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    Posted February 21, 2014 by
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
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    Yes, it is possible to visit the tropical paradise of Hawaii and not go broke doing so.

    By doing some online research and watching for airline price sales it is possible to get a one-way flight from the West Coast of the USA to Honolulu for under $200. I got lucky checking Alaska Airlines, which just started flights over to Maui and Oahu and is looking to promote them. My ticket ended up being $173 each way to the islands but I was very flexible with my dates and flew home on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. (The Honolulu Airport was deserted that day and the plane was half full and I had an entire row of seats to myself!)

    Lodging choices vary in Oahu from very expensive to hostel-style bare budget. Again, with a little searching, I discovered a nice mid-range hotel, the Queen Kapiolani, one block from Waikiki Beach and with my AAA-discount, got the room rate down to a little over $100 per night A friend here at my apartment told me he would just find a cheap hostel and there are a few right across the street from my hotel. Lots of young people were staying there but for me, I just need to the privacy of my own hotel room. The hotels closer to Diamond Head and the Honolulu Zoo--on what I call the "quieter part" of Waikiki Beach seem to be a little more reasonable than they fancy honeymoon properties and large, flashy hotels further down the beach.

    Most beach side hotels DO NOT offer free shuttle service from the airport. Therefore, unless you plan to rent a car in Hawaii, I would advise SpeediShuttle service. They are very easy to book online and will drop off and pick up at any of the city hotels for about $13 per person on a shared ride.

    Surviving on a shoestring on this pricey island is a breeze with careful planning. I had breakfast every morning at a Subway sandwich shop right around the corner from my hotel. My daily go-to favorite: ABC Stores--which are all over the place and similar to a Dollar Store. Every morning, I spent about $10 stocking up up yogurt, juices, Gatorade and milk--which I then kept chilled in an ice bucket in my room at the hotel. Healthy snacks like boxed cereals, granola bars and fruit are also available. ABC sells sandwiches and microwavable meals that are not gourmet faire but y are not bad either. The one time we did go a little crazy with the food budget was when I spent a rainy day touring the North Shore of Hawaii. More on that later.

    The nice thing about traveling to a place like Hawaii is that a lot of what you want to do there is enjoy the beach and ocean and that is free. I packed my own beach towel, hats and a small bottle of sunscreen.

    The warm (76 degree) aqua-hued Hawaiian water is perfect and the beaches, are as beautiful as every picture shows. This fact--that most of the day can be spent lounging around helps to conserve precious funds. A trip out to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling is always great fun. Charter trips make the short drive out to this beautiful nature reserve and use of a snorkel, fins and a mask are usually part of the package price. I previously took my two kids to Hanauma Bay when we were last in Oahu and they loved it!

    But I kept a good eye on the Weather Channel on the hotel TV that warned of imminent rain coming so it was time for Plan B on the last day of the trip. Take a Tour and like everything else over here--some of them can be pricey.

    But I looked around at the brochures and offerings of things-to-do and discovered an all-day Robert's Circle Island Tour. This operator is popular and reasonable too: $39.00 each and you see just about everything interesting. Robert's island guides are well-versed and personable as they narrate the trip that winds along the coastline. Stops at the "blowhole," and the "From Here to Eternity" beach are scenic. We passed by the popular Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie and looked at the North Shore beache in Sunset Beach that had high surf warning signs all over them. Stops at a Macadamia Nut Farm and a Coral Factory offered plenty of gift ideas for the travelers to buy for the folks back home.

    The final stop before the Circle Island Tour headed back to Oahu was the Dole Plantation and this working Pineapple farm was very interesting. By then the rain had stopped and it was heavenly to breathe in that delicious, fresh smell of pineapple.

    The next day it was time to return home By then my money set aside for the trip was starting to run low. But I made sure to keep a few bucks handy to tip the shuttle driver back to the Honolulu Airport. I also wanted to get a good meal in before I got back on the plane home since I remember on the way over being served just peanuts and a Sprite on the six-hour trip and I was starved after wards.

    An Airport California Pizza Kitchen hit the spot I loaded up on some reading material to bide my time and it was off to head back west. I had managed to prepay much of the big items on my trip like the flight, hotel and shuttle service so all I needed to worry about while visiting was money to use for food and necessities.

    That's the way I like to do it--where I feel I have some control over my spending habits. I budgeted a certain amount of money to spend on things on a daily basis and managed to stick with the plan.

    It is not always the greatest thing to have to watch your spending when you want to live it up and have a great time in paradise But on the other hand, in order for me to be in a financial position to be able to go anywhere at all, means I need to think ahead of time and be careful with my money.

    So, I say to those who seek adventure and possess a desire to see the world like I do, please be aware that it does not take a big bank account to travel to exotic places. With some careful planning and Internet sleuthing, deals can be found. And with the potential to save money and the knowledge of how to do it while in an area notorious for being expensive, your vacation becomes even more memorable and that much more satisfying, as well.

    Practicing frugality makes it possible to enjoy a fantastic vacation and not become poverty-stricken as a result. Aloha!

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