A Tale of Two Vacations



Well, the Mustache Family is home at last.

We touched down in Colorado yesterday morning after an uneventful flight. I learned that United Airlines now makes their attendants shriek a brief advertisement or two into the cabin microphone before letting people settle in – this time was an encouragement to do some shopping in the in-flight catalog, and to sign up for a united mileageplus visa. Very classy.

Once home, I capped the leaky water pipe, restored water pressure to the house, and real life resumed. Despite the fact that the outside temperature was about 20F, Junior ‘Stash insisted that we go out for a bike ride immediately. Not one to break  my own rules about biking in winter, we bundled up and had a great time.

But this article isn’t about the seven week trip to Hawaii I just took. It’s about the one I didn’t take, but might have if I were a standard financial blogger instead of Mr. Money Mustache.

Talking to some of the other travelers on the return flight home, I heard from one slightly older couple who had just spent a week in a Waikiki hotel.

“We’d love to stay longer, but you know, it’s hard to get the time off of work!”, said the guy. He seemed eager to show that he could afford it if he wasn’t so busy working – he had an extremely fancy watch and mentioned that they had stayed at the ritzy Hilton Hawaiian Village for the week they were there. I also learned that they live in Colorado Springs and are hoping to start some major home renovations, even asking if they could get a business card for my little carpentry business*.

But the considerable difference between their vacation and my own got me to thinking a little bit. How would the costs stack up, if the MMM family had chosen a week at the Hilton instead of our own multi-stage adventure that began in late November? After all, I’ve walked through that Hilton many times, and I’ll admit it is a beauty. Polished stone walkways and perfectly manicured tropical indoor/outdoor grounds, lit beautifully and with all those shops and restaurants laid out so nicely in a pedestrian-friendly “village”. You’d never have to prepare a meal for yourself, and you could even throw in a few guided tours to see the attractions of the island. Sounds great to me.. shall we write up an invoice?

FeatureHHV CostMMM CostComments
Vacation Length (days)749Mustachians get one week for every day the Hiltonians get!
3 Plane tickets**$2100$2100
Accommodation$2504$190We did spend one night in a different Waikiki hotel on our wild family night out in Honolulu.
1 week Car Rental $388$288 If you rent at the airport, you pay more
1 week Hotel Parking$189 $0You don't get a parking spot with that $350/night Hilton Room.. Surprise!
Food Premium over base home groceries$500$200Assuming $100/week home groceries, roughly $40/person/day restaurant food, vs. our own slightly higher grocery spending while there.
Booze$210$21 One drink per adult per night x 7 nights. $15 each at Hilton, $1.50 each at local wine/beer shop.
Island Activities$400$0Snorkelling, North Shore tour, sunset boating, hikes, etc.
Cost Per Day$899$57.12

But even with the favorable numbers above, there can be no pretending that the MMM family has just returned from a frugal vacation. Flying my family across the Pacific Ocean is an enormously spendy luxury and totally unnecessary as part of leading a happy life.  Part of the philosophy of this blog is that you don’t have to be completely virtuous with your spending choices (if you can afford them), but you do have to be aware of your fancypants luxury spending when it happens. The mere act of acknowledging it can help keep it from getting out of hand.

Nowadays, I like to think of a reasonable vacation as one that costs less than your net earnings during the period of the trip. This is a pretty strict definition of an affordable vacation, but if you can manage to follow it, it will definitely keep you out of trouble. As noted in “Making Money while Taking Vacations“, we usually take long but inexpensive trips, living like locals whenever possible. The rewards of this are more than financial: We had the opportunity to meet at least 40 new people who live in Hawaii, paddle a stand-up paddleboard out across the open sea to an island, hike into the mountains to two different waterfalls, work out in the same gym that the President Obama uses while on vacation, learn “free-diving” in 30-foot-deep water at a wild beach where an enormous pipe breathes hot water from a power plant out into the sea attracting beautiful fish, attend dinners and parties throughout the little town of Kailua, and put almost 200 miles on the borrowed beach cruiser bicycle that served as our transportation for most of the trip. But the financial part is not to be ignored either – I was forced to make two transfers out of the bank account*** because the passive retirement income was building up faster than we could spend it.

With life returning to normal, you should expect to see this blog waking up again. We’ll conclude this trip report with a few of my favorite pictures from the experience. Click any picture to see a nice big version.









Giant waves crashing on the South shore.


Mrs. and Little MM walking out to a scary peninsula.


Classic Hawaii: Crumbling public infrastructure amidst beautiful nature.


Random tourists taking pictures of each other.



The fanciness of Honolulu.


One of the many rainforest areas inland.


Enormous waves coming in from the East




















*For some reason, this always happens to me on planes. “What do you do for a living?” “Well, I do a fair amount of carpentry these days”. “Oh! Carpenter! I have a great project for you at my place out in Nowhereville! Give me your business card!” “Oh, thanks a lot.. but I only really do work in my own neighborhood” “(confused look]”.

** This one is debatable. With no work schedule, we chose our travel dates to get lower-cost tickets. Most people go for a week somewhere in the December 20 through January 1 range, where the bill for three tickets would be $600 higher. But we’ll give my plane-mates the benefit of the doubt in this case.

*** Which I used to make more Lending Club investments, story coming soon!


  • Mustachian in the Making January 15, 2013, 8:53 pm

    I’m looking forward to more regular blog posts! Glad you had a good trip.

  • Pauline January 15, 2013, 8:54 pm

    Looks like you had a grand time! My friends always wonder how I can afford to travel so much, I’ll send them to that post next time.

  • JaneMD January 15, 2013, 9:02 pm

    Did you at least look at the in-flight catalog? Are you buying the ‘life-size’ Yeti garden statue for the MMM backyard?

    The pictures look great. Glad to have you back.

  • jd January 15, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Glad you had a good trip. If you factored in the value of the labour you put into building the vacation suite, how would the numbers stack up?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 15, 2013, 10:34 pm

      Hey, that’s a neat question. I didn’t keep track of my working hours, and every one of them (except the one where I sanded the drywall) was just as fun as any other part of the vacation or any other part of life. So it’s hard to call it “work” in the traditional sense.

      But anyway there might have been roughly 180 hours of construction, which would bring in $7200 if I were charging $40/hour. Concentrated almost entirely in those first 2.5 weeks before wife and boy arrived.

      By strict accounting, you could say I overpaid. But the math operates differently when working is the very point of the vacation itself, and you already have more than enough money to pay for a Hilton version if that were anywhere near as fun as building things with new friends.

      • TK January 16, 2013, 8:55 am

        Said otherwise, your real cost was about $250/day for the days the whole family was there and you weren’t working – no different if you spent 2.5 weeks at home doing a project and made $7200 and then went to the island for a month and had to pay for housing/hotel…but even then it is still far cheaper on a per day basis than the fancy hotel is.

        Although, I suspect you could find accomodations for a month that are less than $200/day.

        • Mrs. Money Mustache January 16, 2013, 9:59 am

          Except MMM wouldn’t do that type of vacation. :)

          • chubblywubbly February 19, 2013, 5:50 pm

            It does not seem like the MMM family are foodies? I love to sample the local food in the markets, mom & pop shops, middle of the road, and high end.

            The airfare to Hawaii is so expensive from Mainland USA that it seems worthwhile to sample of all of the local cuisine especially when it is so tasty!

            And it need not be expensive. 2 out of the 5 best things I ate in Hawaii were under $5. See my post: http://www.chubblywubbly.com/the-5-best-things-i-ate-in-hawaii/

      • Jamesqf January 16, 2013, 10:51 am

        You also would have paid tax on that theoretical $7200 if you’d earned it at home, then spent on vacation – I’m guessing marginal 25% income tax plus 12% SSI? Which would have given you roughly $4500 spendable dollars.

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 18, 2013, 6:52 am

        No, TK, it’s very different, because the ‘vacation’ part for me was getting to work and live like a local in Hawaii. Using the work/earn and then buy model you describe would be no fun at all. I’d just be another tourist and have much less chance to learn and meet new people.

        BUT.. your point is still a good one – for anyone exchanging a real work-vacation barter, whose goal is to get the most vacation in exchange for each unit of work, you’d want to be more formal about arranging a smaller project, or a fixed number of work hours, etc. Since work is a positive rather than a negative to me, I didn’t keep track of hours at all, and just kept working to add fancy details to the vacation suite until I left. Plus I did some extra projects around the house with Johnny Aloha, just because they needed doing.

        Jamesqf’s point is good too – taxes (and especially Hawaii’s punishing short-term accommodation taxes) take a big bite out of the traditional tourist’s purchasing power. Visiting real friends in nice places works out much better.

        • Undecided January 21, 2013, 9:18 am

          That raises the question of how you handle the trip at tax time. Is the value of your housing taxed (as barter income)? If so, it’s still a deal, but a different cash-flow situation.

  • Mortgage Mutilator @ Mutilate The Mortgage January 15, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Yup… that’s the Hawaii I remember. We totally did the “Hilton Vacation” complete with paying for those car parks too. It was very fancy and a fantastically memorable time. How were the fireworks BTW?

    Being able to have more freedom when planning trips etc is something we’re very looking forward to. For now though, all eyes are focussed on paying down the Debt Emergency we’re in!

    “The superior man makes the difficulty to be overcome his first interest; success comes only later.”

  • Michelle January 15, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Sounds like a good trip. Love your pictures.

  • Bob January 15, 2013, 9:49 pm

    Great post and awesome pictures. Your mention of passive income building up in the bank got me thinking – I’d love to see you do a post sometime about the gritty details of living off of investment income. Is it really as simple as just spending dividend money as it appears in your account, or is there more to it? Do you periodically sell some of your best-performing assets based on estimates of future expenses? I’ve never seen this discussed on an early retirement blog.

    I went on a family vacation to that Hilton resort when I was in high school. Man what an incredible place. But an MMM-style vacation would have been at least as fun at 1/15th the cost!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 15, 2013, 10:44 pm

      Good idea for a future blog post, Bob. In our situation, living expenses are covered by the rent from a single (fancy) rental house. There are also stocks and other investments (both taxable and 401K), but they are just left on automatic dividend reinvestment since we aren’t spending enough to need them. Then there’s occasional part-time work and income from this blog, which makes the above two sources redundant yet again.

      For a purely stock-based retirement portfolio, you could choose to spend only dividends, or sell some of the proceeds quarterly.

      For a more sophisticated mix of stocks, bonds, etc., you’d spend a mix of dividends, bond interest, and possibly principal, while rebalancing at least every six months: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/02/17/book-review-the-intelligent-asset-allocator/

      Vanguard also has “target” life cycle funds that do asset allocation automatically, although they are designed to assume long careers and late retirement: https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/vanguard/TargetRetirementList

      They also have managed payout funds that seem pretty reasonable:

      Because I like investing, projects, and real-estate, I’ll probably never use these more automatic fund types myself.

      • Alex August 17, 2016, 12:36 am

        Awesome numbers. I will say I am planning a similar trip but with my job I have tons of Hilton points that I could stay the entire week free. With breakfast and dinner provided because of the executive floor I could get groceries for only lunch and have 2 really nice dinners for the Mrs and match you granted it is due to all the traveling I do . I will say the budget you gave for non-MMM on food is too nice my in laws spent like 2-3k in a week on food. Last trip we spent $250 on food

  • PurpleHat January 15, 2013, 10:07 pm

    Gorgeous photos. Our own family holiday started in a reasonably Mustachian fashion …. but my holiday reading turned to the MMM archives and the effect was amazing.

    It was like we were on a MMM immersion course as my husband and I navigated the myriad decisions of any holiday and attempted to find Mustachian ways to have a fantastic time without spending much cash. I’m sure many here would not be surprised that this often required more original thought but resulted in a more memorable/hilarious time.

    When in doubt …. what would Mr Money Mustache do … apply a 20% wussification factor and, hey presto, happy days!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 15, 2013, 10:54 pm

      Hilarious story… Thanks for sharing and I’m glad it worked out well!

  • One Day At A Time January 15, 2013, 11:03 pm

    Glad you’re back and getting back to posting – you were missed around here.

  • Neo January 15, 2013, 11:25 pm

    Overheard on the flight back from my holiday at New years.

    “Great holiday” (much agreement from surrounding seats on the plane)

    “Back to work Monday” groans (much groaning from surroundng seats).

    Neo FIRE smiles happily :) I don’t think so…..

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 January 16, 2013, 12:03 am

    You guys had a great time on such a tiny budget. I would love to meet more local people and have a good time as well. We usually travel pretty frugally like backpackers and do local things, but we still paid for quite a few things. I’ll have to keep the MMM travel style in mind the next time we travel. 20 degrees is quite cold for a bike ride.

  • Jackson January 16, 2013, 12:12 am

    That airfare seems pretty high. Assuming you are flying from Denver, a very cursory look says you can find flights for under $500/person easily assuming you are flexible (which you likely are). Even adding say $50/person in bag fees, that’s still only 1650.
    Great post though!

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 16, 2013, 10:05 am

      We shopped around a lot and $700 per person was the cheapest we found. We used some credit card points, so it was actually $400 cheaper ($1700 for the 3 of us). We also chose to pay more for a direct flight. I think the very cheapest I found was $560 or so, but the timing was really bad (6am flights) and there were one or two stops.

      The main difference was in the time of year. Everyone wants to go to Hawaii over the holiday break, so prices are super jacked up. Our timeframe (Dec 13 – Jan 13) just skirted around the high price airfares. If we had gone from Dec 21 – Jan 2, which was our son’s winter break, the prices were over $1,000 per person.

      • bezglaz January 16, 2013, 12:47 pm

        I fly to Hawaii for miles in February. I mostly do backpacking, camping and couchsurfing over there, but couple hotels and rental cars all covered with miles and the miles come from credit cards sign up bonuses, not from spendings.

      • Blancalily January 16, 2013, 4:04 pm

        So, did your son miss 2 weeks of school while you were in Hawaii? How does that affect him? We have a 2 year old and we’re wondering how we’re going to be able to travel between September and June when he’s in school.

        • Lilypad January 18, 2013, 6:49 pm

          We homeschool (or unschool, actually, but most people don’t know what that is) and we can travel whenever we want. It’s AWESOME for that and so many other reasons. Do a little research—there’s far too many books/sites for me to put here—and you’ll save yourself a bundle when your child is “old enough” for school but yet never goes. Our son has just thrived out of school!
          Best of luck!

  • Sarah January 16, 2013, 12:14 am

    Whoa, $2100 for 3 RT tickets??? I fly to Oahu twice a year, and I never pay more than $375 RT! But I am flying from California, so I guess that makes a substantial difference…

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 16, 2013, 11:43 am

      It really depends on your schedule. I’ve priced tickets to Hawaii from Cali, and if you go when I have to go (winter and spring break from school), it’s very difficult to get anything under $600.

  • Anonymous January 16, 2013, 2:06 am

    > “Oh! Carpenter! I have a great project for you at my place out in Nowhereville! Give me your business card!” “Oh, thanks a lot.. but I only really do work in my own neighborhood”

    Apart from when you fly to Hawaii to do carpentry? :)

    • TOM January 16, 2013, 12:37 pm


  • Rob aka Captain and Mrs Slow January 16, 2013, 3:00 am

    Question regarding food budget, 200 dollars spent over 7 weeks is only 30 bucks a week I assuming the host provided food in exchange for the labour.

    Other wise you’d have to add 700 -1000 extra for food (still a cheap vacation thought)

    • Jennifer January 16, 2013, 4:08 am

      I think he meant $200 was the extra he paid over what they normally would have spent on groceries at home.

      We’re leaving for Maui on Sunday for 10 days and I’ve heard the food costs in the grocery store there are outrageous. Like $8 for a gallon of milk or a box of cereal. I would love to hear what some typical meals were for your family.

      Great pictures!!

      • Marla January 16, 2013, 9:10 am

        If you have a Costco membership, it’s the best way to save on groceries in Hawaii. There is one 5 minutes from the Maui airport and prices there are only slightly higher than home. You can also get inexpensive boogie boards and beach toys – we usually buy a couple and then gift them to new arrivals at the beach before we go (this has been good karma as we have also received goodies in this way – even extra food as fellow travellers pack to go home). I also buy my gifts to bring home at the start of the trip (macadamia nuts of course). Hawaiian Costcos also have some of the best Poke I’ve had (in the deli section) and cheapest and best pineapples! If you can’t go to Costco, sign up for the free points card at Foodland (sign up at checkout) to save like a local. Aloha – have a great trip!

        • Mrs. Pop January 16, 2013, 5:38 pm

          Or don’t sign up – the nice locals in line with us kept loaning us their cards for swiping for discounts. I don’t know if they were earning points for anything big, but the kind locals saved us a few bucks each time we stopped at the grocery store!

      • Rob aka Captain and Mrs Slow January 16, 2013, 1:06 pm

        That’s what I thought thanks

      • Jen January 16, 2013, 1:50 pm

        I just got back from Maui, and everyone kept telling me before I left how ridiculous the groceries were, and honestly, I didn’t think they were that bad considering what I was expecting!

      • TW January 17, 2013, 1:51 pm

        The trick to saving some cash on food in HI is to eat like a local.
        I’ve been to Maui and the Big Island, and we ate mostly local fish, rice, eggs, and TONS of local fruit. If we wanted to eat out, we hit up a roadside stand for a snack near the beach. Spam musubi, anyone?
        Costco is great and all, but typical mainland food is downright expensive on the islands!

    • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle January 16, 2013, 6:35 am

      I wondered about that too.

    • Bill January 16, 2013, 6:56 am

      It’s the delta from the regular at home food budget. $200 extra, not $200 total.

  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 16, 2013, 3:23 am

    I think you’re forgetting to add in some of the “mental costs”, too. When I take a HHV-type vacation, I often find myself missing home and its comforts, whereas with a MMM-type vacation, home becomes wherever you are.

    • Jamesqf January 16, 2013, 10:58 am

      Same here. Of course it’s subjective, but I really detest staying in hotels, so any travel vacation isn’t really vacation unless it’s spent either with friends or in a tent.

  • Rob aka Captain and Mrs Slow January 16, 2013, 3:25 am

    For those of us who have to live in the real work of work vacations something that I’ve done for years (started when we started our debt free journey) is to work out a budget for holidays. The wife and I sit down and talk trade offs. As we’re getting older and cranker we tend to stay in hotels rather than peoples houses but even with that Trip Adviser and AirBNB is a great resource for out of the way cheap places,

    One doesn’t have to spend a fortune, break the bank or come back with a CC hangover to have a great time.

    Yes this means making some trade offs but that a small price to pay to have a great vacation on budget.

  • James @ Free in Ten Years January 16, 2013, 3:25 am

    I really like your guide about how much to spend on a vacation – the amount you earn while away makes sense. I’ll have to think about that being our budget for our October trip rather than the arbitrary number we plucked from thin air.

  • My Financial Independence Journey January 16, 2013, 3:36 am

    Your vacation sounds great and the pictures are beautiful. I’d love to go to Hawaii some day. Although I’d have to pay for all of my room and board since I don’t know anyone out there to bum a room off of.

  • BeatTheSeasons January 16, 2013, 5:52 am

    I like the way you include a food ‘premium’ to work out how much more you spent versus staying at home. Do you think you saved much money due to not being in Colorado during the winter?

    Where we live in the UK the temperature often hovers around zero (32F) at this time of the year and we use vast quantities of imported gas to keep our house at 19 (66F). My neighbours went to Thailand for a few months and used a thermostat to keep their house just above freezing, thus saving £hundreds.

    Although I bike to work all year round, we do still use our a car a bit more when the weather is horrible. Fresh food is more expensive in the winter, and we use more electricity for lighting when sunrise isn’t until 8am and it’s dark by 4pm.

    Irrespective of the time of year, luxuries like eating out cost less pretty much anywhere in the world than they do in an expensive English City (although I realise you believe high cost of living is a state of mind!)

    In summary, the right kind of holidays cost a lot less than you think when you deduct what you would have spent at home, even more so if you’re relatively new to mustachianism and you don’t yet have things 100% under control – as your physical absence stops some unnecessary spending dead.

    Some readers may find they can also make some money by renting their own home out as well, something I’ve done twice during my travels.

    PS – I’ve just found the link to the other article you wrote on this very subject back in 2011 – Making Money While Taking Vacations – http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/05/making-money-while-taking-vacations/

  • Lizzie January 16, 2013, 6:09 am

    Are you ready to spread your wings further? I have a whole house that needs re-building down in the Mediterranean. You can live in the new house we built, it will be great!
    PS And you quickly learn a little Greek, the villagers are very friendly

  • MattW January 16, 2013, 7:50 am

    Welcome back! So glad everyone had fun and returned safely.

    MMM, your comment about taking jobs in your neighborhood struck me. Have you ever read anything on distributism? It is sometimes known as the third way between capitalism and communism/socialism. I think you’d find a lot to like in this economic philosophy.

  • J.Reid January 16, 2013, 8:50 am

    Nice going MMM! Junior Mustache looks like he’s getting pretty big! Must be that full month of fish and avocados. Oh and that entire lifetime of fresh air and healthy activity, yeah that too.

    When vacations come, DW and I are very much the “sink in to the community, visit the grocery stores, live like the locals” type. We have three great kids (9, 11, 13) who are like-minded and have been brought up to enjoy adventures of all shapes and sizes, they’re great to travel with.

    We’ve done VRBO/HomeAway, we’ve vacationed with friends, etc. but we are always looking for new opportunities to experience fun extended family vacations. I feel like sometimes it is a challenge with five of us to really get down and dirty with inexpensive but awesome family trips. I want my kids to have as many authentic experiences and make as many memories as possible during this time in our family’s life.

    In short: we’ve got the five-day in-state camping thing down pat. Now I’m looking at YOU, month+ visit to Ecuador/Vermont/Ireland/Somewhere That Isn’t Here.

    I wonder if any Mustachian family-types out there would have any sites to point us to, or thoughts on how we can UP the Crazy Awesome Family Experience Factor with as little $$$$ as possible?

    • Dee January 16, 2013, 9:13 am

      Vermont has wonderful state parks for camping. I usually spend a couple days at them on either end of my Moustachian month in Vermont: I teach a university summer class for 4 weeks, Monday-Thursday 9-12. They provide a lovely house in a small town nearby in addition to my salary. It’s perfect! I have every afternoon to explore and long week-ends for trips to Boston, Canada, and the Adirondacks. Best of all, the job provides an opportunity to make friends with students and faculty. There are also some farms in NH and Vermont that provide housing in exchange for work in the summer–I’m sure you can find those with an internet search.

    • Venturing January 17, 2013, 8:13 pm

      You could come to New Zealand and be a wooffer. Free accommodation and a unique experience.


  • smedlyb January 16, 2013, 8:57 am

    Point of contrast, Hawaii — travel hacker style:

    4 plane tickets upstate NY to HNL –$40
    2 Nights 5 star hotel Waikiki — $300
    intra-island flight — $500
    5 nights Maui Sheraton — Free
    5 nights JW Marriott Ko Olina — Free
    Parking, cabs, tips, etc — $400
    Car rentals — $650.
    Food — $1600.

    Right around $3500 for a once in a lifetime family vacation. I won’t even mention the free airport lounge access, room and car upgrades I’m entitled to. It’s good to live like a king once in a while.

    • deaf shunning pips January 16, 2013, 12:20 pm

      Hello fellow travel hacker,

      I certainly know the benefits of what we do and can easily eliminate many of the costs that MMM listed (mainly flight and lodging), but I only wish I could sustain it for 49 days.

      I hope to reach FI and continue to employ the skills I’ve gained on travel hacking. In the mean time, these 1 to 2 week long trips in first class and 5 star resorts should numb the pain.

    • Bo Boland January 19, 2013, 5:44 pm

      What the heck is “travel hacking” and how in the world are you getting 3 tickets for $40 without just unloading travel points (in which you indirectly paid for)?

  • 3DMARDIV January 16, 2013, 9:05 am

    Glad to hear you and the family are back safe. I spent your vacation reading Jacob’s entire blog over at Early Retirement Extreme. Found it interesting comparing and contrasting the methods of gaining early retirement, the lifestyles, and the writing techniques.
    Looking forward to future posts.

  • Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget January 16, 2013, 9:09 am

    “I like to think of a reasonable vacation as one that costs less than your net earnings during the period of the trip.”

    Therein lies the secret sauce. If we’re not still earning enough money to cover the cost of our vacation, we’re not on vacation.

    Much jealousy rests in my belly after seeing those photos.

  • Gerard January 16, 2013, 9:42 am

    Reading Travel & Leisure magazine just before this post made me think of another category of HHV expenses. You have to buy stuff on vacation, too! The stores in faraway places have slightly different $700 purses than the ones you can buy at home. Plus you need some other souvenereal stuff… ideally something you wear, so you can say, “Oh, this? I got it the last time I was in Morocco.” Whereas with the MMM vacation, all you have in this category are photos and memories and new friends and experiences and self-knowledge. And maybe a few things you need anyway that are better, cheaper, or more ethically sourced in the place you visited.

  • Kristin S January 16, 2013, 10:01 am

    I don’t think I understand the Island activities expense category….why did they pay $400 and you pay $0. I would think that by doing the same things the costs would be equal here…

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 16, 2013, 10:36 am

      If you go to Honolulu, you see a ton of tours going out to the North Shore, sunset cruises, snorkeling trips, etc. You pay for these, but if you venture off on your own, you don’t have to pay at all.

      In our case, MMM went snorkeling with a friend we met and we went hiking and boating with our hosts and their group of friends. We could have also ventured off on our own as well.

      We drove the North Shore route, but we didn’t stop in at any tourist spots (with the exception of the biggest maze in the world at Jr. MM’s insistence, but that was only about $15 for all of us). Many stop in at the polynesian cultural center, the dole pineapple plantation, and sea life park. The admission for some of these places is quite expensive.

      Overall, the typical tourist would spend $400 or more on these activities, not to mention others that are much more expensive.

  • CgK January 16, 2013, 10:13 am

    Aloha, MMM. Glad you got to have a gorgeous and sunny vacation, thanks for sharing the piccies. And, I look forward to your regular posts again! You always crack me up.

  • Dillon January 16, 2013, 10:17 am

    How is the muscle gain progress coming?

  • No Name Guy January 16, 2013, 10:37 am

    Not really anything anyone here wouldn’t already know, but, here’s my 2 cents from a recent trip:

    GF and I took a 11 day road trip around the west just after Christmas – had to get to a sunnier / drier place with the mountain bikes (southern UT and AZ). Yes, we stayed in hotels (whap….self inflicted face punch), but they were all budget places (the price point was that of the chains with a 6 or 8 in their names).

    Anyways….instead of blowing tons on food on the trip – eating out for every meal is EXPENSIVE, we brought a pressurized gas back packing stove (pocket rocket) to cook in the room (along with in room microwave when available) plus ate sandwiches for lunch. Food spending was pretty much what it would have been had we stayed at home.

    High end drip coffee every morning – check. Hot / cold cereal – check. Hard boiled eggs – check. Hotel provided breakfast when included.
    Lunches: Salami, red peppers, greens, dijon on French rolls is a yummy sandwich.
    Bars and other typical food we always eat while biking / hiking / x-country skiing.
    Dinners included spaghetti with sliced Italian sausage, salad from a bag / box and other easy to prepare meals like soup, chilli, vegetarian / bean burritos, beef stew / crackers. Pre dinner snacks included smoked salmon, goat cheese, carrots, humus, applies, bananas.

    A big ice chest in the back seat of the vehicle was our fridge on the road.

    We got to ride some sweet trails in Utah and Arizona, plus hit the cross country ski trails at Mt. Shasta on the way home. Sunny and 60 something was a nice change of pace from the typical cold and rain of Seattle this time of year.

    Not nearly as frugal on a $ / day basis as MMM, but pretty good compared to the typical non frugal vacation that most people take.

  • Matt January 16, 2013, 10:37 am

    Sounds like your trip was a complete success! Congrats. I really liked your comment about not forsaking luxuries if you can actually afford them and are aware of them. Very good philosophy and one I completely agree with.

    Amazing photo’s – really makes me want to visit Hawaii.

  • Jeff January 16, 2013, 10:58 am

    I think you’re very much giving them the benefit of the doubt on plane ticket prices. Most my friends/acquaintances seem to spend 50%+ more on plan tickets than I do — no matter how many times a warn against it, they choose their hotel and travel dates BEFORE buying tickets. Dumb.

    I think once you’re in the luxury vacation mode, you just quit shopping.

    And while I agree that traveling to Hawaii is not necessary for a happy life, a diversity of experiences (snorkeling being one of them) does lead to a richer life…especially when you can do it on a budget.

  • CL January 16, 2013, 11:19 am

    I loved reading about your utterly sensible and enjoyable vacation. I look forward to seeing how the excess was used for Lending Club loans. I know that you have a lot of safety margin and I’m interested and how you handle the excess cash that you always generate.

  • hands2work January 16, 2013, 11:28 am

    I definitely wish I could do construction as well!!

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 16, 2013, 11:39 am

    This is funny! Just last week I dug out some scrap paper and started doing some calculations on the costs of various vacations. I got distracted with life and stuff, but I hope to finish it soon.

    It’s a near and dear subject to me, for several reasons:
    1. I love Hawaii. I’ve been five times (2 to Maui, 2 to Kauai, 1 to the Big Island).
    2. I love vacation
    3. I have limited vacation due to being a worker-bee by choice.
    4. I have 2 kids, hence 4 plane tickets.

    I like your suggestion that a frugal vacation is one that is less than you make in that period. I hadn’t thought of it that way, and will include that in my vacation calculations. For the Hawaii trips, we always tended to go at random times and stay in condos. This saved on both tickets (flying mid-week) and food. But now we are on the school schedule. This last trip a couple of years ago we stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa on the Big Island. Pros: lots to do for the kiddo, very posh. Cons: expensive and it’s difficult to cook your own meals. The in-room fridge was tiny.

    My next vacation will be end of March for Spring Break, so I’m doing my calculations now. Camping, stay-cation…? Not sure yet. Also not sure if I’m ready to camp with an infant in diapers. After that is a 2-week trip in the summer to visit family, where the costs are basically plane fare and one-way car rental between our two families.

    • Kelly Damian January 16, 2013, 10:37 pm

      I like the Kiahuna Plantation condos in Kauai. The condos have real kitchens and laundry and it is a beautiful property, also very laid back and not stuffy, which is nice if you have kids. We went to Costco for our groceries as the local markets were very expensive.

  • Matt January 16, 2013, 11:57 am

    MMM, how are your strength and weight gain goals coming along? :)

  • Financial Black Sheep January 16, 2013, 11:58 am

    Nice savings! I just posted about my trip today. Not a vacation, because it was for a funeral, so I paid way more than I would have liked for plane tickets. Hotel was cheap, but pet boarding was about the same price. *sigh I need to either find another vet or a friend to help out next time. If it wasn’t an emergency I would have saved more instead of spent more. I also wouldn’t have been freaked out by my still-not-working pipes and last minute items that told my brain to give up on some frugalness. In all I spent about $3000 which sucked, but next time I know where I can be frugal and where I will just suck it up like for instance eating out. I just didn’t want to give in there since it was some awesome southern food. :D

  • Dom January 16, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Welcome home! Looking forward to seeing your posts more often on my RSS feed!!

  • Ian January 16, 2013, 2:02 pm

    Nice to hear about the trip and I’m stoked that the stache is back! Was that a reference to a p2p post in the future? I hope so, I find that stuff pretty interesting. I’ve yet to try lending club yet (only used prosper) but have heard good things.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2013, 3:10 pm

      Thanks Ian.. I assume you’ve read the earlier post already? http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/24/the-lending-club-experiment/

      In the follow-up, I want to share details of how it has gone so far (returns and reliability), some updated news I received from people who work for the company, why I recently decided to double the investment to $20k, and some thoughts on risk/reward in this context. It is definitely a fun field.

      • Sean January 16, 2013, 5:22 pm

        I just discovered they offer IRAs, so I’m about to migrate one of my IRA accounts over and give it a whirl – about $15k worth. Looking forward to hearing your update.

        Welcome home, by the way! My wife and I had our honeymoon in Maui and loved it. We were a bit more spendy since we didn’t have friends there to shack up with, but we did far better than our fancypants friends who were there at the same time ;)

      • Ian January 16, 2013, 5:38 pm

        Yeah I read that post. Awesome, that is what I was hoping this new one was going to be about. I think a lot of folks are beginning to think of them as a more legitimate investment option than they had previously. Looking forward to the post!

  • Linda January 16, 2013, 4:53 pm

    Really stunning photos! Wow :)

    It’s really worth looking at all accommodation options when planning a holiday.

    When our family was planning our 8 day trip to New Zealand – South Island, we compared various campervans and accommodation at campsites.

    It worked out to about US$142 a day for a 4 berth campervan [so campervan was transport and sleeping/cooking quarters], or $161 per day for really nice cabins with en-suite bathroom and kitchen [plus basic rental car included], or $97 a day for basic cabin with shared facilities, and supply own linen. This didn’t include groceries, petrol or additional spending.

    We decided on the campervan option, for the freedom it gave us (Being able to decide where to stop for the night, and freedom camping where allowed in the middle of nowhere). Since cabins are popular, you have to book in advance.

    Good parts – Being able to park on the edge of a lake and wake up to the sun rising over the mountains. Low cost, with some privacy (Can cook, shower inside the campervan)

    Bad parts – Campervan very cramped, and the big vehicle made it awkward to go anywhere once we were setup at camp. Some rental bikes would have sorted this out for us! Good for a couple, any more and it becomes cramped!

    What I noticed on the trip, was that the shared facilities actually made it easier to mingle with other people, it would have been nice to cook with everyone and if you are a people person, I highly recommend it.

    By the way, New Zealand campsites are top notch, and they range from very basic facilities (Toilet, shower only) for a few dollars, to facilities with heated floors, gas barbeque facilities, saunas etc for $40 a night.

    During our travels we met an awesome couple from the US who were also campervanning, who recommended a very nice campsite in Arrowtown (The one with heated floors…), that we didn’t know about. We altered our route to stop over there, so that worked out really well!

    This beats a week in a hotel any day, by the way, as long as you’re not allergic to nature and the outdoors ;)

  • Kelly Damian January 16, 2013, 10:32 pm

    Oh your pictures remind me of how much I love Hawaii! I took my family to Costa Rica a few weeks ago, and while it was not as affordable as your family’s vacation, it was still much cheaper than other trips we’ve gone on. For one thing we got the hotel through Groupon. It was an excellent deal since it was during the off season. This meant we had to pull our daughter out of school for a week. She is a good student and I consider the life experience well worth the missed class time. Also, all of our trip was very eco-oriented: hiking, swimming, beach days. So much time outdoors left little time for shopping. This turned out to be a nice money saver also since my judgement seems to escape me when I’m on vacation and I always buy expensive stuff that I don’t really need. If you are a tropical vacationer I would highly recommend Costa Rica. (I don’t work for their travel industry, I promise.)

  • Alex January 17, 2013, 11:03 am

    Nice to meet you and your family in Waikiki, hope to see you back again next Winter!

  • Sweta January 17, 2013, 1:59 pm

    When will you be coming to Austin, TX? You could probably even meet up with your friend NMHD while you’re here.

  • Alain January 17, 2013, 7:36 pm

    Gorgeous pictures! What camera did you use? I’m reminded of Fuji colours. We’re they colour-corrected?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 17, 2013, 8:31 pm

      These pics are all from a classy old 2008 Nikon D40 that I inherited from my Mum last summer (when she admitted she hadn’t used it for years). I adjusted the contrast on a few of them, but mostly they are as the camera intended.

      I find that just about every picture that comes out of a digital SLR these days is awesome.. as long as you are taking a picture of a nice-looking thing, that is.

  • KJ January 19, 2013, 9:29 pm

    You let those Hiltonians get off easy at only $40/day for food! I’d be willing to bet they spent almost twice that.

  • Phoebe January 21, 2013, 6:35 am

    I love this!!! Posts like this get me so energized to think oustide the box to create special circumstances and to reach FI!

    Sounds like you had a wonderful trip!

  • Wandering Whitehursts February 7, 2017, 4:41 pm

    I’m late to the party here – and will be for years to come I imagine. BUT… this got me thinking about doing a tent camping style Hawaii vacation. Has anyone done this? Tips / suggestions? (Perhaps better addressed in the forums section).

    My wife and I managed a vacation to Kauai’i when we only had one child and another on the way. One week of lodging was free for us since my Aunt manages a timeshare and hooks us up with free stays around the globe from time to time. And we were all set to travel for free to Hawaii by military air on a C-5, but maintenance issues started cutting into the 11 days leave time we had from our military duties, so we bit the bullet and paid $350 a ticket to get out there two days earlier. Between the car rental and occasionally excessive dining out costs, we spent more than we should have, but overall a great value for the vacation. But I think we could enjoy Hawaii a great deal just doing a tent style trip for a few weeks (making the most of the airfare cost), even with the three kids we have now. Thoughts?

  • Tyler Jones November 7, 2021, 5:53 pm

    I just finished a writeup of my $150 Banff vacation (https://www.askthesavingsguy.com/2021/10/11/my-150-banff-vacation/) and it reminded me when I read this post back when it came out. I think I’ve got you beat slightly on price but always amazing to see how drastically you can alter the cost of your vacation with a little planning and a little F.I.R.E


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