For most travelers, airfare is the single biggest expense of a trip to Hawaii…after all, it’s a looooong ways over there. And if you’ve never booked international airfare before (I know it’s the US but because of the distance, flights to Hawaii work much more like international than domestic), it can be kind of overwhelming. First up, I’ll let you in on a few of the biggest things you need to be aware of before you start looking at airfare to Hawaii. Next, I’ll let you in on my 6-step system for booking the best airfare deal and finally, suggest a few scenarios where I think it’s worth it to pay a little more for a better flight.
Before I dive into some of my favorite money saving strategies, you should know that the single biggest factor that will save on airfare is picking the cheapest time of year to travel to Hawaii (read all about that here). Once you have a good idea of your general travel dates as well as the island(s) you’re headed to, you’re ready to start searching for bargains!
Things to Know About Booking Airfare to Hawaii
Before you start bargain hunting, here are a few general strategies that I’ve found save money on airfare no matter where you’re traveling:
- Be flexible with your travel dates.
- Check out nearby airports.
- Be willing to make extra connections.
- Fly on weekdays.
- Check out budget airlines like Southwest, Allegiant, and Alaska Airlines.
6 Steps to Booking Cheap Hawaii Airfare
Now that you have some general background strategy, here is the 6-step process I use for finding the best airfare deals:
1.Do an initial search. When you’re first beginning your search, do a Google Flights search to get a basic idea of prices during your travel window. This is a great way to check out the differences between nearby airports and also compare the cost of flying to each island. This will give you your base price to beat when you’re deal hunting.
2.Search for flexible dates. Once you have a general idea of the numbers you’re dealing with, I love to use Cheap Air because they have a flexible dates tab that allows you to see the cheapest days to travel during your travel period. It will let you in on any price patterns during the dates you’re looking at.
3.Sign up for email alerts 5-6 months before your trip. I like to use Airfare Watchdog but I’ve recently started playing around with the Hopper app for an upcoming trip and it has some nice features for price tracking and monitoring.
4.Be ready to book airfare around four months out. This is the prime booking window so once you’ve monitored the trends for a couple of months, be ready to book fast! Once you pass this window, prices will usually only rise.
5.Clear your cookies. If you’ve searched on a specific search engine or booking system and then you go back in and see a price increase, it’s mostly because it recognizes you. It knows you’re interested in that flight so it’s increased the price to get you to panic and book. If you clear your computer’s cookies or search history, you should see an unbiased price reflected.
6.Book a good deal fast! Since you’ve done your research, you should know a good bargain when you see it, so snap it up! Once you find the best price, I recommend going and booking directly through the airline. If anything happens while you’re traveling you have much more leverage when dealing with them directly instead of having to go through a third party like Expedia or Travelocity.
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When to Pay More
I’m definitely one to spend some time hunting for a bargain, but there are times when I think it’s worth it to pay more. Flights to Hawaii are about 5-6 hours from the west coast, 8-9 hours from the middle of the country, and 11-12 hours from the east coast so that’s a long time to be miserable in a bad seat or on a less than stellar aircraft. Also, not all flight itineraries to Hawaii are created equal. Of course it’s all subjective, but here are times when I think it’s worth it to pay more for a better flight:
- For a direct flight.
- For fewer connections.
- For a better seat.
- For a better aircraft (use Seatguru.com to find out which flights fly which aircraft).
- For a better connection coming home (i.e. one that doesn’t require you to spend the night in California coming home).
Again, it’s up to you to decide when it’s worth it to pony up a little more cash for a better flight experience, but these are my general recommendations based on my experience.
P.S. This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission if you purchase anything through them.
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