I’m 27 & This Is How Much I Spent On A Hawaiian Vacation With My Fiancé & His Daughter

Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 27-year-old Research Psychologist turns a work trip into a Hawaiian vacation with her fiancé and his 5-year-old daughter. 
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Age: 27
Occupation: Research Psychologist
Salary: $94,500
Travel Companion: my fiance, J, and his 5-year-old daughter, K for one week of the trip
Travel Companion's Salary: $40,000. Our finances are combined. 
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Trip Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Trip Length: 10 days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: I work for the government, so instead of getting a set number of days per year for time off, we accrue hours off per pay period. As of the writing of this diary, I have about three weeks of total leave saved up. But because this trip is technically a work trip, I did not have to use any of my leave for it. (I’m going to Hawaii for about 10 days on a work assignment, and my fiance and his daughter decided to join me for part of it. We’re arriving early to have a few days of vacationing together before I have to work, but even though I’m leaving early, I was able to time it that I didn’t have to use any of my leave.)
Companion’s # of Vacation Days: Two weeks vacation, unlimited sick
Costs: Flights from BWI to HNL. For the trip over, all three of us were on the same flights that had layovers in Charlotte and Los Angeles. On the way back, J and K had a layover in Chicago and I had one in Dallas. My flight was covered through work. My fiance and his daughter’s flights cost $1,981.60 round trip.
Total: $1,981.60
Costs: We’re staying at a Department of Defense hotel, the Hale Koa in Waikiki. We paid $328 for two nights. The other nights were covered by my job. 
Total: $328
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending:
Items for Trip:
- Suitcase for K: $19.99
- Assorted beach toys, snorkels, and leis via the dollar section of Target: $32.99
- Assorted beach toys, snorkels, and leis via the dollar section of Target: $32.99
- Backpack cooler: $19.99
- Snacks for the plane and hotel: $40
- Coloring books and crayons for the plane for K: $11
- SD card for K’s tablet: $9.99
- Swim shoes for me, J, and K: $35
- Swimsuit cover-up for me: $16
Pre-booked activities
- Groupon for wine tasting: $18.75
- Tickets to the Hale Koa Luau: $171.45
We paid my sister $250 to housesit/watch our cat and dog. We also bought her a few groceries ($57).
Total pre-trip spending: $682.16

Day One 

3:30 a.m. – Our alarm goes off. Waking up is incredibly hard because we didn’t get to sleep until 11:00 p.m. because we are procrastination packers. I finish up some last-minute packing while J gets K dressed. J and I grab yogurts for breakfast. K has some chocolate chip mini muffins. 
4:00 a.m. – I call a Lyft XL because with three of us plus luggage I doubt that we’ll be able to fit into a normal one. It takes about 15 minutes for a driver to be contacted because apparently (but unsurprisingly) there aren’t a ton of Lyft XLs driving around Baltimore at 4:00 a.m. Finally, a driver accepts our request. We load up and are dropped off at BWI. I tip the driver 20 percent for making the journey at this ungodly hour. I expense $40 of the total because that’s what it normally costs me to take a normal-sized Lyft to the airport for a work trip. $31.68 
4:45 a.m. – J pays to check in one of our two giant suitcases. I’m allowed to expense the other suitcase charge ($30 for my suitcase) for work. $30 
4:50 a.m. – Despite the fact that we have TSA Precheck, security takes forever. Somehow K’s little 5-year-old hands have some sort of “questionable substance” on them. Therefore, TSA is forced to unpack all of our carry-on luggage and test all of our electronics. J and I are also treated to full-body pat-downs. I feel equally bad for the TSA agents as for us. Forty-five minutes later, we’re allowed to proceed to our gate. 
6:09 a.m. – We’re on our way! We have a quick, uneventful, 50-minute flight to Charlotte for our first layover. 
8:30 a.m. – Land in Charlotte. K is hungry and although we have plenty of fairly unhealthy snacks handy, I would like her to have some fruit or vegetable to compliment her mini muffin breakfast. I scope around the airport to check out my extremely limited options and finally, buy an overpriced orange at California Pizza Kitchen. $1.72
10:00 a.m. – We board our flight to LAX, our second layover destination. J and I are feeling the effects of limited sleep. K seems unaffected. We give her a tablet and a princess coloring book and ask her to give us a few minutes of quiet. She complies. We’re grateful.
12:00 p.m. – Land in LAX. We snacked on the plane but are excited about real food. J really wants tacos to have a “true California meal” so we choose a Mexican place. J orders an assortment of tacos and a side of rice and beans. I order chicken nachos, and K shares with both of us because the portions are huge. $43.67
2:00 p.m. – Last leg of the trip! K is finally feeling the effects of getting up early and it being her bedtime back in Baltimore. She conks out for most of the final plane ride. J and I are stoked that this plane finally has TVs! I watch Eighth Grade (highly recommend), and J watches bits and pieces of a bunch of action movies. 
5:00 p.m. – We have arrived! Since J and K have never been here before, I brought them leis to celebrate. I adorn them with their leis when we get off the plane. Although the leis are just fake ones, pre-purchased from Target, J and K are super appreciative. K refuses to take off her purple sparkly one.
5:30 p.m. – I pre-ordered us an airport shuttle and call the driver to let him know that we’ve arrived. The driver is super friendly, but a little too talkative for my liking after more than 14 hours of travel. The shuttle company charges a flat fee of $30 regardless of the number of passengers, so I expense the whole thing, plus a $10 tip (expensed). 
6:30 p.m. – We’re so tired but are determined to conquer jet lag! There’s a fireworks show on the beach at 8:00 p.m., so after dropping off our luggage in the hotel room, we head to the beach to hang out for a bit before the show. We’re super lucky that the beach is less than a 5-minute walk from our hotel room.
8:00 p.m. – We enjoy a short but beautiful fireworks show put on by the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the resort next door. It’s a great first night.
8:30 p.m.- We head to a little snack shack on the hotel property for a late dinner. I get chicken teriyaki with coleslaw and fries, J gets spam musubi and a chef’s salad, and K gets a cheeseburger and fries. Our internal clocks are off, and we’re not super hungry. We pick at our food and save our leftovers for a later day. $34.65
9:30 p.m. – Bedtime at last. I pray that our jacked-up internal clocks don’t wake us up super early. 
Day 1 Total: $141.74

Day Two

6:00 a.m. – Miraculously, we wake up at our normal time. We spend some time on the patio in awe of the tropical plants and ocean views. After a bit, we get dressed, unpack a little, and bag up some snacks for the day. We eat some muffins and applesauce that we brought with us for breakfast. 
7:15 a.m. – We head down to the hotel lobby. We see an advertisement for a fancy brunch the hotel puts on every Sunday. The food in the ad looks really enticing. We cave and book tickets. $92.85
7:30 a.m. – We decided to rent a car for the weekend to explore beyond Waikiki. I made a reservation in advance, so we go to our hotel’s rental car desk for what we assume will be a fairly quick process of finalizing paperwork and paying for the car. We are wrong. Apparently, the rental car company’s policy is to call the credit card company or bank of the renter to authorize the charge. Being that it’s mid-afternoon on a Saturday on the mainland, no one is picking up the phone. 
8:15 a.m. – While J and the rental car employee continue to work their way through calling our various credit card companies and banks, I grab us large iced coffees from the mini coffee bar in the lobby, and tip $1 per drink. ($10.25) By the time I return, finally one of our banks has picked up, and we are cleared to rent! We book the car for two days ($100.01). $110.26
9:30 a.m. – Finally, all the paperwork is signed and we take a shuttle to the rental car facility. We have our car! We head to the North Shore for the day. 
10:30 a.m. – First stop: the Waialua Farmers' Market. This farmers' market is really cool. It’s hosted in the lot of an old sugar mill that’s been converted into specialty shops. Vendors include local small farmers and craftsmen. We buy some corn and broccoli microgreens from one vendor ($13), and some mountain apples (a local fruit similar to pears), pistachio bread ($3), and oranges from another ($8). We also get some smoked marlin ($10), cinnamon knots ($2), and some li hing jelly ($10). Li hing is salted dried plum. Its powder form is especially popular in Hawaii for sprinkling on fruit and candy. I brought some home with me during my last trip to Hawaii, and J became obsessed with it. I’m tempted to buy a shell wind chime from a local craftsman but decide to think on it. K does ask to buy three seashell necklaces for her grandmothers and mother from the same craftsman, and we oblige. ($3) $49
11:00 a.m. – A Hawaiian barbeque stand smells especially good and we decide to break for an early lunch. We get chicken and pork skewers and rice noodles with veggies. I’m a little worried if K will appreciate our lunch, but she happily devours the chicken and noodles. $23
11:30 a.m. – We head into a local coffee and gift shop in the converted sugar mill. There’s a playhouse area for kids, and K finds another little girl her age who’s equally interested in playing house. While K is distracted, J and I do a coffee-tasting of delicious local blends. We don’t buy any though (and we deeply regret it later!). 
12:00 p.m. – After K has had ample time to play, we head over to the North Shore Soap Factory which is housed in another part of the converted mill. They have a station for you to stamp different patterns into soap bars. K is very excited about this prospect, so we go to buy her a bar of soap to stamp. The cashier lets us know that kids can have a bar of soap for free! K chooses a lovely plumeria scented bar and stamps it with a heart. I’ve never seen her so happy. 
12:30 p.m. – We decide to head out to another area, but before we leave, I cave and buy the shell windchime from the farmer’s market vendor. No regrets. $25
1:30 p.m.- We drive to the Dole Plantation and parking is insane! We drive around for 20 minutes before we finally snag a spot. J and K enjoy some Dole Whip ($6.27), while we walk around taking photos and admiring the adorable baby pineapples. K is completely in awe that pineapples don’t grow on trees. Her 5-year-old brain explodes. Before we leave, J buys some li hing powder and I grab a Diet Coke ($10.42). $16.69
2:30 p.m. – We head towards Laniakea Beach to hopefully see some sea turtles, but we take a detour when we see a place called Tsue’s Farm advertising coconuts. Since she got off the plane and saw palm trees, K has been talking non-stop about how much she wants a coconut. She is very disappointed about the taste, but we get some cute Instagram-worthy photos (pre-coconut tasting) out of the experience. $6
3:00 p.m. – We make it to Laniakea Beach, a beach that’s known for sea turtles, although I’m not super hopeful about seeing one. I had no luck the last time I was here. We snack on our microgreens and pistachio bread from the farmer’s market, K and I wade in the ocean, and J snorkels. 
3:30 p.m. – We see a turtle! One actually crawls up to shore and it’s bigger than K! K and I watch in awe as it tries to make its way back into the ocean and we cheer with the rest of the beachgoers as it finally makes it way back to sea. J says the turtle swam right by him while he was snorkeling and it was terrifying but incredible. 
5:00 p.m. – After all our beach fun, we decide to head to the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice for a snack. J and I get Ichiban specials, which are flavored shaved ices topped with vanilla ice cream, condensed milk, mochi, and red bean topping. K gets a plain rainbow shaved ice. Everyone is happy. $16.50
5:30 p.m. – After eating, we stop into a general store next door. J buys a Hawaiian-made toasted rum to take back as a souvenir, and I buy a cheap bottle of Barefoot Moscato for us to enjoy on the trip. $32.99
7:00 p.m. – Back at the hotel and none of us are super hungry because of all our snacking, but J and I want drinks. We go to a beachfront restaurant on the hotel property. J gets a Mai Tai, I get a lava flow (blended strawberries, ice, pineapple juice, rum, and coconut milk), and we share a li hing margarita. K gets an orange juice with grenadine topped with cherries and edible flowers. $31
9:00 p.m. – We’re back at the hotel room, tired and content. K comments that, “Today was an amazing day.” 
Daily Total: $403.29

Day Three

6:15 a.m. – Up again at our usual hour. J gets coffee for me and him, Nesquik for K, and a loaf of gluten-free banana bread at the hotel lobby coffee bar. $17.50 
8:30 a.m. – We decide to check out the Exchange at our hotel. (The Exchange is a military retailer. They operate a convenience store at our hotel since we’re staying at on Department of Defense property). We buy a t-shirt for K, a bathing suit for K, and some new headphones for me because mine broke on the plane. $41.78
9:00 a.m. – We head to brunch, and it is amazing! A good mix of Hawaiian and traditional brunch foods. The fresh seafood is especially incredible, and I load up on snow crab legs, shrimp, and mussels. There’s also a live band that plays mostly traditional Hawaiian music, but they mix it up and play “Baby Shark” for the kids at one point. We tip them for making K’s day. We leave full and happy. Although it was a buffet-style breakfast, we leave a tip for the waitstaff, who bussed our table and refilled our coffee. $17
11:00 a.m. – We head out to the windward side of the island to the town of Kailua to meet some friends of mine. Long story short, when I was here last, I went by myself to a concert in Waikiki and ended up hanging out with these two women from the windward side of the island. We had a great time together and vowed to meet up if I ever came back to the island or if they came to the mainland. I texted them when I found out I was coming back to Hawaii and suggested that we meet for lunch. They agreed and suggest meeting at a local hole-in-the-wall called KJ Grindz.
12:00 p.m. – We arrive in Kailua with a little bit of time to spare. There’s a Goodwill nearby, and we decide to wander around. J and I love thrifting, and I’ve discovered some of my favorite work trip/vacation souvenirs in local thrift shops. We don’t find any good souvenirs, but we do find K a lift jacket and a pool noodle. She doesn’t know how to swim, and since we’re planning on going to some choppy beaches today, we want to give her some protection. $6.26
12:30 p.m. – We meet up with my Hawaiian friends and exchange hugs and introductions. At KJ Grindz, they recommend that we try a Hawaiian dish called furikake chicken, which we get with rice and corn. It’s amazing! By far the best meal we’ve had so far in Hawaii. It’s sweet and sticky. The closest thing I can compare it to is General Tso’s chicken, but it tastes so much better. When we pay, we pick up the tab for my friends. $23.82
1:45 p.m. – We’re having such a good time and good conversation, but we, unfortunately, have to leave early than we want to because we have a wine-tasting reservations scheduled at 2:00 p.m. We hug my friends goodbye, and I vow to text if I have some free time later in the week. One of my friends gives us a bag of li hing gummy bears as a parting gift. They’re delicious. 
2:00 p.m. – Thankfully, the winery is right down the street. It’s called Oeno Winemaking, and they specialize in making small-batch wines and allowing customers to make their own wines. The owner is very friendly, and the wine is good. However, because they only make small batches, a lot of the wines listed on the menu weren’t available to try. The wines that were available aren’t quite up J and mine’s alley, so we decide not to purchase a bottle. We don’t have to pay anything because I prepaid for the tasting with a Groupon. 
3:30 p.m. – We head towards the Byodo-In Temple, a Buddist temple that is a replica of a 900-year-old Buddist temple in Japan. It’s drizzling a bit, and the mountains are covered in fog. The temple looks absolutely majestic nestled in the mountains. There’s a giant peace bell that we can ring, and lush gardens and koi ponds are everywhere. Friendly temple cats roam around. We pay $10 for all of our tickets and $2 for a bag of food to feed the koi. $12
5:00 p.m. – We head to...Walmart. Yes, going to Walmart in Hawaii is so lame, but we need some basics. We get a pair of bike shorts for me to wear under dresses (the chafing in the Hawaiian humidity is real), a plumeria fridge magnet, some salads for my lunches, a variety of Hawaiian and Japanese snacks for J to take back for souvenirs, and some ponytail holders for K $66.55
7:00 p.m. – I get a text from my co-worker that tomorrow will be a slow workday, so J and I decide to rent the car for an extra day since we didn’t make it to any windward side beaches. J drops K and I off at the hotel with all of our stuff, and he drives to the rental car facility to attempt to extend our car rental. He fills up with gas before driving to the facility ($19.41), just in case they can’t extend our rental, but they can! We’re charged an extra day ($51). $70.41
7:15 p.m. – While J is trying to extend our car rental, K and I head to the snack shack at our hotel. We just get a burger to split since we have a variety of leftovers and snacks in the hotel room, and we aren’t super hungry. K and I eat dinner, and when J gets back, he eats a chef salad that he brought a couple of days ago but never ate. $6.75
8:30 p.m. – After showering and relaxing on the patio for a bit, we head to bed. 
Daily Total: $262.07

Day Four

4:00 a.m. – I wake up early to get some work done. I sneak down into the hotel lobby, which is open-air and built around a huge banyan tree. It’s very peaceful, and I’m productive. 
7:00 a.m. – J and L wake up and join me. We have our hotel coffee bar coffee and Nesquik ($12.50) with muffins from home and farmer’s market oranges. Before we head back to the hotel room, J and K  stop at the Exchange and buy some postcards to send to relatives home ($1). $13.50
10:00 a.m. – After a lazy morning, we head to Kailua Beach. On our ride there, we decide to stop for an early lunch at an L&L Barbeque, a Hawaiian Barbeque chain. It’s not as good as the local Hawaiian joint from yesterday, but it’s still pretty tasty. I get chicken katsu curry, which is deep-fried boneless chicken in a sweet curry sauce. J gets kalua pork with cabbage, and K gets a grilled cheese with fries. $24.29
11:00 a.m. – We arrive at the beach! Kailua Beach has been voted one of the top beaches in the world, and it lives up to its name. The water is very blue, the sand is white, and even better, it’s way less crowded than the Waikiki beaches. It’s especially quiet today because it’s Monday. We relax and have fun.
12:30 p.m. – We head back into town for a snack. We see a cute bubble tea/smoothie shop called Shaka Shaka Tea Express and decide to stop in. The teas are totally customizable even down the sweetness level! I get a taro and coconut boba tea, J gets a pineapple and passion fruit boba tea, and K gets a watermelon smoothie. They also sell macarons which we buy way too many of in a bunch of different flavors. $34
1:00 p.m. –  Across the street is a candy store that my Hawaiian friends recommended. It’s called Rainbow Crackseed. They sell a variety of Hawaiian and Asian candy (most of which has a version sprinkled with li hing powder). I get some gummy rainbow strip candies that have li hing powder sprinkled on them instead of the typical sour crystal coating. $2.45
2:00 p.m. – Back to Waikiki! J drops me off for a meeting with a coworker. Meanwhile, he and L drive around for a bit more, taking in a bit of the west side of the island. When their drive is over, J fills up the rental car and drops it off at the rental car facility. $11.41.
6:00 p.m. – I reunite with K and J and suggest that we walk to Eggs n’ Things for dinner. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Waikiki. They specialize in pancakes, omelets, and crepes, and have amazing coconut and guava syrups. Unfortunately, the service is a little subpar. Our waitress takes 45 minutes to take our order, never refills our drinks, and forgets to bring us everything we ordered, but the food is still good. J and I get chicken mango sausages with eggs. I get a side of pancakes, and J gets a side of tri-colored potatoes. K gets silver dollar pancakes and eggs. $35.34 
8:30 p.m. – We walk back to the hotel. I get my work stuff ready for tomorrow. We all are asleep around 9:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $120.99

Day Five

6:30 a.m. – Wake up. I get ready for work while J runs down to the lobby get coffee, Nesquik for L., and strawberry yogurt for my breakfast. $15.25 
7:15 a.m. – I meet a coworker in the hotel lobby and we head a military base that is about an hour away.
8:30 a.m. –  Work, work, work. Meanwhile, after eating our Eggs N’ Things leftovers for breakfast, J and K do a load of laundry at the hotel. Afterward, J and K head to the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, a small man-made, family-friendly beach near our hotel. They report back that the water is cold and murky, but nice and calm for non-swimmer (i.e. K) $2
12:00 p.m. – I eat a sad lunch of a Walmart salad, applesauce, and a farmers' market orange. J buys pizza at the hotel snack shack for K and spam musubi for himself. $10.25
1:00 p.m. – Work, work, work. J and K continue to live the dream by hanging out at the hotel pool (although, it’s raining, so I don’t envy them too much). J orders himself lava flow and gets K a lemonade with grenadine ($15 including tip). After the pool, J treats to K to a coconut dream ice cream from the snack shack ($2). $17
3:00 p.m. – I get a call from the hotel concerning our luau tickets for tonight. Our hotel hosts a luau three times a week. Tickets go pretty quickly, so I reserved our luau tickets about a month and a half in advance. We had great outdoor seating reserved in the front row. Unfortunately, because it’s raining pretty hard today, we have to be re-seated indoors. Our new seats are now in the back corner, which is less than ideal, but I’m glad that we can still see the show. 
3:30 p.m – I’m headed back to the hotel. J and K take it easy and relax on our hotel patio.
4:30 p.m. – I’m back and get greeted by hugs. We all take a quick nap before the luau.
5:00 p.m. – We head to the luau and are greeted with leis and mai tais (virgin, of course, for K). The “pre-show entertainment” is all these different stations set up with Hawaiian-themed activities. K makes a plumeria lei bracelet at one and gets a Polynesian temporary tattoo at another. We all get crowned with braided palm leaf headbands, and J learns how to play a short tune on the ukulele. 
6:00 p.m. – The band starts playing and dinner is served. There are a bunch of different pupus (appetizers) to start like seaweed salad, a salmon and tomato ceviche-type dish, and pineapple and cacao dip. For dinner, there’s kalua pork, rice, chicken, and coconut potatoes. For dessert, there’s layered gelatin and the best coconut cream cake I’ve ever had. Coffee, tea, and water are included with dinner, but J and I supplement with the cash bar. More li hing margaritas and lava flows. The drinks come to $30, but we give the bartender are a large tip ($10) because even though the outdoor bar is covered, the wind is so strong that it keeps blowing rain onto the bartender. $40
7:30 p.m. – After dinner, the show starts. The theme is a “trip around Polynesia” so there’s a bunch of different acts from places like New Zealand, Samoa, and, of course, Hawaii. The finale includes a fire-eater who blows K’s mind. Her mind is so blown, in fact, and she’s so distracted, that she doesn’t realize that she needs to use the bathroom and pees herself. Thankfully, she does this as the luau is ending, so we don’t miss much. We sneak out a bit before the giant crowd storms the exit.
9:00 p.m. – After a bath and clean undies, K heads to bed. J and I sit on the patio for a bit drinking our cheap wine and enjoying the silence, before we head off the bed ourselves.
Daily Total: $84.50

Day Six

6:30 a.m. – Wake up. Same old. Same old. Coffee, Nesquik, strawberry yogurt, random snacks around the hotel room = breakfast. $20
7:30 a.m. – I meet my coworker in the lobby to head to work. She doesn’t want to wait to get coffee at the hotel lobby, so we stop at Starbucks on base. I buy a bag of buttered popcorn. $1.25
8:00 a.m. – Work, work, work. J and K decide to walk to the Waikiki Aquarium, stopping to buy a can of sunscreen at the Exchange ($8.99). They stop at a post office along the way and mail the postcards they brought earlier in the week ($1.40). They also make a couple stops into two random ABC stores (a chain of convenience stores all over the place in Waikiki). K gets a little hula dancer doll, a bracelet, and a hand sanitizer in a carrying case that looks like a turtle (she’s randomly obsessed with sanitizers in cute holders). J is very excited to discover that ABC stores carry soju and buys 5 bottles. On a recent work trip to South Korea, I brought some bottles back, and he’s been in love with it ever since. He also buys K a strawberry and papaya slushie. $49
10:30 a.m. – Work, work, work. J and K continue their trek to the aquarium. According to them, the aquarium was fun. $17
12:00 p.m. – I have my sad lunch of a Walmart salad with a Diet Coke and some queso Ruffles from the vending machine ($3.25). J and K decide on a whim to climb Diamond Head, the giant volcano that overlooks Waikiki. They Uber to the park entrance ($8.63) and pay the entrance fee ($2). $13.88
2:00 p.m. – I receive a text containing a picture of a very sweaty man and a little girl looking over the city of Waikiki. They made it to the top! J says it wasn’t as hard as he expected, and although K grumbled most of the way, she loved the view. After a much easier descent, my cutie climbers take a Lyft back to the hotel ($11.86), shower, and get a late lunch at the hotel restaurant. K gets quesadillas. J gets a cobb salad ($35 including tip). $46.86
3:00 p.m. – Because climbing a volcano was not enough physical activity for the day, J and K rent this giant ocean bike at the hotel’s beach rental place. K is not a super useful pedaler, so J bikes them around the ocean for a bit. They pay for half an hour but last for about 15 minutes. $15
3:30 p.m. – After their short-lived water bike ride, J and K head to the Exchange to get snacks for their plane ride tomorrow. They get more Hawaiian candy, Goldfish, and plantain chips. My coworker and I are done for the day, so we start heading back to the hotel. $15.20
4:30 p.m. – When I get to the hotel, I run and change into my bathing suit and meet J and K at the pool. We have fun splashing around and trying to convince K to put her head in the water. I sneak out to get J and I drinks from the poolside bar. More lava flows and mai tais. $20 (including tip)
7:30 p.m. – After a couple of hours in the pool, we dry off, change, and head out to downtown Waikiki. It’s J and L’s last night, and we wanted to go get a fancier dinner. We decide on Duke’s Canoe Club, a waterfront restaurant named after a notorious surfer, with “world-famous salad bar.” It’s so popular that we couldn’t get reservations until 8:30 p.m., but we decide to go anyway. We take our time walking through the shops in Waikiki until it’s time for our reservation.
8:30 p.m. – We arrive at Duke’s. It’s a lively restaurant with live music and kitschy Hawaiian themed decorations. The salad bar does look impressive, but we stick to ordering off the menu. We get panko-fried calamari for an appetizer, and J gets a jalapeño margarita. For dinner, I have shrimp pasta, J gets teriyaki chicken kebabs with pineapple salsa, and K gets chicken tenders and fries. The food is incredible. However, in full disclosure, K curls into a ball and falls asleep at the table, and J and I get into a mini-fight about stupid shit. It’s not any of our best moments. We pay and head out ($112 including tip). We grab an Uber back to our hotel since K is knocked out ($6.76). $118.76
10:00 p.m. – We put K in bed, and J and I finish having a heart to heart about what caused us to fight. We work through the issue and apologize to each other about almost ruining our last night together in Hawaii. We take some time to finish packing up the stuff and K and J will take back to Baltimore tomorrow. We fall asleep around 1:00 p.m. watching House Hunters
Daily Total: $316.95

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. – No hotel coffee today :( I give J and K big hugs and wish them the best on their trip. They finish packing and eat miscellaneous snacks and leftovers for breakfast.
7:30 a.m. – My coworker and I head out. We stop at the Starbucks on base again, and I reload my Starbucks card. I get a little Starbucks mug ornament that says, “Hawaii,” an iced coffee, and a Rice Krispie treat. Breakfast of champions. $15
8:30 a.m. – Work, work, work. J and K reserve tickets for the 1:00 p.m. airport shuttle and go to the beach one last time. I have to stay in Hawaii for a few more days for work, so, unfortunately, I will not be going home with them.  $20 
12:00 p.m. – I eat my sad Walmart salad lunch with a Diet Coke and a bag of fruit snacks from the vending machine ($3.25). J and K have one last snack shack lunch of pizza and spam musubi ($11). $14.25
1:00 p.m. – J and K head the airport for their flight. J tips the shuttle driver ($5). Once at the airport counter, J pays the fee for one checked bag ($30).  While at the airport, J buys a smoothie ($3). $38
3:30 p.m. – Work is done! My coworker suggests that we head to a cider bar called Paradise Ciders after work. I agree that it’ll be fun and a good distraction from J and K leaving. Meanwhile, J and K board their plane and brace themselves for a very long and disorienting plane ride forward in time. J sends me one last text. I send them a kissy-face emoji and miss them really badly all of a sudden.
4:30 p.m. – My co-worker and I arrive at Paradise Ciders. It’s in a more industrial part of Honolulu. While it’s not the most beautiful part of town, it’s a nice change from Waikiki. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rains this week, the cider bar is flooded. However, the owner promises us they’ll be open tomorrow. I’m secretly happy. Although I enjoy spending time with my coworker and miss J and K, I’m kind of excited to keep it low key tonight and just watch TV in the quiet of my empty hotel room.
5:30 p.m. – Back at the hotel, I go the Exchange and buy a bag of peanut butter chocolate Muddy Buddies Chex Mix for later ($2.49). I go to the hotel restaurant for dinner; coconut calamari and garlic shrimp and jasmine rice. I read an Elin Hilderbrand novel while I eat. It’s the most peaceful meal that I’ve had in a while ($42 including tip). $44.49
6:30 p.m. – After dinner, I go back to my hotel room, pour myself a glass of wine, and eat Muddy Buddies while watching Million Dollar Listing. It’s a lovely relaxing night.
11:55 p.m. – I’ve dozed off at some point but wake up to my phone ringing. J calls to tell me that he and K have made it to their first layover in Chicago. It’s 4:55 a.m. Chicago time, and they’re both a little dazed and confused.  I wish them good luck with their connecting flight and go back to bed.
Daily Total: $131.74

Day Eight

6:30 a.m. – I wake up to a text from J that he and K arrived safely in Baltimore and got a ride home from J’s mother. I call J and accidentally wake him up from a nap. We talk about him and K’s flights and my plans for the day. I tell him to go back to sleep. 
7:00 a.m. – Hotel coffee and yogurt. I also grab a loaf of gluten-free banana bread to bring back to J as a surprise. $10 (including tip)
7:30 a.m. – Same old, same old, trek to work. Co-worker stops at Starbucks. I don’t get anything this time.
8:30 a.m. – Work, work, work.
12:00 p.m. – It’s a half-day today! My co-worker suggests that we try Paradise Ciders again. I agree. We make our way back to Waikiki and drop our stuff off at the hotel. I grab some miscellaneous snacks and leftovers for lunch. On my way out to meet my co-worker, I run into our housekeeper. She’s been extremely sweet and has done an incredibly good job making sure our room has been squeaky clean in the midst of vacation chaos. She tells me that she doesn’t work tomorrow, so I give her a tip today even though I normally leave a housekeeper tip on the last day of my stay. $20
3:00 p.m. – We arrive at Paradise Ciders, Honolulu’s first hard cider company housed in a trendy-looking warehouse. Rather than making your stereotypical hard apple cider, the owners create small-batch ciders with local fruit. My coworker and I get flights. I choose prickly pear, strawberry mojito, mixed berry, guava, and raspberry sour ciders. While they all taste good, I get a full pint of the strawberry mojito cider. In all honesty, though, the best part about the cider-tasting experience is that the bar is dog-friendly. My coworker and I play with an adorable golden retriever puppy and a sweet boxer. I decide to buy a cute baseball tee with the Paradise Ciders logo when we leave. $31.84 (including tip)
6:00 p.m. – Back at the hotel. My coworker invites me out to dinner, but for some reason, I’m not feeling great. My stomach is acting up, and I don’t feel very hungry. I’m sure it’s the result of all the eating out and drinking in the past week. I call it another early night and head up to my room to read and relax.
8:00 p.m. – Fireworks time again! I go stand on my hotel balcony to watch the same fireworks show from the Hilton Hawaiian Village that I watched with K and J on the beach a week ago. It seems crazy that a whole week has gone by. I’m sure, objectively, the fireworks show is as pretty as it was the first time, but it doesn’t seem quite as magical without K and J. After the fireworks show, I head to bed. 
Daily Total: $61.84

Day Nine

6:30 a.m. – Last day in Hawaii! I get my final coffee from the hotel coffee bar and treat myself to a yogurt parfait and a croissant. I tip the barista extra today because she’s been super pleasant to me every morning I’ve been here. $16.50
7:00 a.m. – I go to the front desk to settle my bill. There’s a little bit of confusion when splitting my bill between my personal and work cards, but it all works out. At this time, I pay $36 for our use of the hotel parking garage from when we had the rental car. $36
8:00 a.m. – I head out into Waikiki. I want to grab one of my favorite coworkers some cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company. The Honolulu Cookie Company is a chain that sells these shortbread cookies in the shape of a pineapple in a variety of flavors. This particular coworker loves these cookies but doesn’t get to travel often, so I want to bring her back some. When I find a store, I purchase a box of 20 cookies; 10 milk chocolate dipped, five chocolate chip, and five plain. I also purchase three individual cookies (one Kona coffee, one dark with coconut dipped, and one milk chocolate dipped) for myself. $20.90
9:00 a.m. – I have some time to kill before lunch, so I decide to shop around a little. I stop inside Nordstrom Rack and contemplate getting sunglasses but ultimately put them back. Then I go a Ross where I try on a variety of jumpsuits, none of which look great on me. I do get a pair of super soft leggings and comfy t-shirt to wear on the plane. $14.64
11:00 a.m. – I stop at my favorite place in Waikiki for lunch. It’s called Marukame Udon. I love it because the food is incredibly tasty but super affordable. You can buy a bowl of noodles from a shortlist of favors and purchase all kinds of tempura à la carte. I buy a medium bowl of curry udon, calamari tempura, shrimp tempura, and a Diet Coke. $13.25
12:00 p.m. – I head back to the hotel. My coworker’s flight leaves earlier than mine and she has the government rental car so I have to head to the airport early. I could technically take a Lyft or shuttle and expense it, but it’s not really worth it to me. I do some last-minute packing, and meet my co-worker in the lobby. We head off the airport. 
3:00 p.m. – After we drop off the rental car, I say goodbye to my coworker because we’re in different terminals. I pay to $30 check my bag, but I’ll be able to expense it later. I have a little bit of time to kill, so I read and catch up on emails. I’m not very hungry, but I’m not sure whether or not I’ll get fed on this flight. I go to Starbucks and buy a turkey and swiss sandwich and two bags of popcorn just in case. $15.20 
5:20 p.m. – We’re off! And even though I’m sitting next to a bodybuilder type and am feeling a bit claustrophobic, I’m excited to be on my way. There’s TV’s! I swear TV’s and meals are such a gamble flying to and from Hawaii for some reason. I watch The Nun, Ben is Back, and What Men Want
Daily Total: $116.49

Day Ten

5:55 a.m. – Land in Dallas for my layover. I got zero sleep and feel miserable. I get McDonald’s breakfast (hash brown, fruit and yogurt parfait, and iced coffee) to ease my pain. $5.25
6:45 a.m.– Final flight! I’m almost home! I do get some sleep on this one.
10:55 a.m. – Baltimore! And all my luggage arrived, which is a miracle. J is waiting for me with flowers when I arrive. This was an amazing vacation/work trip, but I’m excited to be home. 
Daily Total: $5.25
How did you prepare for this trip? I am very lucky to have been to Oahu before, so I had a pretty good idea of an ideal itinerary of locations for us. But honestly, once we got a particular location, we just winged most of it, and I think that made for a fun trip. 
Did you use credit card points/miles to pay for parts of this trip? If so, please explain further: Nope. J and I are working very hard to be out of debt by the end of the year, and for us, that means no using credit cards at this point. When we’re out of debt, we might get back into the points thing, but for now, it adds complication. 
As for miles, J doesn’t travel that much so he doesn’t really have any. I have banked up a few through work, but I’m still a long way from being able to use them for flights and stuff. 
When did you book your flight? Do you think you got a good deal?
We booked J and K’s flights about 45 days out from the trip. Their flights to Hawaii were more money than we wanted to spend ($1,204), but I have to book through a government travel system, and the flights that were available to me were not the cheapest for them. However, we decided to suck it up and pay a bit more for their tickets, so we could all travel together on the way over. We were able to get a much better deal for their return flights ($777.60).
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation? If so, how much? 
No. We have been vigorously paying off debt and put our extra payments on hold in order to save up for this trip when I found out I was chosen to go. It was a hard decision to make because we were set to be debt-free by the end of the summer, but we decided to take the plunge since so much of the trip would be subsidized by my job. We had about two months notice to save up all the money for it, and we were able to (without too much damage to our debt payoff plan!)
Additionally, my future mother-in-law gave us $600 as a gift for the trip, and at the end of the trip, I will receive a lump sum of $897 for per diem. 
What was your favorite part of the trip? 
My favorite part was our trip to the North Shore. We loved the Farmer’s market and  Laniakea Beach. Even though it can be tempting to stay in Waikiki when you get to Hawaii, I highly recommend getting out of Waikiki and exploring what the rest of the island has to offer. 
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
The furikake chicken at KJ Grinz was amazing!!! Although to be fair, the food at Duke’s Canoe Club was also incredible. I was extremely impressed for a “tourist trap” type of restaurant. 
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Please, please, please explore outside of Waikiki. Oahu has so much to offer. 
Would you stay at your hotel/Airbnb again?
Absolutely. I highly recommend the Hale Koa to anyone who is in the military or who works for the Department of Defense. The hotel is in an ideal location, has most of the amenities of the other resorts, and is substantially cheaper. I absolutely love it. 
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I wish we would have had time for a glass-bottomed boat tour as a family! But with my work schedule, this time it was not in the cards. 
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time? Would you have come home sooner or stayed longer given the chance?
I feel like we stayed for the perfect amount of time. Normally, by the end of a trip, we’re all sick of each other and traveling, but this time we all felt content and happy. I will also say, as much I as I love K and J, it was nice to have a couple of days to myself to relax. 
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