A Tropical Travel Blog
by Cate Lincoln

Yay! You’re going to Hawaii! What a dream. But first you have to get there. What a nightmare. Just kidding. But seriously, I have soooo many people tell me that they’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii, but they don’t think they can handle the flight. Well folks, it’s really not that bad! In this post, I’ll be giving you a little insight into what it’s really like to fly to Hawaii from different parts of the US mainland, dishing up some advice on dealing with jet lag, and letting you in on ALL of my secrets to surviving the long flight to Hawaii.

How Long is the Flight to Hawaii?

So first up, exactly how long is the flight to Hawaii? Well it depends where you’re traveling from. From the west coast, flights are only 5-6 hours (6 hours going, 5 hours coming home). From the midwest, flights can be 7-9 hours (hey, America is a big country and there’s a big difference between Denver and Atlanta). And from the east coast, flights can be 10+ hours (yikes!). Now I have not flown direct from the east coast, but I have flown direct from Dallas, TX (8 hour flight) so I have some personal experience here. I will say, these are DIRECT flight times (my preferred method of travel), but the majority of flights to Hawaii connect on the west coast so you’ll be able to break it up.

RELATED: How to Find Cheap Flights to Hawaii

Jet Lag Traveling to Hawaii

Now about jet lag. Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time so the time difference depends on the time of year. It’s 2-3 hours behind west coast time, 4-5 hours behind Central Time, and 5-6 hours behind Eastern Time. So your jet lag experience will vary greatly depending from where you’re traveling. If you’re going from the west coast, you may not notice it much at all.

Here’s what I’ve found after traveling back and forth a lot: it’s way harder to adjust coming home than going there. Mostly this is due to the direction you’re traveling, but I also think adjusting to a non-vacation routine just isn’t as much fun as the other way around.

So, what’s the easiest way to adjust? Personally, when I’m traveling (only 4 hour time difference) for a week or less, I try to stick to my home schedule (wake up and bed time) as much as possible. It’s easy to get up at 5 or 6 in Hawaii with the time change and since sunrise is so early, I like to get my day started early (a good strategy for beating the crowds at popular spots) and hit the hay pretty early (with the sun!). This isn’t too hard on Hawaii as outside of Waikiki there’s not much nightlife. This makes the transition back home a lot easier.

Now if you’re trying to acclimate to Hawaii time…most flights to Hawaii arrive in the afternoon. Do not nap! Stay awake and busy as late as you can. If you can make it until 8 or 9 PM, I consider that a victory!

Onto my tips for surviving the flight to Hawaii…

Tips for Surviving Long Flights

Before You Go

Use Seat Guru. Use Seat Guru to look up the layout of your aircraft (just put in your airline and flight number). Most aircrafts have some sweet little spots with extra legroom or more privacy that may be worth an upgrade.

Window or aisle. Ah, the eternal question. If you like to sleep and don’t need to go to the bathroom much, book the window. If you like more leg room and being able to b up and move around, book the aisle.

Get hydrated. While you want to drink plenty of water once you get on the plane, if you’re already dehydrated, it won’t help as much. So make sure you drink plenty of water the day or two before your flight.

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Staying Healthy

Take antibacterial wipes to wipe down the surfaces around your seat. Trust me, it’s so gross.

Bring hand sanitizer also. You won’t want to have to wash your hands I that tiny bathroom.

Bring face towelettes. I don’t know about you but I feel so grimy after a long flight and being able to clean my face really helps.

Take an Emergen-C (or Airborne). Traveling can wreck your immune system so I always take an Emergen-C packet everyday for a few days after flying.

Getting Comfortable

Wear warm clothes. Yeah, you’re going to the tropics, but they’ll get you change clothes once you get there. I always freeze on places and there’s nothing I hate more than being cold. I always wear leggings, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt and bring a sweatshirt.

Pack socks. Besides keeping your feet warm and making you feel cozy, they’ll also keep your bare feet covered if you’re wearing sandals (but don’t ever go into the bathroom without shoes on!!!).

Pack a large scarf or blanket. Again, I’m a cold wimp, but a blanket always makes me feel cozy even when I’m not cold.

Bring a neck pillow and eye mask. Trust me, if you’re planning on getting any sleep, you’ll want these. I suggest an inflatable pillow so it won’t take up room in your bag.

Get up every couple hours to move around. Your legs will thank you. It will help with circulation and swelling.

Wear comfortable shoes. After a long flight, my feet are always a little swollen so it helps to have comfortable shoes.

Food & Drinks

Pack your own snacks. I cannot stress this enough. Airplane meals I’ve had on flights to Hawaii have ranged from “meh,” to “I’d rather be hungry,” to “if I eat that I will throw up.” If you have time before your flight, eat a good meal (but nothing too heavy) and grab a few snacks. If you’re tight on time, plan ahead and pack a meal.

Order special meals. If you are going to eat the provided meal, but need something special (vegetarian, gluten free, etc.) order it in advance.

Drink plenty of water. Drink more than you think you should. You can never drink too much. Your body will thank you. And bring your own refillable water bottle because you won’t get enough from those tiny cups.

Pass on the alcohol. While it might seem like it would help on a long haul flight, alcohol will actually make it harder to sleep and makes it harder for your body to recover.


Charge all of your devices. You would think all aircrafts would have charging stations at every seat by now, but I assure you they don’t (many do, just never the ones I’m on).

Download movies and TV shows. Again, you would think all aircrafts would have an entertainment station at every seat by now, but they don’t! And the movie (or two) they show on the overhead may not always interest you.

Take an old fashioned book. For me, nothing passes the time like reading.

Get a coloring book. That’s right…they make them for adults now! I love having something to do while I’m watching a movie (yes, apparently I’m hard to entertain).

Download music, podcasts, or audiobooks. You know, so you have something to listen to while you’re coloring.

Don’t forget your headphones. As a millennial, I practically never leave home without a pair, but still it’s worth mentioning.

If you’re flying with kids, I highly suggest reading this post by Amber Fillerup for soooo many suggestions on how to keep them entertained on a long flight.

So there you have it. Wow, in the time it took you to read this, you could be halfway to Hawaii! ; )

Thanks for sticking around and reading this whole post! It’s always my goal to provide a TON of value to YOU. To that end, lately I’ve been packing my Instagram (@hula.land) FULL of content and adventures that you might want to check out. A lot of my post captions are like mini blog posts with travel info, I’ve got IGTV review videos for luaus and excursions, and helpful story highlights like grocery store prices and hotel reviews. Not to mention that my feed is pretty much the ultimate tropical eye candy! You can follow me here and share my account with your friends! Your support really helps me to keep this blog running!

Also, if you have ANY questions about planning your trip to Hawaii, you can join my free Facebook group here. I’m in there answering questions every day and there are 5000+ other friends who have a ton of Hawaii information to share!