How to Save Money Booking a Trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort
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Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is on the bucket list of many families, but this premium Hawaiian resort doesn’t come cheap. Rates for the most basic of rooms often start at more than $500 a night during peak season. When you consider that most families also need flights from the mainland to Hawaii, the price of an Aulani vacation can add up quickly.
Luckily, there are a number of tricks to saving a lot of money on an Aulani vacation. My family has traveled to Aulani on three different occasions from our home in Northern California, and we have found new ways to save meaningful amounts of cash every time.
Here are my best tips for getting discounts on a major piece of an Aulani vacation — the room — with a few bonus tips for saving money on everything else. (Of course, be sure not to miss TPG‘s guide to using miles and points to fly to Hawaii to save on the airfare portion of your trip.)
Tips for Saving Money on Rooms at Aulani
Watch for Disney Sales and Discounts
Don’t assume because you are traveling during high season that you doomed to pay full price at Aulani. Just like at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Aulani will sometimes run promotions and sales that can add up to major savings off the standard room rates. The key to finding these deals is booking early, traveling slightly off-season if you can to amplify the savings, and being flexible on room type.
My family happened to score a 30%-off deal directly from Disney for our most recent visit this spring, even on a peak spring-break travel week. The resort is currently offering a similar special for fall 2019 dates: 30% off stays of five or more nights and 25% off stays of four nights. Because some of the hotel’s pools will be under renovation in the fall, Disney is also offering a $50 daily room credit during much of the same period.
Rent DVC Points
For even bigger savings than sale rates, consider renting Disney Vacation Club points for a stay at Aulani. This is the key to massive savings. DVC is Disney’s answer to the timeshare, and DVC owners can often rent out their unused points to other vacationers at a discount. More than half of the rooms at Aulani are DVC units, all of which offer villa accommodations that give you more space while you save money.
My family has rented DVC for one of our trips to Aulani. We rented directly from an owner, which is the cheapest option. If you don’t know an owner with points to spare, a third-party broker like David’s Vacation Club Rentals or DVC Rental Store can be reliable. (Here is TPG‘s experience renting from David’s. Spoiler alert: It went well.)
Rent Disney Vacation Club points from David’s Vacation Club Rentals to save up to 50% on Aulani.
Here’s some quick math: If you rent from David’s at $18 per point (it’s $17 per point if you rent closer-in, but at Aulani it’s a good idea to rent the full 11 months out at the slightly higher rate). At that rate, you’ll pay as low as $288 on the lowest peak nights at Aulani ($18 times 16 points per night).
Guest who rent DVC points also get the additional benefit of free parking at Aulani (normally $37 per day), which can save quite a bit of money if you plan to rent a car on your vacation.
DVC room availability at Aulani is OK during slower parts of the year, but it’s incredibly difficult to find during peak Hawaii family-vacation periods — especially Thanksgiving week, Christmas, New Year’s and summer break. Studio villas are usually in the greatest demand, so if you’re looking for a one-bedroom or two-bedroom villa, you may have more luck than the smallest, least expensive rooms. You’ll find the best availability when the booking windows open for DVC owners at 11 months in advance for owners who call Aulani their home resort (seven months in advance for all other DVC members).
Credit Card Savings
Another way to save money at Aulani is by maximizing credit card perks and bonuses associated with hotel bookings.
One of the best options can be to book an Aulani vacation on Hotels.com, provided you have the right credit card. Booking a room via Hotels.com venture and paying with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card earns 10x miles through Jan. 31, 2020.
Interestingly, I priced out rooms for multiple dates in fall 2019 and noticed that Hotels.com regularly offered room rates that were $15 to $20 per night cheaper than the rates listed on Aulani’s website, particularly for shorter stays. Compare identical stays in a standard room from Oct. 15 to Oct. 17, 2019, below. Disney’s rate is $514 a night pretax, but Hotels.com quoted $496 pretax.
Many direct-from-Disney longer-stay discounts were also available on Hotels.com, so you won’t lose out on those savings by not booking direct.
Citi Prestige cardholders can also save at Aulani by using the card’s fourth-night-free benefit. I promise you are going to want to stay at least that long at Aulani to experience all the resort has to offer. Just remember that this card’s fourth-night-free benefit is about to become more limited starting September 2019. Be sure to make any bookings with it before that date, if possible. Remember also that booking through the Citi portal means you often miss out on other available discounts, so compare prices carefully or use the concierge booking option while it remains available.
You can also pay for Aulani stays with flexible points from credit cards such as the Capital One Venture Rewards by booking directly and then using some of your points to offset the charge. Those with the Citi Premier can even use their Citi ThankYou points at a value of 1.25 cents each via the Citi Travel booking site to book rooms at Aulani. With the current 60,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months, that makes for $750 in covered Aulani hotel booking expenses!
Here’s the link to apply now for the Citi Premier Card with a 60,000-point bonus worth $750+ in travel.
Pay With Discounted Disney Gift Cards
One strategy that can be used at Aulani or any of Disney’s theme parks is buying discounted Disney gift cards to pay your balance. This may not be worth it to everyone, but if you’re trying to squeeze every last penny out of your budget, it can help stretch your dollars.
Specialty Discounts: Annual Pass, Military and More
While not available to everyone, many guests may find a specialty discount for their family at Aulani. If you happen to be an annual pass holder at any Disney park around the world, for example, discounts of up to 35% may be available to you during certain times of the year.
Members of the military can also regularly take advantage of discounts at Aulani, some of which have historically been as high as 40%, depending on the season.
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to call Hawaii home, Aulani offers Kama’aina rates to state residents who want to take their staycations at Aulani.
Always check out the Aulani special-offers page before you book to investigate some of these more niche discounts.
Tips for Saving Money While You’re at Aulani
While saving money on your hotel booking is a major part of keeping Aulani vacation costs out of the stratosphere, there are a number of other ways to stay within a budget. A few other tips and tricks we have taken advantage of over the years follow.
Maximize the Many Free Activities
Unlike at Disney World and Disneyland, where park tickets are a major part of the budget equation, most of the activities and entertainment at Aulani are free … er, included. Once you’ve paid for a room there, you can enjoy the many pools, lazy river, waterslides, splash pads, character meet-and-greets, drawing classes and more for no extra fee. Aulani also has free sand toys and boogie boards on the beach to borrow, all included with no resort fee.
My favorite freebie — hands down — is Aulani’s kids club, Aunty’s Beach House. This drop-off center is usually available from 9:30am to 9pm daily for kids ages 3 to 12, and is included in the cost of your room. Our kids had so much fun that they begged us daily to be dropped off, allowing my husband and me to enjoy kid-free pool time and date nights on our trips.
Buy Groceries and Eat a Few Meals in Your Room
The biggest expenditure most families have on site is dining. It’s very possible, however, to save money by eating a few meals in your hotel room. All hotel rooms at Aulani include a minifridge, so you can easily store a few breakfast items or snacks.
If you’ve rented a DVC villa, it’s even easier to eat in your room. One-, two- and three-bedroom villas have full kitchens where the cooking possibilities are endless. Even studio villas have larger-than-dorm-room-size (but not full-size) fridges with small freezer compartments, along with toasters and microwaves.
Where can you get groceries? A few essentials are available in Aulani’s gift shop and Kālepa’s Store, and many are actually remarkably fairly priced. For more selection and even cheaper prices, walk from Aulani to Island Country Markets in the shopping center across the street. For a larger delivery (especially if you plan to order heavy items like bottled water or soda), place an order through Instacart, Amazon Prime Now or other grocery delivery services.
Attend a DVC Sales Presentation
My husband and I have definitely been tempted by the notion of buying into Disney Vacation Club as members. On our last trip, we decided to attend one of the DVC sales presentations to investigate the offerings. We were pleasantly surprised to be offered a $150 Disney gift card for our time. On Mommy Points’ recent visit, two luau tickets were available for those who attended the presentation.
We are highly skeptical of timeshare offers and were a bit afraid we were going to be held for hours against our will or pressured into buying. But this is Disney, and it really was one hour and done, as promised. We came away with money toward a few Aulani splurges and souvenirs like a character breakfast!
While it’s tough to do a vacation at Aulani on the cheap, it might be more affordable than you think. There are numerous smart ways to use miles and points and other discounts to experience the magic of Disney in Hawaii.
If you’re headed to Aulani, you may also be interested in:
- 10 Things Kids Will Love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
- Things to Do in Oahu With Kids
- Things to Do at Pearl Harbor While the USS Arizona Is Closed
- The Best Ways to Use Miles for Hawaiian Island Hopping
Featured photo by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.
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