I Went on a Romantic Vacation in Maui for Under $3000 — Here’s How

Learn how this couple celebrated their love — of a good deal.

Sitting around a fire, sipping on a fancy vodka cocktail at an outdoor restaurant, I boldly professed to my now-husband on our first date that I was only interested in marrying someone who had an extreme love for budget travel. It’s not that I don’t love staying at fancy hotels and flying first class on a plane, it’s that as a money expert, I’ve found secret ways to enjoy luxury travel for less.

So, when it came time to celebrate a rather important birthday last year, we decided on Maui, Hawaii, and challenged ourselves to a $3,000 budget in one of the most expensive travel destinations in the world. Here’s how we did it.

Click to read more about 2018’s hottest travel spots and how much you need to visit each.

Credit Card Smarts

You’ve probably read a million and one articles by now all professing the best travel credit card and why it’s so important to have one. I’m not going to lie; it’s always my first piece of advice, as well.

Flying to Maui from just about anywhere can break your budget before you even start your vacation. Average ticket prices six months before our trip were averaging $700 to 800 dollars for just one ticket. With low-cost airlines like Southwest soon to offer flights to Hawaii, I’m hopeful that more of us can visit this stunning place on any budget.

I scoured all our credit cards for as many points as I could rustle up for our trip when we were in the planning stages. One of my favorite credit cards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card because we can bank points on almost every purchase we make, and if we book our plane travel through their awards center, those points are worth 25 percent more, which can be significant savings. In our case, we had enough points to cover one flight entirely (an $800 value) and part of another; we only paid $220 to cover the remaining balance.

Total Price for Flights: $220

Learn More About Travel Hacking: How This Woman Uses Points to Book (Almost) Free Flights

Avoid the Chains

Maui is chock-full of amazing resorts which come with equally amazing price tags — and not in a good way. Everything from the luxurious Four Seasons Wailea to the somewhat more affordable Westin Ka’anapali Beach. I’ve been visiting Maui for years now and knew that if we were going to be able to afford this vacation, we needed to think outside of the box when it came to lodging.

After searching both Airbnb and VRBO, I came across the most idyllic and romantic cottage just a short 5-minute drive from the pristine beaches in Wailea. I had instant goosebumps.

It’s super important to book places like this one well in advance of your stay because these types of properties disappear fast. To our surprise, the owner was even offering a free night with our stay, so we booked our stay for $1,393 (that’s just $199 a night).

The best part of staying in this cottage versus the super expensive hotel chains was that we had loads of space. The cottage had one bedroom, a full kitchen, two bathrooms, an outdoor deck where we could watch the sunset over the ocean, and included a stocked shed full of all the water toys your heart could ever desire.

Total Price for Lodging: $1,393

More on Finding a Nice Place to Stay: States With the Cheapest 5-Star Hotels

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Shannah Compton Game, CFP® (@shannahgame) on

Think Local

The little town just a short 5-minute drive from our cottage was called Kihei, and this was where the locals liked to hang out. Kihei is where you want to be if you’re looking for a real authentic Maui experience away from (most) of the crowds. It’s full of tasty restaurants and local shops.

If you’ve ever stayed at a big chain hotel, you know how expensive it can be to eat on the property, let alone enjoy a cocktail or two. When you stay at a rental property on Maui, it forces you to go out and explore the local areas for your meals. Some of the best restaurants, in my opinion, are in Kihei.

Some of our favorites include:

• Three’s Bar and Grill (also featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”)
• Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse (amazing BBQ island-style)
• 808 Deli (a must-visit for a quick sandwich before you head to the beach)
• Paia Fish Market (the most unbelievable fish tacos you’ve ever had)
• Kihei Caffe (to-die-for pineapple coconut pancakes)

All in all, we budgeted $500 for food for our entire stay and ended up going over budget by only $100. That may seem like a rather small food budget, but I promise you, we ate very well each day and didn’t scrimp.

Total Price for Food: $600

The moral of the story is that no matter where you want to travel, you can go on any budget. Even expensive travel destinations like Maui offer lower cost options where you can experience all the beauty the island has to offer without breaking the bank. All it takes is a little time to plan your stay — and some thinking outside of the traditional norm of staying and dining at big hotels.

Click through to read more about the least expensive things to do in Hawaii.