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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Real Price of Paradise - What a Winter in Hawaii Really Cost


Some of you might be wondering just how how much spare change it took to fund our winter escape. Did we rob our 401(k)'s?  Spend our inheritances?  Mortgage the farm?


Below is a breakdown of our actual expenses from the eleven weeks we spent on the islands, broken down between "necessary" and "optional," and a comparison to the expenses we had before leaving the mainland.

Necessary Expenses:

Flights: $1606

This price included two one-way flights to KOA from BIL ($398 each), two one-way flights from KOA to HNL ($86 each), and two one-way flights from HNL to BIL ($319 each).

We might have been able to save some money on the flights if we had purchased round-trip tickets in advance. But we weren't sure when our daughter would be able to come out and visit us, so the one-way tickets gave us more flexibility.  As it turned out, it was far too expensive to fly her out to the Big Island anyway, so we flew over to Honolulu when she arrived.

Storage: $807

Three months rent on three storage units in Minnesota.

Food: $1540

$140/week, or about $10/day/person

We could have gotten through our time on the farm with little to no food budget. The farm provided some staples (bread, rice, beans, pasta) and whatever was ripe and they had extras of (mostly avocados, papayas and bananas).

Sometimes we'd also get some sweet potatoes or eggplant to toss into a stir-fry.  But basically they expected interns to supplement their staples with grocery items of their own choosing.  We would always purchase eggs, cheese, and whenever we could, grass-fed meat to supplement our pantry items.  We also purchased gluten-free wraps for Papa Bear as he has a gluten sensitivity and doesn't eat bread.

We did give up drinking coffee, as the good, local Kona coffee sells for $25/pound and up. 

We did routinely eat out Friday evenings at one of the local spots within easy walking distance of the farm. This averaged around $20 total for the 2 of us, and was part of the $150/week allocated for food.

There were a few times our food budget went over, for some special occasions like birthday celebrations.  When this happened we took some money out of our vacation savings to cover the expense.

Critter Care: $500

Boarding and hay expenses for 6 alpacas, 12 chickens and 3 house cats for 3 months.

Health insurance:  $890

Since I was still working we had no expense for my health insurance but with Papa Bear on leave of absence we had to pick up a copay for his insurance. 

Taxi & Bus Services:  $100

$30 from the airport to Kmart bus stop - we could have avoided this expense if we had been given better instructions (the bus runs from the Kona airport Sunday evenings).

All of our other expenses remained similar to what we normally spend on the mainland (cell phone, internet, car insurance, etc.)

TOTAL: $5443, about $500/week, or $36/day/person (including airfare!)

A single person without boarding, storage and health insurance costs who was willing to eat only what the farm provided and let's say $20/week for groceries/extras could have spent two months on the Big Island for as low as $1000 including round-trip air.

Compare to Minnesota Expenses: (for an 11-week period):

Rent: $1250/mo = $3173 (mo x 12 / 52 * 11)

Utilities: $250/mo = $634 (mo x 12 / 52 * 11)

Gas/Groceries/Misc.: $320/wk = $3520

TOTAL: $7327 or about $660/wk or $47/day/person

Optional expenses:  

Please note - our "optional" expenses were paid for out of our "travel/vacation" budget, which we created by setting aside money every month (normally about $200/month).  We've had this account for over 10 years and doing this has allowed us to take a fairly big trip every 3-5 years.

First weekend on the island, before we went to the farm:
VRBO Holualoa:  $245
Car rental 3 days: $91

Weekend in Volcano Village, Big Island:
Volcano Village Hostel: $115 ($25/night x 2 dorm beds x 1 night + $65/night private room 1 night)
Car rental 3 days: $145 (price increased over holidays)

Week with a car while friends were visiting Kona:
Car rental 7 days: $214
Luau: $60 x 2 = $120
Manta Ray Night Diving: $90 x 2 = $180 (+ optional video $40)
Surfing lessons $80 x 2 people = $160

Five vacation days on the Big Island post-farm stay:
Car rental 8 days:  $317
Hilo B&B: $290 (3 nights)
Waipio hostel: $100 (2 nights)

Six vacation days on Oahu with our daughter:
Car rental 6 days: $214
Waikiki Hotel: $180 (3 nights) (I traded in Priority Club points to reduce the $200/night fee to $60/night)
Waikiki Hotel Parking: $75 ($5/night discount with Priority Club status)
Diamond Head Parasail: $120 (for 3 people)
VRBO North Shore: $435 ($120/night + cleaning fee)
Glider Plane: $230 (for 2 people)

TOTAL: $3171 for 2-3 people (2 on Big Island, 3 on Oahu).

I hope this breakdown gives you some ideas about what you, too, can do with a little forward planning and a big dream, without breaking the bank!

Aloha -


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