Hawaii 2022 – Oahu

Whew, this trip has a good bit of backstory! Hawaii has been one of my favorite places since my first time visiting with my Dad the summer before my freshman year of high school. Zach and I have been very fortunate to visit Hawaii several times over the years on incentive trips he’s earned through Aflac. We LOVE it and our kids have all wanted to visit, but especially Britt.

Years ago Zach made Britt a promise – if she saved up $500 he’d take her to Hawaii. His plan was to use an Aflac trip as our family trip and just bring the kids along. Well Britt has LONG since surpassed that savings goal and in the meantime, the world shut down, a few things have changed with Zach’s job, and we have been trying to figure out how to make this promise a reality.

We actually booked a trip to Hawaii. Twice. We’ve had it planned, plane tickets bought, condos booked. But both times we ended up canceling due to the world not being healed yet from the pandemic. We’re only taking the kids to Hawaii ONCE. And we want to make sure it’s THE best experience we can give them. And that timing just didn’t seem to work out.

Once the world did seem to be on the healing end of things…Spear got to an age where we didn’t feel comfortable not including him but where we also didn’t see how making that huge of a trip would be possible for him either. When we went to Colorado in Jan we both looked at each other once we got in the car to drive home from Atlanta and said “Hawaii ain’t happening.”

Of course, during all of these attempts at planning Hawaii trips, Zach had a bit of a shift in his job situation. Rather than only being an “Aflac guy” he’s not offering multiple provider options to best fit the needs of the businesses whose benefits he helps provide. One of those companies is Colonial Life and guess where their trip happened to be that Zach happened to earn? Yup, HAWAII.

We’ve done a TON of traveling with Aflac over the years. We know the Aflac travel people personally. We’ve seen people on various Aflac trips bring their kids and families. We’d feel comfortable bringing the kids on an Aflac trip because we knew the rules and how it would work. If we brought the kids we’d probably bring along another adult and have to miss out on the Aflac events etc, but we could make it work.

A new company? A first-time trip with them? No way could we feel comfortable figuring it all out with four kids coming along! We both felt HORRIBLE about the idea of going on this trip that we’d been promising the kids as well as trying to PLAN for the kids for SO LONG.

However, it was also a HUGE deal that Zach earned this trip. Of all of the trips we’ve earned over the years, this is the one that is the biggest deal for him personally and professionally. We felt just as much as we couldn’t go without the kids, we also couldn’t not go on the trip.

After Colorado, we planned on NOT going on the Hawaii trip at all. We actually assumed it’d be canceled. Over the last couple of years, any incentive trip HAS been canceled. Canceled trips are the new norm!

And once we found out that they would not be canceling it? We planned to take whatever prize money they’d give us instead. But then we learned that there was no prize money. You either go on a 10 day trip to Hawaii for FREE or you get nothing. So Hawaii here we come πŸ˜‰

It was really hard telling the kids but after Colorado I had a big talk with Britt. And explained to her that Hawaii has been a burden on my mental load and that it just wasn’t going to be able to happen for awhile. I needed to press pause on it and she was FINE. I mean she’s 10. She doesn’t NEED a dang trip to Hawaii right? I was worrying WAY more about it and putting WAY more pressure on myself about it than I needed to. So we’ve tabled the kids’ Hawaii trip and Zach and I are thinking what we may do is do a combo Cali/Hawaii trip in a few years when Spear would enjoy Disneyland and make it a BIG family trip which will also help adjust to the time change and such by splitting it up with California. Plus we’d planned to do a Disneyland trip again once Spear and Tess were older and it’ll be cheaper to combine Hawaii with that trip rather than take BOTH trips.

Once we decided we were going to go to Hawaii…then came the childcare concern. Zach’s parents would also be attending the trip and yall know there is no one I feel better about having my babies when I’m away than Mrs Charlotte! 10 days leaving the kids is hard enough, especially after not having gone so far away for so long in AGES.

We were really BEYOND blessed with how it all worked out. We were gone one full school week and two weekends. Aunt Karen and Little Mama had Spear the first two nights then he stayed with Casey the remainder of our trip. He ADORES Cam and I knew he’d have SO much fun. We have awesome church fam that offered to help with the big kids on the weekends and I have recently hired a high school student who comes and helps me with some blog tasks who I ADORE and trust FULLY. She lives near us so she stayed at the house while we were gone with the big kids. Kye actually ended up having a school trip for most of the weekdays so it was just the girls with Marleigh most of the time. For being such a long trip it actually ended up being the SMOOTHEST childcare situation we’ve ever had! I’m so, so thankful to everyone who helped and it was a huge peace of mind knowing my babies were safe and having FUN!

Of course 3 days prior to us leaving our house got struck by lightning…it was a CHAOS kinda week and I about had a panic attack at one point because I was trying to deal with the lightning while packing myself and all the kids for this massive trip.

We flew out on Sat March 12th and had the 6 am flight out of Valdosta. Spear went ahead and went with Aunt Karen and Little Mama and the big kids all tucked ME in for bed the night prior and then Marleigh came over to the house first thing Sat morning so she would be there when the big kids woke up. I went to bed at 7:45 and got up at 3:45 to get ready!

Apparently, while I was sleeping Delta sent a text about our flight, and Zach and his dad spent the evening trying to figure out our flight plans due to the Valdosta flight having issues and being canceled. We ended up having a rough-weather road trip up to Atlanta to catch our connecting flight! It was a rough start and Zach’s parents barely made it in time!

Kye had his bullseye state tournament that day and Marleigh took the girls to support him! He scored a 251! It was tough on my mama heart leaving the kids but I really felt like this trip was the best for us all staying in touch too! Kye had his Apple Watch and I set up Britt’s ipad to be able to Facetime with me. I loved getting the updates from home and knowing they were having a good time.

On the flight I knocked out a couple of Oscar contenders – The Lost Daughter and The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Both were good, Tammy Faye was the better of the two in my opinion.

The Hawaii trip was actually TWO incentive trips combined. The start of the trip was the top people for the year in Oahu and both Zach and Mr. Rusty earned that trip as well as the conference trip to Maui later in the week. Zach won for the office of the year in the entire company and Mr. Rusty won for rookie of the year. HUGE honors and SO proud of ’em both!

I love, love arriving in Hawaii. The airport is just VIBES right at landing! During our trip masks were still required on flights and Hawaii was still requiring all sorts of proof and online check-ins and scans. The line moved quickly and ALL of our luggage arrived and we were taken on a charter van to the hotel. I had a carton of water for my first time ever – my rule while traveling is to ALWAYS drink water anytime it’s offered. I drank well over 200 oz on our travel day!

We didn’t do a ton of research into the trip but know enough about Oahu to know that the Ko Olina side of the island is the more quaint, often upscale side. Our stay was at the Four Seasons and OH MY WORD. Fanciest place we’ve ever (and will probably ever!) stay. We were greeted with leis and taken to our room!

We were DYING. We flew over 5,000 miles to then have our hotel room be RIGHT BESIDE Zach’s parents. It was HILARIOUS. I’m often asked about these trips with Zach’s parents and truly they are awesome travel partners. We hang together some, but do our own thing too. When we first went on trips that his parents were also on we struggled a bit with boundaries because we felt bad not doing everything with them. But over the years we’ve gotten in a great balance with it!

There is a VERY good chance that this will be the last trip like this as it’s very unlikely that the four of us all go on an incentive trip together again with the way things are now job-wise and the way it’s all set up etc. So we tried to really make sure we appreciated and enjoyed this experience! We LOVE Zach’s parents and how blessed are we that the four of us have been able to share so many wonderful travel experiences together over the years? Especially for free right πŸ˜‰

Our room was BEAUTIFUL with an incredible ocean view!

We got settled in and then got ready for dinner! Here’s my outfit details from night one πŸ™‚

Our resort was located directly beside Aulani! It was so funny because, naturally, it’s my dream to stay at Aulani with the kids when we get to finally visit. Our dinner was outside on the gorgeous grounds.

It was a bit awkward because we have all been with Aflac FOREVER. We’re used to knowing everyone, reconnecting with old friends etc. Being newer with Colonial Life and not knowing people was a little uncomfortable. Not really knowing the vibe or the flow of the events. It was just all new territory for us all! It was nice we had each other for sure and it didn’t take us long to mingle and meet new friends too.

We found out later that our dinner was actually taking place directly beside Patrick Mahomes’ wedding! We literally saw the wedding from our hotel window that night. Super cool πŸ™‚

Our dinner was gorgeous and the adorable Hawaiian dancers put on a fantastic show as well. We noticed right away that the vibe of this event was different than past trips like these that we’d been on. It felt very intimate and like people truly wanted to get to know one another. I am SO glad we didn’t attempt to bring the kids as this was a one of a kind kinda experience and much more of a professional type situation where I’m glad we were able to meet people and not miss out on these events.

The time change is always a BIG adjustment and the older we get the tougher that adjustment is to make. I’m all about getting a SOLID night of sleep the first night in a different timezone. I slept like a rock and then we went down to breakfast! On this trip breakfast and dinner were included in part of the incentive package. It was not just a quick buffet either – it was GOOD stuff!

It’s so funny because when I see POG juice I think of Disney but really it’s something Disney started doing from Hawaii πŸ˜‰ We had a gorgeous breakfast with a gorgeous view.

The incentive trip also included lots of gifts. On that day we got to each choose a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses! SO COOL!!! It is so awesome to be appreciated for your hard work and Colonial Life truly went above and beyond in every aspect of this amazing trip.

The trip included some activity options. We have been to Oahu a few times in the past and knew that the location of the resort, in Ko Olina, was pretty far away from the Waikiki / Honolulu hub area where most of the tourist kinda stuff is located. We really didn’t want to spend our time on a bus driving all over the island so we opted to do a couples massage as our activity for the day!

We spent the day just relaxing and soaking up the gorgeous sunshine and gorgeous views and the quality time together. Pork nachos hit the spot and I even busted out $12 for a virgin Pina colada πŸ˜‰

We walked around the beach area a bit to check it out and it was interesting to be able to see the shared beach with Aulani next door. It was WAY more crowded than our beach was and our vibe was way more chill than the vibe seemed to be!

We had a bit of a hiccup with our massages. We both prefer female masseuses but I ended up having a man while Zach had a female. Which was fine! I just can’t RELAX as well with a man massaging me? It was still nice but just not AS great as it would have been otherwise.

We headed back to the room after our massages to have time to shower and get ready for dinner. I have had this dress for YEARS and it’s come in handy for so many occasions! I love it!

A booklet was delivered to each of the qualifiers rooms and it recognized all the people who earned the trips (both the President’s Club to Oahu as well the Leaders Conference to Maui). I DIED when I opened the book and read what Zach put for his answers for the questionnaire. To his credit – he did NOT know what the questions he was answering would be used for. So funny!

It’s also precious that he and his dad both said their role models were their fathers πŸ™‚ So precious.

We were a little tempted to skip the dinner because it was at a Rum factory and we not only don’t drink but we really didn’t feel like riding in a 40 min one way bus ride to learn about Rum. However I’m SO GLAD we ended up going!!!

It’s funny to me how many times we’ve visited alcohol related locations on these types of trips. We’ve toured multiple distilleries, been part of a group activity where we made our own wine, and visited several breweries. Kinda ironic for people who don’t drink alcohol!

The reason I’m so glad we went on the dinner is that we ended up meeting some great people on the bus ride that we instantly clicked with and we happened to be seated with THE president and CEO of the entire COMPANY (Tim Arnold) and his wife.

They were SO down to earth and it was just really awesome how the higher ups in the company truly mingled with the agents and associates. They were just normal, everyday people. Casual and kind and truly wanted to know US as well.

Mr. Rusty cracked me up on the trip because everyone he met, Tim included, he asked them what sort of golf courses they lived by. I think he got every single persons phone number to hook up with some golf days in the future. Hilarious! But truly how many CEOs of companies would sit at picnic tables while in Hawaii and give out their personal phone number and make plans to go golfing with a person who has been employed with them for just over a year? It was so impressive and made me think so highly of the company as a whole.

That night we were gifted clocks! The next day we had signed up for an activity to go tour the Jurassic Park filming location. It’s on my list of things I’d like to do in Hawaii and I thought it’d be a good opportunity to check it out, for free, to then decide if it was worthwhile to bring the kids back to when we visit someday.

I ended up waking up with a killer migraine. Zach went down to breakfast and went on a hunt for Mt Dew for me as it’s the best thing in helping me knock out a headache and they only had Coke products on property. We decided a full day on a bus just wasn’t our vibe so we decided not to go.

Again, we’re used to Aflac trips where they don’t really care who goes to what and people miss out on things all the time. The family vibe of Colonial Life is just a different culture than we are used to! People were worried about us when we didn’t go which was just so kind. Mr. Rusty and Mrs Charlotte still went and had a good time, but it didn’t sound like the Jurassic Park tour is really all that amazing so I don’t think we’ll bother with it when the time comes.

I enjoyed sitting on the balcony looking for Zach while he ate breakfast and getting updates on the kids! Spear was having the time of his life with Cam πŸ™‚

Once I started feeling better we got dressed and “snuck” into Aulani to walk around a bit πŸ˜‰ We actually visited Aulani on our last Hawaii trip (back in 2017) and got to eat breakfast there too! It didn’t really take much to sneak in…we just walked over from our beach area along the boardwalk πŸ˜‰

I would really love to stay at least one night in Aulani whenever we are able to bring the kids to Hawaii. It’s tricky bc if you spend the money to stay there you need to enjoy the RESORT but you’re also in HAWAII and need to go and do around the island as well!

My main goal was to hit up the gift shop as I wanted to get something for Britt! I had a hard time deciding because there were so many cute items and so much of the merch is ONLY available at Aulani! I ended up going for the little Minnie Mouse Wishables for the girls – so cute with her lei!

Aulani is very beautiful and has all the Disney touches! When we had planned our Hawaii trip, that got canceled, I had actually booked our stay at Aulani for 4 nights. They frequently do run specials so I’m just crossing fingers it works out for us to have the chance to stay there again in the future! Def a Disney bucket list item for me πŸ™‚

We walked back from the front of the Resort rather than the beach side. The views in Ko Olina are STUNNING.

When we got back we changed into bathing suits and decided to hit the beach this time for awhile instead of the pool. We knew we’ll NEVER have the chance to enjoy such a fancy resort so we wanted to truly enjoy the resort experience and do all the relaxing we could. Neither of us have ever been to Maui so our plan was to have that leg of the trip be the do-all-the-things part and the Oahu portion was our relaxation time πŸ™‚

Absolutely NOTHING comes close to true Hawaiian shaved ice. SO GOOD.

Our last night in Oahu was the President’s Club celebration and awards night. It was also held at the property during sunset. Simply stunning!

When Zach and I had our first date back in college I ordered a Shirley Temple and Zach said “I’m not paying for your alcohol” which was HILARIOUS bc a) I was 19. Like you can’t order an alcoholic drink at 19 and b) a Shirley Temple is literally Sprite and Cherries. NOT Alcoholic! We told that story a few times on the trip and it was so funny because it started a trend of people ordering Shirley Temples. Mr. Rusty had never even had one before!

Doesn’t get much more Hawaii picture perfect than this!

In all the years in insurance Zach has never been seated at the front tables nor has he been presented on stage for the big awards. It was a HUGE honor and I’m just so proud of him for the incredible year he had. It was a big step in faith and an opportunity to TRUST God to LEAD and through that trust Zach really thrived. He had FUN in the journey and had this new outlook on his career. It was such an awesome journey and it just really came full circle sitting there and watching him accept an award honoring that hard work.

We were also gifted super cute flip flops as our gift for the night! I’ve also never seen a female fire performer until that night and yall one of her BOOBS CAUGHT FIRE. It was crazy!

On departure day we had another beautiful breakfast and got packed up ready to fly out to Maui. I really tried to be adventurous in my eating while on the trip and LOVED all the food so much! My breakfast was a waffle topped with pineapples, macadamia nuts, coconut whipped cream, and coconut syrup!

I always tell my kids that I have spies everywhere and I am so thankful for my village always looking out for my babies! We only ended up FaceTiming Spear once on the trip. It really seemed to upset him and he was having FUN and doing great. Sometimes I think FaceTiming can be harder for the kids so we wanted to just let him do his thing and let him lead. He was great with Casey and didn’t ask to FaceTime us again, so we didn’t. But we had a long talk with him before flying out and got to show him our resort and the views and the cool airplanes and boats! It upset me a lot to see him upset too so it was def better to just get text updates from Casey from then on.

When we arrived at the airport we had to get some lunch and the prices were INSANE. Like Zach spent $22 for Burger King. For himself. I ended up deciding it was the perfect opportunity to try the Starbucks Pink Drink! It was yummy and a great send-off from Oahu!

I love that they passed out POG juice on the short flight to Maui. We said goodbye to Oahu…and hopefully “see ya real soon” πŸ˜‰

You can read about our past visits to Hawaii here!

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