Planning a trip to Aulani, Disney Resort and Spa and wondering how you can avoid cashing in your 401(k)or taking out a second mortgage just to pay for it? Ok, ok, I’m kidding, but a trip to Disney’s Aulani is no budget trip. Getting to Hawaii alone is expensive, so seeing the price of what the rooms at Disney’s Aulani cost, can leave you wondering if you’ll ever get to visit this magical place.Never fear though, if there’s one thing we love, it’s saving money. So although we can’t guarantee you’ll be able to travel to Aulani for cheap, we can help you make your trip a little less expensive.
Save on Rooms at Aulani
If you’ve been following us for any amount of time, then you’ll know that we almost always check third party sites for hotels before booking directly. While the prices on third party sites really depend upon the time of year you’re traveling and availability, when you can find a good deal, it can save you hundreds. We’ve talked before about using hotels.com for Walt Disney World trips, and you can use the same strategy here.
On our recent trip, we used hotels.com to book our trip and also redeemed hotels.com nights. While our value of hotels.com nights didn’t equal the cost of our room, it did allow us to deduct a significant amount of money from our stay. Using nights towards the cost of your stay is a strategy that can take some time and planning, but when you see how much it can save you, it’s definitely one to consider. Between the savings we got by using the site and applying our hotels.com nights, we were able to save over half the cost of the room just using this strategy alone.
If you’re not comfortable using a third party, or if the room type you’re looking for isn’t available, another option is renting DVC points. Again, the savings will differ based on season and availability, but we sampled prices on three different seasons and all types of rooms through Dave’s DVC Rentals and the savings we found ranged from $100 per night to $250 per night. There are a few different DVC rental sites, so if you’re interested in trying this option, we suggest shopping around as you will find different savings at different sites.
If neither of these options seem right for you, make sure you always check the offer section on the Aulani website as well as the Walt Disney World website. Aulani sometimes has special offers on their site and Walt Disney World sometimes will post offers for annual passholders on their site as well. These offers usually come with certain terms, like a length of stay requirement, but can save you some serious money depending on the season.
Eat off the resort
As fun as it might sound to be completely immersed in Disney’s Aulani while you’re there, if you’re looking to try some of the better restaurants, it’s going to cost you. Ama Ama and Makahiki are the table service restaurants on property and while both meals we had were delicious, they were also quite pricey. Ama Ama is the more expensive of the two, with beautiful sunset views and an elevated, fine dining menu. Makahiki is the character meal and is a buffet and serves breakfast and dinner. Ama Ama serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and while we enjoyed both restaurants at the resort, the cost can really add up.
The Quick service restaurants on property are pretty ok, but for the same price or even cheaper, you can find better options across the street. It’s Hawaii; so although you should always be aware of your surroundings when traveling somewhere you’re unfamiliar, this isn’t one of those don’t-go-off-the-resort type scenarios. The area that Aulani is situated in is clean and safe and it’s perfectly fine to leave the resort. MonkeyPod is probably one of the most popular restaurants across from Aulani and they have an amazing happy hour with $10 pizzas with half off appetizers and great drink specials. Pizza Corner has great pizza and is located across the street, but if you’re not up for the 10 minute walk over, they also deliver to Aulani. Island Vintage Coffee was one of our favorite spots on the Island and , so if you’re looking for breakfast sandwiches, acai bowls or of course, coffee, that’s a great option too.
Stock up on food from the Grocery Store
If you have a villa, these come equipped with a kitchen. To save a little cash, stop at the Target at the exit right before the resort or run over to ABC grocery store across from Aulani for snacks or easy meals that you can prepare in your room. The cost of food can definitely add up quickly, and if you’re hoping to dine at one of the more expensive restaurants on property, saving on those smaller meals can help offset those costs. This link can show you what dining is available in the area.
Share meals at the restaurants at Aulani
If you’re still not sold on skipping out of eating at the restaurants at Disney Aulani, or you really just want to enjoy what the resort has to offer, we recommend sharing some of the meals. While this isn’t really feasible at the two table service restaurants, we found the portion sizes at Ulu Café the perfect size for sharing. We loved the Acai bowls in the morning and flatbreads later in the day and the portions were definitely big enough to share. Since just my daughter and I were traveling together on this trip, sharing our meals was a great solution for us as it left us enough room in our budget as well as our appetites to enjoy snacks later in the day.
It was also pretty hot and humid a few of the days we were there, and eating a regular sized portion would have likely left either of us in a food coma. And no one wants that on vacation.
Ulu Café also offers pizza at night, so if you’re traveling with a party who loves pizza(who doesn’t love pizza?!), theirs is pretty popular, and not a bad deal over some of the other meals they serve.
Skip the excursions at Aulani
Did you fly all the way to Hawaii to only experience Aulani? Maybe you did, and if that’s the case, that’s ok! But most people tend to want to see some of the island while they’re there, and with so much to see and do, we highly recommend that route. You can book excursions through Disney Aulani if you want a Disney quality guide, however, these excursions are quite expensive and many of the activities don’t really warrant a guide. Again, its Hawaii; it’s still the U.S. You can explore on your own, you don’t have to worry about driving on the wrong side of the road, not being able to figure out the currency conversion and there’s no language barrier. So if you’re looking at the excursions offered at Aulani, just know that you can most likely find the same experiences outside of the resort for a cheaper price, and are actually sometimes even free.
Get the refillable mug
If you’re an avid Walt Disney World visitor, then you’re familiar with the resort refillable mugs. If you’re not, here’s how they work. You can buy the mug for $18.99 and use it for unlimited drink refills during your stay, for choices including vitamin water, coke products, coffee, tea and lots more. They do have water and ice machines as well, so if you’re more of a water only drinker, you can skip getting the mug and save a few bucks, but otherwise this is actually a pretty good deal.
To start with, the coffee for the refillable mugs is not just any coffee; its KONA COFFEE guys, and let me tell you, that stuff is not cheap. And for good reason too! I got an iced from the on site coffee bar one morning and it was $6.80 for an iced coffee the size of a grande from Starbucks. I love coffee, probably a little too much, but that’s a little steep, even for me. Sure, you’re on vacation, but if you’re also on a budget, I recommend getting the coffee from the refillable station, some ice from the machine and making your own iced coffee, or of course, enjoying it hot! It’s delicious either way and was honestly one of the things I most looked forward to every morning.
If you’re planning on getting most of your drinks from the resort and want to drink more than just free water, the refillable mug will definitely save you a chunk of change.
Don’t bring a car to Aulani
Unless you’re a DVC member, it will cost you $37 per day to park your car. While we do recommend having a car to explore more of the Island during your trip, we also recommend getting the most out of the resort while you’re there, since it’s pretty expensive in itself. So if you’re not staying anywhere else on the Island during your trip to Oahu, we recommend just renting a car on the days that you want to leave, rather than paying for it to sit in Aulani parking. Aulani actually has an Alamo rental on property so it’s pretty easy to rent a car and return it the same day and avoid paying for those parking fees. And who wants to pay a rental fee for a car that’s literally sitting in a parking lot?
We spent some time on the North Shore for part of our trip to experience the local flavor in Oahu, so we only rented a car while we were staying off the resort. While we were staying at Aulani, we made the most of everything the resort had to offer and really only left the resort to go across the street. You can also Uber to different parts of the island as well as take their bus system. Again, it’s really going to depend on how you’re planning to spend your time in Oahu and Aulani, so coming up with a plan beforehand can show you when you’re really going to need a vehicle and when you can skip it.
Bring your own snorkel gear
Hoping to snorkel in the lagoon at Aulani? Or anywhere else on the island? If snorkeling is something you’d like to do on this trip, we recommend bringing your own. Although Aulani does let you rent boogie boards and sand toys for free, they will charge you $20 per day to rent and you can easily find much more inexpensive options on Amazon.
Whether you use one of these strategies, a couple of them, or all of them, it’s definitely easy to make your Disney Aulani a little more affordable, while still having a great time. Have you stayed at Aulani? What tips have you used to save money? Let us know!!