Now that we've explored the culture and history of Aulani in Episode 083, we pick back up and talk about tips booking your room, airfare and ground transportation in Episode 085. When it comes to going to Walt Disney World, most DVC members have that planning and booking process-perfected. However, when it comes to going to Hawaii, everything changes. We're talking room booking tips, waitlist tips, airfare, and car rentals. We even brought along an airline captain to provide some excellent pointers on connecting flights. Join us as we book our rooms, talk flights and get ready to hear Aloha!
Season 4 of the My DVC Points Podcast was made possible through financial support from the DVC Dream Team:
- DVC Resale Market – Industry Leader in DVC Resales
- DVC Rental Store – DVC Point Rental and Swap Partner
- Incredible Vacation Homes – Luxury Vacation Homes for Family Gatherings
- Be Our Guest Vacations – Travel Agent for DVC Point Swap Programs
- Monera Financial – Exclusively Financing DVC Contracts
- Patreon supporters in the My DVC Points VIP Producer Club.
Booking A Room
The peak times for Aulani are:
- Late May through June (less rainy)
- October through December (rainy on the north shore of the island, but not where Aulani is located)
- Whale Season (December 15th through May 15th)
- School Vacations
The My DVC Points Aulani Meet-Up will be taking place on June 22nd through 24th! Plans include hanging out by the pools, the luau, and a visit to the Dole Plantation.
Aulani, Hilton Head, and Grand Californian share a unique feature in terms of their 2021 points charts – they only have four seasons. Chad urges members to consider when they plan to visit, as the seasonality of the points chart plays a big role in maximizing the value of their points!
Aulani has the added bonus of no weekend premiums, so rooms do not cost any more points on the weekends than they do on weekdays. This is due to everything in the timeshare industry in Hawaii is considered “premium,” and because most tourists plan long stays. Only locals looking to do some island hopping will vacation anywhere in Hawaii for a weekend.
For approximately 80% of the year, members can find available rooms at Aulani, especially in the Last Minute inventory on DVC's website. Roxanne was able to book her summer trip to Aulani six months in advance with no issues. The group has found that the lower point rooms tend to fill up first with Aulani owners, leaving the higher point rooms open.
Looking for tips for the waitlist? Andrew advises members to waitlist rooms that cost more points, such as the Ocean View rooms. These rooms tend to be the last ones booked, and the first ones canceled when other members' waitlists for the lower point rooms come through. Chad utilizes the Room Inventory Chart from DVC Info when he puts in a waitlist request. Members can leverage this tool by booking rooms types that are more plentiful, increasing the chances of their request being fulfilled. For example, a member has a better chance of scoring an Island/Garden View (93 rooms) than a Hotel Room (8 rooms). For more information see DVCinfo.com's room inventory analysis. (DVCinfo.com has the most helpful information available for room inventory and waitlists).
Aulani DVC Visual Room Finder – What can I expect from the room views?
In Episode 085, Chad mentions that the room views are incredibly difficult to cover on a podcast. However, we have created a visual room finder for Aulani to help you visualize how the resort designers have classified rooms. There is a significant point difference in rooms across the various booking categories. DVC has 8 hotel rooms available for members to book on points; however, their location is unknown at the time of publication. This may help you set a goal for a room view and help with your room request.
Aulani has two towers that are connected by the lobby. Each tower has three wings. One wing connects the towers to the lobby. Another wing runs facing the ocean called the short wing. Each tower also has long wings extending toward the ocean. The end caps of the long wings have public areas on the ground floor and Grand Villas on floors two through eleven. Aulani has a straight forward numbering system for their rooms. The first digits indicate the floor number. This ranges from 1 to 16. If the last two digits of your room number are 01 to 49, your room will be in the Waianae Tower. If your room number ends in 50-89, you will be in the Ewa Tower.
Huge shout out to Micah Wyss from MousePerks.com for fact-checking the room layouts as shown below. And a vicarious shout out to Will Lovato, a researcher, an author, an analyst from DVCnews.com, as Micah used some of his research as a reference in fact-checking. Our room counts should be in agreement with Russ's research from DVCinfo.com.
Booking with Points vs. Renting Points
Robert looked into renting points to visit Aulani before becoming a DVC member, as Aulani is most expensive on the cash side.
Andrew did the math on his fourteen-night stay and got a surprising result. Even with a 35% discount on the room, his total vacation cost would have paid for two of his DVC contracts! He found the 966 points he used to book the vacation more than worth it.
Roxanne purchased a loaded resale contract and combined her 2018 and 2019 book her summer vacation to Aulani. She realized that this one trip essentially “paid” $12,000 of her resale contract!
Chad urges members to utilize the new My DVC Points App to calculate the cash and rental values of their DVC vacations. He found that his upcoming eight-night stay in an Ocean View Grand Villa would cost over $32,000 in cash and could rent for $22,000! He advises members to consider renting points through DVC Rental Store to stay at Aulani if they are not willing to use their points. It's a huge savings!
Booking a room with DVC points is done directly through the DVC website while booking with cash is done through the Aulani website. Dining and spa appointment reservations can be booked on the Aulani website or by calling the resort.
Tips for Flying to Honolulu International Airport
One of the biggest expenses of an Aulani vacation is the airfare, and our panel has a few ways to help families save!
Robert is a pilot, so he knows quite a few money-saving tricks. He advises anyone that is flying with an airline employee on a Buddy Pass that the system is not as simple as people might think. Essentially, flying with a Buddy Pass is flying on standby, and certain flights may sell out during busier travel times. He advises flying to Hawaii one or two days ahead of check-in so that you won't miss your “real” vacation due to an unexpected full flight. For the night or two before Aulani, he recommends booking another hotel room or Airbnb and island hopping with very inexpensive airfare between the islands. Robert also recommends that travelers book their flights to Honolulu from Sacramento, as Southwest has just begun flying this route and fares are still relatively low.
Chad recommends arranging your arrival and departure days for a Tuesday or Wednesday, as airfare is usually much lower on these days. He also recommends signing up for an airline or hotel credit card to gain sign-on bonus miles. Once your trip is completed, you can cancel this card. He also recommends setting up multiple searches on the Hopper App, which searches the web for the best deals on flights.
Andrew's family typically flies first class so that his wife, who had a bad back injury, can be more comfortable on long flights. Even with this “upgrade,” he's found several ways to save! Andrew recommends booking your flights as soon as they become available through the airline. Much like cruises, the best price for a ticket is the first day it goes on sale. Instead of one non-stop flight, Andrew recommends splitting your trip up into two round-trip routes, as this can save a significant amount on airfare. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of layover time! Andrew's family also uses their Disney Chase Visa to help cover the cost of their flights by using statement credits towards miles. Finally, Andrew recommends booking your rental car through the airline's travel service, as you could receive deep discounts on that expense.
Roxanne usually flies Southwest, so she recommends booking as soon as they open up their flights. She also suggests booking your layover for Burbank or Santa Anna and grabbing an Uber to LAX to save on tickets. The partnership between Jet Blue and Hawaiian Airlines has saved her money on the occasions she did not fly Southwest.
In terms of timing your travel, the panel agrees that guests should plan to arrive at Aulani in the morning. This will guarantee you the full “lei experience upon your arrival.” Robert says, “It's a true Welcome Home. It's that extra Dinsey magic. The way they treat you at Aulani is different from how they treat you on any other part of the island, and it's a tourist island.” In his episode, Grant Peters recommended arriving a day or two early and staying in other accommodations to allow for a morning check-in. Roxanne did this and enjoyed fireworks in Waikiki the night before her Aulani vacation!
The panel also recommends trying to adjust to “Hawaii Time” as quickly as possible. Roxanne recommends researching in-flight amenities, as they will make your flight there more comfortable. She and Robert suggest that guests try to keep themselves awake until it is bedtime in Hawaii to make the adjustment smoother. Everyone on the panel recommends taking the red-eye flight home so that you arrive home after somewhat of a full night's sleep.
Getting Around at Aulani
Andrew encourages guests to leave the resort and explore Oahu, and he highly recommends renting a car to do so. He says, “If you stay at the resort, you get the same kind of service as Walt Disney World. Get away from the resort and show your kids Hawaii. Get immersed in the culture, stop by the roadside stands, go to the North Shore, go to the food trucks, go around to the Polynesian Cultural Center, go to Valley of the Temples. Visit all the tourist spots!”
From his experience, Andrew has learned that it can be a practice in patience renting a car in Hawaii. All of the rental car counters at Honolulu International Airport are located on the ground floor of the parking deck by the international gates, (every flight that isn't to a Hawaiian island). Follow the in-terminal signs and they will lead you to the counters. These counters are all very busy in the middle of the day, and the employees are on “island time,” so Andrew recommends a rental car company that has “go straight to the car” service.
Andrew had a great experience with an app called GyPSy Guide. (No affiliate relationship – we just heard great things about the product). This downloadable database allows guests to access hidden tourist gems and avoid “tourist traps.” It also includes GPS that gives clear, timely directions, better than Waze or Google Maps. Andrew's advice while driving in Hawaii is to use your turn signal and NEVER honk your horn (it is considered extremely rude). The cast agreed, for $8.99 it's a great investment in your vacation experience.
Robert calls Hawaii “nature's playground,” so he advises guests to rent a car and make the vacation a learning experience for your kids! He uses sites like Hotwire and Priceline to save money on rental cars but advises guests to pay attention to prices on different islands. Robert also encourages guests to pack their patience, as driving in Honolulu or on Waikiki is like driving in any big city.
Roxanne recommends renting a car for at least a few days of your vacation. She rented hers right from the resort! Her family was able to rent a car from Aulani for four days, without booking ahead of time, right from the concierge desk. As for their travel to and from the airport, her family utilized Charlie's Taxi, which had a very reasonable flat rate of $75.
Chad recommends guests rent a car to explore the island. He adds that DVC members staying on points, or guests renting points, are granted two free parking spaces. Normally, this would cost $35/night! He uses Costco Travel, Travelocity, and AutoSlash to find the best rates on car rentals.
To Island Hop or Not to Island Hop?
Roxanne says, “There is enough to do on Oahu, and it's very exciting. I would say probably not hop, but that's with kids. If it was adults-only, I would be more apt to hop.” Her family wanted to take in Oahu last time, but she is thinking of island hopping with them on their next vacation.
Andrew recommends island hopping if you're there for a longer stay. He says everyone should at least take a day trip to the Big Island to see the volcano. He advises keeping the room at Aulani for the nights you island hop, or just keeping the “big bags” at the resort until you're ready to return home.
Robert recommends island hopping as each island has “its own specific beauty.” He advises guests to island-hop in the morning or at the end of the day, as travel rates in the middle of the day tend to be the highest.
Chad does not recommend island hopping for your first visit to Hawaii. On that trip to Hawaii in 2000, he visited Ohau, Maui and the Big Island. He found they lost a full day of vacation moving from island to island and this was prior to heightened airport security following 9/11. For his family's first trip to Aulani, they will be focusing entirely on exploring Oahu (unless Laura tells him otherwise).
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Today's episode was produced, edited, and engineered by Chad Pennycuff. Show notes by Samantha Kurtz-Seif. Facebook admins and moderators of the My DVC Points Community Group: Valerie Fairnington, Donna Bickert, Tamara Speidel, Caleb Allison, and Mary Anne Tracy.
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