Last Christmas, my close friend got engaged. Where there’s an engagement, there are wedding plans. The bride and groom had their hearts set on Oahu, Hawaii, for their destination wedding, and after much back and forth in the midst of rising COVID-19 case numbers and restrictions, the event went forward.

Usually, I try to plan as much in advance as possible. However, with the uncertainties surrounding travel these days, this trip was put together much closer to the actual date than I’m typically comfortable with.

My husband and I made refundable hotel reservations a few months before the trip. However, we decided to hold off on booking flights to the Aloha State until the happy couple confirmed the original plan, which happened about a month before the wedding. Here’s how we pieced together an affordable last-minute trip to Hawaii.

Points and Miles Breakdown

Tbilisi, Georgia, to Honolulu one-way flight38,500 United MileagePlus miles + $85.15

Honolulu to Salt Lake City one-way flight17,500 Flying Blue miles + $25.34
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani – two nightsTwo Marriott free night certificates (valued at up to 35,000 Bonvoy points)
$33 resort fee per night
Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach – four nights48,000 World of Hyatt points
Bus rides$2.75 each

Booking the Flights


Most chain hotels bookable with points are located in Waikiki, a neighborhood of Honolulu on the south shore of Oahu island. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

The timing of the Hawaii wedding and my trip to Uzbekistan was close enough to tack on another destination in between trips, but not long enough for me to come home. At least not for long. So, I did what made the most sense for me—I spent nine days in Georgia (the country, not the state) after Uzbekistan and flew to Hawaii from there.

I began my long journey in Tbilisi (TBS), the capital of Georgia, traveled to Munich (MUC) and to Los Angeles (LAX) with Lufthansa, and then finally to Honolulu (HNL) with United Airlines. The one-way itinerary in economy class cost me 38,500 United miles + $85.15 in taxes.

In terms of layovers, I think I did OK, considering how far I had to travel, but it still took about 37 hours door to door.

On my last leg from Los Angeles to Honolulu, right before the aircraft door closed, I was upgraded to first class, likely because of my Premier Silver status with United. This pleasant surprise made the final flight of my long trip a little more pleasant.

Because I had been traveling before going to Hawaii, my husband flew to Honolulu separately. He booked a cash flight on Alaska Airlines and arrived on the same day I did, but much earlier in the day.

For our flights home, I redeemed 17,500 Flying Blue miles + $25.34 per person to fly with Delta Air Lines back to Salt Lake City (SLC).

Booking the Hotels

Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Although the wedding was the ultimate reason to go to Oahu, we wanted to make a trip out of it and stay for about a week.

I wasn’t too jazzed about spending money on an Airbnb and having to rent a car (more on this below), so we decided to use points and hotel certificates to cover our nights. Because most chain hotels are located on Waikiki Beach, our location on the island was predetermined.

I had two 35,000-point Marriott free night certificates in my account: one from a personal Bonvoy credit card and one from a business card. These certificates aren’t exactly easy to use, so I decided to burn those and cover part of our stay. The only Category 5 Marriott hotel in Waikiki is the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, and that’s where we stayed for the first two nights.

hotel redemption

This property charges a $33 nightly resort fee, which isn’t waived on award bookings, so our two-night stay cost us $66 plus tax.

The second hotel we chose for our trip was the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach. It’s a Category 3 Hyatt property, and a night here cost us 12,000 World of Hyatt points. I don’t collect World of Hyatt points on purpose, so I transferred enough Chase Ultimate Rewards to cover our stay.

Then, I asked my friend and a fellow 10xTravel writer, Anna Zaks, to make a Guest of Honor reservation for me for four nights at this property. The Guest of Honor benefit is available to World of Hyatt Globalist elite members. It allows them to give their Globalist privileges on award stays for friends and family. So, I transferred 48,000 Hyatt points to her account, and she booked a room on my behalf.

Related: How to Combine Points with Your Friends and Family

Unfortunately, the only Globalist perk we actually received was a 4 p.m. checkout. No upgrade. No ocean views. No lounge. However, the late checkout came in handy because we booked a red-eye flight home, and it allowed us to have an extra day in Waikiki without disruptions.

The destination fee of $25 per night was waived because we redeemed points for our stay, which is a standard Hyatt policy for award bookings.

As for moving hotels, it didn’t affect our plans for the day whatsoever. We checked out of the Sheraton early in the morning, dropped our bags at the bell desk and headed to the Kualoa Ranch, a private nature reserve used as a shooting location for popular films and TV shows, such as “Jurassic Park,” “50 First Dates,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Lost,” among many others. By the time we returned, it was time to check in to the Hyatt Place.

Transportation Costs

transportation cost to kualoa ranch

The Kualoa Ranch and other Oahu attractions can be reached by public transportation. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Renting a car would have been the most expensive component of our trip to Hawaii. After a bit of deliberation and research, my husband and I made a decision to skip a car rental altogether and rely on public transportation while on the island. Luckily, Waikiki Beach is well-connected to most parts of Oahu by a bus company appropriately called TheBus.

A bus ride costs $2.75. If you switch buses, your payment isn’t valid for transfers, so you have to pay $2.75 per person each time, or $5.50 for a couple. If we needed to get to a place that required switching buses, we’d take a short Uber ride to the point of transfer and take a bus to our final destination. It was worth it to pay not much more for an Uber than a bus for two people and save time on transferring.

The air-conditioned bus took us to and from the airport, to the Kualoa Ranch for a “Jurassic Park” tour, to the Sea Life Park for a luau and to the actual wedding ceremony.

transportation cost to kualoa ranch

Hiding from velociraptors at the Kualoa Ranch. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

The wedding party stayed at a vacation rental home near a beach on the east side of Oahu, and I was worried it would be difficult to reach that part of the island by public transport. Imagine my surprise face, when a bus dropped us off a few feet away from an Airbnb they rented. We had no problem returning to Waikiki in the evening after dancing up a storm at the reception.

Our total transportation bill was close to $100 for six days, which is much better than being out 10x that cost for a rental car plus parking fees, which, by the way, cost $42 per night at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and $45 per night at the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach.

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Before our trip, we had to register our flight information on the Safe Travels: Hawaii website. At this time, Hawaii requires that travelers quarantine for 10 days on arrival on the islands or obtain an exemption.

To bypass quarantine requirements, unvaccinated travelers must take a COVID-19 test from an approved lab no more than 72 hours before their flight to the islands, and vaccinated travelers must either upload a vaccination certificate to the Safe Travels: Hawaii website or link a digital health pass ID from Azova, Clear or CommonPass.

Additionally, either a vaccination card or a negative COVID-19 test taken in the last 48 hours was required to enter businesses, such as restaurants, bars, gyms, etc. These were checked at every restaurant we went to, with photocopies being acceptable as proof.

Final Thoughts

sun sets in Waikiki Beach

The sun sets in Waikiki Beach. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

After another unpredictable year, I’m happy that my friend got the wedding that she envisioned. I’m also happy to have used points, miles and hotel certificates to bring the cost of our trip down to mostly food and entertainment expenses.

Using public transportation was another win for us. The rental car shortage affected Oahu and sent prices to the moon, but it didn’t stop us from exploring the island independently.