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Bali or Hawaii? Bali may be cheaper.

September 23rd, 2008 · No Comments · Destinations, Tips & Tricks

At a meet up of San Francisco Travel Bloggers last week, I mentioned that every new parent should go to Bali.  There were moans about the cost and I argued that Bali is as cheap or cheaper than visiting Hawaii from San Francisco.

Loving a good challenge, I ran a side-by-side comparison for a value/budget vacation (3*) and for a more indulgent trip (4*).   My conclusion: stick with Hawaii for a value vacation, but, Bali is cheaper for a more indulgent trip.

Airfare to Bali is higher, but on the ground costs are much lower than Hawaii.  Currently, best round trip fares to Bali in early December are $1186 per adult and $996 per child versus $540 each to Honolulu and $700 to Kauai.

Value/Budget Vacation

Hawaii offers some great deals right now due to the drop in tourism.   If you don’t mind walking a couple of blocks to the beach, skipping the car rental, and carefully managing your eating budget, a family of four can put together a 7-night vacation for under $4000. (Departing San Francisco.)  A similar vacation in Bali would run over $5000.

For Hawaii, I selected Waikiki.  Honolulu is the least expensive arrival point in Hawaii.  Waikiki also offers a large number of lodging and eating choices within a quick walk to a beautiful, family-friendly beach.  There is also great public transportation if you want to explore farther afield.

In Bali, I selected the Kuta and Legian area which is similar to Waikiki.  There are a variety of great eats, shopping, sights and a beautiful beach within easy walking distance.  While Kuta is full of cheap backpacker guest houses, I selected a contemporary, boutique hotel which provides more amenities for young children & their parents.

Playing with Sand on Kuta Beach

Playing with Sand on Kuta Beach

Here is my sample budget vacation comparison for a family of four:

Waikiki

Kuta/Legian

Airfare

$2160 (Northwest)

$4364 (China Airways)

Baggage Fees

$60#

$0#

Transfers R/T

$40

$12

Hotel (3*)

$773 (Aqua Waikiki Wave)

$595 (Casa Padma)

Meals

$840 ($120/day)

$210 ($30/day)

Total

$3873

$518

#Assumes 2 checked bags

Activities are not included in the prices above but a water park in Hawaii costs $38/adult & $28/child while a water park in Bali costs $23/adult and $13/child.  Beaches are free in both destinations.

Indulgent Vacation

Don’t think Four Seasons here, more along the lines of Sheraton (which are really nice in Hawaii and Asia).  But, if you are thinking about taking your family to Maui or Kauai, consider Bali.  Bali is cheaper and a wonderful place to travel with young children.

For this side-by-side comparison, I looked at very similar resorts in Poipu, Kauai and Nusa Dua, Bali.  I also added Sanur, Bali which has a range of wonderful accommodations, but more the feel of Hanelei, Kauai.   In all cases, I went for a mid-tiered room: ocean view, but not ocean front.

Nusa Dua is a planned resort area where many of the international chain hotels have large complexes.  As with most big brand resorts, everything is more expensive, though in Nusa Dua costs are usually 1/3-1/2 below US resorts.  (One hour spa treatment at a Hawaiian resort is $100-120/hr while in Bali it would be $50-60/hour.  Outside of the big resorts, a great spa treatment runs less than $20/hr.)

Sanur, on the other hand is a mix of tourists, expatriates, and Balinese.  It was the site of the first western resort on Bali and has a well planned beach with a 7 km beachfront sidewalk.  A breakwall protects the beach from erosion and leaves a calm swimming area.  Many locally owned and boutique resorts are situated in Sanur.  If you wander off the main street, you may feel like the only visitor in a Balinese village.   This low key town, provides a week’s groceries for as little as $20 and a meal on the beach for four will only put you out $10-15.

Sanur Beach in April

Sanur Beach in April

Here is my sample indulgent budget for a family of four:

Kauai

Nusa Dua, Bali

Airfare

$2800 (USAir)

$4364 (China Airlines)

Baggage Fees

$60#

$0#

Transfers R/T

$70

$24

Hotel (4*)

$2525 (Sheraton)

$1440 (Laguna**)

Meals

$910 ($130/day)

$560 ($80/day)

Sightseeing

$365 (4 day car rental)

$140 (4 days with driver)

Total

$6730

$6528

Kauai

Sanur, Bali

Airfare

$2800 (USAir)

$4364 (China Airways)

Baggage Fees

$60#

$0#

Transfers R/T

$70

$20

Hotel (4*)

$2525 (Sheraton)

$1071 (Aston Legends Sanur***)

Meals

$910 ($130/day)

$280 ($40/day – Bfst with room)

Sightseeing

$365 (4 day car rental)

$140 (4 days with driver)

Total

$6730

$5874

#Assumes 2 checked bags
**Owned by Starwood, it was formerly the Sheraton Laguna but is now part of the Luxury Collection.
*** This was my first choice of hotels for our beach stay, but it was booked.  The price is for a one-bedroom villa with private pool, breakfast and butler service.  It is owned by the Asian division of the hotel group that owns the “Aston” properties in Hawaii.  In Bali, the boutique hotels and villa stays are a much better bargain and experience.

This is a generic budget but it should be illustrative.  Yes – Bali is a LONG flight (17+ hours).  There were bad moments on the flight, but I was surprised how manageable it was. (Actually it was really nice.)  A flight on an international carrier that still competes on service makes a difference.  I would guess that three hours on Singapore Airlines equals one hour on United.  (I am being generous to United).

Personally, I love both Hawaii & Bali for a warm weather, relaxing vacation. Next year I hope to visit the Big Island.  But, with a 16mo daughter, I don’t know if there is a destination as wonderful as Bali.  It  was a destination that transformed my perspective on traveling with children.

Notes on comparisons
1)    All accommodations selected are places where we have stayed, or hotels I have considered during travel planning.  (no seedy hostels thrown in to make something look better).
2)    Same with flights – we flew these NWA flights in 2007 and would have flown China Airways to Bali if I was not able to match the price on Cathay Pacific.
3)    Dates – I picked the beginning of December 2008, as there are usually great bargains between Thanksgiving & Christmas.  Departure dates are slightly different so I could get the lowest available fare.   It is shoulder season in both destinations.
4)    These costs are for 2 adults and 2 children under 5yo each with their own seat.  One child in the parents bed or a cot and the second in a separate bed.

Fell free to ask any additional questions in the comments or via email at Meg at backpacktobuggy dot com.

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