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A Hawaiian vacation costs nearly $800 a day

The sun sets on Waikiki, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The sun sets on Waikiki, in Honolulu, Hawaii.Lucy Pemoni / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hawaii is the most expensive state to vacation in, by far, costing two adults an average of $793 a day for food and lodging alone, according to a AAA survey released this week.

State tourism officials said the figure was grossly inflated, arguing the more accurate estimate was about half that amount.

"I think it's more than misleading," Hawaii tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said.

The auto club's recommended daily budget for visitors to the Aloha State is triple the national average of $244 and more than double New York, the second-most expensive state at $320.

Nevada ($301) is third, followed by Florida ($289) and Massachusetts ($287) in AAA's 2008 Annual Vacation Costs Survey. The figures do not include airfare and other costs.

Accommodations in Hawaii, at an average of $675 a night, propelled the state to the overall No. 1. The national average is $164 per night.

AAA said the lodging rates were calculated based on the most recent "published rates" for the more than 60,000 AAA approved properties. The published rates are also known as "rack rates," or the full price of hotel or motel room.

Wienert said daily expenditures this year for a tourist in Hawaii has averaged about $179 per person, or $358 for a couple, well below AAA's estimate.

"Here in Honolulu, there are many different options, depending on what type of budget the visitors are on," she said.

Wienert said isle vacations provide great value and experiences. Also, many attractions, from the beaches to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, are free.

AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter said the auto club's estimates were "budgeting guidelines" to be used as a travel planning tool.

She said people could find lower prices if they travel during off-peak seasons, search in advance for package deals or discounts, use travel agents or contact the hotels directly for their best rates.

"There are many ways to save while you're traveling, so I don't think you should look at that number and think that it would exclude you," Hunter said.

The least expensive state to vacation is North Dakota, costing about $159 a day in meals and accommodations. Fellow farm belt states of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota were also a bargain, according to AAA.

Nationwide, the auto club recommended two adults dining together at full-service restaurants budget $80 a day for three meals, not including tips or beverages.

In Hawaii, the average is $117 daily for two adults, second to Nevada's $124 a day.

To save on food costs, AAA recommended eating the main meal at midday to take advantage of lower lunch prices. Many restaurants also offer "early bird" dinner specials.

AAA said its 2008 figures cannot be compared with last year because a change in available data and calculations.

Hawaii was also at the top of last year's AAA travel survey with an average daily cost for a family of four of $650, which was lower than this year's total for two adults.

The most expensive city in the nation this year is Honolulu, with an average of $673 per day, followed by New York City ($606), Miami ($370), San Diego ($361) and Las Vegas ($358).