Yesterday I published a post about the Honolulu Marathon. Whenever I mention this race, the most common reaction I get from other runners tends to be something along the lines of how much they would love to run it or hope to run it in the future… but they’re concerned about how expensive the trip to Hawaii would be.
The Honolulu Marathon is a beautiful race and I don’t want concerns about travel expenses to be what keeps anyone from running it. So I’m going to share a few travel tips that can help.
I’ve already written a few posts about how to save money on race travel. A lot of these tips are applicable here too so make sure to check these posts out if you haven’t already. In this post, I’m going to share a couple additional travel tips that I haven’t written about yet along with some info that’s specific to the Honolulu Marathon.
Foreign Travel Websites
Before the world wide web became a thing, the only way to compare rates on flights and hotels was to work with a travel agent. Then websites like Priceline and Expedia disrupted the industry by allowing people to compare rates on their own. In the last couple years, sites like Kayak.com, which compare rates across multiple travel sites, have started to pop up. These sites are all great on their own, but I’m going to tell you about a hidden way to use some of them to find even better deals.
This morning I went to expedia.com and did a search for hotels in Honolulu during the second weekend in January. I found this:
$144 is pretty good for a 3.5 star hotel in Waikiki…. But then I went to expedia.co.jp, did the exact same search and found this:
¥15,858 comes out to about $129… even better!
So the exact same room in the same hotel can be $15 cheaper per night if you book it through one of Expedia’s foreign equivalent websites instead of their main US website?
And here’s the thing: I was only looking for a random example to use in this post. It took less than 5 minutes for me to find it. When I’ve been serious about my searches and taken the time to really dig into my options, I’ve been able to find rooms that vary by as much as $50 – $100 per night from site to site. You can use this technique to find less expensive flights and rental cars too.
Now that said, the prices aren’t always better when you search that way. In fact, sometimes it’s the opposite and the US prices are lower. But it never hurts to check….
Why would the prices be different at all? There can be any number of reasons: in the case of my example above, maybe that particular hotel chain is running a marketing campaign specifically targeted at Japanese tourists; maybe the hotel has different regional offices that set their own rates; maybe there was a rate change that didn’t replicate all the way through all of Expedia’s global servers yet. Regardless of the reason, booking your travel through a foreign website is perfectly legal and doesn’t violate any policies – it’s just another option you can look at to help find better deals.
There is one small catch to this: some credit cards charge fees for currency conversions. My Citi Platinum card doesn’t and there are a number of others out there that don’t, but you should check with your credit card provider to see if there are any fees associated with foreign currency conversions. If you do have to pay a fee, make sure it isn’t so big that it offsets your savings.
This one is a little bit more complex. The price of an economy flight from Chicago to Honolulu on United or American Airlines will vary from around $650 to around $1300 depending on dates, times, days of the week, layovers, etc… Replace Chicago with your own city and the rates will be similar. The smaller regional airlines (i.e. Southwest) tend to be less expensive but Hawaii is too far away for a regional airline to fly. Or is it?
It’s true that unless you live on the west coast, there may not be one regional airline that will fly all the way from your home town to Honolulu. But there’s nothing stopping you from using two airlines.
Here’s an example: During the week, Southwest flies from Chicago to San Francisco for $169 each way and Virgin Airways flies from San Francisco to Honolulu for $229 round trip. $169 + $169 + $229 = $567. So booking a round trip flight from Chicago to San Francisco on Southwest and a separate round trip flight from San Francisco to Honolulu on Virgin will save almost $100 compared to the cheapest flight from United or American (which probably has a layover in San Francisco or Los Angeles anyway).
Booking flights this way gets tricky though: first, you have to figure out the timing. If you check bags, they won’t be checked to your final destination since you booked the flights separately, so you’ll have to make sure to plan enough time between flights to deplane, make your way to the baggage claim, get your bag, check it in for the next flight, go through security again, and then get to your next gate. So plan for at least two hours between flights… or better yet, don’t check your bags and you won’t have anything to worry about. The other issue is that if your first flight gets delayed, the crew won’t notify your second flight and ask them to hold the plane like they would if both flights were with the second airline… and if the first flight loses your luggage, there won’t be much that you can do to get it to your final destination once they finally locate it (another reason not to check your bags). So booking flights like this can be a bit risky, but if you’re willing to accept the risk, it can also save you a bit of money.
I have a tip that will not only save you hundreds of dollars on any trip to Honolulu but it will also make your trip a lot more enjoyable whether you’re in town for the marathon or not:
Don’t spend your entire trip near Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and it’s an extremely popular tourist destination…. But that’s exactly what it is: a tourist destination. It’s crowded and it’s expensive. Not only that, but the sand is imported and the beach is totally man made. Most locals will tell you that they prefer to stay away from Waikiki Beach altogether and opt to hang out at less populated beaches on the outskirts of town or the opposite side of the island instead.
If you travel to Honolulu for the Marathon, staying at one of the Waikiki Hotels will probably be your best bet for convenience reasons. I stayed at the Waikiki Hilton Village and I was walking distance from the Expo, Start Line and Finish Line (which is important since most of the roads are blocked and traffic is a nightmare on race morning). It’s a beautiful hotel and I would highly recommend it for race participants during race weekend. If you’re planning to stay longer, you should consider other options for the rest of your trip.
- If you’re up for visiting some of the other islands, you can usually find fairly inexpensive flights from Honolulu to Maui or Kauai. These islands tend to be less expensive and will give you opportunities to experience more of Hawaii besides Honolulu.
- If you don’t want to leave Oahu, you can take a drive to the North side of the island where you’ll find better beaches, along with hotels, restaurants and other attractions that are significantly less expensive (and less touristy).
- If you really would rather stay close to Honolulu but you want to watch your budget, here are a few inexpensive things in the area that you can do:
- Diamond Head State Park is in the crater of an extinct volcano and is only $5 to visit. You can hike up to the top and see beautiful views of Oahu’s coastline.
- Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial are free (although some of the other memorials on the site are $15-$25 if you want to see everything).
- There are a number of other historic buildings and monuments throughout downtown Honolulu that are definitely worth stopping by and photographing.
- A short drive south of Honolulu is Kona Brewing Company and Hanauma Bay State Park, where you can go snorkeling and see a variety of different types of marine wildlife.
So those are my money saving tips for the Honolulu Marathon. Have any of your own? Feel free to let me know….