budget-friendly maui family vacation tips

How to Build a Budget-Friendly Maui Family Vacation

With long flights to get there even from the West Coast, and an average daily room rate of $350*, Maui may be one of the last places a budget-minded traveler would think of spending vacation time. And it may seem an especially daunting destination to the frugal traveler with a family in tow.

But while it may feel effortless (though painful) to plan an expensive Maui family vacation, planning one that would cost only half as much–or less–may be easier than you think. Here are a few tips to help your family get the most Maui for the least moolah.

Take advantage of spring airfare sales.

When you’re buying tickets to Maui for four or more people, a difference in $100, $200, $300 or more per ticket makes a huge dent in your travel budget’s bottom line. Just consider the difference in total airfare between a family of four that travels over their President’s Week school vacation (AKA ski week) or spring break, and the family of four that waits until summer vacation:

Summer vacation for 4:       

RT San Francisco/Maui @ $700   = $2800 total airfare

Spring vacation for 4:            

RT San Francisco/Maui @ $350   = $1400 total airfare

By taking advantage of Alaska Airline’s spring fare sales, we were twice able to fly RT to Maui from the Bay Area for less than $350 per person (including taxes). In fact, the savings of $1400 illustrated here may actually pay for a 1-week stay in a 1-bedroom Maui vacation rental.

Tip: Use www.Fly.com to find out which airlines serve Maui from your nearest airport and sign up for their promotional emails. You’ll be the first to know when they offer a fare sale to Maui—which is important when the number of sale seats per flight are limited and you’ll be buying four or more of them. By subscribing, you may also get special offers, promotional codes, or perks others don’t.

Bypass the hotel resorts and book a Maui vacation rental instead.

It goes without saying that a family equipped to cook at least some of its meals during a Maui vacation will save money over the family stuck with eating out in restaurants the entire time. But having a kitchen, which may be included in many resort rooms as well, is really just the beginning of the financial advantages you’ll have by renting a fully-equipped Maui vacation rental.

Privately owned Maui vacation rental homes and condos often come stocked with extras you’d have to pay additional fees for at a resort—like boogie boards and beach chairs—or conveniences you’d pay resort fees for such as beach towels to use during your stay.

Boogie boards and beach towels, compliments of our Maui vacation condo's owner.
Boogie boards and beach towels, compliments of our Maui vacation condo’s owner.

Maui vacation rentals usually provide more square feet per dollar than resort rooms, too, and with a 1-, 2-, or 3+ bedroom vacation rental, large families and those vacationing with grandparents or extended family can more affordably accommodate the group without the financial burden of having to pay for a second hotel room for extra children or additional hotel rooms for extended family.

And in a best case scenario, your vacation rental will even include a washer and dryer in your unit, which can not only save you over exorbitant resort laundry fees (or trips back and forth from a coin-op shared laundry) but it may even save you on checked baggage fees when you can get away with packing fewer outfits (x 4 or more people!). The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas and all of the Destination Residences Hawaii properties on Maui provide washers and dryers in every vacation rental.

Or… consider camping on Maui!

A Volkswagen Westfalia campervan from Aloha Campers in Maui.
A Volkswagen Westfalia campervan from Aloha Campers in Maui.

Yes, you can fly your camping gear over to Maui, but for a family of four, you might really want to consider a campervan rental instead. A one-week VW Westfalia campervan rental from Aloha Campers in spring (mid-season) will cost just over $1,000—and that covers both your car rental and lodgings for the week!

Note: That doesn’t include additional insurance (optional) of $15 a day, or campground fees—which range from $5 per adult (and $2 to $3 for children) at some camp sites up to $35 per night for a family. But what else does it include? All of the bedding and towels you’ll need, a kitchen kit, French coffee press, ice chest, flashlight, and other helpful items (www.alohacampers.com).

Having a campervan also gives you great advantages on Maui. You can continue exploring the island without constantly back-tracking, and every time you go to the beach you’ll have everything you might possibly need, including all of your food, a stocked ice chest, and mobile changing room!

Rent your snorkel gear—or paddle board—by the day or week.

snorkel gear from Snorkel Bob's Maui
Rent your snorkel gear by the day or week–you never know when it might come in handy.

Even if you’re staying at a resort, renting snorkel equipment on your own by the day or week will save you money over renting it from a beachfront resort. For example, you can pay around $35 an hour to rent a snorkel set at most Maui beachfront resorts, or stop by Snorkel Bob’s to get fitted for you complete “Mo-Flo” snorkel & fin set for the week at $35 for adults—and $22 for kids. And you’ll be able to snorkel wherever and whenever you want during your stay (www.snorkelbob.com).

Paddle boards rented from beachfront resorts may cost you around $55 an hour (they usually include a quick lesson with that). But if you pick up a rental board en route to the beach instead, you’ll get the board for the entire day for around the same price. If you’re wondering how to get a paddle board from a rental shop in town to the beach of your choice, it looks something like this (yes, those are foam noodles on the roof–and they’ll show you how).

paddle board on car
One paddle board to go, rented and tied-on by Maui Wave Riders in Kihei.

Or if you prefer, some board shops in Maui like 808 Boards offer affordable day rates of around $45 WITH free delivery and pick up included (www.808boards.com).

Skip the spendy luau and get your Hawaiian entertainment for free.

It’s not to say that an evening of feasting, fire dancers, and world class hula performances is anything to sneeze at. But the family on a budget doesn’t have to spend the $80 to $100 per adult (and child over 12 years) or $30 to $50 per child 6 to 12 years, to enjoy Hawaiian culture and entertainment. Especially when there are plenty of opportunities around Maui to enjoy it for free.

If you’re in the Kihei/Makena/Wailea area, check the schedule of free live music, dance performances, and occasional ukulele lessons at the Shops at Wailea (http://theshopsatwailea.com/directory/events/).

And if you’ll be in the Ka’anapali area, take a look at the current schedule of activities at Whaler’s Village, where hula lessons and lei-making classes are offered free several mornings each month, and free Polynesian and Tahitian dance shows are performed three nights a week (www.whalersvillage.com/events.htm).

Maui Friday town parties
If it’s Friday, there’s a party in Maui.

Plus, each week Maui has a rotating “Friday Town Party” with free live entertainment, food trucks and vendors, and local arts and crafts on display. Here’s the schedule:

  • First Friday of the month – Wailuku
  • Second Friday – Lahaina
  • Third Friday – Makawao
  • Fourth Friday – Kihei
  • Fifth Friday – Lana‘i

Kihei’s Friday town parties, which happen every 4th Friday of the month at the Azeka Shopping Center, are known to be particularly family friendly, with face painting, animal rides, and now “human hamster balls” on water. You can visit the Maui Fridays site to see which parties are coming up next (http://mauifridays.com/).

Plan ahead—or plan last minute.

 Wailea Grand Champions.
The swimming pool –and early bird booking discount–beckons at Maui Wailea Grand Champions.

Planning your budget-friendly Maui vacation well in advance will enable you to jump on those best airfare specials when they surface, and also to reserve one of the best-value vacation rentals before someone else gets it for the dates that you want. Destination Residences, for example, will even reward you for booking from at least 60 days up to 120 days in advance with discounts up to 40%. That can bring the cost of a 1-bedroom garden view condo at Grand Champions Villas in Wailea down as low as $143 per night, or a 1-bedroom ocean view at Wailea Ekahi Village down as low as $269 per night (prices will vary by season, date, and individual unit). Click here for more about these offers from Destination Residences.

But if you’re too late to be early, there’s no reason to despair. Many vacation rental owners will drop prices on certain dates if there is a cancellation or an odd number of days to fill between other stays (keep checking www.VRBO.com). There are last-minute offers from resorts and vacation properties as well, like Castle Resorts, which is offering up to 50% off its condos through the fall. That means you can get a 1-bedroom standard condo at Kamaole Shores in Kihei for as little as $135 per night, or a 1-bedroom garden view at Paki Maui in Ka’anapali for $125 per night. Click here for more about these offers from Castle Resorts.

Save like a local on groceries.

Yes, there is a Costco near Maui’s main airport, and you and 100 of your closest friends from your flight may all be headed there as soon as you pick up your rental cars. But before you load up on more short ribs or cheese doodles and jumbo-size condiments than you may be able to consume during your stay, consider whether or not this is the most cost-effective way to go about grocery shopping for your vacation.

You might fare much better overall by shopping at a grocery store nearer your accommodations on an as-needed bases. Safeway has multiple locations on Maui, including Kihei, Kahului, and Lahaina, and if you already have a Safeway Club Card, you can use it to get the sale prices when shopping at any of these.

Maui Foodland Maikai card
Maui Foodland Maikai card

Foodland, which also has locations in Kihei, Kahului, and Lahaina, is rumored to have better prices than Safeway, especially when you take advantage of their Maika’i Card savings program (similar to the Safeway Club Card). You don’t have to be a local to join; just ask a cashier for the quick form to fill in on your first visit and the “instant savings” prices will apply to you at checkout.

Better still, Maui has farmer’s markets all around the island and all through the week. In fact, central Maui and south Maui (Kihei) have farmer’s market three days a week, making it easy to buy the freshest, local produce you could hope to get your hands on (unless you want to go pick your own…). Click here to see the full list of Maui’s farmer market locations and dates.

Inspired yet? For more tips, ideas, and inspiration for your Maui family vacation, see my “Maui with Kids” board on Pinterest. And if you get a great budget-friendly Maui tip, please share with the rest of us it in a comment below. Mahalo!

*$351.72  as reported by Hospitality Advisers, March 2015.

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Shelly Rivoli

Founder, Editor, & Chief Adventure Officer at Family Travel 411 and Travels with Baby
Shelly Rivoli is the award-winning author behind the Travels with Baby guidebooks and Travels with Baby website and blog, and is the founding editor of Family Travel 411. When she isn't traveling with her husband and three children, she hangs her hat in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter: @travelswithbaby and Facebook: Shelly Rivoli.
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5 thoughts on “How to Build a Budget-Friendly Maui Family Vacation”

  1. Great tips for the budget conscious…But I wouldn’t leave out the North Shore; Paia & Ho’okipa are worth visiting and gelato is always a crowd pleaser. Upcountry is a relaxing way to spend a day and gets you out of the resort areas. And of course the road to Hana is a must. Just pick up a picnic, make it easy and casual…a family road trip always makes for great memories. http://hanaheadquarters.com

  2. So many great tips! Maui is on my daughter’s short list….maybe one of these strategies will help get us there sooner 🙂

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