Over the summer we decided to take a family vacation in October which is typically off-season for a lot of places so it’s not as risky to fly standby using Kevin’s flight benefits. Initially we had the grand idea of taking the girls to Spain to visit my good friend Heather and her family. We expedited the processing for Lucia’s passport (paying an arm and a leg!) and had every intention of going until Kevin looked up the flights and saw that the flight from Newark, NJ to Madrid was filling up fast so we couldn’t take the chance of not getting on the flight there with two little munchkins in tow. 🙁 We then had our hearts set on visiting another good friend, Sneha, in New York! We were going to stay a few nights at the beach on the Jersey Shore then a few nights in New York City. We had only decided on NY about a week or so before our intended departure date and we found the hotels were filling up really quickly and that they were exorbitantly priced. We were so stressed about finding a hotel that could accommodate us (we needed at least a suite so that Lucia could be put to bed early and we could hang out in the living room area without disturbing her) and that wouldn’t break the bank and that was in a safe area and we had to make the sad decision to cancel those plans as well. 🙁 🙁
So what to do with less than a week before our departure date with no idea of where to go? Oahu! We found a hotel two blocks from Waikiki Beach for 6 nights for just a little more than we were going to pay for 2 nights in NYC so we knew it was meant to be. Kevin and I have been to Maui (that was Sirena’s first trip to Hawaii) and the big island (for our honeymoon) but never Oahu and there are multiple flights to/from there each day so the chances of us getting on a flight flying standby were looking good. Less than a week after deciding on our destination we were there! Now that’s the best kind of travel planning, no months and months of anticipation. 🙂
Tues, Oct 20 (my birthday!)
We woke early that morning to get on the 8:40am flight from LAX to Honolulu and we were lucky that there were over 80 seats available so we got the entire 5 seat middle row to ourselves! This was Lucia’s first flight and she was a dream! This was Sirena’s upteenth flight and she was an old pro. We couldn’t have asked for better travel companions. A woman in the aisle across from us even commented to us that she didn’t realize the kids were there the entire time and how well-behaved they were. 🙂
Can you tell they’re tired?
Lucia’s first flight!
We picked up our rental car and immediately drove to get some lunch at Soon’s Kal-Bi-Drive-Inn, a Korean/Hawaiian restaurant. We then headed to our hotel, Aston Waikiki Sunset, to get settled in.
The girls enjoying our awesome view from the 14th floor!
We decided to check out the pool area which was beautiful but the hotel cast a shadow over the pool in the mid-afternoon so it was pretty chilly and we couldn’t hang that long.
Birthday photo with my girls <3 after our quick dip in the pool
In addition, Hawaii is 3 hours early compared to California so the girls (and us!) were getting tired pretty early on–Lucia actually went to bed at 4pm! Sirena and I took a walk down to Waikiki Beach once little sis was in bed to pick up some Subway to take back to the hotel for dinner and of course we couldn’t resist putting our toes in the ocean for a few minutes.
Sirena did NOT want to get out of the water
That night, the three of us were in bed by 7pm (10pm CA time so it was a looong day!).
Wed, Oct 21
So what happens when we go to bed ridiculously early? We’re all up and at ’em at 3:30am!
In case you ever wondered what Honolulu looked like at 3:30am…you’re welcome.
This is what we do at the butt crack of dawn
We decided to make a short drive to Nu’uanu Pali Lookout to watch the sunrise. Both girls fell asleep on the way there so we had to go out in shifts: Kevin first and then I took Sirena out on my own while Lucia continued snoozing.
You snooze, you lose Lucia! 😉
My glamour shot girl
It was sooo windy there but Sirena didn’t care, she had a blast running around since we were the only ones there!
A rooster calling on the chickens (one of which Sirena decided to name “Butthead” haha!)
At LAX the day before we met a woman named Madonna who had just been visiting her grandkids in Cerritos (one of which was Sirena’s age which is how our conversation started) and was on her way back home. It ended up that she worked at the hotel across the street from where we were staying and she invited us to their breakfast buffet the following day so we decided to take her up on the offer this morning and boy are we glad we did! It was all-you-can-eat and she only charged us for one adult meal. She also gave us a doggy bag FULL of food which was so awesome.
After our crazy early morning and huge breakfast we went back to the hotel for a family nap (me and Lucia in the bedroom, Kevin and Sirena on the sofa bed). After getting some much-needed rest we made our way down to Waikiki Beach for some late afternoon fun. It was so awesome being just walking distance from this amazing beach!
Me and my favorite 3 year old
Lucia’s first time in the Hawaiian waters
That face! Poor thing.
Thurs, Oct 22
Before we all fully adjusted to our new time zone we decided to capitalize on another early morning wake up call and pack up the girls for a drive to the North Shore.
As soon as we got off of the freeway (Oahu is the only Hawaiian island with actual freeways most of which are found in Honolulu) we felt like we were on the two-lane highways that we were used to in Maui and the big island–beautiful, lush surroundings, roadside fruit stands, turquoise waters only a stone’s throw away from the highway–ahh, paradise.
We grabbed an early lunch at Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken, a permanent food truck that had incredible chicken (Kevin was a fan) and the most amazing garlic shrimp (yummy!)
Sirena was in heaven with our Blue Hawaii smoothie
With Lucia’s random naps and feeding schedule we spent a lot of the drive sightseeing while on the road. It was definitely not the way that Kevin and I prefer to do Hawaii (we love to do a lot of excursions, using the awesome guidebooks by Andrew Doughty to find the gems and must-see things of the island, stopping every few miles on the long drive to check something cool out) but we had decided before we left to focus on the girls this trip and that we’d just have to go on our own another day to see everything.
In the North Shore our destination was Shark’s Cove which is a kid-friendly tide pool and beach. Kevin and Sirena were the only ones that ventured out into the tide pool while Lucia and I hung out in the shade of the palm trees.
Crinkle nose, my favorite!
That night after putting Lucia to sleep, the three of us celebrated by birthday (belatedly) with a yummy confetti cake (and another earlier-than-normal bedtime…we know how to party!)
Fri, Oct 23
For breakfast we were invited one more time to Madonna’s hotel for a breakfast buffet and she ended up comping us our entire meal…so awesome! We were so grateful for her generosity.
Our big breakfast fueled us up to walk a few blocks to the Honolulu Zoo! We spent a couple of hours there and really enjoyed the quaint and well-kept grounds–not too big to be overwhelming, just the right size for a family with two small kids (it reminded us a lot of the Oakland Zoo!).
Wild peacocks out roaming the grounds, these were arm’s length distance from us
The highlight was the Keiki (Kids) Zoo with a great playground, petting zoo, and rest area.
Sirena had the most fun climbing on and around this huge tree with the greatest above-ground root system.
Our only family photo of the trip!
After the zoo we walked back towards Waikiki Beach to have lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise–my mom’s husband Steve is related to one of the owners and graciously gave us a gift card to enjoy a meal there (just like he did when we were in Maui!) We then went back to the hotel for a much-needed family nap.
We decided to go back to Waikiki Beach (you can’t compete with walking a few blocks versus strapping the girls in the car and driving to another beach when it comes to simplicity!) but this time we left the phones and cameras at the hotel thinking the whole family would take a dip at the same time (and we didn’t want to risk leaving valuables on such a crowded beach). It turned out to be a little too chilly to put Lucia in the water so once again Kevin and I took turns going into the water with big sis and hanging out on the beach with little sis. The lighting was INCREDIBLE–we were there from 4-6pm so the sun was making its way to the horizon the entire time we were there and it cast the most amazing warm light on the girls, I was really kicking myself for not bringing anything to capture the moments on camera!
That night after putting Lucia to bed the three of us stayed up until (gasp!) 9pm watching the movie “Boxtrolls” that we rented from the lobby.
Sat, Oct 24
We wanted to do one last beach day so we headed out to Ko Olina Lagoon near the Disney Aulani Resort. There are 4 lagoons in this area and we went to Ko Olina Lagoon #4 which is the farthest from the resort. It had the most amazing, clear, warm water perfect for wading with little kids!
Another seaside nap for the little munchkin
After a fun (and tiring!) morning in the sun we had a really nice lunch at Monkeypod Kitchen just a few minutes from the lagoon. We then treated ourselves to some yummy ice cream at a shop around the corner and of course the girls crashed on the drive back to the hotel!
After putting Lucia to bed, I decided to take an evening walk with Sirena to do some shopping in Waikiki. I put her in our umbrella stroller and ended up walking over 2 miles total until a little after 8pm! We had a blast checking out some fun Hawaiian souvenir shops, buying clothes for the family and gifts for a few folks back at home, and just spending some one-on-one time together which we very rarely get any more.
She was STOKED to get a Spiderman balloon animal from one of the street vendors. Spidey even came home with us!
We checked out this awesome underground t-shirt shop called 88 Tees and brought a few shirts back from there
This was in front of Nani’s Gift Shop which she found hilarious (Nani is what Sirena calls my mom)
I let her drive me around the block a few times 😉
Sun, Oct 25
Our last full day on Oahu we decided to visit Pearl Harbor–we knew we couldn’t come all this way and not visit such an historic site (Kevin for the military aspect and me for the significance to US history). Sirena loves airplanes so we decided to focus our visit on the Pacific Aviation Museum (there are quite a few museums/attractions to visit at Pearl Harbor).
They had a ton of mannequins dressed up, this was a silly photo I took over the shoulder of one peeking out and seeing Kevin and Sirena in the distance
Sirena was so happy to find “the shark plane” from the museum’s advertisements…and there was even a mini one that kids could pretend to fly. Score!
Can you see Sirena in the cockpit?
They were in their element, that’s for sure.
Afterwards we were all pretty exhausted but needed to get some food so stopped at Young’s Kalbee, a delicious Korean restaurant. Sirena was so wiped that she actually remained asleep when Kevin got her out of the car and stayed asleep sitting on his lap for a good 15 minutes at the restaurant (unheard of these days!) She woke up in time to eat some lunch and then passed out again at the hotel for a couple of hours during family nap time.
The night before on our shopping excursion, Sirena and I bought two Hawaiian dresses for her and Lucia that I really wanted them to wear on the beach at sunset so I could take pictures of them. We just barely made it to Waikiki Beach for the last 10 minutes of sunlight. Sirena wasn’t in the best mood (come to find out she was sick, more on that below) and then Lucia faceplanted into the sand after only a few photos (and we had to rush to the water fountain to rinse the sand out of her eyes, poor thing) so I didn’t get any stellar shots of the two of them together but I am happy with how they turned out overall.
Before heading back to the hotel we took a 10 minute walk to get some Hawaiian shave ice–no trip to Hawaii is complete without shave ice!
Mon, Oct 26
This will go down in history as the day from hell (Isn’t it funny that each of our trips to Hawaii has one of those?? In Maui our day from hell was when Sirena got an ear infection on the Road to Hana when we had zero medicine and had to drive hours to the nearest Emergency Room. This day wasn’t nearly as bad but it was definitely comparable…)
We were up at 2am because Sirena said she has to use the potty. After 10 minutes of being up she threw up unexpectedly. She was able to go back to bed but I was wide awake by that time and patiently waiting for our alarm to go off at 2:45am.
Kevin and I got ourselves ready, packed up, and then woke the girls up at 3:15am. We all got into the car at 3:30am and dropped the rental car off at 4am. We made it through security without any incident and made our way to Gate 11 to check in for our 6am flight to LAX which we had checked that morning and it had over 100 seats available for standby so we thought we were in the clear. When we checked in with the gate agent we were told that an earlier flight to SFO had been cancelled so many of those passengers were moved to our 6am LAX flight and that it wasn’t looking promising for us to make it. Kevin was taking it all in stride while I was silently panicking because our luggage (me/Kevin/Lucia’s suitcase) and our two car seats made it on the 6am flight and we didn’t and because Sirena proceeded to throw up a second time at the gate. Luckily we kept Sirena’s suitcase as a carry-on so we had an extra set of clothes for her. We had 5 hours to spare until the next flight to LAX at 11am that we were hoping we’d get on somehow so we took our time cleaning up, getting breakfast, and looking at some of the shops.
You sure can’t tell here that she was sick as a dog (our tough girl)
Lucia was completely oblivious to what was going on, haha
By 10am we made our way to Gate 12 to check in with the gate agent. It wasn’t looking promising for this flight either but we waited around anyways. During the time we were waiting Sirena proceeded to throw up again and made a mess of her clothes (and the carpet). Wardrobe change #2 for Sirena. After all of the passengers were boarded, they called our name and said that there was ONE seat available and that we had to choose right away if we wanted it. Initially we were going to send me and Lucia if there was one seat available but the next flight at 12pm was looking really good (still over 100 seats available) and we took a chance and gave my seat away in hopes that we’d be able to be on the same flight at 12pm. We had to walk at least 1/2 a mile, me carrying Lucia while she was napping in my arms (not in the carrier) and Sirena’s suitcase over my shoulder and Kevin pushing Sirena in the stroller with two backpacks on, to get to Gate 16 where the 12pm flight was taking off from.
At Gate 16, Sirena was trying to nap on Kevin in the weirdest position
While waiting at this gate, Sirena proceeded to throw up a THIRD time and again made a mess of her clothes and the carpet. Wardrobe change #3 for Sirena! This of course happened as the plane was boarding and our row was being called…talk about stressful! In the end we were so grateful to be walking onto that plane, that our plan had worked out, and we actually ended up getting an entire row to ourselves.
We had spent 8 hours at the airport and then had another 5 hours on the airplane. Somehow (miraculously!) the flight was pretty uneventful–Sirena was in good spirits and didn’t have another throw up episode and Lucia was a dream (as always). So from being awake at 2am to landing at LAX at 8:30pm and home at 9:30pm I think it’s safe to say that this crazy horrible day more than made up for our amazing vacation! 😉 It definitely gave me a real look at the realities of flying standby (with kids) but in the end we are so happy we made it to a destination that’s been on our wish list for a while, we got to fly there for free, and we had such an enjoyable and relaxing time with our wonderful little travel buddies.
Until next time, Hawaii…aloha!