My final Hawaii blog post (until next year anyway!) is sharing some of the info, tips and tricks I've learnt in the past 20 years of living and vacationing in Hawaii. There are a few handy hints on dining out with kids, ways to save money plus a few things that you don't come across in New Zealand that might take you by surprise. I hope you find the info helpful as you prepare for your own Hawaiian adventures. Aloha!
In New Zealand the tax (what we call GST) is already built in to the purchase price of products. In America, the tax is charged at the checkout on most products. It varies from state to state but in Hawaii it is around 4%. Until you get used to it it can come as a surprise, especially when you think you have the correct cash but the total is more at the checkout. For hotels the tax is 13.25% but this is usually itemised and included in your booking price.
This is another one that really throws New Zealanders. Wages, for hospitality staff in particular, are low and the shortfall is made up by tips from customers. Tips are supposed to start at 10% for good service, 15% for great service and 20% for excellent service. Restaurants sometimes work out the "suggested tip" amount for you and for parties of seven or more the tip is often built in to the bill. I once even saw a waiter return to a restaurant table and advise the tip was insufficient and ask for more! While tipping is rarely done in New Zealand, it is their way of life and how it works in America.
Eating out in Hawaii can be expensive, especially if you're a young family. We've always found "happy hour" the best time to head out and eat. Happy hour usually runs from around 4pm to 7pm after which the wait for a table can be well over an hour long. Drinks and meals are very cheap during happy hour and the restaurants are relatively empty so there is no wait for a table.
In terms of eating with our children, the meals are huge so we often shared our meals with our girls. Or we found the children's meals to also be really big so if our girls did order off the kids menu we ordered just one meal and they shared it.
We've found all of the restaurants to be extremely accommodating for children, families and pushchairs (way more than they are in New Zealand). Push chair (or stroller) parking areas and high chairs are readily available where ever we've gone as well as colouring pencils/crayons and activity sheets at every restaurant to keep the kids entertained.
Lack of Public Toilets
But... further to the points above... by law in New Zealand there must be a public toilet available in every dine in restaurant. This is not the case in Hawaii. I've found that most restaurants don't have any toilet facilities at all which is really noticeable when you have a three year old who has waited until the last minute to tell you they need to go and are now at bursting point. Public toilets are also few and far between so take note when you see them!
This Week Oahu
On almost every corner are news stands with free publications about whats on in and around Oahu. The most valuable publication I can recommend picking up is one called "This Week Oahu". They are full of coupons for cheap food, transport and attractions. It's a valuable resource which I recommend picking up.
Waikele Premium Outlets
If anyone is planning on visiting the Waikele Premium Outlets then I highly recommend signing up as a VIP and printing a coupon to get a Savings Passport from the Information Kiosk. While everything at Waikele is already incredibly cheap, the Savings Passport will afford you even further discounts. A definite must!
Safeways Grocery Store
If you plan on visiting Safeways Grocery Store then I definitely recommend signing up to the Safeways Club before you leave. You'll need a US address and phone number to sign up - I used the details of the condo we stay in. You'll need to give your US phone number at the checkout. We saved over $100!
Macy's Visitor Savings Pass
Before leaving for your vacation you can sign up for a Macy's Visitor Pass. Simply sign up on the Macy's website, print the coupon and present it at Macy's to receive your discount card which is valid for 30 days. You'll receive 10% off all purchases.
While the shopping in Hawaii is amazing, there are some items which are disproportionately expensive. Oddly in fact, given the tropical climate, these items might surprise you. Ice cream, bikinis, sunglasses and sunscreen are all very expensive compared to in New Zealand. Definitely buy your sunscreen at home before you go.
The Bus service in Hawaii is amazing! It's reliable, regular and cheap. For just $2.50 ($1.25 for children) you can travel the whole way around the island. You can also get a transfer that lasts up to two hours - so you can head to Ala Moana, do your shopping, have lunch and head back to your hotel all for just $2.50. Bargain!
Let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to help. Mahalo x