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

Oct 14, 2021

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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?

Dad and son wearing masks and looking out of an airport window.
(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

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 photo by Alija/Getty Images.

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