Through a special promotion with AAA and Pleasant Holidays, the wife and I were able to take a four-day/three-night vacation on Oahu for about $600, hotel and airfare included. Neither of us had ever been to Hawaii before, so we jumped at the opportunity to go.
We left Los Angeles on on December 14, only two hours behind schedule. Our plane had already taxied onto the runway when the captain explained, "Some wizard in baggage handling loaded a bunch of fresh cut flowers next to the heating hose," so we had to taxi back and wait while all of the cargo was unloaded and reloaded in a manner which would allow the blooms to survive the six-hour trip. I can only imagine how much the flowers must have cost if it was worth it to delay the flight and purchase more jet fuel for their sake. United may break guitars, but they don't wilt flowers (if the captain finds out about them before takeoff).
After we landed in Honolulu, we were wondering where to catch the shuttle to Waikiki when we spotted a woman holding a Pleasant Holidays sign. We hadn't booked any transportation beyond the flight for our trip, but the woman said she could make arrangements to get us a spot on their bus for $22. Since our hotel wasn't part of the bus's planned route, we'd have to wait until the very end to get dropped off, but that worked out just fine. The driver was quite entertaining and had plenty of information to share about Oahu, some of which we would have certainly missed were we dropped off earlier on the route.
As we passed Kapi'olani Hospital, the driver told us that in this down economy, two main industries have taken off in Hawaii. The first one is self storage; significantly reduced tourism the past year has cost many residents their homes, so anyone with land to place a shipping container is offering to hold your stuff for a fee.
The second new, booming industry is Obama tours. This year's presidential inauguration has inverted the significance of previously everyday landmarks such as the aforementioned hospital. Among the tourists who are visiting the islands, gobs are eager to fork over cash for a chance to see where the 44th president of the United States was born, where he went to school, the neighborhood he hung out in, et cetera. There were also plenty of Obama tchotchkes and T-shirts in the convenience stores and souvenir shops. From the looks of it, if the president had the foresight to lock up merchandising deals for his likeness ahead of time, he'd be able to support socialized healthcare on his own dime.
To be continued!