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The Travel Adventure

Sebastian and I don’t travel much to places we haven’t already been or to places that don’t have 60,000 gun owners descending on them at once (i.e. NRA conventions). Our usual hot spots are DC and wherever the Sight Selection Committee chooses. So planning for a trip to Hawai’i was a bit of an adventure in a) trying not to bust a budget, and b) tolerating travel.

I’ll put it below the jump, but I thought it was worth mentioning some of the tools and people that made planning the trip much easier. I’m doing this because I suspect some of you planning trips (not necessarily to Hawai’i) could benefit and to recognize some good work. If you are headed to the islands, then these suggestions may come in handy.

Travel
Cranky Concierge – Brett was worth every penny for his services. We forked over the $50 for his flight assistance & planning services. He saved us far more than that with the tickets. More importantly, we thought we were going to have bump our trip out of the summertime months into fall because that’s when prices tended to drop. He found us dates right at the end up summer that meant we could use my grandmother’s downtown condo ourselves instead of having to stay at her house far away from the sights & highways out of Honolulu. He also got us the best deal on Saturday-Saturday flights that included Labor Day in our trip which meant we got to maximize our time there using minimal time off, and have a day to sleep after we got nearly zero sleep on our red eye back to Newark.

During the trip, his emails about our next flights were unbelievably handy. It was so much easier to flip on the phone as we taxied in and see where we needed to be before we ever stepped off of the plane. If I ever have a connecting flight ever again, I’ll use his assistance service.

He also helped in a disagreement when Sebastian thought I was getting a little too testy with our incompetent ticketing agent in Newark who couldn’t figure out how to check bags through to another airline. She screwed up 4 times, including with the help of the older “more experienced” agent next to her, and then tried to convince me her manager wouldn’t no what to do either. I insisted, and it turned out that he did know what he was doing. (Seriously, it was pathetically easy – in fact, our bags actually made it in on the flight before us. Unfortunately, that meant hauling over to another terminal to pick it up. But that’s okay because it arrived.) Brett confirmed for me that I was right to be pushy to get what I wanted – my bags checked to their proper destination. Of course, I used it to rub in Sebastian’s face. :)

Staying on the Big Island
Kona Seaside Hotel – Cheap, great location, and lovely hotel dated for all the right reasons. Most importantly for us, they were open when another hotel let us down by lying about how long their check-in hours lasted. The staff at Kona was up and ready to take us in as we hauled in after midnight thanks to the other hotel’s screw-up. They didn’t gouge us, and they were so friendly when we were so frustrated. When we stayed another evening later on the trip (this time, preplanned), we had the chance to enjoy breakfast at their restaurant on the water. This hotel has special memories for me because it is where I stayed during my first trip to the Big Island when I was 12. In fact, Sebastian & I ended up at the same table my grandmother and I sat at when I was trying to figure out how to pronounce the state fish’s name – humuhumunukunukuapuaa.

Da Log House – We made our way around the island to Hilo, but we didn’t want to stay in Hilo proper. I wanted us closer to the volcanoes so we could make the best use of our time. Given that the lava viewing area is so far away from the actual national park, I opted for a bed & breakfast in Mountain View. That put us within easy driving distance of both so we could be flexible based on what was happening when we finally arrived. (Don’t make firm plans around the lava – Pele will inevitably disappoint.)

Sebastian had never stayed in a b&b before, so it was new to him. He wasn’t sure how he would feel about essentially paying someone to sleep in their spare room. But Da Log House was great. The hosts were wonderful, and the breakfast spread was perfect. They have a great, off-the-beaten-path location that’s still highly accessible to anything on the Hilo side of the island.

Stuff to Do on the Islands
FlyerTalk – In all honesty, if you’re going to Hawai’i and looking for ideas on things to do, spend some time going through their forums. It was tremendously helpful for me, even reading posts that were several years old (few things change on the islands from year-to-year).

When Sebastian wanted to do a luau, most people said they weren’t worth the money for the food and entertainment. However, they said that if you’re going to do one, there are two that are considered worth the money – one on Maui and one on the Big Island. So we booked tickets to the Kona Village luau on our last evening so we’d know that dinner and entertainment were taken care of. It was definitely worth it. The food was good, and the show was quite enjoyable without crossing the line into silly and cheesy.

Revealed Guide Books – I kept seeing recommendations for these things everywhere. And, yes, I have to agree they are totally worth it. We, obviously, bought Oahu Revealed and Hawaii The Big Island Revealed. Just don’t be that tourist that is actually seen carrying it around with you. Ours was always hidden away in the glove compartment or the backpack because I didn’t want to be that tourist.

One complaint – the damn book lies about Manoa Falls. It is not an easy trail that anyone can do. It’s definitely not impossible, and I’m sure anyone could do it if they have enough time. But climbing over boulders and trekking through slippery mud with steep drop-offs on the side is not something for everyone – like the mothers carrying babies in their arms or letting 4-year-olds walk it on their own. The kids aren’t going to be able to take some of the very high steps over boulders, and the mothers will need those hands currently full with babies to pull themselves up some areas of the trail if they aren’t regular hikers. In a rain forest environment where every drop of sweat stays clinging to your body, I actually got dehydrated and didn’t bother finishing the very last portion of the trail since the waterfall decided to do nothing more than trickle that day anyway. I should have known something was amiss when two athletic guys came down looking like they took a dip in the pool of the falls (it was just the sweat) and mud caked up to their knees. (We had to wash Sebastian’s pants about half a dozen times to get the mud out. My shoes are also permanently stained even after a couple of rounds in the washer.)

Other than Manoa Falls, the recommendations were great. It just means I’m a little less likely to take their advice on hiking for future trips.

3 Responses to “The Travel Adventure”

  1. Macbrun says:

    Those two “revealed” books are awesome – we used both last summer on the Big Island and Oahu and HIGHLY recommend them. I didn’t think the trail to Manoa Falls was so bad – and it was raining when we went (but I didn’t have 4-y/os with me.) Try the trail to Angel’s Landing in Zion NP some time!

  2. Bitter says:

    I just gave up near the end of the Manoa Falls trail because I was getting dehydrated & it wasn’t that great due to drought. But, while I could do the trail, I don’t think it was as easy as the book made it out to be. Some of those steps were such leaps up that I had to pull myself up. I’m not exactly a short person with stubby legs, they were just large boulders to get around.

    We didn’t have to haul any small children ourselves, but a lot of the people coming up the path were definitely not prepared at all. We weren’t dressed as we should have been for all the mud, but we at least had something to drink and tennis shoes on. There were people coming up with kids who had nothing to drink and flip flops. If they book has mentioned the very slippery, nasty mud and boulders, maybe they would be prepared.

    There were definitely parts of the trail that were nice. But, the waterfall at the end wasn’t much of a pay-off.

  3. DirtCrashr says:

    We have all of them. Maui Revealed has some things that aren’t quite right, and the one on Kauai is also very good – but the real wealth is in the restaurant and hotel guides IMO and the road descriptions. I really loved driving the Saddle Road over to Hilo – and driving into Hilo rain was like passing from bone-dry, through a shower-curtain…

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