Three weeks ago, the JJ family had the fortune of traveling to Kona, Hawai’i. In the fall of 2016, I had bought a package through Hilton Grand Vacations for a 6 day, 5 night stay at one of their resorts and although the reimbursements weren’t as grand as with other chains, I loved the fact that they had this resort in Kona on the Big Island. So I bought the package with visions of sunny beaches and lava fields, of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

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Cloudy day, Kona, Hawai’i

I had initially booked a Christmas trip for the winter of 2016. However, plans changed after we were able to book a two week trip to New Zealand. So I paid a $20 change fee and moved the stay to spring break 2017. It would coincide nicely with Missy JJ’s sixteenth birthday.  We planned to spend the first 2 days in Kauai, then to Kona to take advantage of the package. The weeks preceding spring break are always hectic with school activities and bad weather. So we were looking forward to spending some time at the beach.

Life has a way of throwing curveballs. As it happened, one landed in our backyard! Mr. JJ fell sick quite unexpectedly and was confined to the hospital for a whole week. The day we were supposed to be at the airport was his first morning back home from the hospital. Hawai’i was the last thing on our minds. Fortunate to have him home and recovering well, I once again called and cancelled the stay. I was given time until the end of the year to use the package. Luckily, I had booked most of the tickets using miles except for one leg on Spirit. I got all of the miles back but had to pay a fee to have them redeposited. Spirit gave me a travel voucher refund but I couldn’t use it in time to encash it for another trip.

IMG_1608Then in summer of 2017, I reserved another stay at Kona for Thanksgiving, certain I could make the trip happen on miles. But as luck would have it, not a single combination of miles and points could help me for the dates I needed. I started researching December flights and realised they were available but at a hefty mileage price. Ultimately, I used American Airlines miles to fly directly to Kona from DFW. For the return, I used United miles to book Hawaiian Airlines to fly Kona to Maui and then American Airlines miles from Maui to DFW. Given that I had to use the package before the end of the year and ticket prices were well over $1000 per person, I didn’t feel guilty about using the AA miles. Hilton Vacations charged me an extra $200 for staying during the busy Holiday season. And another $20 to move from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Had we traveled in December 2016, we would have paid about one fifth the cost of the stay. But with all the changes I had to make, I think we came out ahead by only about a third. Despite this, I think this was one of our best vacations. As the kids get older, its getting harder to spend adequate time with them. Missy JJ is grappling with school, extracurriculars, volunteering, exam prep just as every other high school junior. And when school doesn’t keep her occupied, teen social life does. In this setting, I find that getting away ensures we can all focus on being together, far from the pressures of daily life, classes, exams, practice, work, etc. And that’s what this trip did for us. It helped us slow down and relax as a unit, really enjoy each other’s company, enjoy good food, be immersed in natural beauty, reset our body clocks and experience a “schedule-free” few days as a family.

I hope you join us as we re-live our Hawai’i experience!

Mahalo!