cost of a trip to Australia and Hawaii

What we spent on a 28-day trip to Australia and Hawaii

The answer will surprise you!

We recently returned from a 27-night, 28-day trip to Australia and Hawaii! Aside from the side-eyes and questions about how my husband was going to take that much time off of work or what I was planning to do for the children’s schoolwork, I knew that the #1 question that people wanted to ask was HOW MUCH IS THAT GOING TO COST?

Now, I won’t begin in my tirade about how, as Americans, friends would be less offended if we renovated our kitchen or bought a brand new vehicle, yet somehow travel seems frivolous and expensive. My theories on life hold to quite the opposite. I doubt you’ll be sitting on your deathbed thinking, “I’m really going to miss those quartz countertops!” Right??! Instead, you may wonder if you should have carved out a little time to see the world and spend more time with your family. I digress. (I should add, that I do love quartz countertops, but I love travel more).

You’ll be happy to know that we took a month-long trip for roughly the cost of … being at home! No, really. Here’s a breakdown of what we spent on flights, car rentals, hotel stays, and a few attractions. This is also an explanation of how we used points and miles to help us take the trip of a lifetime, plus some tips for how you can do it, too! However, I won’t include food and souvenirs because those are fairly subjective. (I will say that in Hawaii we ate a lot of ham sandwiches. We ate so many ham sandwiches that I told my husband I did not want to SEE another one! So, he promptly went to the store and bought me turkey. Hahaha). As you can imagine, food in Hawaii is expensive, and we didn’t want to spend it all on eating out with kids (who would eat very high-dollar chicken nuggets, no matter where they are in the world).

How much we spent on flights from the US to Australia and Hawaii: $2297.80

No, that isn’t per person. That’s how much we spent on 6 people to fly to Australia, then to Hawaii, island-hop in Hawaii, then home to Columbus, Ohio. All in all, it breaks down to just $382.97 per person!

Long story short, we were supposed to only go to Hawaii last fall. Then, the fires happened in Lahaina and we were uncertain whether we should go. We decided to postpone the trip until the spring. True to form, I started looking around and realized that after being refunded our United miles, we could add some Chase points to top up our account (Chase Ultimate Reward points can be transferred to United Airlines), and fly all the way to Australia! Then I’d just need to figure out how to get home. At the time, American Airlines was offering some cards with some nice sign-up bonuses, and at 22.5k miles one way, we didn’t need a ton to top up my husband’s account.

Here’s the breakdown:

United Airlines, Columbus to Sydney: 210,000 miles + $156.60 in taxes and fees. I lucked out and was able to book when United was offering a sale for 35k one-way to Australia. The normal saver fare is 55k one way! I ended up saving enough miles to make a trip to Europe! Insert dancing emoji! 😉

Sydney to Honolulu: Jetstar Airlines flights were $2002 USD plus an extra $38.40 for an extra bag. This was the flight I couldn’t find the best redemptions, and I was nearly out of miles (at least enough miles for 6 tickets). We ended up just paying cash to fly Jetstar, which is the budget arm of Qantas Airlines. $2002 USD is thanks to a generous exchange rate, but that includes the additional cost to include a meal, carry-on bags, and the entertainment system. Yes, Jetstar is one of those airlines that nickels and dimes you for everything! However, we had a positive experience on the flight.

Jetstar Airlines was the only flight we really paid for on our budget trip to Australia and Hawaii.

Honolulu to Kona, HI: 19,920 Southwest points plus $33.60. We decided not to visit the island of Oahu, so once we landed in Honolulu, we were booked to fly to the Big Island.

Kona to Maui: 19,920 Southwest points plus $33.60. After 5 days on the Big Island, we quickly flew to Maui on Southwest.

Maui (OGG) to CMH: 135k American Airlines miles + $33.60 in tax. These points were mostly earned by my husband and I both signing up for this (now expired) 60K American Airlines card offer.

Hotel/Airbnb stays in Australia & Hawaii: $518.64

Yes, we spent 27 nights away from home and spent just over $500 on hotels and Airbnbs! Now, listen, most of this time (13 nights) was spent with my dear friends in Australia and I know I’m very spoiled to have the hospitality of friends who live halfway across the world. But even so, I’d have another two weeks for which to budget! Here’s how we did this so cheaply.

#1 – We spent 3 nights sleeping on airplanes over the Pacific. Ha! Bet you didn’t expect that!

#2 – we paid $0 for 9 nights in Hawaii! Yes, absolutely nothing. Sadly, the two Hyatt resorts we stayed at have been acquired by CoralTree Resorts and are no longer offered in the Hyatt portfolio. Nevertheless, Hyatt still has quite the presence in Hawaii, and as long as you don’t require a room for 6 (like us!), you should be able to book a similar trip using points.

Our first stay in Hawaii was at the Mauna Lani Point! Here’s a screenshot of what we would have paid, and what we actually did pay, which was 124k Hyatt points. Hyatt points can be accrued through one of the Chase Hyatt cards or by transferring Chase UR points to your Hyatt account.

What we should have paid for 3 nights! Crazy!

After three nights on the west side of Hawaii, we drove to Volcano to check out Volcanoes National Park. Volcano can be a day trip, but it makes for a very long day, so we chose to stay 2 nights at a VRBO known as the Jungalow. This 3-bedroom house was perfect for our family.

The cost for 2 nights was $744. (Yes, this is more than I would typically spend, but it’s Hawaii after all). We booked this VRBO on my CapitalOne Venture card. The Venture Card allows you to “erase” travel purchases. I was able to “erase” both the deposit and the final payment for this VRBO, making the cost of our stay $0.

After Volcano, we flew to Maui and checked in to the Wailea Ekahi Resort. Again, back when we booked in the fall, this was owned by Hyatt. At the time, it was 40,000 points per night for a 2-bedroom condo with an ocean view. We paid 160k Hyatt points for our stay (most of them were transferred from Chase to my husband’s Hyatt account).

While the Wailea Ekahi is no longer available through Hyatt, the Andaz is located right next door! Standard rooms start at only 35k points! It’s a viable option for families of 4.

Hawaii on a budget - traveling for a month on points
The beach in front of the Andaz Maui – in case you decide to use your Hyatt points for this amazing redemption.

Rental cars: $959.20

Rental cars came in as one of our most expensive categories! Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap to get around as a family of 6! In Australia, we rented an 8-passenger minivan from East Coast Car Rentals, which was so much cheaper than some of the name brands like Hertz. The total cost for 10 days was $658.20. This was thanks to a great exchange rate and having the ability to use our friend’s booster seat (and her carting us around for the first few days).

Hawaii rental cars were actually more expensive. We paid $475.23 on the Big Island for a 5.5-day rental plus the use of a booster from Alamo. Thankfully, I was able to also erase this purchase using my husband’s CapitalOne Venture card. So, our final cost was $0.

Our last minivan in Maui was $301 which included the booster rental. I actually found a much better deal by canceling something I’d booked in January and rebooking the morning we left for Maui! So never be afraid to check and recheck rates as your trip gets closer, it saved us about $75.

Attractions: $745

Australia

Taronga Zoo admission & ropes course: $101 (Thankfully we were able to use our friend’s discount code for discounted admission and ropes course. This was a steal for the full day)!

Sydney Pylon: $83

Scenic World Blue Mountains: $181 Scenic World is a must-visit in the Blue Mountains of Australia, but it does cost a pretty penny.

Sandboarding in Port Stephens: $139 The kids had a blast and seeing the looks on their faces was priceless!

Hunter Valley Wildlife Park: $55 We loved this local zoo and thankfully they were offering kids go free in April. We made it just in time!

We also took advantage of free parks, playgrounds, and hikes!

Hawaii

Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Tour: $67 My husband said this was worth it for the view, I booked it for the free coffee samples!

Akaka Falls hike: $40 Yes, it costs $40 to take a hike to a natural wonder. I think this is to limit crowds. It is $5/per person and $10 to park.

Snorkel Rentals: $37 – We only rented 3 snorkels for 24 hours, which was totally worth it. (And yes, we only needed three because someone needed to stay back and watch the “baby.”

Iao Valley hike: $42 Again, you’ll pay for natural wonders in Hawaii. 😉

We saved money in Hawaii by using our Every Kid Outdoors National Park Pass (Free for families with a 4th grader). Both Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park and Volcanoes National Park were FREE!

Total trip cost: $4520.64

What do you think?!?! I think that’s pretty amazing for as long as we were away, and the amazing things we did and the memories created! Now I’m brainstorming how we can travel for 4 weeks again – and where we can find the deals. I’m thinking maybe a long-term cruise matched with some cheap hotels? Where would you go?

P.S. I decided not to add the cost of food, because we have to eat whether we are home or away – AND not everyone has a family of 6 to feed! I will say, that meals in Australia averaged around $120 AUD every time we dined out. We picked casual pub-like establishments and adult entrees were $18-25 AUD and kid’s meals were around $10 AUD. After the exchange rate, it was about $80 USD. We felt this was inexpensive compared to home because we didn’t have to tip!! In Hawaii, we only ate one meal out! Ha! It was a roadside stand that served smoothies and wraps and even though we split 3 smoothies and each of the kids got a hot dog – it was close to $140! You can save money by eating at your accommodation or packing snacks and lunches when possible. I think we did a great job at keeping costs at bay and using as many discounts as possible. Watch for another post coming about how to save money in Hawaii.

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