Saturday, August 12, 2017

Beckee's Deal with Hawaii's Big Island (Overview)

Wow, the summer of travel is almost to an end, but I have not shared all the great tips I learned this summer yet! I guess I will start with my most recent vacation. It was a big one! 

Almost two weeks ago I returned home from the Big Island of Hawaii. 

About the Trip/Pre Trip Planning

As I have mentioned before, I am a planner. Big time. Maybe even an over-planner...This trip was no exception. 

But I feel I need to explain something about my planning. I am a planner that likes to be spontaneous. Weird, right? But true. When I plan, I do not make calendars full of events and exact times. But what I make is spreadsheets and lists of the things that I might want to do at the location I am visiting. And I research. A lot. In advance. That way I can usually figure out if there is something I want to do that requires planning ahead and putting on the calendar (like going to See Hamilton on Broadway-you have to get those tickets WAY in advance and plan ahead for that!) or if things are more of a possible spontaneous adventure (like a beach or a drive).

Usually we are pretty active and adventurous on vacations. My husband especially. People always comment that he keeps you running! True...But we also know our audience, and for our most recent vacation (the the Big Island of Hawaii), our "audience" was 11 people ranging from grandparents to kindergartners. 6 years old to 62 year old, kids, adults, teens all in the mix. This was THE big trip of the year for the Beckee's Deals family-Wes and I took our 5 kids, his parents, and my parents with us to Hawaii for a week. So I planned a LITTLE differently...

I started out the same...For those of you that read my Kauai overview post, you know I completely recommend these books:

My husband is kind of a Big Island pro because he did an externship during med school in Hilo, so he lived there for a month (or 6 weeks?) At the time our middle child was a baby. That baby and I visited Wes on the Big Island for about a week. On this recent trip, we celebrated that "baby"'s 11th birthday. So, it has been almost 11 years since Wes got to live in Hawaii for a glorious few weeks. 

In spite of Wesley's expertise on this island, in preparation for this trip, I still read this book (We actually gave this book to our parents to read as well in preparation for the trip):

(If you cannot see the picture, it is "Hawaii The Big Island Revealed" 8th edition by Andrew Doughty.)


And marked a lot:

The first time through, I just marked and noted the things that looked awesome, that Wes and I might like if we were going alone. And the second time through I looked for things that a multi-generational groups could all do together. That would appeal to a 6 year old and not kill a 62 year old, that would keep the interest of a teenager and still challenge an adult without boring a 9 year old. 

Then I took what I thought looked like it would be the best activities for my group and made a two page spreadsheet of them. And arranged it by what part of the island the activities were on:

That way, if we were on one part of the island doing an activity and we had time to do something else spontaneously, we could see what else might be of interest nearby. I tried to make sure the list included things that others might be interested in even if I was not (Golf, fishing, etc).

Next, I looked at the list and picked out a few absolute MUSTs and looked to see if any of those musts required advanced planning and arrangement. Like, for example, I knew we would want to do a Luau with everyone while on the island. That might sell out and only happens on certain nights, so I planned it ahead, made reservations and paid for the luau in advance. AND put it on the calendar! 

A Bit of Background about THIS trip

Who were we with: I already mentioned that this was a huge multi-generational group-11 of us. My parents, Wesley's parents, me, Wes, and our 5 kids (ages 6-14). ( Enjoy this terrible picture of the whole group...I would use a better one, but this is the only one with all of us in it)

Transportation and Accommodations 

This trip was originally supposed to be a beach/Disneyland trip to California (Adventure #4 in this post). However, when I was in the planning/paying stages, on a whim, I checked Costco Travel for any great deals. And guess what? I found one! But not for Disneyland/California Beaches, but for the Big Island of Hawaii. And it was less than the other plan was going to be for 11 people. HECK.YEAH. Since we did a package deal on this, airfare, car, and hotel were included in the cost. The original plans and what actually happened were a bit different sadly...(we had some issues-which was weird because we have never had problems with Costco travel before when we have used them.) Here's what happened:

Airplane travel: The grandparents were all coming from Salt Lake City Utah, so they were on the same itinerary, and we were flying from Seattle. The plan had them flying to Seattle, then all 11 of us on a flight to Kona. We had reserved seats months ago all together, but for some reason Delta or Costco changed them and my father in law almost got bumped from the flight. It was terrible, but in the end, after HOURS on the phone with Delta and with Costco, We were in fact all on the plane together-seated all over, but on the same plane. 

Ground Transportation: We rented 2 cars, a minivan that could hold 7 people for us and our kids, and a full sized car for the grandparents. It was through Alamo. Luckily, I ALWAYS go online 24 hours before the car rental and pre-check in on Alamo. When I went on this time I discovered that they had changed our minivan seating 7 to a car seating 5 (for the 7 of us). I called Costco and Alamo and discovered that whatever mistake had happened, they did not have a minivan anywhere on the island for us now. After LOTS of time on the phone (HOURS) and a lot of me being VERY pushy and refusing to accept "I guess you and your husband will both have to drive and we can give you 2 small cars" or "You can get a bigger van but only if you PAY for it when you arrive" (even though I had already paid!!), we FINALLY got a car to fit us all. It ended up being a FULL SIZED 15 passenger Van:

I was furious at first, but in the end it was actually nice to have a huge vehicle that all 11 of us could be in together. We drove a lot and that added time we could all be together and the kids could bond with the grandparents.

Accommodations: This aspect of our trip was phenomenal! We had 3 condos reserved at Halii Kai at Waikoloa

Wes, the kids and I were in a three bedroom, three bathroom condo and each set of parents had a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom. Here's a view from our balcony

My parents were directly below us and Wesley's parents were in another building. If I could have changed one thing, I would have had my in-laws in the same building or at least in a closer building. Other than that, it was great. We DID run into a few problems with our room key code not working and a few other things, but the staff was SO helpful and nice (even when they had to come back after hours to deal with our door not opening!). I loved it so much here that Wes and I are seriously considering whether we should save up for a few years and try to buy one of these condos! Location is great-the pool is fantastic and the condos themselves are just great! We absolutely loved it and will return!

So, now you know why I went, who I was with, where I stayed and how I got around. Activities and Food will need their own posts! Watch for those soon!


Rochelle said...

Just have to say again. This was one of the most fabulous trips of my life. Thanks to Wes and Beckee for planning and executing an exciting and fun vacation experience that really did work for the massive age group involved!!