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


View from plane landing in Honolulu

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Off to Hawaii

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 comes 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 temperatures filled with air-conditioned homes and tropical flowers.

After two planes and 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 at 7 pm in Honolulu. By that time we wanted to eat and go to bed. We were on east coast time and it was really 12 am for 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. Laying on the beach and getting waist-deep in the water, yes. When I thought of Hawaii these are the first thoughts that came to me. The cost, the long flight, our hotel stay, and other reasons that would prevent me from visiting.

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 so many places to visit. You have 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. From 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, my son in law 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.

When to Purchase Airfare 

The number one rule is never to wait until the last minute to purchase airfare. We purchased our plane tickets late in October, the prices had skyrocketed 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. I should have known coming in December is a destination vacation for most people.

The 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.

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.

To Pack and What Not to Pack

I tell myself each time I go away, “I’m not going to overpack. 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 two flights and I was traveling with two of my children.

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 Walmarts in Hawaii. Don’t buy huge bottles of sunblock or things you won’t be able to use for months later. Also, be watchful of buying items, ask yourself will you have room in your luggage?

Bring trial size, toothpaste, deodorant. Most hotels supply shampoo and conditioner. Although you are 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 will thank me 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.

Ambassador Hotel Waikiki

Ambassador Hotel Waikiki
View of our 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 were an outdoor pool, gym, and laundry room on-premises.

I still laugh, my only complaint I had was the beds. There were 3 twin-size beds. I shared the room with the kids. Those beds were so narrow, that when I turned over I almost fell off. I’m cracking up laughing now. I don’t know why I just didn’t put two of them together. 


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

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 at 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 are a restroom on-premises, check to see if there is parking, can you walk, or if there is transportation.

There were a few parks just walking distance from the hotel with beautiful plants, trees, and Hawaii’s tropical flowers. 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.

Visit my other blogs for Wonderful things to Do and See during your Visit to Hawaii!



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