A Travellerspoint blog

January 2019

2 weeks Hawaii on a budget

View Winter Journey on Meike Carter's travel map.

20190108_175355.jpg This is basically a summary of our spontaneous trip to Hawaii. We wanted to figure out how difficult it could be to rent cabins, hotel rooms and cars on a flexible schedule. I hope this will help someone that is thinking of doing the same. Matter of fact a friend of mine had a few questions, Teresa this might give you a better idea.
Let's start with flights. If you are eligible to fly on Military flights and your destination is Hawaii, flying out of Travis AFB CA is one of your prime passenger terminals. Flights leave almost daily. On the other hand, if you want to return back to the mainland it can be more tricky. We discovered that flights pop up daily, but they usually already have people manifested on them, coming from Guam or Japan. These seats are already reserved for them, which means passengers originating from Hawaii will get whatever seats are still available. That is definitely something new we learned. Next time we will continue on to other destinations in order to get manifested all the way through. I hope that makes sense.
Allow plenty of time, I would plan a week for a cushion to catch a flight back. Use the days you don't catch a hop just as another day on the beach. 20190110_140918.jpg This leads me to lodging...not always will there be a hotel room close by to crash in, but we learned that having a vehicle serves more than just as transportation. There is no need to book a room if you have to be at the terminal at 3 A.M., just lean back the chairs, climb in the sleeping back and catch some shuteye. That just saved you $135.
Hotel rates run around $135 per night on post, where the cheapest room in Waikiki could be $165, depending on the season.
We have stayed in a cabin on the beach for one week, costing us $105 per night. We didn't reserve or book it. We extended 3 times and each time were able to stay, which showed us that walking in is no problem. Even though it shows online as fully booked, we saw empty cabins on a daily basis. One bedroom cabins cost $105 and 2 bedroom cabins $135 per night. All have a fully equipped kitchens and sleeper sofas. My favorite place to stay is the Navy Lodge on Ford Island only 6 miles from Hickham Field. The hotel room with 2 queen sized beds, a little kitchenette, complimentary breakfast, 24 hour shop and pool with cabana cost us $102 per night. 20190111_173654.jpg 20190112_110515.jpg 20190112_110612.jpg
We discovered how to lower the cost on our car rental as well. If you have a credit card you might be insured depending on your credit card. That alone will knock down the price. If you book online and find the cheapest deal, you can show that to the people at Enterprise and they will price match, and if you sign up for their rewards program, that will knock off an additional fee. Overall we were able to zoom around in our Jeep Wrangler for $44 per day and used it occasionally as our hotel room. 20190108_163328.jpg 20190108_163338.jpg
We bought our groceries at the commissary, because all our rentals had kitchens and I prefer cooking our meals , it is healthier and more affordable.
If we did feel the urge to eat while we were exploring, a side of French fries and an iced coffee or a fresh pineapple smoothie would do the trick.
We discovered that you can take showers at the gym, use the restroom on the beach or the playground and wash clothes at lodging for free. We did all that during the time we slept under the stars. It is possible!
Overall we spent about $1000 per week and that included, food, car rental, hotel costs and the flight .
That is not a bad price for 3 travelers. I hope this information is useful and gives you a better insight of visiting Hawaii on a dime.
Most of all have fun, make fantastic memories and don't stress. Aloha!

Posted by Meike Carter 05:39 Comments (0)

Flying Space A

View Winter Journey on Meike Carter's travel map.

5948.jpeg Today I want to explain the process of flying Space Available, because I have been receiving questions about that.
You can fly space available on commercial planes but I don't exactly how that works, since we have never done that. What we do instead is hop on military flights. As an active or retired service member you have the privilege to use this amazing opportunity. Since it is a privilege we can never forget that the mission comes first and that any flight can change without notice. We literally just tag along allowing plenty of wiggle room for lay overs and destinations. Usually flights depart and arrive on Air Force bases stateside and overseas. Usually a 72 hour flight schedule will get posted but as I said it can change at any time. If you are pressed for time or need to meet a deadline, flying space A might not be the right thing. Flying during the busy season while the kids are out of school is definitely difficult. The first time we hopped from Charleston, SC to Rhein Main, Germany was about 15 years ago. We waited for several hours, finally made roll call, sat in our seats, took off and were in mid flight for about an hour, when we were informed that we had to return to Charleston, SC. The mission was changed and we had to start the entire process again. We spent some time in the family lounge until our next roll call. 20190107_084200.jpg 20190107_084217.jpg
The family lounge is for families with kids only and provides plenty of activities and toys to entertain the little travelers. Usually a separate room accommodates infants and toddlers with cribs and rocking chairs for nursing mothers.
If you stay overnight at the terminal, showers in the bathroom and hot coffee at the USO are fantastic to perk you back up.
The longest we had to wait on a flight was 3 days. We made the mistake to fly back to the States from Ramstein, during summer break, right before school starts at the end of August. That is one of the busiest times and finding an available hotel nearby can be tricky. We had to sleep on the floor a few times, because all hotel rooms were booked. 5950.jpeg
It can be exhausting but it makes for great memories. Our then 6 year old son decided to venture off, while we were asleep on the floor in the hotel lobby. Thank goodness I woke up to use the bathroom and discovered Landon snuggled up beside a soldier who was asleep on an air mattress. Quickly I removed my son and apologized to this guy. He said that it was ok but wondered why this kid layed down beside him. We had to laugh about that awkward moment and went back to our place on the floor.
We hopped to Spain on a Thursday in hope to connect to Germany a year ago. Once we arrived in Rota all car rentals were closed for the weekend and no flights left out of there. Sunday morning a flight to Charleston AFB popped up and we flew back. We literally spent a weekend in Spain, on the beach having picnics and Sangria and returned back to the states. 5942.jpeg
This year after spending Christmas in California without family, we had the urge to do something different and spontaneous. We hopped over to Hawaii and rang in the new year. We have been trying to fly back to the states for the last 4 days, but somehow a lot of flights have been canceled. This morning , Tuesday looked very promising. Our names were picked for roll call, but a few guys arrived last minute with a better category and bumped us off the flight. We slept overnight at the terminal on the front lawn in our sleeping bags. Thankfully I was awake around 3am, woke Tony up and grabbed my sleeping bag just in time, because the sprinkler system came on. Can you imagine us still asleep getting soaked in our sleeping bags. What a mess!
Like I said, traveling Space A is an adventure and totally unpredictable. Tonight we will sleep in our Jeep Wrangler on the beach , because we have to show up around 4 am to mark ourselves present. There is no need to spend $135 for a hotel room and sleep like sardines in a Queen bed. I will probably crawl into my sleeping bag on the beach and listen to the waves. Fingers crossed that we make it out of Hawaii tomorrow.
Aloha! 20190108_180250.jpg

Posted by Meike Carter 12:59 Comments (0)

Waikiki beach

In the summer of 1994, when I was 17 years old, I flew with a group of girls from high school and two teachers to Hawaii. We stayed about 5 weeks on the islands, learned about the Polynesian Culture and the English language. It was a fun way to explore a new place with a very busy schedule. We snorkeled at Hanauma Bay, hiked Akiki falls, went to the Mauna loa factory, checked out Kona, hiked the Puu'oo all on different islands. Well...the very first night in Waikiki changed my life forever. We girls just settled into our room at the Malihini hotel to discover that the bathroom needed maintenance. That ignited uproar amongst the girls, now complaining about everything from stiff towels to uncomfortable mattresses. To be honest the hotel was not in great shape, but I didn't care, because we were within walking distance to the beach. To me it was perfect, I didn't want to hear any more complaining and walked outside to a little concrete wall where I sat down. A group of 5 guys walked pass me, but one of them caught my attention. We locked eyes and something weird happened. I turned to my classmate Katrin and jokingly said. Now that's the kinda guy I will marry.
We all started with small talk, telling the guys about our bathroom fiasco and Tony offered up their bathroom. Not understanding English that well, I was shocked that this stranger wanted us to take a shower in their room. In Germany people are not that friendly to strangers offering up anything personal. We politely declined and went to the ABC store, where I tried to buy some beer to go along with my" buy one get one free" burger. At the register I was told to march right back to the cooler and return that can. Why? Oh....I didn't know there is a drinking age. How embarrassing!
I was on a mission, climbed the stairs to the second floor and knocked on the soldiers door. Explaining my current situation I asked for someone of age to buy the Budweiser for me. Well, it was Tony's time to shine. He presented a fake ID and off we went. We brought back enough beer for all of us and spent that evening together. My English at that time was very broken, using more or less arm gestures and body language to communicate. I must have been trying very hard, because the chair I sat on couldn't handle my movements and down I went. I totally broke the chair and layed sprawled out in front of my classmate and the guys. Tony was so impressed with me that he wanted extra time to talk. We walked to the beach after midnight where he said that he wanted to marry me. Strangely I felt the same. We knew it was just wishful thinking. I knew I was too young and had to return back to my family in Germany. Surely it's nothing serious. We watched the night sky and saw several falling stars. I send my message out to the universe and wished upon a falling star to return back to the island to be with him one day. 20190102_132337.jpg
Before saying our Good night's I told him he could meet us at Hanauma Bay the next day. Expecting him to show up I was heartbroken when that never happened. That afternoon back at the hotel I saw a pile of cigarette butts in front of my door, a clear indication that Tony must have been waiting there. I walked upstairs, knocked on their door and found the room empty. I asked at the reception what happened to the people in that room and I was told that they checked out earlier.
I couldn't believe it, the guy slipped through my fingers. I didn't know his full name, where he worked, a phone number- nothing.
A few days passed, we flew to Big Island and a week later to Kauai. I couldn't get him out of my head and became very sick. One morning the EMS had to put me on a stretcher and transport me to the ER. The doctors were puzzled , all my tests showed up good. My teacher asked what would make me feel better so I told him about this guy I met in Waikiki.
Mr.Bubach promised to help me find him, once we are back in Waikiki. We actually stayed in the exact same room that we occupied only 3 weeks prior. That Friday night, way past midnight we heard a knocking on the door. One of the girls said that there is some dude asking for me. I crawled out of bed and found myself standing in my oversized shirt in front of Tony. He said he has been knocking on this door every weekend looking for me. I gave him the biggest hug and told him not to go anywhere without giving me all his personal information. I couldn't dare lose him again. 20190102_132914.jpg
We stayed in touch the entire year I was in Germany to finish high school. I saved up enough money to purchase my ticket back to Honolulu for the summer of 95. I was supposed to stay for 6 weeks and go back home , but got married instead and started a future with my new husband.
Yesterday, when we walked the beach and decided to go to the end of the pier to get a better picture of Diamond Head. Quietly a guy approached Tony, asking him to videotape his proposal on his cellphone. I was in the midst of taping for my YouTube channel, not aware of what was unfolding behind me, as I turned around still filming, that I caught a marriage proposal on tape. We congratulated the newly engaged couple and told them that we made our first wedding plans in this very spot 24 years earlier.
It certainly brought back many wonderful memories! Sometimes you find love where you least expect it. I found mine on the opposite side of the globe.

Posted by Meike Carter 03:16 Comments (0)

Diamond Head State Monument, HI

View Winter Journey on Meike Carter's travel map.

After a full day on the beach New Year's day, we rested up for some hiking.
On today's agenda was a hike up to one of Oahu's most prominent landmarks -Diamond Head. 20190102_122035.jpg
We arrived a little after 10 a.m. at the entrance of the park. We paid $5 to enter and park our vehicle, with a wait time of approximately 10 min. until the park attendant guided us to the next available parking space. We noticed a lot of people walking all the way from the base of the park, where a trolley drops off visitors. Usually that trolley picks up in the nearby tourist hotspot of Waikiki and shuttles tourist as close to the state Monument as possible. Since we didn't come from the Waikiki area, we drove our rental car all the way up and parked. If you walk all the way from the trolley stop a fee of $1.00 per person is required at the park entrance.
To be honest, walking from the trolley stop just to the gate is already quiet a stretch, all uphill. Once you get to the park, there is some serious uphill walking for about 20 min.
I'm just throwing that in to mentally prepare you for a good workout.
It was pretty crowded along the narrow path that leads up Diamond Head, but I was super excited to make that hike. The views along the way are fantastic. B080DAFFCEEB2FC8D2C5A1204593D0A8.jpg
We opted to climb the additional stairs all the way to the top, which had my heart pumping pretty good. But, oh boy - the peak left me breathless, not only from climbing but from the beauty of it. B081D48BFDDAEB16A0602B9CEDCEF88F.jpg 20190102_113708.jpg
Once we arrived at the peak, we took pictures plenty of video footage and caught our breath, when suddenly the island sirens started to go off. Confused we asked other tourists what that was. Some wondered about a possible Tsunami warning. We still have no clue why the siren went off, but we concluded that it may have been just a test. After a couple of minutes the siren quit and we started our descent back down the Volcano. The trail takes you to the edge of a 300,000 year old crater. While the hike isn’t that long in terms of distance, it can be somewhat challenging due to its ascent. Parts of the trail are over uneven rock, and the 99 steps near the end of the hike are steep. Also, the only water fountains are at the beginning of the trail, so you’ll want to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
Once we arrived back at the parking lot we approached the vendor and spoiled ourselves with some fresh pineapple smoothies. 20190102_122432.jpg 20190102_122424.jpg

Posted by Meike Carter 10:56 Comments (0)

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