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Hawaii is not just a romantic destination for couples; it can actually be an outstanding place for award travelers to vacation as a family. Honolulu is the most popular destination in Hawaii, but its visitors tend to be business, military or international travelers. After Honolulu, Maui is the most visited island in Hawaii for vacationers, and it makes an especially attractive destination for those who prefer to use their points and miles.
We recently returned from our second family vacation to Maui with our three kids ages nine, four and six months, and we had just as much fun as we did on our first trip there. In today’s post, I want to show you the best award travel options for family travel to Maui.
AWARD FLIGHTS TO MAUI
Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) is the second busiest in Hawaii, and there are six airlines that offer nonstop flights from the United States.
This carrier offers service to Maui from Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose and Seattle, and seasonal service from Anchorage, AK and Bellingham, WA. You can use as few as 20,000 Alaska MileagePlan miles to fly one-way in economy and 40,000 in first class.
Using Korean Air SkyPass miles for Alaska flights will cost you 30,000 miles round-trip in economy and 60,000 in first class. Using American miles, the same flights are 45,000 round-trip in economy and 80,000 in first class. You can also redeem British Airways Avios for Alaska-operated flights. Economy awards from the West Coast, including Alaska are just 12,500 Avios each way.
If you need to boost your Mileage Plan account, you could consider signing up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card (with a $75 annual fee), which is currently offering 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. You’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on Alaska purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else, plus you’ll get an annual companion fare from $121. You could also transfer Starpoints to Alaska and get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points you convert.
American offers service to Maui via Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), and Phoenix (PHX) for 40,000 round-trip in economy and 80,000 in first class. You can also redeem AA miles for flights operated by Alaska and inter-island flights on Hawaiian Airlines. Additionally, you can redeem Avios for American-operated flights; flights from LAX and Phoenix are just 12,500 Avios each way in economy. Finally, you can use Alaska miles to book American flights to Maui for 45,000 round-trip in economy and 95,000 in first class.
You have a few credit card options if you need to stock up on AAdvantage miles. There’s the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard (with a $99 annual fee that’s waived the first year), which is currently offering a bonus of 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You could also sign up for the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard (with a $450 annual fee), which is offering a bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. This card also comes with Admirals Club membership.
Delta offers service to Maui via Los Angeles, Seattle. And since it no longer publishes its award charts, you have to search to find out how many SkyMiles you’ll need. As with American, you can also redeem Delta miles for other carriers’ flights, including those operated by Alaska and inter-island flights on Hawaiian.
Using Korean Air SkyPass miles, you’ll need to redeem just 25,000 miles round-trip in economy and just 45,000 in first class, far less than you’ll find from Delta itself. I was able to find four award seats in Delta first class from Denver to Maui, which we booked for just 45,000 Korean miles per person round-trip. Korean Air includes Hawaii in the same region as the rest of North America — one of the best award chart sweet spots out there.
Not only were we able to transfer points from our Chase Ultimate Rewards account, but we also didn’t even have to do so until the week before the flight. This can provide a unique opportunity to reserve your award flight now for next year, with plenty of time to earn the Ultimate Rewards points before actually paying for your ticket just before departure. For example, you could earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points from the new Chase Sapphire Reserve Card after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
If you want to book a flight with SkyMiles, you could consider one of the following co-branded cards to help you earn enough miles for an award. The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (with a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year) is currently offering 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase with the card in the first three months. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is currently offering 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase with the card in the first three months. This card has a $195 annual fee. Finally, there’s the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express (with a $450 annual fee), which is offering 10,000 MQMs and 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months.
You can also use Alaska miles to book Delta flights to Maui for 45,000 miles round-trip in economy and 80,000 in first class.
Hawaiian offers service to Maui from Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle (as well as plenty of inter-island service). It offers awards starting at 40,000 miles round-trip in economy and 80,000 in first class. You can also redeem Korean Air SkyPass miles for Hawaiian flights for 30,000 miles round-trip in economy and 60,000 in first class.
If you want to use Korean SkyPass miles to book an award flight on Hawaiian, you could sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (with a $450 annual fee), which is currently offering 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. You could transfer these points to Korean Air to complete the award booking.
United offers nonstop service to Maui from Chicago-O’Hare, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it will cost you 45,000 MileagePlus miles round-trip in economy and 80,000 in first class.
You can stock up on United miles by signing up for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card (with a $95 annual fee), which is currently offering 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards earned from cards like the Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred over to United MileagePlus.
Virgin America flies nonstop to Maui from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Award prices vary based on the cost of the flight, with each mile being worth about 2 cents.
You can boost your Elevate points balance by transferring points from Starwood Preferred Guest or from American Express Membership Rewards (albeit at a less than ideal 2:1 ratio for the latter). You could also open the Virgin America Visa Signature Card (with a $49 annual fee), which is offering 10,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. There’s also the Virgin America Premium Visa Signature Card (with a $149 annual fee), which is offering 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
For other award travel options, read TPG’s post, Which Points Should I Use to Travel in the Hawaiian Islands? and my post on the Best Transfer Partners For Flights To Hawaii. And if you’re considering splurging on first class for transoceanic flights, be sure to read my post Comparing Premium Airline Service To Hawaii.
POINTS HOTELS IN MAUI
Award travelers have plenty of options when it comes to accommodation in Maui. I’ll run through some of the top choices in each of the major hotel loyalty programs below.
Cost in points: 70,000-95,000 Honors points per night, plus a $30 per night resort fee and $30 per day fee for valet parking with no self-parking options
Advantages: With its numerous pools and activities, this property in the Wailea beach area of Maui seems both very luxurious and very fun for families. Standard room options include two queen beds, which can work well if you’re traveling with kids.
Disadvantages: Despite the Hilton Honors program’s policy that “Reward Stays are not subject to blackout dates or capacity controls, except for Points & Money Rewards,” I was only able to find limited award availability, and only when searching several months out. If you really wanted to redeem points for a stay here, then you should call Hilton to see if an agent can force availability by requiring the property to comply with its program’s policy.
Cards to Consider: Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, Citi Prestige Card, Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
Hyatt Gold Passport
Cost in points: 20,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night, plus a $28 per night for valet parking or $18 per night for self parking
Advantages: We stayed at this hotel on Kaanapali beach and found it to be an incredible option for families, as rooms are available with two queen beds or a king bed and sofa bed. I would strongly consider upgrading to a Regency Club room for a total of 27,000 points a night, so you can access the outstanding food and service at the club. At 32,000 points per night, suite awards also offer decent value, especially as you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to the Hyatt Gold Passport program. And while this Hyatt has many great amenities for kids including water slides and a miniature zoo in the lobby, guests also have access to the pools at the new Hyatt Residence Club next door.
Disadvantages: The $32 per day resort fee is expensive, but this is sometimes waived for guests staying on points.
Cost in points: 25,000 points per night, plus a valet parking charge of $30 per night and a resort fee of $40 per night
Advantages: TPG found this to be a fantastic property, thanks to its modern facilities, beautiful location and ocean-facing multi-level pools.
Disadvantages: First, keep in mind How Andaz Maui Makes it Difficult to Redeem Points for Stays, as it applies minimum-stay requirements. But even if you were to find award space, rooms only have one bed, which means that all but the smallest families would need multiple rooms or a suite. Plus, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen visited the property earlier this year with his toddler and found lousy service, and his room barely fit a crib. And of course, having to pay $70 a night in total for parking and resort fees takes away much of the value of an award stay. Clearly, this resort caters to couples, while families would be better off spending their Hyatt points at the Hyatt Regency Maui.
Cards to Consider: Hyatt Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred
Cost in points: 35,000-40,000 points per night, plus a daily resort fee of $31 and a charge of $35 per night for valet parking or $25 per night for self-parking
Advantages: Standard rooms can include two queen beds, as well as a crib or rollaway, so this hotel has some of the more spacious accommodations for families.
Disadvantages: The property is currently undergoing renovations (set to be completed in December 2016), and the un-renovated areas could be dated. And while the property does have plenty of pools, the beach is a bit of a walk. Finally, the Marriott Rewards program imposes capacity controls on its awards, much like the airlines do with mileage awards, so don’t expect to find available award nights during peak travel periods.
Cost in points: 35,000-40,000 points per night, plus a self-parking fee of $20 per night
Advantages: This brand-new property just opened in September and features standard rooms with a king bed, sofa bed and a small kitchen, so you can save money while preparing some of your own meals rather than go out to eat every day. At $20 a night, parking is reasonable (for Maui), and there’s no resort fee!
Disadvantages: This property is not right on the beach, which is instead described as “minutes away.” And like at other Marriott properties, you may not be able to use your points, even when standard rooms are available.
Cost in points: 30,000-35,000 points per night, plus a self-parking fee of $10 per night
Advantages: The standard rooms have a king bed and a sofa bed, so they’re adequate for many families. It’s a short drive from the beach and features cheap parking and no resort fee. As an airport hotel, it has a free shuttle and would be ideal for families arriving late or departing early. Staying a night here is also a great way to save a day’s worth of rental car charges.
Disadvantages: This is not many people’s idea of a Hawaiian resort hotel, as it’s by the airport instead of the beach.
Cards to Consider: Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (the latter is an option now that you can transfer Starpoints to Marriott and Marriott points to SPG)
Cost in points: 50,000-60,000 points per night, plus a daily resort fee of $35 and a valet parking fee of $30 per night or $22 per night for self-parking
Advantages: This spectacular property is one of the 10 best Ritz properties for using the three free nights you’ll earn after meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. The basic guest rooms offer either one king bed or two queen beds, with a crib available upon request.
Disadvantages: This property seems to be a bit more focussed on couples than families, though there are some kids’ activities available for a fee. It’s also the furthest away from the airport of any of the properties mentioned in this article.
Cards to Consider: Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve
Starwood Preferred Guest
Cost in points: 20,000-25,000 points per night, plus a daily resort fee of $30 and parking fees of $10-12 per night
Advantages: The basic studio rooms feature a king bed and queen sized sofa bed, as well as a mini-kitchen that would be perfect for making breakfast. This room type even features a washer/dryer, so families can pack less and do laundry instead. This property’s located along an excellent beach, and it has a Westin Family Kid’s Club.
Disadvantages: This property is pricy both in terms of its award rates and the resort fee. There’s currently a notice of construction nearby (now through fall 2017), and standard rooms and award nights are often unavailable.
Cost in points: 20,000-25,000 points per night, plus a daily resort fee of $31 and a valet parking fee of $25 per night
Advantages: This hotel has a great beachside location, and self-parking is included as part of the daily resort charge.
Disadvantages: Standard rooms have just a king bed or two doubles, which is not great for families. Since awards at this property are the same price of the nearby Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas — where rooms include a kitchen and have a better layout for families — I can’t see any reason to choose this property instead.
Cost in points: 20,000-25,000 points per night, plus a daily resort fee of $25 and a valet parking fee of $30 per night or a self-parking fee of $20 per night
Advantages: This hotel is located on a great beach near Black Rock point, which has excellent snorkeling. When former TPG Assistant Editor Matthew Zuzolo visited the property, he liked the beachside location and laid-back vibe.
Disadvantages: Like at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, standard rooms have just a king bed or two doubles, which is not great for families. Since award nights cost the same number of Starpoints as at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas, families should consider staying there instead.
Cards to Consider: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card (the latter is an option now that you can transfer Marriott points to SPG)
FAMILY ACTIVITIES IN MAUI
My kids were more than happy to spend the day in the pool or on the beach, and my nine-year-old loved to snorkel off shore. But when it’s time to explore a little bit, here are a few activities I’d recommend for families:
- Visit Haleakalā National Park, a 10,000-foot dormant volcano.
- Cruise to Molokini, a crescent-shaped, submerged volcanic crater off the coast of Wailea Beach featuring great snorkeling.
- Snorkel at Black Rock, near the Sheraton Maui, which is just off the public beach that you access through the hotel.
- Tour the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm.
- Attend a luau. We went to the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, and everyone in the family loved it.
- Whale-watch in the “winter” season.
For our family, Maui has been the rare destination that we’ve continued to enjoy as much as the first time we visited. The island offers a perfect climate, great resort hotels and excellent air service from the mainland. If you can save up the points and miles necessary, a family vacation to Maui is one of the best ways to use your travel rewards.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
What are your favorite award travel tips for a family vacation in Maui?
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