Last week’s winning tip goes to Ed Chandler! (Congrats Ed. Please send Rick your email address.) Last week we talked about Rewards Networks. Ed’s tip gave advice on using Rewards Networks to keep miles from expiring. Great tip, Ed. Thank you.
How frugal is too frugal when you’re on the road? I think that’s an individual question only you can answer. Two summers ago, I took a 10-day trip to Kauai on the cheap. The airfare and hotel were college graduation gifts and the rest was on me. I was living on a student’s budget at the time and could not afford to spend a lot while I was there. This was how I did it.
When I packed my bags, I bought a cooler bag that I could lay out on the bottom of my suitcase to use once I got to the island. At the airport, I packed a variety of dry goods, such as cliff bars, trail mix and a few apples. I put all this in my carry-on along with an empty water bottle so I could avoid the high prices for food and drinks in the airport. I had no lounge access and would be spending my layovers with the rest of the world, paying for food and drinks.
Once I got to the island, I went to a grocery store and bought bottled water, sodas, snacks, yogurt and fruit. I filled up the hotel ‘fridge with my items and ate breakfast in the room before I left. I did rent a car while I was there and filled up my cooler bag with food and drinks to bring with me on the road. For lunch I usually found a Subway and bought a $5 foot long . I already had drinks and snacks in the cooler and now I had lunch that cost me less than $10. For dinner I found a Chinese restaurant. They always pile on the food and for about $8 two people could eat plenty. I was traveling with a friend and we split these costs so we both made out pretty well on the deal. We also ordered pizza for dinner. Most pizza places would deliver to our room and we had plenty left over for breakfast the next day (as long as I didn’t get up at 3 a.m. craving pepperoni). We found food where the locals ate by staying away from the touristy places and asking the workers at our hotel where to go for good food on a normal budget. We even went to a liquor store for “adult” beverages and kept them in the hotel room. (On a waitress’ budget just out of college, $ 25 for four pieces of sushi and a $10 strawberry daiquiri in the hotel was a little off budget.) We did have a few nice meals, but not three times a day. I promise we were never deprived!
I bought a great travel guide called The Ultimate Kauai Guide Book: Kauai Revealed by Andrew Daughtry. You can find on Amazon.com today for less than $11. Each day we picked a different area of the island and went off exploring. The great thing about the Hawaiian Islands is they have laws that keep their beaches public so there are endless places to go and it doesn’t cost a thing.
First we drove up Waimea Canyon (which is free), ending at the Kalalau lookout, a must-do on the island. The view of the Napali Coast there is breath taking. At the bottom of the canyon is the best shaved ice shack on the island, “Joe’s.” It is a must and a cup costs less than $5.
On the North part of the Island, we went Ke’e beach and hiked the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi beach. On the drive back, we stopped at Tunnels beach and also checked out Princeville. We also knew we wanted to see the famous Napali coast and there are three ways to see it: air, foot or water. We nixed the helicopter tours since they’re short and pricey. And we didn’t have permits or the energy for a 20-plus-mile hike. So we ended up catching a boat tour out of Hanalei Bay Beach Park. For around $75 we went on a four-hour, personal guided tour of the coast, stopped at some beautiful reefs for snorkeling (they provided the gear), and enjoyed a box lunch (included) out on the water. This was the best deal around.
On the South Shore, we went to Po’ipu beach, rented boogie boards on the cheap, and took them to Brennecke beach. It was a blast. We boogie-boarded beside tons of giant sea turtles. They were coming up right next to us! It was an amazing experience I will never forget. Even if you can’t boogie board you can use them to get out by the turtles and just float around and enjoy the experience.
If you just want to watch, you can find all the local surfers at Keoniloa Beach, also known as Shipwreck Beach. Adjacent to this beach is a dune walk along some beautiful cliffs where you can catch the locals pole fishing. If you’re feeling brave enough, many locals and a few crazy travelers will be jumping the cliff on the left side of Shipwreck Beach. Try if you dare or you can always set out a towel and watch the free entertainment.
One of my all-time favorite FREE experiences on Kauai was Kipu Falls. Of course, you could pay big money to take some four-wheeler guided tour that may end there and allow you to experience the falls as part of the package. Or you can do as the locals do and drive yourself. The Ultimate Kauai Guide has great directions, but basically you follow Highway 50 and at Mile Marker 3 turn towards the sea onto Kipu road. Then you take the first right to stay on Kipu road and follow in about a half a mile. Park on the side of the road and follow the dirt trail down to the falls. This is a beautiful swimming hole where you get a chance to jump off a 25-foot waterfall and/or use the rope swing for another thrill. It was a blast but I only recommend it for anyone willing to take the risk. If you don’t want to take the plunge, it’s still a great show.
Kauai is a great trip to go on when you’re just starting out in the frugal travel game. It takes roughly 35,000 frequent flier miles to get a round-trip ticket there from the continental US and there are plenty of hotels to chose from within all of the major reward programs. The island activities are virtually all free and the food doesn’t have to be expensive. See you in Kauai!
Question of the week: I have heard some talk about E-miles and Opinion Place, what tips do you have about earning miles through these programs?
Shannon’s TripAlertz.com Referral Link Thank You.
I Got my Fifth Approval of Six Applications
From Rick: I just renegotiated my existing cards with Chase and picked up my approval on the 50,000 frequent flier mile Continental card. They had a business account listed as “inactive from 2002″ with a 10K limit and I had two United Mileage Plus cards, one with a 5K limit. I closed those two and got the approval for the Continental card based on my “perfect credit history” with Chase. Now all I’m waiting on is the Barclay’s US Airways Business card. I fully expect to go six for six.
By the way: My nickname for Shannon is “Spitfire” — hence today’s photo!
Platinum Card for the Delta Transfer Bonus, Elite Status, Lounge Access, $200 Incidental Credit and More. Read my February 6th Blog Post for Details