How to Pick a Hotel on Oahu

Do you dream about sunbathing on the white sands of Waikiki, exploring a tropical reef with a snorkel and mask just off the lava-rock coastline or enjoying a cocktail in the Hawaiian sunset? You’re not alone.

Going to Hawaii on vacation is a dream come true for many people, and the 50th state’s beauty is not exaggerated.

Tourism is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the Aloha State, and it’s easy to see why. Hawaii has plenty of hotels, resorts and other man-made attractions in addition to the naturally compelling vistas and seascapes. You can’t go wrong with the natural beauty of the islands, but when you’re planning a trip to Hawaii you will need to carefully consider what hotel or resort will serve your needs best.

Where on Oahu?

The first thing you should consider when planning your Hawaiian vacation to Oahu is which part of the island you’d like to stay on. Honolulu appeals to many because of the sheer number of things to do here — from sporty to cultural and romantic to adventurous — but it’s not the only place to stay on the island. Many travelers prefer a smaller, less populous base for their Hawaiian trip and thus choose a hotel on the North Shore of Oahu, or at Kailua, which is famous for its wind- and kite-surfing opportunities.

If you love the bright lights-big city feel of Honolulu, it’s understandable! “The Big Pineapple” is a wonderful place to visit in its own right — even if you never leave the city limits. Honolulu is most famous for the numerous, fabulous, hotels and resorts that line Waikiki Beach. The beach is the place around which most tourists gravitate — whether for swimming, surfing or simply strolling. If it appeals to you, the rooms with sea views and glimpses of the sand and Diamond Head at the resorts along Waikiki are understandably popular. Rooms are usually spacious, and the resorts’ added features such as cocktail happy hours, kiddie pools and room service make for a great vacation in paradise.

However, staying along Waikiki might not be the best answer for you if you are planning on renting a car and making daytrips to see the rest of what Oahu has to offer. As in any city’s most popular areas, the streets near Waikiki are often crowded and finding parking may be onerous. To make sure that your rental will have plenty of room to manoeuver, look for smaller properties off the beach.

Does It Have Entertainment?

Picking Hotel OahuIf you’re staying in Honolulu, you’ll never lack for entertainment. The Hawaiian capital has plenty of daily cultural performances, as well as museums and galleries to explore. However, this is another metric by which to measure your hotels. If you know that you’ll be looking for a hula performance or musical review every night, you can find a hotel that offers the best kind of entertainment for you.

Does It Suit Your Group?

Although Hawaii is a popular honeymoon destination, newlyweds are far from the only kind of tourists who stop on Oahu. Whether you are a solo traveler, a family with children, seniors on a group holiday or some other category, you can find a hotel that suits your needs. If you’re bringing small children, for example, you’ll want rooms with pullout beds and a kid-friendly menu at breakfast. You may even find a hotel with a babysitting service. For seniors, it might be important to have ground-floor rooms or other accommodation that allows access with limited mobility. For all groups, it helps if the hotel caters to your particular kind of traveler and offers tours and other extras for your interests.

Does It Have a Swimming Pool?

Everyone knows Waikiki Beach is the hot spot in Honolulu, but the truth is some people prefer to swim in fresh water than in salt water. If you love swimming, but not the sea, do yourself a favor and book a hotel that has a swimming pool. Many of the hotels offer these — and some of the larger resorts have fancy options, such as infinity pools, pool bars and kiddie pools with slides — but not all, so be sure to check.

Finding a hotel in Hawaii can be a challenge because of the sheer variety and number of accommodations available. If you know what services and options you need from the hotel, it will be easier to choose.

Teeth, Feathers and Sea Cows: A Look at the Fascinating Wildlife on Sanibel Island

According to USA Today, Sanibel Island is one of the best Florida beach towns for escaping the winter cold. A serenity- and peace-seeking tourist’s dream, Sanibel is home to beautiful white beaches that lead gently into warm Gulf water. The entire island is easily accessible by bike and foot — there isn’t a single traffic light — which makes it a perfect place to appreciate its wild creatures in between regular bouts of shell collecting and beach reading.

Whether you hope to take advantage of one of Sanibel Island’s fabulous resorts or are just out on a day trip, Sanibel Island’s wild things are worth a quiet walk and a silenced phone. From alligators to manatees, you won’t want to miss a thing.

Pelicans

Pelicans are large diving birds that feed on fish and other marine life. They are friendly birds, living in flocks of both sexes all year long. Incredibly buoyant, their skin and bones have internal air sacks. When looking for food, pelicans might fly a few feet above the water until they spy a school of fish, at which point, they dive into the water — often at very high speeds — becoming completely submerged as they consume their prey. Some pelicans have a more inactive feeding style and simply scoop up fish while they swim. When they live around people, they may also resort to foraging behaviors.

Pelicans are known for their unique mouths. The lower half of a pelican’s bill is really just a frame around a pouch that can expand to fit in more fish. Believe it or not, a pelican’s bill can hold up to three times more than its stomach can. When a pelican catches more fish than it can eat, it stores the excess in its esophagus.

Anhingas

Also called the Snakebird, the Anhinga is a large water bird that often swims with only its neck poking out of the water so that it looks like a water snake. A darter, it hunts by spearing fish and other prey with its thin, sharp beak. It is not able to waterproof its feathers, which means its feathers can become so waterlogged that the bird is barely able to stay afloat. This feature makes it especially well-suited to diving and seeking underwater prey, and it is able to stay submerged for long periods of time and travel great underwater distances.

Marsh Rabbit

The marsh rabbit is a small, short-eared and short-legged cottontail rabbit that lives in the coastal and southern United States. It’s a strong swimmer and is found only in regions that are close to water. Catching a glimpse of one of these little guys while they’re swimming is a special treat.

Alligators

Alligators live on Sanibel, and they do get out and about. To avoid them, stay away from grassy areas close to water. Of course, if you want to spy an alligator, that’s right where you should go — but be careful, alligators can reach 11 feet in length, and they are predatory animals. Never approach an alligator or feed it. If you happen to spot one in a residential area, report it to the city.

Manatees

The manatee is a large, solitary plant-eating mammal that is fully aquatic and can reach up to 13 feet and 1,300 pounds. Also known as the sea cow, the manatee’s closest living relatives are elephants and hyraxes, making their sea-loving ways seem all the more strange. They sleep half of each day in the water and come up to the surface for air in 20-minute intervals. The rest of their time is spent grazing in water around ten feet deep. They are slow-moving and curious, sometimes coming close to inspect human-powered watercraft like kayaks. Other fun oddities about the manatee:

  • Their eyelids close in a circular motion.
  • Their teeth are continually replaced their entire lives, with new teeth growing in the back of their mouths and moving to the front as older teeth fall out — the kangaroo and elephant are the only other mammals whose teeth do this.
  • Their intestines measure around 45 feet, which is incredibly long for an animal their size.

Sanibel Island has much to offer the wildlife-loving visitor. Rent a bike or hoof it by foot; however you choose to get about, keep your eyes peeled for predators, snakebirds and swimming rabbits, because this Florida vacationland is full of them.

Image by D. Gordon E. Robertson from Wikimedia Commons

 About the Author: Jeremy Birks is a retired zoologist and avid birdwatcher who calls Southern Florida home.

Family Vacations: Plan them as Part of Your Annual Budget

Family Vacations are not something to be decided in an ad hoc manner when you suddenly get some free time or kids school break are around the corner. In fact, holiday expenses are to be planned well in advance as part of your annual home budget and more expensive holidays may have to be planned years in advance (e.g. A cruise holiday, Month long European trip etc)

Tips for Family Vacation Budget

The following are some useful tips for planning your family vacations from the budgeting point of view.

  • Sit together with your spouse (and parents if applicable) and finalize how often do you want to take vacations in an year and what type of breaks are they. (e.g. a week long domestic vacation with family per year, two theme park visits, two picnics etc)
  • If you are planning to have an international holiday every few years, keep apart an additional amount as part of your annual budget every year, in a special account if possible
  • If you plan to have luxury trips such as an expensive cruise vacation, then you need to not only plan a few years in advance for the budget part but also reserve your slots
  • Since the vacation and hotel expenses are shooting up every year, you may want to take into consideration the inflation parameters
  • There are several vacation companies that offer a number of years (for example one family vacation per year for next 5 years) of vacations for a fixed advance amount paid. You may want to consider such offers if you can pay that onetime lump sum
  • Consider the family additions (kids) and future age group aspects while planning for long term expensive vacations

That is pretty much about the budgeting part. More on vacation planning and how to get the best vacation deals etc will be covered in other articles on this website.

Family vacations are joyful experience that nobody should ever miss. You need not go for the most expensive or exotic place every time you set out for a trip. However, an annual holiday is absolute must for every family to take break from routine life and stressful work environment that we live in today.

Have fun!

How much does a Cruise Cost?

Luxury cruises are considered to be something that belongs to the rich or celebrity class. Not any more if you know the tricks of the game and plan properly well in advance.

Before understanding how much does a cruise cost, let me explain the typical expenses involved before, during and after a cruise vacation.

Things that attribute to the cruise cost

  1. Person Per Day charges (PPD) for your chosen cabin type. PPD typically include all meals, room service etc
  2. Applicable taxes on the above – Check if the PPD include taxes
  3. Duration of the cruise (7 nights, 10 nights, two weeks etc)
  4. Airfare from your home town to the port city
  5. Any hotel stay that may be required the night before in the port city before boarding
  6. Number of ports visited during the cruise and inland excursions and other activities
  7. On-board additional paid entertainment, cocktails, special dining place reservation etc
  8. On-board additional services (spa, salon etc)
  9. On-board shopping, souvenirs etc
  10. On-board tips to the attendants
  11. Other related expenses such as costumes shopping for the cruise – there is dress code applicable for the dinner on certain cruise classes

Most of the expenses boil down to the type of the cabin chosen and the duration. There are 15 or 20 variations cabins based on the 4 basic cabin types (Inside, Outside, Balcony, Suite). It is possible to get an inside cabin (no window) for 150 dollars a night upwards but if you want an ocean view cabin it may be 50% more and a balcony cabin almost double the price as the inside cabin. Further it gets even more expensive with suites.

Please note that for a 7 day cruise, there may be times when you need relaxing just looking around and hence an Outside cabin (i.e. a cabin with a window/hole) is probably what you need as a minimum. And if you want to enjoy the sea the most, probably a Veranda/Balcony is the right choice.

Let us talk about a $200/day deal per person on mid-range cruise lines. You are talking about $1400 per a seven night cruise here. Add the air fare from your home town to your pickup destination to that plus any hotel charges for overnight stay. A few of hundred dollars for your onboard cocktails, hundred dollars or so for all the tips and gratuity together and you may be talking about $2500 to $3000 per person for basic cabin types and services mentioned above. Now, it can vary hugely if you go for higher grade cabin types. Please note that we are talking about inbound air travel. If you need an international air travel to board the cruise vessel to your favorite destination, it gets really expensive due to the air fare involved.

Please note that if you go for specialty luxury cruise vessels, the starting range could be around $2500 per person for 7 nights for most basic cabins (talking about cabin rates alone)

Tips for getting the best Cruise deals

In order to get the best cruise vacation deals, you may want to note the following important tips.

  • Decide whether you want to be on a luxury cruise or semi-luxury – the prices go up big time on those star and celebrity category vessels
  • The best deals can come to you only when you book well in advance – We are talking about one year or 18 months advance booking here
  • When you read about the cruise deals on those travel sites or magazines, check out for multiple offers with the agents who deal with that cruise line or directly ring up
  • Make sure that you know the cabin type and what is covered in the PPD charges. Also make sure that taxes are all included in his final quote
  • Always cruise with cruise line that has good reputation and several years of quality service under its credit
  • Once you know your cruise date, book your hotel room and airline in advance so that you save money there
  • If there is any dress code applicable, shop for the same during offer sales without waiting for the last minute shopping

Have a great time!

Packing List for Vacation

What is the relevance of a Packing List for Vacation? Basically an organized list is pretty much the very first requirement to get your suitcase packed (Read: How to Pack a Suitcase Efficiently?)

When you are going to pack for a trip, you need to be aware of how long you are going to be there, how hot or cold it’s going to be, the places you are going to stay or what you want to do there. With these things in mind you will need one or more suitcases, organization, vacation packing checklist, hotel accommodation information, travel sized containers, leak proof bag, small bag or purse.

Let it start with a Packing List for Vacation…

  1. First, make a check list of all the things you need according to your itinerary. Ideally you need two copies of your packing list – one for your return journey as well. When you travel with family, this checklist will contain as many individual sections as the number of travelers plus a common section for all
  2. Pack 2 to 3 days in advance and while keeping things in your suitcases, put a check mark against those items in your list
  3. Check with your hotel to see if they provide hair dryers, toiletries or towels, so you can avoid the same
  4. Pack cosmetics and toiletries in travel sized containers – preferably leak proof ones – and keep them separated from clothes
  5. Keep clothes and accessories to one to two color schemes, so you can mix and match. Also take a couple of quick dry items that can be hand washed
  6. Distribute the clothes evenly throughout the bag by rolling them
  7. Save room in your bag by wearing the bulkiest shoes and jackets (if the weather permits) while traveling to the destination
  8. Keep all your jewelry and other valuables in a small carry-on bag or purse
  9. Do not forget to do some study on the foreign currency and ATM availability in your destination, just in case you are traveling abroad. Accordingly, you may want to keep enough money with you while traveling
  10. If you are on medication, do not forget to carry your medicines in your small bag or purse
  11. If you are traveling as a family, try to dedicate one suitcase or bag per family within the allowed luggage limits
  12. Never over stuff your suitcases – a broken suitcase is a vacation spoiler and can cause embarrassment in public places
  13. While leaving home, do not forget to dispose your garbage, switch off your electric appliances and lamps, close windows and doors and inform your good neighbors
  14. While stuffing things back on return, do not forget to crosscheck with the other copy of your checklist

Bon Voyage!