Why we chose Hawaii over Cancun

Whenever I start my trip reports, I tend to do a recap as to what life has been since our last family vacation. Our last trip was in December 2017-January 2018, the trip when we took the kids to the East Coast (Philadelphia, Washington DC, and spent the New Year in New York City). I decided not to write my blog during that trip, and I promised to do a blog/recap later. Well, I kinda failed in doing so. I didn’t get to write everything I wanted to write about for that trip, and I sure am paying for it. I found myself having to think back to those 11-12 days of pure winter fun. So for this Hawaii trip, my plan is to write a daily recap, some recaps may be long, others may be brief.

Our first quarter of 2018

Since coming back from our trip to the East Coast, we’ve taken on a major home makeover. Flooring updates, removed quite a few carpeted areas, replaced them with laminate flooring, tiles, and real wood. We’ve also had our fair share of our own DIY paint projects, and finally, we hired a contractor to paint our kitchen cabinets, family room, and bathroom (still ongoing as of March 26).

Kitchen makeover in progress

Life was busier than ever. Ethan, Caitlin, and Evan are involved with track and field, while Madison continued to be busy with being a cheerleader for her school. Not sure where and when we found the time, but we’re really trying to make it work.

How did we choose the Big Island

With our kids being so busy with activities, it hasn’t been that easy to try and get us to vacation together. We have looked ahead into this summer, and it would be very difficult to find a sweet spot for all six of us to go somewhere.  Spring Break presented an opportunity.

One thing for sure, we knew we needed a laid back vacation. Our past few trips in 2017 (East Coast, Iceland, Sweden,Singapore, and Malaysia), all involved lots of walking, exploring, in other words, tiring yet fulfilling. So, after with the family, it was unanimous that a beach-related vacation was in order.

Singapore’s Merlion 2017
Niagara Falls 2017
NYC April 2017
Stockholm, Sweden 2017
Iceland 2017

Cancun was the first choice

Our first choice was Cancun. We have points that we could use to fly us there for nearly free using our points. The trouble with Cancun, for a family with six guests, most of the resorts offer all-inclusive rates, meaning, we would have to pay per person, per day. I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg using cash, so Cancun will just have to wait.

While we had other destination choices, knowing that we only look for travel awards availability, we had to be flexible enough to see what was available. It’s not always easy to find availability, and having a party of six presented even more of a challenge. Plus, add a bigger challenge to that…the timing of this trip was around Easter/Spring Break, considered a major travel getaway time for many families.

I checked on Hawaii availability. I ruled out Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. Why? We’ve been there way too many times. If a return trip to Hawaii was to happen, it had to be a trip to the Big Island. I had 100,000 points sitting with Korean Airlines (that I erroneously transferred last year). I also had over 100,000 points with Hawaiian Airlines that I’ve held and not used for over 3 years. When I checked for flight availability last February, I was surprised to see Spring Break as available for six passengers. Knowing what I know when it comes to Hawaii, Nancy and I decided to book our trip. Of all times, we were in the car, stuck on the 405 Freeway on the way to San Diego when we booked our trip. For more details about the booking, click here (link).

Kauai – 4th of July 2017

We booked that back on February 9th, which gave us 7 weeks to prepare for this trip. But we never really got to prepare. There were basketball games to go to, track practices, track and field meets, homework galore, and again, major home makeover. It wasn’t until a few days ago when I posted a few questions on TripAdvisor about things I’m interested in doing on the Big Island.

Late packers

The family wasn’t the least bit worried about packing late. It’s Hawaii. We’ve done this many times. Should we forget anything, it’s not the end of the world. We could just buy them there. It wasn’t until 9pm on Sunday night when we started to pack, just the essentials, shirts, shorts, bathing suit, toiletries, flip flops. We ended up with 6 carry on luggage and 5 backpacks. Yep. No checked luggage here. That’s against our travel bible.

Wake up, everyone!

I went to bed close to 2am, while Nancy still finished up a few more things. Our flight out of LAX was due to leave at 11am. Since our flight was on a Monday, we had an ambitious plan of leaving the house at 5:30am. Why so early? Because of traffic. We knew that if we leave much later, we’d only be spending time in traffic.

I woke up at 4:30am, and I gave the rest of the gang until 5am to sleep. Everyone was awake by 5pm, and it felt like a scene in Home Alone when all of us tried to get ready and made sure no one and nothing were left behind. We were on the road by 5:59am. Good job, everyone! Twenty minutes in to our ride, I realized I left my Rainbow Sandals, uggghhhh! It’s okay. I’l survive.

Monday traffic as predicted

Without traffic, from our house to the airport should take 45 minutes. But with traffic, it took us about 1.5 hours today. Still, not bad. We made it to Fox Auto Park by 7:20am.

 

From TSA to Alaska Lounge

We asked the Fox shuttle driver to drop us off at Terminal 6. Our flight was with Hawaiian Airlines (out of Terminal 5). However, we had plans to spend time at the Alaska Lounge using our Priority Pass membership. We’d rather be early at the airport and wait at the lounge that find ourselves stuck in traffic.

We’re all TSA Precheck approved so we bypassed the long lines at security.

So convenient way of traveling when all six of us were TSA Precheck approved

We proceeded to Alaska Lounge and hung out there for nearly 2 hours. I took care of a few business items, we all got to eat pancakes, bagels, fresh fruits, and availed of the different drinks. The lounge was quite crowded but we got lucky enough to find places to sit. This lounge is known for limiting access to Priority Pass members, but it was a non-issue that morning.

All six of us were able to access Alaska Lounge using our Priority Pass Membership

Aloha boarding

We left the lounge at 10am, and began making our way from Terminal 6 to Terminal 5 via an underground Tunnel. It was an easy 10 minute walk. By the time we got to Gate 57, we only had a few minutes and it was time to board our flight to Kona.

The tunnel between Terminal 6 to Terminal 5

 

 

It was a 5.5 hours of flight to Kona. Despite the fact that we had a light breakfast at the lounge, we got hungry again by the time took off past 11am. Fortunately, Hawaii Airlines served a hot lunch, a panini turkey sandwich. That was enough to keep us fed for the rest of the flight. Looked like the entire family were able to sleep during the flight.

A view of Maui’s (Road to Hana) to our right as we approached Kona

I was able to blog as well and got a few things done. By 1:30am local time, Flight HA 61 landed safely on Kona. It was warm when we deplaned via stairs. Light stead showers greeted us, and as expected, the showers were gone within 10 minutes.

We had no checked luggage, meaning we headed straight for the car rental.I’ll pause right there. Next entry will be about our rental car little fiasco, and our first hours on the Big Island.

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