Hawaii on a Budget: Maximizing Rewards for an Amazing Trip

I am a budget traveler. But, I take amazing trips.

I do this not by cutting coupons, or signing up for group tours, or by attending time share tours in order to score freebies. I will admit, I have listened to more than my fair share of time share offers though.

No, I take amazing trip do by maximizing rewards programs that are offered by hotels, airlines and credit card companies. In addition, I earn additional money through apps and hacks that allow me to put more money into my hands, which I then use for my amazing trips.

And, you can do all of this yourself!

There is no secret handshake going on. No buying of club membership. No, all of this is everyday information, and I share all this information with my Average Joe friends, so you can do the same!

Here is my detailed breakout on which rewards programs and apps I used to take my fiancée on an amazing Hawaii adventure, while having just $4.00 in my savings account and bit more than that, in my checking account.

Seriously, the day we flew, I had $4.00 in my savings account. But, let’s not worry about that now.

A walk along the beach…


Hotel – I have accumulated a large bank of Marriott Hotel Points for some recent business travel. Marriott is my go to business hotel. And, I build my points by concentrating all of my stays with them. Within the Marriott Rewards program is the Marriott Rewards Plus Hotel + Air Package redemption option. Here you can use points and redeem them for a combined hotel and air travel package deal. These vacation packages are a great way to save points by combining both a hotel stay along with air travel.

Using this option, I was able to get a 7 night stay (hotel of my choice) along with 125,000 Delta Airline miles by cashing in my existing hotel points.

For this trip, we decided to stay at the Wailea Beach Resort, Marriott, Maui.

Hotel Room – Free, using Marriott Rewards Plus Hotel + Air Package; a cash savings of $4,136.00.

Now, one of the issues with staying at a resort destination, is it is not uncommon for the resort(s) to slip in additional resort fees. At the Wailea Beach Resort we were charged an additional rate of $35.00 per day in resort fees.

Resort Fees – $35.00 per day x 7 days = $245.00. I charged these fees to my room and would deal with this expense later.

The hotel welcomes you.


Flights – I opted to go with Delta for our flight to Hawaii. I normally fly Delta and always have a nice bank of miles with them, plus I had just added in the 125,000 Delta miles from the Points Saver deal. Now, when I scanned all of my flight options, I did not have enough Delta points for this flight.

However, the Delta American Express Gold Card offers a feature where you can pay down your flight with points during checkout. For every 1,000 points, you can have a $50.00 deduction on your flight bill. This option would cover all of my costs for one Premier ticket. On occasion, this option can be better than exchanging points for tickets and in this specific case it was.

Well, here I screwed up. Big time.

During checkout on my computer, I did not check this option. I got distracted, I was watching TV, while talking to Ms. Joe, while listening to music, and I literally overlooked checking this option (it requires that you check the box to pay with points). A minute later, I was just charged $3,400.00 for our flights.

Panic set in. This was not the plan, and I did not have the cash to suddenly pay off this bill.

I took a few minutes to collect my thoughts. I would have almost a year to pay down the flights to Hawaii and the points boost to my Delta frequent flier account was actually enough to pay for an upcoming flight for the kids to go to Disney World. So, I just sucked this mistake up.

Cost in Delta Premier Seats, $3,400.00.


Average Joe just screwed up the flights!


Rental Car – Hertz is my go to rental Car Company. I had accumulated enough points for a rental, and opted for a convertible car in Hawaii (wiping out my Hertz points bank). With points, the only thing I have to pay for is taxes out of pocket.

But, hey cruising Maui in a convertible? I would be letting out my inner Magnum P.I.

Car Rental – Free using points; a savings of $881.81.

Taxes out of pocket, $60.00. I would just have to absorb this costs.



Maui Island

So far, getting me and Angie to Hawaii (and back) hotel and car rental, I was out about $3,500.00. This is a fixed cost I would l have to absorb. I was over my original budget because of my airline mistake, so, I had to pay more attention going forward to expenses. Here is what I did to further reduce the dollars coming out of MY Average Joe pocket.


Breakfast is the one meal I can skip. A glass of tea and bagel and I am a happy traveler. The Wailea Beach Resort has a Starbucks on site and I decided this would be my go to spot for morning coffee.

For Platinum members, the hotel gives you a free Starbucks continental breakfast; fruit, coffee, danish. We were happy campers with that!

Cash out of pocket, $0.00



For our lunches, we wanted to explore the island, find the food trucks, and just sample some really unique locally sourced meals. In doing so, often these local joints are not part of a rewards program, nor do they take gift cards. In this situation, I needed to default to cold hard cash or credit.

My favorite was the grocery store within walking distance of the resort; Island Gourmet Markets. They have a bounty of freshly prepared meals and I was extremely happy with each. You can eat well here for under $10.00 per person.

Sushi burrito. The bomb!



Dinner to me is a special time. I want amazing dinners. I like the best and I will go out of my way to find it. But, how do I do that on a budget trip? I let others pay for it!

Let me first give you my recommendations and thoughts and then how I paid for my expenses-

Te Au Moana Luau at the MarriottThe resorts signature luau, I paid for this using my Chase Freedom Credit Card. Now, I went for the upgraded premium seating package here and the tickets cost about $300.00. Chase Freedom credit card offers me 1% cash back on all purchases and I did a lot of organic and manufactured spending on this card to generate enough cash back to offset the Luau tickets. I redeemed this option and the tickets were paid for!

Luau tickets, a savings of $300.00.

A wonderful show and a great time!

Ruth Chris SteakhouseWithin walking distance of the resort is a Ruth Chris Steakhouse. Ms. Joe had never been to a Ruth Chris before and I sought to remedy that issue. I traded in $150.00 of Mobee rewards for $150.00 of Gift cards to be applied to our meal. Be forewarned, if eating here, make a reservation early. A wonderful meal!

Ruth Chris dinner, a savings of $150.00.


Humble Kitchen – The resort’s signature restaurant is the Humble Kitchen, run by Roy Yamaguchi, and it is excellent!

Guess what we did, we charged the expenses to our room.

Normally, for dinner we went on an appetizer spree. The Humble Kitchen does a great happy hour, and after a day of exploring, we just sat and had drinks, appetizers and chatted with the bartenders.

Humble Kitchen brunch; fried crab cakes and eggs!

Mandarin Spa

The Mandarin Spa is the hotel’s signature spa. I signed us up for an 80 minute couples massage. 80 minutes of bliss while beautiful people rubbed us down with oils. It was heaven. This massage costs $440.00 along with a 20% gratuity. I charged this to our room and I would pay for this later using points.

Instant Points Redemption(s)

Marriott has an Instant Points Redemption program for its reward members. This perk allows a Rewards Member, like myself, to redeem points on site and use those points to pay for your incurred expenses such as; spa expenses, food and drink, and any other extracurricular activities that you can bill back to your room. You simply go the front desk, request to use the Instant Points Redemption and advise them how many you want to cash in.

Remember all of those charges I began accumulating to my room. Well, now this was how I was going to deal with them.

As a heads up, the first night I alerted the front desk clerk that I would be redeeming points to cover ALL of my expenses. She looked at me and smiled, “Sir, we don’t do that.”

This response no longer surprises me. It is incorrect. My learned response now is to wait and find the longest employed day shift person and again ask about redeeming points. The next morning, employing this strategy I approached the lovely day shift clerk who advised, “no problem at all.”

It seems that often times, newer employees may not be aware of this perk, sometimes, you have to ask more than one person.

My hotel bill was almost $3,000.00. I redeemed enough points to cover the bill so the only cash out of my pocket was about $80.00.

I was happy with that!

Submerged Maui- a high tech escape room and an absolute blast! On site at the hotel!

Redeeming Apps

If you follow Average Joe Arbitrage either on Facebook, Instagram or Webtalk, you know I am always preaching money making apps. While arbitrage is used for the big scores, apps are the bread and butter of the Average Joes and are great for steady supply of monthly income and a way of saving money.

I don’t make much when I do my Mobee shops, my surveys, my couponing, or any of the other numerous things I do to make money. But, what I do, is I do lots of Mobee shops, lots of surveys, and I do lots of couponing. By doing as much of this as I can, this is what empowers me to take my trips and provide much needed cash for my adventures.

Here is a breakdown of which apps were used for this specific trip:

Mobee – With my secret shopping I did for Mobee, I earned over $800.00 in one year, however, for tax purposes, I drew down only $250.00 of the $800.00 in my account.           

Ibotta – Using my instant rebates from Ibotta, I earned over $500.00. I redeemed this and had it placed into my Paypal account.

DOSH – I withdrew $43.00 from this account.

Survey’s – All those $.50 cent surveys added up, I withdrew $80.00.

Bank of America Cash Rewards – I did a lot of organic spending on this card, and earned $188.00 in cash rewards. I redeemed these for walking around cash.

While on Maui, I did Job Spotters and a Mobee shop to earn money while vacationing!

In Summary

We had an amazing Hawaii trip! Maui exceeded all my expectations!

I share these trip reports with you to demonstrate the techniques and the strategies that I use to enable me to take these amazing trips. Honestly, I want everyone to have these adventures; to live a more rewarding life; and to experience life as it was meant to be.

Follow me on Facebook, Webtalk and Instagram and the other social media platforms. I will always alert you to the deals and scores I find and will continue to share with you the things I do to live a more exciting life.

And, I want to hear from YOU! Tell me about your scores and amazing trips! And, if you have an app that I should know about, please let me know so I can give you referral fee!

Shaved ice is the best!