Friday Family Vacation: 2.5 Week Family Trip to Hawaii and Australia

Megan

Taking a family of 5 on any trip isn’t cheap or easy. But thankfully, we’ve (well, mostly *I*) learned how to use points and miles to take the sting out of a big trip price tag. In February, my family of 5 went on a trip of a lifetime, taking a 2.5-week family trip to Hawaii and Australia using points and miles. Without using credit card points, it would have taken us YEARS to save enough money to make this trip happen.

This trip started out as a 10-year anniversary trip, where we would take our three girls (ages 8yo+6.5yo twins at the time of our trip) to Hawaii to enjoy what we did and the places we visited on our honeymoon. The original plan was to spend one week to 10 days visiting Maui and Oahu.

Then, in typical Megan fashion, one thing led to another, and once I saw how we could utilize the stash of points we already had, then open a few new cards, meet the minimum spends with our everyday expenses, and use those additional points to get all 5 of us to Australia, there was no stopping the train. This trip quickly spiraled into a fun and adventure-packed 2.5-week family trip to Hawaii and Australia!

 

Hyatt Regency Maui - First stop on our Family Trip to Hawaii and Australia

 

2.5 Week Family Trip to Hawaii and Australia Itinerary

Here’s the breakdown of how we spent our 2.5 weeks trip to Hawaii and Australia:

  • 5 Nights Maui
  • 2 Nights Oahu
  • 3 Nights Sydney
  • 3 Nights Cairns/Port Douglas
  • 1 Night Melbourne
  • 1 Night Great Ocean Road
  • Back in Melbourne for one final night

 

First Stop – One Week in Hawaii

Before heading to Australia, we spent a relaxing week in Hawaii. We flew from our home airport in Rochester, NY, to Newark, then onto LAX before landing in Maui. To get to Maui, we flew from ROC to OGG on United miles – 112,500 miles+$28, total for our five economy flights. We booked these flights with a mix of United points from these cards and Chase points transferred from our Chase Sapphire Preferred

We picked up a rental car at the airport, then spent five nights at the Hyatt Regency Maui for 137,000 Hyatt points transferred from Chase. Our trip was over the President’s Day holiday, so the weekend nights were slightly higher than the typical off-peak pricing.

There is a ton of Hawaii content on the blog and Instagram, but here’s how we spent our five days in Maui.

 

Hyatt Regency Maui beach at sunset on 2.5 Week Trip to Hawaii and Australia

What to Do in Maui for 5 Days

Day 1: Arrival in Maui

After a really long travel day where we flew from Rochester to LAX to Maui, we arrived in Maui in the evening, picked up our rental car (a Chrysler Pacifica minivan), and checked into the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. The Hyatt Regency Maui is a beautiful beachfront resort in Lahaina with so much to do for families during your time in Maui. After settling in, we took a stroll through the hotel and checked out the beach, heading to bed soon after.

Day 2: Hyatt Regency Maui Pool Day

On our first full day in Maui, everyone was awake at 4 am. The time change from the East Coast was rough on all of us. Thankfully, we found this local diner that opened at 6 am for breakfast. The Kihei Caffe Lahaina was a lifesaver on this first morning. I had the Loco Loco, my husband the special of the day, and the girls had turtle and whale-shaped pancakes!

After breakfast, we took a drive around Lahaina and then headed back to the hotel to swim in the pools. We ordered lunch right from the pool bar and had it delivered to our chairs. Visiting the penguins in the lobby and watching their feedings with their keeper was also a nice way to spend some time.

Day 3: Road to Hana

We woke up early and hopped in our rental car to drive the Road to Hana. It was a very rainy day. The local news said Maui would get a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours! It cut down on the number of people on the drive and how big the waterfalls would be. The road is windy and narrow (2 kids got car sick!), but the breathtaking views made it all worth it.

We knew we had limited time to enjoy this as it’s a VERY long day for the girls. Our trip highlights were: Waikamoi Nature Trail, a stop for Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread, the black sand beach at Waiʻānapanapa State Park (reserve your ticket in advance! Tickets are not sold at the gate), Pipiwai Trail, and ending at the Kīpahulu Visitor Center for Haleakalā National Park.

 

Road along lush green vegetation

Road to Hana

Day 4: Whale Watching Maui

February is an ideal month for whale watching in Maui, as it is during the peak of humpback whale season. We booked a whale-watching tour with Pacific Whale Foundation, which offers eco-friendly tours with knowledgeable guides. We did the Sail Whale Watch tour on the catamaran, and I’m so glad we did. It was a much smaller group, and we had so much fun sitting on the netting at the front of the boat.

During the tour, we saw SO MANY whales breaching tail slapping, and even heard their haunting songs through the hydrophone. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

Day 5: Pool Day and Old Lahaina Luau

On our last full day in Maui, we had breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Maui restaurant. The breakfast was pretty good, and kids “pay their age” to enjoy the buffet. There are so many activities included in the hotel resort fee, but you do have to sign up each morning at 7 am.

On this day, we did lei making, where the girls each made a fresh orchid lei headband, and we also did the kakua nut bracelet making. Each activity only took about 20 minutes, but we all enjoyed it.

After a long day at the pool, we returned to the room for a shower around 4pm, then off to the Luau. We arrived at 5:15 pm, were allowed in, and seated at our table by 6 pm. The Old Lahaina Luau was amazing. This was our second time here, and I still very much enjoyed it.

Starting our family trip to Hawaii and Australia in Maui worked out perfectly. It was a fun and relaxing few days before we started our more adventurous and sightseeing portion of the trip.

The next morning, we packed up our stuff, returned the rental car, then hopped on a quick 45-minute Hawaiian airline flight to Oahu!

 

2 Days on Oahu

From Maui, we flew on a quick 45-minute flight to Honolulu. To get to Honolulu from Maui, we used 37,500 + $28 Hawaiian miles transferred from our American Express Platinum cards for our five economy flights. It was a quick 45-minute flight.

Alternatively, you can often find these flights for about $100/person (sometimes cheaper!), but we were trying to save as much as we could by using the points we had. 

In Oahu, we spent two nights at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach. We spent 15k points per night, so 30k Hyatt points total. We booked a standard room, but the person at the front desk was super nice and gave us a standard suite. This room had two queen beds and a pull-out couch. The bed situation worked out great for us as we put one kid in each bed, and there was no fighting. 

Our two days in Oahu were jam-packed! We visited Pearl Harbor, had a character breakfast at Disney’s Aulani Resort, visited the North Shore, and spent some time at the Dole Plantation.

 

Hyatt Centric Waikiki Suite - 2nd stop on our family trip to Hawaii and Australia

Our huge room at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki

 

Award Flights to Australia

After spending two days on Oahu, we continued our family trip to Hawaii and Australia by taking an 11-hour non-stop flight from Honolulu to Sydney. We booked this flight almost a year in advance. We used British Airways Avios to book our nonstop economy flights on Qantas.

To get the 128,750+$369 taxes/fees British Airways Avios, we opened the British Airways card, earning 100k miles, then transferred points from AMEX to cover the rest. AMEX points transfer to British Airways 1:1, sometimes with a bonus.

Here’s how Pam booked her business class flights to Australia on ANA and how Jess booked her business class flights on Qantas via Cathay Pacific.

Within Australia, we booked separate flights from Sydney to Cairns and then Cairns to Melbourne directly on Qantas Airlines.

 

Qantas Flight from Honolulu to Sydney

The first stop in Australia on our 2.5-week family trip to Hawaii and Australia was Sydney! We had an 11-hour non-stop flight on Qantas Airlines from Honolulu to Sydney. Alternatively, if coming from mainland US, you could take a direct flight from LAX into Sydney.

We were delayed a bit in Honolulu, but once we boarded the plane, it was smooth sailing. Our Qantas Airline flight was amazing. Even in economy seats, I don’t think I’ve ever been fed SO much food on a single flight. The flight attendants were lovely and constantly checking in on everyone. During our flight, we had two full meals, plus cheese/crackers, full-size Kit Kat bars, Ice cream, and unlimited snacks, drinks, and alcohol. It was seriously so.much.food, but we all really enjoyed it!

We arrived in Sydney after dark, picked up our rental car right from the airport (no shuttle needed to get to the rental car!), and then drove to our hotel for the night.

 

We crossed the International Date Line and the Equator at the same time!

 

Sydney, Australia with Kids

We paid cash for many of our Australia hotels, using the cost to meet a minimum spend on a new card while there. For our three nights in Sydney, we stayed at the Taronga Zoo Wildlife Retreat. It was amazing and such a memorable experience. Our girls regularly ask when we can go back. We loved every second that we spent there.

Alternatively, Jess and Pam both stayed at the Park Hyatt Sydney on their trips to Australia. They both raved about their stays there! The downside for a family of 5 was that the occupancy rates at the Park Hyatt Sydney were three people per room, so we’d need two rooms, and I wasn’t going to spend 80k points for each night.

Unfortunately, the Hyatt Family Rate Plan wasn’t available for our dates, but even then, the cash rate is about $1,000 US/night, so it would still be about $500/night for the 2nd room.

 

Sydney was our 3rd stop on our family trip to Hawaii and Australia

 

Taronga Zoo Wildlife Retreat

Checking in was very easy and quick. They even got us scheduled for our included zoo tours right then, as they book up quickly. As a family of 5, we had a triple+double connecting wildlife rooms that overlooked the koala exhibit. Breakfast, parking, and zoo entrance are included in your stay. You can enter the Taronga Zoo right from the hotel at a special entrance.

The breakfast room on the top of the hotel has the most amazing views of the Sydney Harbor. We loved spotting the Sydney Opera House during breakfast on our first morning. Breakfast is a buffet with a huge amount of options, from pastries to eggs, sausage, bacon, coffee, juice, yogurt, cereal and more.

 

Taronga Zoo view of Sydney Harbor

 

What to do in Sydney with Kids

Taronga Zoo

On our first day in Sydney, we spent our time at the Taronga Zoo. So, we started our day with a big breakfast while enjoying our first sights of the Sydney Opera House and checking out all of the animals in the zoo.

 

Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens

We started day two by visiting the iconic Sydney Opera House. You can walk right to the bottom entrance of the Taronga Zoo and hop on the ferry to Circular Quay. It was so easy to get to downtown Sydney right from the zoo.

You can also take a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House and learn about its history and architecture. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see a rehearsal or performance. The Opera House also offers a variety of family-friendly shows, such as puppet shows, musicals, and plays.

After visiting the Opera House, take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden, which is just next door. We spent a few hours just having the girls run around and play their own games. We especially loved spotting all the exotic birds!

For lunch, we headed to the nearby Rocks area, a historic neighborhood with cobblestone streets and buildings dating back to the early 1800s. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the area, as well as souvenir shops and art galleries. We ate at Ribs and Burgers on the Rocks. It was the perfect spot to take a break from all the walks and with many kid-friendly food options.

We then walked down to Dawes Point Reserve, checked out the cruise ships, and watched a few street performers before getting ice cream and hopping back on the ferry to return to the Taronga Zoo.

 

Dawes Point in Sydney Harbor - 2.5 week family trip to Hawaii and Australia

Bondi Beach and Sea Life Aquarium

We started our 3rd day by visiting one of Sydney’s most famous beaches, Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach is a great place to swim, surf, or soak up the sun. There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants along the beachfront where you can grab a bite to eat.

In the afternoon, we spent some time at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. The aquarium has over 13,000 animals, including sharks, rays, and turtles. There are also interactive exhibits and animal shows that will keep your kids entertained.

We didn’t get here, but another option for this afternoon or evening is to visit Luna Park. Luna Park Sydney is a cute old-timey amusement park right in Sydney Harbor that has Midway-style games, small rides, and loads of treats.

 

How to Get to Port Douglas

To get to Port Douglas, we flew from Sydney on Qantas airline into the Cairns airport. It was about a 3-hour flight. We picked up a rental car from the airport and drove about 1 hour North to Port Douglas. Our three days in Port Douglas were spent staying at Peppers Beach Club.

 

What to Do in Port Douglas

We saw so much natural beauty on the drive North. Our favorite was seeing SO MANY bats hanging in the trees. In all the places we’ve traveled, bats are something we’ve never seen in the daylight with such a clear view.

After a windy hour’s drive along the coast, you’ll arrive at Peppers Beach Club, a nice resort within walking distance of all the restaurants and shops in Port Douglas Village. From this hotel, you can easily head to the village for dinner and drinks or stay in the hotel to eat at the onsite restaurant by the pool.

 

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

On our second day, we explored the Great Barrier Reef! The Great Barrier Reef contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs and over 1,500 species of fish! To snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, we used Calypso Reef Cruises. Calypso Reef Cruises offers full-day and half-day tours that take you to different reef sites to snorkel or scuba dive.

We arrived at the boat by 8 am to check-in. Snorkeling gear is provided, and you’ll have the chance to see an incredible array of marine life, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and even reef sharks. The tour includes a buffet lunch and morning and afternoon tea. If you would rather go diving in the GBR, Calypso also offers that option. Our boat was about half snorkel and half diving.

This was the girls first time ever snorkeling, and I was a bit worried about how the girls would handle snorkeling in open water, but they did great! The crew on the boat from Calypso Reef Cruises were wonderful and so patient. Don’t forget to pack your swimwear, towels, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, GoPro, and credit card.

 

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in Port Douglas, 4th stop on our family trip to Hawaii and Australia

Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation, and Daintree Ice Cream Company

On our final day in Port Douglas, we set off to explore the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest and most diverse rainforests in the world. The Daintree Rainforest is 180 million years old! That is 10 million years older than the Amazon Rainforest! To visit this unique rainforest, join a guided tour or drive yourself in your rental car.

While driving through the Daintree Rainforest, you can stop at Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. This is such a cool spot to check out!

 

Highlights of the Daintree Rainforest

Highlights of the Daintree Rainforest include the Daintree Discovery Centre, where you can learn about the region’s flora and fauna, and Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef. We spent A LOT of time at the Discovery Center. Our girls especially loved the audioguides.

Driving to the Daintree Rainforest from Port Douglas reminded us a lot of the Road to Hana in Maui. Everything was so green and lush. The roads were very twisty. One very exciting thing was to enter the Daintree Rainforest by car; you have to cross the Daintree River by a small ferry.

After you visit the Discovery Center, stop by the Daintree Ice Cream Company for some locally made tropical fruit ice cream. Then head back to your hotel for a relaxing dinner and drinks in the village of Port Douglas.

 

Daintree Rainforest, Australia - Family trip to Hawaii and Australia

 

Melbourne/Great Ocean Road

Our last stop on this 2.5 week family trip to Hawaii and Australia was Melbourne. From Cairns, we flew straight to Melbourne. This was about a 4-hour flight on Qantas Airlines. We landed in the evening, and after landing, we picked up our rental car and headed to our hotel, Hyatt Place Melbourne, Essendon Fields. This was 1 of our 2 Australia hotels booked on points. We used 8,000 Hyatt points, transferred from Chase to book here. It was a typical airport hotel, but it was good for the one quick night we needed it.

The next morning, we were up and out super early to get started on our Great Ocean Road drive.

Great Ocean Road

We made stops at: 

  • Torquay Beach
  • Great Ocean Road Sign
  • Kennett River Nature Walk
  • Great Otway National Park 
  • Twelve Apostles, Gibson Steps
  • Loch Ard Gorge
  • The Arch
  • London Bridge

Once we reached Warrnambool, we spent one night at Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs, using the $50 credit from our Chase Sapphire Preferred. 

 

12 Apostles and Melbourne was our 5th and final stop on our family trip to Hawaii and Australia

 

Woodlands Historic Park and Philips Island Penguin Parade

We then drove back towards Melbourne, stopping at Woodlands Historic Park for kangaroo spotting. There were SO many kangaroos! I couldn’t even count the total, but it was at least 50.

After some kangaroo spotting, we headed to Phillip Island for the famous Penguin Parade. We paid extra for Penguins Plus tickets, and it was worth it! We were super close and had a great view. The penguins don’t come out until after dark, so dress warm and pack your patience!

 

Philips Island Penguin Parade

Pictures aren’t allowed after a certain point, but this shows how close we were!

 

After the Penguin Parade, we headed to our final Australia hotel on our 2.5-week family trip to Hawaii and Australia, Hyatt Place Melbourne Caribbean Park. This room was also booked on points. We used 8,000 Hyatt points to book for our one night. Our room had two twin beds + a pullout couch. The girls all shared the couch sideways, and it worked out perfectly. They kindly gave us free breakfast for the girls the next morning, so we only had to pay for my husband and myself. 

 

Our Flights Home to the USA from Australia

To fly home from Melbourne to Rochester, NY, we booked flights on United, using United points. These flights cost us 200,000 United miles+$293 taxes/fees for our five flights back home.

We got to the airport early and used our Priority Pass lounge access from our American Express Platinum cards (we both have one, which gives us each two free guests for Priority Pass lounges). While waiting for our flight, we went to the Marhaba Lounge since it was in the same terminal as our gate.

We flew 14 hours from Melbourne to LAX, then 4.5 hours to Chicago, then a quick 1.5 hours to Rochester.  This flight was BY FAR the longest on our family trip to Hawaii and Australia, but it was totally fine. The girls did wonderful and were perfectly content watching hours upon hours of cartoons and movies on the TV, adding in some sleep here and there.

To get the points for this flight, we used points from two United card sign-up bonuses and a mix of some extra points transferred from Chase.

 

Bottom Line

Using points and miles can help make even the wildest trip ideas come to fruition. Every second of our 2.5-week family trip to Hawaii and Australia was magical – like SO magical that the girls said multiple times, “This is better than Disney World!”. Knowing that they loved this adventurous trip made my heart so happy. We are so thankful to have spent the time learning how to use credit card points to our advantage in order to make these types of bucket list trips with our kids possible.

 

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Screenshot of bay with bridge and opera house

Share this post

  1. This is so inspiring and puts Australia on the top of my bucket list!!
    Quick question – was jet lag a problem at all?

    • Megan says:

      Surprisingly, the kids did just fine. We thought stopping in Hawaii would help with the time zone transition, but I’m not sure it made a difference. We also arrived to Sydney late in the evening, so we went straight to bed and woke up pretty normal the next morning.

  2. M says:

    This write up is amazing!! What were the ages of the girls; ie, toddler or older with more long flight experience? 🙂

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