A family trip to Aulani a Disney resort and spa is a spectacular family vacation. After taking our first trip there I have put together a list of things that would be helpful to know before the trip. Each of these are things I wish I had known.
At Aulani you get the opportunity to meet many of the Disney characters and they will sign your kids autograph book. I did not think to bring our autograph books so we never got any signatures, just pictures. Some of the characters we saw were Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Moana. I know that Stitch was roaming around as well, but we never caught him.
Aulani Pin Trading
One of the things I wish I had known before our trip to Aulani was that the cast members participate in pin trading, just like they do in the Disney parks. Had we known this, we would have brought our pins. I’m sure we could have bought some pins in the general store near the lobby, but I didn’t realize we could pin trade until the last day. If you want to participate I suggest you buy a lot of Disney Pins off of Amazon. This is an easy way to save money on Disney pins. If you do not know what pin trading is check out our guide to pin trading at Disney!
Beach Gear is Available
Snorkel Gear – I knew before we went that we would have to pay to use the snorkel equipment at the resort. What I didn’t realize is that if you pay to do the Rainbow Reef then you could borrow snorkel equipment down at the beach as well. That’s included in the price to snorkel Rainbow Reef. I brought our snorkel equipment with us and that took up quite a bit of room in the suitcase. I was still glad to have it when we left Aulani and ventured out to the other snorkel areas around Oahu on our own.
No Floaties Available – I pack my own unicorn pool float when I travel so I had something to float around on out in the ocean, but most people did not know to bring something like this. I suggest buying some cheap floats and bringing them with you. They will definitely be cheaper to buy stateside than on the islands. And if you can’t get it back into the suitcase, it’s no big deal because it was cheap anyway.
Beach Chairs and Umbrellas for Everyone – Another item I packed that I could have potentially left home was our beach blanket. At Aulani, they have plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas. You have no need for a beach blanket. My beach blanket is awesome because it’s thin, lightweight, and has pockets you can fill up with sand to keep in weighed down. (Since I mention packing, here is my Hawaii Packing List.)
Other Equipment They Provide – Boogie boards and sand toys were complimentary. Each day families can check these items out and just return at the end of the day when they were done. There are no waves at the beach in front of Aulani, so the boogie boards were fairly useless. However, my kids used the boogie boards as skim boards since there were no skim boards on hand. Here’s a little video of them doing this. I do not necessarily recommend your kids do this, unless they are experienced skim boarding.
One thing I should have known about was how many activities are offered at Aulani. I skimmed the activities, but it just didn’t hit home how many there would be. I found myself rushing back from our excursion to the North Shore to get my kids back to Aulani in time for one of the teen activities.
You can look on their website to see what they are offering the week you are there. By knowing what you want to do in advance you can better prepare your off site ventures. (If you are looking for things to do in Oahu I have two posts that should give you lots of good ideas: Things to do in Oahu and Oahu Travel Guide
In order to capitalize on the included activities there was one day where we did all the activities we could in one day. That day we took a family animation class, built a canoe together, Jonah made slime at the kid’s club, and Noah and Eden participated in a teen club beach relay race. It sounds like a lot, but we still have plenty of time for the pool and the beach!
By the end of our stay I had figured out that there were Disney Photo Pass cast members floating around the resort taking pictures. I wish I had known this sooner. I would have taken full advantage of someone taking pictures of the kids and I. I’m single so often there is no one around to take a picture of the four of us. I take selfies, but it’s not the same.
When I realized I could get them to take our photos I went out and bought clothes for family pictures. At sunset we went down to the beach and had them take our picture. I bought the photo pass cd for $99. It had our sunset beach photos, photos of the canoe activity we did, and everything else we were photographed doing that week including the luau and breakfast with Mickey.
In case you are wondering where we bought clothes it was up on the North Shore at Surf & Sea. Their shop is awesome and you can rent paddle boards here. They also offer a military discount.
I was a little unsure exactly how our Aulani suite room was going to be set up and there were two things I didn’t realize. One, there’s a fridge of some kind no matter what kind of room you stay in. If you stay in a villa you have a full kitchen. In our villa I literally had everything I needed, including a blender. If I didn’t have an item then I could call and they would send it up immediately. Once I realize I had a fridge, I went to the nearby Walmart and bought snacks and breakfast items. (And maybe some booze.) Secondly, there are a washer and dryer in the villas. I was so happy to wash our clothes. Had I known we were going to have this option we would have packed way less.
*Anytime we have access to a washer and dryer in our room, I pack less than what we need for a trip. For example, for an 7 day trip we would only pack 4 outfits. On day 3 or 4 I wash all of our clothes. Sure, we wear the same thing twice in one week, but we are on vacation so who cares.
*If I have time I wash clothes again before we leave so I do not have a bunch of laundry when I get home.
How Much Does a Trip to Aulani Cost?
This is not an easy answer. I feel like this could get super expensive, super fast.
There are some easy ways to make it cost less. In fact, I have an entire post dedicated to reducing what you spend at Aulani: How to Save Money at Aulani. I also have a post with a list of included activities: Free Things to do at Aulani.
Another way to pay less for Aulani is utilizing a discount. Aulani offers a military discount, a Disney Annual Passholder discount, and a Hawaii residents discount. The discounts vary from season to season and require minimum stays sometimes. Because they offer different deals all the time I suggest you get a quote from Jenn, my travel planner and an Authorize Disney Vacation Planner. She’s always in the know when it comes to anything Disney. She doesn’t charge anything for her services: fill out this form for a free quote!
Overall prices vary month to month. After a quick look over their calender it appears that the cheapest times to stay at Aulain are February, May, October, and November.
How Much Does Parking Cost at Aulani?
Overnight guests stay at Aulani have to pay for parking. Self parking is $37 per day, or for the same price, you can valet park.
Disney Vacation Club Members staying on a points reservation can enjoy convenient self-parking at no daily charge for up to 2 vehicles.
Parking fees for day guests visiting Aulani Resort: Valet parking for day Guests is $37 per day and self-parking for day guests is $12 per hour—or a maximum of $37 per day.
There is a way to score free parking at Aulani. You can get complimentary self-parking or valet parking at Aulani Resort up to 4 hours when you spend $35 or more at the following venues:
- ‘AMA‘AMA – Contemporary Island Cooking (our favorite)
- Makahiki – The Bounty of the Islands
- The ‘Ōlelo Room, valid for purchases made between 5:00 PM and 11:00 PM
- Off the Hook, valid for purchases made between 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM
- Laniwai – A Disney Spa, when you spend $35 or more
- Merchandise locations, Kalepa’s or Hale Manu, when you spend $50 or more
What is the Closest Airport to Aulani?
The main airport in Oahu is the Honolulu Airport, airport code HNL.
Does Disney Aulani Offer Day Passes?
No, but they allow people to visit if they want to eat at one Aulani’s restaurants, indulge at the spa, or do some shopping.
Can I Smoke at Aulani Resort?
No, the resort is smoke free. They have two designated smoke areas where it is allowed.
Does Aulani Have a Theme Park?
Contrary to what many people assume Aulani offers no rides. They do not have a water park either, but there are two slides, a lazy river, four heated pools, and a water playground.
Which Disney Characters are at Aulani?
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Moana, and Stitch were the only characters we saw during our stay.