6 Ways to Save at Disney's Aulani Resort

6 Ways to Save at Disney's Aulani Resort
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We've talked about how to save big at Disney World in the past, but what about Aulani in Hawaii? Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa is a 21-acre oceanfront destination on the island of Oahu. I'm a bonafide Disney nerd, and have visited (almost) all of their properties around the world. When I began planning my trip to Aulani, I wanted to maximize my savings, as I know how expensive Disney can get. Here are my tips for saving money at Aulani.

How to save money at Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa:

aulani

Paying for flights out of pocket.

Even for those flying from the West Coast, Hawaii is a jaunt. The shortest flight time from the mainland United States is four hours and 40 minutes, but it's still possible to find good deals, even if you're paying out of pocket. If you want to save on your flight to the island paradise, we frequently post Hawaii fare sales on our Travel page. They're frequently on Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin America, and Hawaiian is currently having a $409 round trip sale from Oakland, for example.

Using a co-branded credit card with your preferred airline is not a bad idea, considering most feature benefits like free bags and preferred boarding. The United MileagePlus Explorer Card is one of those cards, and currently has a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months after you open your account. United is a good choice for travelers across the U.S., as they have direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Newark, New Jersey.

Using miles to fly to Hawaii.

sunset hawaii

Using miles to fly Hawaii can mean some serious savings, but some programs are better than others. Here are our picks, ranked:

Airline Program Economy Cost R/T  First Class Cost R/T
1. Korean Air
25,000 Miles
45,000 Miles
2. British Airways
25,000 Miles
75,000 Miles
3. Singapore
35,000 Miles
60,000 Miles

You may be wondering why Korean Air is our first choice. Korean Air is a part of SkyTeam, which partners with Delta, and you can use Korean Air miles on Delta award flights, as long as you can find Saver Award availability. This is easily done by searching Delta.com for saver award flights, and getting Korean Air miles is also surprisingly easy. They are a transfer partner of Chase's Ultimate Rewards program, and they transfer at a 1:1 ratio. That means your sign up bonus from a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred card can net you you two round trips in economy, for free. This will work for any flights from the Continental U.S. to Honolulu.

British Airways is a bit trickier, and I can really only recommend this method for those of you on the West Coast. Since British Airways' program is distance-based, the West Coast is in a sweet-spot for reward redemptions, at only 25,000 miles round trip. An even cooler aspect of British Airways' program is that they partner with both American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. With their program, you have quite a few airlines to pick for a flight to Honolulu. Keep in mind, while you can search for American award availability on British Airways, you'll need to search for Alaska availability on AlaskaAir.com, and then call in to book flights at 1-800-247-9297. British Airways has its own credit card, which also allows point transfers to/from Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, plus they're an Amex and SPG Membership Rewards transfer partner.

Finally, Singapore Air is the best airline for booking United flights to Honolulu, at only 35,000 miles round trip in economy, and 60,000 miles round trip in first class. This is a significant savings over United's own award chart, which charges 45,000 miles round trip for economy, and over 80,000 round trip for first. Singapore Airlines is also a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, Amex's Membership Rewards program, and Starwood Preferred Guest's SPG program.

Transportation to the resort.

aulani-family-by-shopping-shuttle

When it comes to booking transportation to Aulani, you'll need to account for how long you're staying. Parking rates are a sky-high $37 per night, for either valet or self-parking. If you're staying for only a few days, it may make sense cost-wise to rent a car, especially considering all the activities off-resort that you can participate in. We recommend Expedia for all car rental searches, but if you don't mind what kind of car you get, Hotwire might save your family the most.

There may be a promotion for free transportation, depending on the time of year of your vacation. Disney is still very dependent on travel agents selling vacations, and currently, there are offers out there for free round-trip transportation from the airport to Aulani, plus a free one-day mid size car rental from Alamo, when you book a stay of four nights or longer at Aulani between April 13 and June 12, 2017. These kinds of deals are rarely available at peak times.

Booking the resort stay.

ulani-pool-area-couple-in-whirlpool-by-beach

There are also special offers available, and we recommend checking MouseSavers.com for current offers. Lately, we've been seeing 30% off five nights or more, or 30% off plus a free character breakfast, if you book with your Disney Visa card.

If you're already enthralled with Disney, you can also get Annual Passholder discounts throughout the year, which are definitely worth it if you make more than one Disney-related trip annually.

Finally, the biggest secret to saving money on your resort stay is renting DVC points. DVC is Disney's timeshare arm, and members are allowed to rent their unused points to non-members. I recommend David's Vacation Club rentals. Using this method, you can score larger rooms for your family, usually at a lower rate than what the resort is charging. These rooms often include kitchens, which can further increase your savings on food at the resort.

If you do book direct, remember to use the appropriate credit card! A Disney Visa card is less rewarding than a flexible earning card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.

Eating and drinking while on the property.

aulani-amaama-dining-beachview-hero-g

Aulani is, in a word, expensive. You can research menus online at AllEars.Net to see if eating on property is worth it to you. Luckily, Aulani is steps away from a shopping village, that has a number of more affordable options. Also, if you've booked in a room with a kitchen, there's a small grocery store walking distance away. For those of you renting a car, the island does have a Costco that may help larger families save, and I was actually able to nab a killer deal for lunch at the Four Seasons next door on Travelzoo, so check there before you shell out ALL the money for food at Aulani. We spent $89 on $160 worth of food and drinks, and ate the best poke bowls we've ever had sitting by the beach.

Saving on activities.

Aulani

One nice thing I'll say about the price at Aulani is that many things are included. There's no resort fee and their massive pool complex with a giant lazy river, two water slides, and other pools scattered about, is free. So is their high-tech scavenger hunt, which has you use an iPad to search for the mysterious "Menehune," and gave me a few solid hours of entertainment. There are number of dry activities included in your stay as well, like ukulele classes and nighttime movies. However, paddle boarding and other water sport rentals come at an extra cost.

One money-saving activity I took advantage of was participating in a short timeshare presentation for a $50 resort credit. This was Disney, after all, so the sales pitch was much more relaxed and very low-pressure compared to others I've participated in. The resort essentially sells itself, you either like it or you don't! I was happy to knock $50 off my bill for a short tour and some free coffee and snacks.

Conclusion

disney aulani

Overall, you'll know quickly whether Aulani is right for you. I will say, the quality of the grounds and resort is amazing, and for some, it may be worth the price. Hopefully, this guide will help your family save money in the future when visiting Aulani.

For a more general breakdown on how to save in Hawaii, and what to expect if you're moving there, be sure to check out this article!

Have you been to Disney's Aulani? Let us know your thoughts on the resort in the comments!

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