First, The Constraints
I am a single parent of a 9 year old little boy (he turned 9 during the trip, which was his present), and while we manage to travel every summer, our budget is seriously constrained by many factors: 1) I am in academia/education (we don’t make a lot), 2) there is only my income (I am not divorced, his father passed away, without leaving anything behind), 3) I pay a mortgage and a car note, and 4) he is in private school. So basically, if we go outside the continental 48, plane tickets get paid for out of my tax check, and we save for lodging, car rental, and spending money throughout the year in the same way they did in the movie “Up.” If we can’t go somewhere for at least 2 weeks, it is not worth it to us. But based on what I was able to put aside for the last 11 months, we were constrained to an average of 85 bucks a night for lodging (before taxes), or we could not have made two weeks work. Our budget is our budget, as defined by reality, as opposed to choice, and there is no wiggle room. I am not trying to be cheap. I would prefer to have a much bigger budget than I do. Sadly, I have to work miracles with what we have. Actually, not sadly, because that we had that to work with was already fortunate. We had way less last summer.
Our main interest is archaeology – if that’s not there, we don’t go, because the bucket list just with that is incredibly long. This year, my son got to pick between The Big Island (cheaper tickets/expensive accommodation), and Peru (more expensive tickets/lots of cheap, safe accommodation). Both places met the archaeology requirement – the Volcano became the deciding factor. Peru doesn’t have Kilauea.
III. Lodging Preferences:
We live in an overcrowded, dirty, extremely hot and dry city that is going through a drought. I wanted to stay in places that were lush, green, and rural, had a higher probability of rain and wind, without too many people around. Given this, resorts, hotels, and condo complexes were all out automatically, pricing aside, simply because lots of people stay there – I just would not have felt able to relax. So we were looking at either a) Bed and Breakfasts (talking to people at breakfast is fine, but no matter how cleverly and beautifully designed they are, or how private they are made to appear architecturally, condo complexes/subdivisions make me feel like I’m living in a hive, even though the unit itself is private), or b) vacation rentals that were not part of a complex (Airbnb preferred over VRBO) - with TWO beds (we could have shared a bed if necessary, but he tends to kick people in the ribs in the night). My preferences are certainly not everyone’s, and other preferences are certainly valid, but this is what I needed in order to be able to enjoy my vacation.
Was this possible? Happily, yes, it was! We were able to see and do a nice chunk of what we wanted (not everything, though), and find SAFE accommodations that were both within our budget and fulfilled all my housing preferences. I am sure there are travelers whose financial constraints are worse than ours, and that even more of a shoestring is possible, but for those folks with resources and commitments similar to ours, and for single parents, and for folks who might share some of our interests, I thought a trip report might be useful. It is very long, so I will post it in three chunks: Volcano & the East Side, Captain Cook, and Hawi (our three bases), and will post each chunk in the relevant specific forum also.
Thanks to the folks on TripAdvisor who gave me some good tips, public and private, as well as to my Hawaiian friend from college, and to former University of Hawaii Hilo faculty (who are now in L.A. - particularly for their advice on hiking in HVNP with nine year old boys, and snorkeling with nervous children). I was lucky to have been able to bounce information from many perspectives off many minds.