Friday, August 20, 2010

Hawaii Part 3: Which Island(s) Should I Visit?

This really is the #1 question I get asked by travelers who are looking into taking a Hawaiian vacation. It also is the hardest question to answer. Each of the Hawaiian Islands offers a completely different experience so the answer again depends on the type of vacation you are seeking.

If you are a first time visitor, it would be hard for me not to recommend a visit to Oahu. While Oahu is tourist-laden, it has some of the most popular Hawaiian experiences such as a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, or a trip up to famous Diamond Head. And Oahu has one of the most emotion-evoking, historical monuments that anyone can plan on visiting…The USS Arizona Memorial. So if you are a first-timer, you probably should plan on spending at least a couple of days on Oahu.

If you are seeking a quiet and relaxing Hawaiian getaway, then Oahu and Waikiki may not be the right choice for you. As I stated in my previous post, Waikiki is crowded with LOTS of traffic and visitors, which sometimes is not conducive to relaxation. You may be more interested in visiting Maui, Kauai or the big island of Hawaii where things are a tad more serene and where scenery is the #1 attraction.

If you are on a tight budget, you may want to limit your visit to only one island during your trip so you can avoid the inner-island flights and extra transfer costs. If you are limited by time, then again you probably will want to pick one island and focus your vacation there. Remember, if you are traveling to Hawaii from states in the central or eastern part of the US, then you will be losing at least 2 full days of your vacation in transit to and from Hawaii. So you need to factor in the additional time you will spend in the airport and at the car rental desk when you plan a multiple island vacation.

I just wanted to give you some things to think about when you start planning your Hawaiian vacation. Simply determine the type of vacation you want and then put together a plan that accomplishes that goal. If you love seeing a bunch of sites and experiences, then you may want to mix it up a bit and do a 2-island trip. But if you enjoy the beautiful scenery and seek some quiet beach time, then you will want to choose an island that meets that goal so you have the best vacation possible.

Let me know your thoughts or questions. And as always…thanks for reading.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Walt Disney World Myth: Off-site is Always Cheaper

We are living in a day and time where everyone is looking to save as much money as possible in everything that we do. Let’s face it, budgets are tight. Even the magical Walt Disney World has not been immune to the economy’s downturn. A recent report showed that Disney’s park attendance was down as much as 8% compared to the same period a year ago. Because of that, Disney continues to offer discounts and vacation package specials to try to encourage the budget-conscious family to book a Disney getaway, whether on land or at sea.

So with all of these discounts that continue to be offered, I have to ponder why so many potential Disney visitors still think that it is cheaper to plan an “offsite” vacation? I think it is because so many “Disney experts” that permeate blogs and discussion boards have continued to preach, “if you want to save a lot of money, stay offsite.” Well I am here to tell you that this is a myth, plain and simple.

Sure, if you compare a budget motel 30 minutes from the parks to a non-discounted Disney package, you will probably see a “savings” if you choose the “Motel $29.95.” But do not simply assume you will save money by staying offsite until you have done your homework and compared ALL the costs of the trip and other parts of the vacation.

For example...if you choose to stay offsite and Disney is offering a free dining vacation package for its on-site guests, do you know how much money you would save in food if you stayed onsite? Free dining can equate to a $500-600+ savings for a family of 4 during a 6 night stay. Did you sit down and actually establish a realistic budget for what you will be spending in food during your offsite stay? You have to get to that level of detail in your comparison of prices before anyone can claim they are saving “X” amount of dollars by staying offsite.

Another area that many forget to adequately compare is in the area of parking and transportation. If you are driving to the parks and are planning on staying offsite, did you add in the cost of parking at the parks? It costs $14 per day to park at any of the 4 parks at Walt Disney World (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon being the exception). So your 6 day offsite visit needs to include an extra $84. Did you factor in the extra gas that you will spend by driving yourself to the parks versus staying onsite and being able to take advantage of Disney transportation? You need to before you can claim you saved any money by staying offsite.

If you are flying down to Orlando...does your offsite hotel offer free shuttle from the airport and then a free shuttle to the parks each day? If much more is your rental car going to cost you or the shuttle bus? And if you do happen to choose a hotel with free shuttle, do you know how often it runs between your hotel and the parks? How much is your time worth? If your offsite stay means you will have to spend less time in the parks, is it really a better deal when you factor in that the park tickets make up a large proportion of your overall Disney vacation cost?

I hope this is making you see that staying offsite is not always the best deal. You can’t claim that you have “saved” money if you did not do your homework ahead of time to determine the true costs of staying off Disney property. I hope this helps with your future Walt Disney World vacation planning.

Questions? Comments? I would love to get your feedback.