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I canceled my family vacation to Hawaii — here's where we're going instead

Oct. 14, 2021
6 min read
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As we welcomed spring and the vaccine became available, I found myself feeling optimistic that my family (I have a toddler and a preschooler) would be able to travel again this year — I even had high hopes that my toddlers might be vaccinated by the end of the year.

So I, like a lot of other people, started booking trips. Certainly we’d be able to enjoy an international trip for my birthday in August and Hawaii for New Year's, right?

Wrong.

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We ended up canceling both of those trips — one just a couple of weeks before we were supposed to leave and the other months in advance.

But I haven’t given up hope for a family vacation in 2021. Here’s where we’re going instead.

Related: Is it time to cancel your next family vacation?

(Photo by ArtMarie/Getty Images)

Where we were going

Although my kids did great wearing their masks on our flights from San Francisco (SFO) to New Orleans (MSY) in May, the more contagious delta variant had me more worried about the health of my unvaccinated children. By the beginning of the summer, we knew that the vaccine likely wouldn’t be available for their age group before 2022 and COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing. We decided to cancel our much-anticipated Mexico vacation at the last minute and look forward to Hawaii for a beach vacation this year instead.

Related: Some people are delaying travel plans over delta variant fears, according to study

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However, not even a month later, I began to read that Hawaiian locals and government officials were urging visitors not to come to the islands — both because of COVID-19 and bad timing for the tourism industry. Though we consider ourselves independent and highly responsible travelers, we felt it disrespectful to visit under these conditions. So we canceled our end-of-the-year trip to Kauai as well.

Two vacations were canceled in the span of a few weeks. Considering my unvaccinated toddlers' health is top of mind and that cases were rising everywhere we looked, I knew that my options were limited. Traveling internationally isn’t an option right now because of lack of vaccination availability for the kids, and also because I don’t want my 2- and 3-year-olds to have to get a COVID-19 test if we can help it, and it's a requirement to reenter the U.S. from abroad.

The only destination that I feel comfortable traveling to with my family right now is right here at home.

Where we’re going instead ... hopefully

We’re choosing to stay closer to home for a few reasons: California has beautiful — albeit not as warm — beaches, great weather and the lowest rates of COVID-19 transmission in the country (at the time of this article).

We’ll — hopefully — spend a few blissful days after Christmas and over New Year's at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California. The nonstop 90-minute flight from our home airport in the Bay Area to Orange County feels manageable for my young family and we’ll rent a car to ensure that we can further maintain social distancing.

A bridge on Highway 101 along the beach in Del Mar, California, located just north of San Diego. (Photo by Art Wager/Getty Images)

I’m looking forward to both the beach and the resort, which appears to be welcoming to kids and families — something I look for when traveling with my toddlers. We’ll plan to visit the Ocean Institute for a marine life tour and spend a lot of time at the beach. Disneyland and Legoland are less than an hour away, although we’re still not sure if we’re ready for that with a 2- and 3-year-old quite yet.

Related: 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with toddlers and preschoolers

Protecting our trip

Despite my best efforts, it’s still possible that this trip won’t happen. We have no idea what will happen between now and the end of the year and that’s why we booked our hotel and airfare the way we did, despite not getting travel insurance this time.

The Waldorf Astoria is part of the Hilton portfolio of hotels, but I don’t have Hilton Honors points or transferable points that I’d be willing to spend at Hilton. Instead, I paid cash for a flexible rate that will allow us to cancel our reservation up to three days before arrival — so we’ll have plenty of time between now and then to change our plans. And though I’m not a Hilton loyalist, I’ll still earn Honors points for my stay.

We used Southwest Rapid Rewards to book nonstop flights from the Bay Area to Orange County on Southwest Airlines for added flexibility in case we need to cancel our flights. Southwest never charges a change or cancellation fee. It doesn’t hurt that we’re also traveling during the holiday season and we’re able to save money by using miles to pay for this part of our trip.

(Photo by Alistair Berg/Getty Images)

Because of the flexible hotel rate and airline tickets purchased with miles, I won’t purchase additional travel insurance for this trip. But if we were traveling internationally or had paid cash for nonrefundable accommodations, I would further protect my investment with travel insurance outside of my credit card coverage.

Related: TPG’s comprehensive guide to independent travel insurance — including coronavirus coverage

Bottom line

It’s difficult to plan future travel when the status of COVID-19 transmissions, variants and vaccine availability continues to be so uncertain.

My family has canceled two vacations so far this year but we’re planning for one final trip this year a little closer to home. Instead of celebrating the new year in Kauai we will spend a few days at a Southern California beach resort, which is just the escape we’re looking for — hopefully.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees