Visiting Hawaii for the First Time? Quick Tips for an Amazing Vacation

View from plane landing in Honolulu
View from plane, landing in Honolulu

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Aloha, as I’m writing this, my thoughts are drifting back into my vacation. I can feel the sun beaming down on me and a smile come to my face. Hawaii was a breathtaking vacation in paradise. The weather was perfect! Out of our 9 nights it rained only 1 day. The weather said 80 degrees each day, but it felt like 85. We left the cold New Jersey weather of 30 degrees and went into summer weather filled with air conditioned homes and stores.

After two plane rides, a four hour layover, we finally landed in Honolulu. We spent nearly a whole day traveling and with the 5 hour time difference we were exhausted. We left home at 4:30 am and arrived 7 pm in Honolulu. By that time we wanted to eat and go to bed. We were on our home time and it was really 12 am to us. It was hard adjusting to the time change. Even harder when we came back home.


I never thought that I would be spending a vacation in Hawaii. I’m not a swimmer (something I plan on learning very soon) so I wasn’t going to go snorkeling or surfing. When I thought of Hawaii these are the first thoughts that came to me. I thought of the cost, the long flight, our hotel stay and other reasons that would prevent me from visiting anytime soon.

If you’re a nature person, love water activities, or just want to relax with beautiful clear water a destination to Hawaii should be on your list of places to visit. It’s so much to do for all ages. There are a list of places to visit from museums, aquariums, zoos, hiking, biking, surfing, so much that I can go on and on. I want to tell you what me and my family did during our stay. The deals I got on Groupon, places to visit for free and the reason why I’m going to plan another visit in the future.

My daughter is stationed in Hawaii with the United States Navy and recently had her first child. As a first time grandma, I had to go out and visit her and the new addition to the family. We were going in December during Christmas, so I knew the tickets and everything else would be expensive because of the holiday.

We purchased our plane tickets late in October and although there were many flights going to Honolulu, the prices had sky rocketed by an additional $400 from the prices earlier in the year. My daughter planned for us to stay at a hotel where all the military families stayed for a fraction of the cost. Again, we were too late and all the rooms were booked. We planned to stay with my daughter during our visit but I wanted her siblings to get a real vacation feel and stay at a hotel as well. I went to Groupon and saw a few deals and booked a hotel for three days.

Best time to purchase a plane ticket to Hawaii is during April, May, September and early October. Be cautious of any holidays during these months which can cause a price change


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Packing for your trip I tell myself each time I go away, “I’m not going to over pack. I even packed weeks before my trip, and I still OVER PACKED! We were staying for 10 days, so I planned on checking bags. (Check to see the price to check in your bags with your airline) We had to two flights and I was traveling with two of my children. We brought bookbags to hold our electronics and other small items. (Sanitizer, aspirin, Dramamine, wipes, chargers, and my daughter teddy bear for comfort) Make a list of things you will need. My neck pillow was a big use it came in handy during the long flights.

I used the Roll Method when packing which created more space in our luggage. I didn’t purchase sunblock and some other items because I knew I wouldn’t need them coming back to New Jersey. I waited until I arrived and brought sunblock and gave the remainder to my daughter. Some items can be purchased before or you can wait until you reach your destination. There are plenty of Targets and Walmart’s in Hawaii. Don’t buy huge bottles of sun block or things you wont be able to use for months later.

Bring trial size, toothpaste, deodorant. Most hotels supply shampoo and conditioner. Although your coming to Hawaii and it’s warm all year some nights get chilly and a light sweater is needed. Plan on hiking or going in water bring the proper comfortable shoes. Your feet were think you’ll be later.The hiking trails are muddy and can be slippery and some beaches have rocks with sharp shells and water shoes will come in handy. One thing

I wish we had was insect repellent, we went to a few gardens the mosquitoes ate us alive. Glasses and Contact wearers I had an emergency and broke my glasses and almost panicked. Thankfully, there was a Lens Crafters that saw me the same day and made me new glasses in 1 hour. If your wear glasses, bring an extra pair to have just in case. Contact wearers bring a pair of glasses or extra contacts to be on the safe side. If you take any prescriptions make sure they are packed.


Ambassador Hotel Waikiki
View of our morning sunrise at the Ambassador Hotel Waikiki

I booked a room at the Ambassador Hotel Waikiki for three days and 2 nights. The deal was great. The amount I spent for 2 nights, some hotels charged the same amount per day. The hotel was clean, we were given reusable water bottles, the room was just like my Groupon voucher stated. There was an outdoor pool, gym and laundry room on premises. Our room had three twin size beds, with a microwave and refrigerator. Some rooms offered a full kitchen. We were on the third floor and had a balcony that had a beautiful view of the sunrise each morning. I’m sure the views were better on the higher levels. The hotel was on the Waikiki strip, close to restaurants, shopping stores, beach and places to go sightseeing. In the morning I went downstairs to Whalers General Store for coffee and breakfast.

Welcome to the Ambassador Hotel
Nou ka hale means “Welcome, my house is yours.”

Hotel Stay, things to Know I booked my hotel through Groupon, I called the hotel directly to make sure they had my reservations. I witnessed many times, people booking through third-party companies and arriving to the hotel and not having their reservations. Call your hotel directly and confirm your reservations. Booking a room with a kitchen can save money on eating out every night. I spent almost $100 per day on eating lunch.

Stopping at a grocery store to go food shopping can help shave the cost of spending money when you’re out. You can cook breakfast in the morning and have lunch and dinner at a restaurant. (Traveling with a family will add up). Plan on sightseeing, see what is near the hotel.  Most places have a website with the menu and prices, check so you’re not playing the guessing game of where do we eat tonight.Check admission fees, if there is a restroom on premises, check to see if there is parking, can you walk or if there is transportation.

Things to do near the Ambassador Hotel The were a few parks just walking distance from the hotel with beautiful plants, trees, flowers and birds I never saw before. The beach was a short distance that held Fireworks on Friday nights. Ala Moana Center Mall was filled with all your popular stores and several restaurants. We went and took a photo with Santa Clause. Coming from New Jersey it was funny seeing Santa in a Hawaiian shirt and inside an air conditioned studio. Minutes away you will find Ala Moana Beach Park which is a FREE public park on the island of Oahu with a quiet beach and free parking.

My daughter had a list of places for us to visit during our trip. I went to Google to view images and reviews to see if some of the places were worth us visiting. I checked admission prices, military discounts, and of course, I went to Groupon to see if there were any deals. We had a blast and being a lover of nature I took over 1,000 photos during my trip. We were so exhausted one day that we had to stay in and recharge. (We are not the most in-shape family) Our 10-day visit simply wasn’t enough time to visit all the places on our list. This will be the most memorable trip with my children and we will always have photos to remind us of the great time we had in Hawaii. I listed the following places that we visited. Make a list of places you want to visit and do your research before going. Also during our trip, we took fruit, sandwiches and brought water along with us. Bring sunblock and insect repellent is a big must as well. Enjoy your visit and if you have any questions from a person who was on a budget and simply enjoyed her time, be sure to reach out!

The Byodo-In Temple
Recreated Buddhist Temple nestled off the road near the cemetery. Entrance is $5 cash. When you enter the temple there is an amazing 6 feet, 7 ton Sacred Bell that you are allowed to ring. It is believed the unique tones of the bon-sho clears the mind of negativity, brings peace, happiness and blessings.I removed my shoes and entered the temple lighting an incense and saying a prayer. I released my negative energy and was filled with peace and a positive vibes. This is a place of serenity with beautiful architecture. There is a pond to feed the fish and booths with local artists selling paintings to take home. Bring insect repellent, water and a light snack. Visit their webiste for more information:



There was so much to see and many more adventures to explore. This was a lot to take in. We tried to see everything in the 10 days we were in Hawaii, but that is impossible. We did so much walking that my feet had gotten swollen. We had a take a break for the day and relax indoors. We played some board games, UNO, made cookies, and got some rest for our next day activities.

Continue reading Part 2 of our Hawaiian vacation!

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