotel just doesn’t enter into our thoughts as a possibility.

Transportation ($1,877.69)

This is the big one. Over half of our expenses were simply to move two watery meat bags and their accouterments around. Our flights to and from Hawai’i were actually quite low – $433 pp – but we spent quite a bit of cash because we really wanted to get a taste of as many islands as possible. We bought four interisland flights, which would have been five if we hadn’t been able to use our missed connection in Atlanta to our advantage. We also rented bicycles on Moloka’i, rode a few inexpensive buses and gave our friends some gas money. We saved an asinine amount of money by not renting a car. Hitchhiking and buses were just too easy for that to make any sense at all.

All in all it looks like we did fairly well with our budget, although it would have been great to stay under $75 a day, and I know there are a lot of people who can keep it at way less without being bummy. The high spending in HI will be offset as we move forward by much less spending in other places and we have been watching our average daily spending slowly inch downward. Once we start paying for health insurance, that will take a bite out, but it should be under control. Watch for a post about that in the near future. We loved HI and absolutely plan to go back someday for a more extended period of time. Until then, I’ll leave you with this little guy:

These little guys are all over the place. Pretty, but apparently a bit of a menace.

These little guys are all over the place. Pretty, but apparently a bit of a menace.

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