Monday, December 31, 2012

Mommy Needs A Vacation: Waikiki Edition

I know it's been a while...but as I'm wrapping things up at the end of the year I figured better late than never, right?

Back in November as part of my Island Hopper trip, I did a 1 night stopover in Honolulu. The Island Hopper is the first flight of the day and leaves HNL around 5:30 am, meaning you have to be on the island of Oahu the night before. I figured instead of going over to Hawaii late and staying near (or worse, in) the airport, I'd take an earlier flight from the mainland so I could spend some time on the beach at Waikiki.

The day before my island hopper flight I left SMF for LAX at around 6am. The first thing I saw when I arrived in Los Angeles was that my scheduled flight to Honolulu was delayed several hours- there went my beach time. I was scheduled to arrive a little after noon, but with the delay we were looking at more like 3 or 4pm. Right above where my flight was listed on the monitors, I noticed that there was another flight (not quite a legal connection) to Honolulu that was currently boarding. Not wanting to spend the majority of my short Hawaiian vacation waiting the Los Angeles airport, I ran from Terminal 8 to Terminal 6  in record time to see if I could go standby. One of the things I love about my status with United, is that they let you go same day standby for free. I gave up my confirmed upgrade on the later flight, but come on...United domestic first and who knows how long of a layover at LAX vs. spending more time on a beach in Hawaii...it was an easy choice.

I got an exit row window seat, and to be honest, I was just as comfortable there as I would have been up front. With plans to rent a car in Honolulu I wasn't really missing out on the free first class booze either. The lady next to me was a recently-retired United flight attendant and we had a very interesting conversation during the flight. She was traveling with her husband and two other people, for free, to Hawaii. They had originally wanted to go to Sydney, but because they didn't get upgraded (for free), they decided they'd rather just go to Hawaii for the week. They seemed pretty disappointed about it. Life as a non-rev must be tough.

I didn't immediately disclose what I was doing there, especially the part about spending the next 3 days on a plane to earn benefits they got for free, but then my cover story of flying to Honolulu just to go surfing for the afternoon didn't really hold up either. As soon as I revealed that the greater purpose of the trip was to do the United Island Hopper, out came the route map, and the planning started. They wanted to come along!
I didn't end up seeing them bright and early the next morning, but the whole discussion made for a very interesting flight to Honolulu. It's amazing the things we do in order to pursue our love of travel. Here I was spending 4 days on an airplane to help fund my next big trip, and sitting next to me is a lady who spent more than 25 years working a job she "definitely didn't miss" so she could travel the world for free. I was curious and had to ask; it turns out after all those years, she never got sick of flying.

My standby flight got me to Honolulu just before noon. I'd used 12,500 Starwood points for a free night at the Sheraton Waikiki. The going rate when I checked was around $300 a night. While it was a decent property, I would have felt incredibly ripped off had I actually shelled out that amount in cash to stay there. I had a small city-facing room with a peek-a-boo view of the ocean. It was clean and newly renovated, but the low ceilings and tiny floor plan made it very blatantly obvious how old that place is and there's no way worth it's worth what they charge to stay there in my opinion. The location couldn't be beat and it worked out fine for just one night. I didn't spend much time in the room, anyway.

World Famous Waikiki Beach
After I checked in, I was on the beach by about 1:30. I had arranged to rent a stand-up paddle board through the hotel's activity booth so that I could put it on my husband's brand new SPG AMEX card and earn 5x's Starpoints. I also used the card to pay for their mandatory $25 resort fee (which took care of my parking) and then treated myself to a Longboard and some snacks later on at one of the on-property bars. Thanks honey!

Catching a wave at Waikiki has always been a bucket list item, and one I can say I proudly crossed off. The waves that day were a little small and a bit crowded, but I still managed to catch quite a few on them. After about 2 hours of playing hard in the water, I left the beach absolutely exhausted, but with a killer tan and a big smile on my face. I couldn't imagine anywhere else I'd rather be or anything else I'd rather being doing on some random day in early November.

Next stop after the beach was the Sheraton Waikiki's infinity pool- that too was a bucket list item and honestly the only reason I chose to stay at the Sheraton. It's almost as nice as they make it look in all the pictures (although its a bit smaller in real person). The $25 resort fee included use of their floating beanbag chairs, which I have to admit were kind of amazing! I'd never seen or even imagined such a thing before, but bobbing around in one for a few hours was fabulous and quite relaxing. I briefly left the pool long enough to clean up and get myself some dinner, and then went back for more after the sun set. It's hard to get enough of an infinity pool with a view.

The Sheraton Waikiki infinity pool

So this was the first time I was away from my baby overnight that didn't involve me sleeping on an aircraft. I think every new mom needs a little vacation every now and then, and I was fully enjoying mine until a cute family snuck their baby into the adult-only infinity pool after hours. Seeing their little guy splash and giggle in the water reminded me of my own little guy that I had managed to escape, and then I started to actually miss him! For months I'd dreamed about this trip, about getting away and much needed mommy play time, but then there I was, wishing he was with me. I guess that's just how it works- as soon as you cross something off the bucket list, something else gets added and I will definitely be taking the whole family back to Waikiki to catch a wave and watch a sunset.




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