Thursday, August 7, 2014

Affording a Hawaiian Vacation for 4 on a Single Income: Finding Flights

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Written by Bobbie:

Affording a Hawaiian Vacation for 4 on a Single Income:
Finding Flights

Every year my family takes a family vacation. My hubby takes two weeks off, and we disappear for 6-8 days depending on where we are doing. This year (2014) we planned a trip to Hawaii for our family of 4. We do not take big trips like this every year, more like every 2 to 3 years. The years we are not taking a big trip, we usually do a road trip, or go visit family so we do not have to pay for hotels and food.
Affording a Hawaiian vacation is not as hard as you might think it is on a single income. To clarify, hubby is a letter carrier with the U.S. Post Office, and while we are not living high off the hog, we have managed to make it work living in California. We both have both worked very hard to become debt free and clean up our credit.  I had over 12 THOUSAND dollars wracked up in credit card charges and two car payments along with horrible credit at one point, so I know just how hard it is to clear all that up and pay down debt while you are at it.

Hubby started looking at flights in advance, and I mean for an August vacation, he started looking in January. He looked at all different airlines and also looked at three different airports; Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland. He also played around with the day that we left and the day we flew back home. He notice a trend in round trip flights that went from Tuesday to Tuesday had a lower price in general, so the narrowed the search down to Tuesday to Tuesday. Every few days he was online looking at prices and even had a sheet that he kept track of when he looked at what the prices were at different airports and airlines. Finally he noticed that Alaska Airlines out of Oakland was continually coming in cheaper that the other two he was looking at, and mostly kept tabs on that Tuesday to Tuesday time frame with them. Finally in late March and early April, he noticed that the prices were not dropping as fast, or as much, and decided it was time to bite the bullet. It was a bit of a risk because the flights were not refundable, non transferable, not eligible for travelers insurance, and there was no way to make ANY changes once we bought them.

Before making the purchase we once again talked over the dates, length of time that we were going, threatened both my teen heathens social lives if they did anything that would prevent us from boarding the plane. He smartly whipped out a credit card that had no balance on it and was offering a 15 month 0% financing. This enabled us to slowly start paying off the trip even before we left. While the plane tickets were not paid off by the time we left for vacation, we had already made a nice dent in the overall amount, without feeling the pinch in our monthly budget. I am pleased to say that prices never dropped any further, and had steadily increased after we booked our flight. We will continue to make payments on the tickets, and will pay off any balance we may have with our next years tax return.

With hubby watching the prices and doing so much research, he watched our flight prices drop over $100.00 a ticket. Multiply that by four and we ended up with a savings of over $400.00. We live Sacramento, and flew out of Oakland, which is roughly an hour and a half drive away. Even with paying for gas and parking, it was so much cheaper than flying out of Sacramento or San Francisco. Somehow, hubby stumbled across a deal that gave us 5 free days of parking in the daily lot because we were flying to Hawaii during the advertised time. This made parking in the daily lot cheaper than parking in the economy lot. As an added bonus, the daily parking lot was a short walking distance from the airport terminal. We did not have to worry about catching a shuttle with all our luggage.

Lastly, we packed everything we needed into carry on luggage. Alaska Airlines charges $35 for a checked bag, but allows one carry one and one personal bag for free. With 4 bags going on as carry-on, I loaded each bag with (3) three oz. bottles of whatever we needed, giving me a total of 12 bottles packed and ready for vacation. I also knew that the hotel would provide some basic shampoo, lotion, soap, and possibly some hair conditioner. Anything else that we needed, it would be cheaper to just buy a small bottle and the 4 of us were sure to use it up before we came back home. Instant savings of $70. Even with being gone for a week, we all had some extra room in either our carry on bags or personal bags for souvenirs to bring home.

*After the fact tip.  I should have packed hair conditioner in our travel bottles and no shampoo as the hotel provided us with several small bottles of shampoo and lotion daily.