Hawaii! A paradise destination that many only dream of being able to visit.
But if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to make the trip out, you might be left with a lot of questions about how you actually get there.
Sure, you might know that you need to fly there, but what else?
I know a lot of people who are completely put off the idea of travelling to Hawaii because of the flight – they don’t think that they could handle it.
I won’t lie to you, the long travel times can be a little daunting, but I promise it’s more than worth it.
As soon as you step off the plane in beautiful Hawaii you’ll forget the last day or so of travelling even happened.
But, if you can follow the tips and tricks included throughout this article, then you might find that your travel will go a lot smoother.
I love flying, mostly because I’ve got it all down perfectly, and know how to make it part of the holiday, instead of the liminal time in between.
Maybe you’ll be able to do the same with these tips.
But first, we have to find out about the actual flights – we can’t start to prepare for a flight if we don’t know how long it’s going to take.
How Long Is The Flight To Hawaii?
How long is a piece of string?
The US is big. Like, really, really big. There is a massive difference between how long the flight will take if you’re going from the West Coast compared to leaving from the East Coast.
So, instead of trying to give you a rough, ballpark figure, let’s discover what the flight times are from the five biggest airports in America, which should give you a decent idea of how long your journey is going to be.
Just to keep everything even-steven, all of these flights are going to be direct to the Big Island, landing either in Kona or Hilo.
However, there are a few areas that only fly direct to Honolulu, in which case I’ll give the direct flight time to HNL, as well as the length of travel with a connection to Kona.
There are a lot of flights that will make stops on the West Coast and or have connections to your destination, and obviously this will impact your travel time a lot.
But don’t worry, we’ll cover what to do with lay-overs and connections a little later.
Los Angeles (LAX) – 6 Hours
If you’re flying from LAX, you can catch a non-stop flight to Kona that will take you about 6 hours in total. Some flights are about 5 hours 45 minutes, and some are a little over 6 hours, but the average time is 6 hours.
If you’re flying from any of the major West Coast airports like San Diego or San Francisco, then you’ll be looking at about 5-6 hours in the air.
This is the easiest/quickest flight to take from a major airport.
So if you live further east, but you really hate flying, you could always try to organize a road trip or get the train to the West Coast and get a flight from there.
Denver (DEN) – 8 Hours
Non-stop from Denver to Kona is about 7 hours, 45 minutes, but this will obviously be dependent on weather.
That said, if you were flying to Honolulu, the flight could be an easy 7 hours, 25 minutes (not “easy” easy, but certainly easier than the next few flights I’m about to mention).
Houston George Bush Airport (IAH) – 9 Hours
There are about 7 non-stop flights a day from Houston to Honolulu every day, and these take about 8 hours and 45 minutes.
If you’re wanting to get to Kona, then you’ll have to make one stop, and this can take nearly 12 hours.
These long-haul flights can be arduous and difficult, but you will be well looked after if you travel with a good airline, and you should be able to sleep for the majority of it if you plan properly.
New York (JFK) – 13 Hours
If you were to fly directly from JFK to Honolulu, then the flight might only take you a sarcastically measly 11 hours.
However, to get to the Big Island, you’ll have to make a connection in LAX, with a total journey time of about 13 hours.
Orlando (MCO) – 13/14 Hours
Now we’re really getting into the weeds of long-haul flights.
Now, I have to admit, there are almost no direct flights from Florida to Hawaii, so this route does involve one stop at LAX to refuel and stretch your legs.
There are also slightly cheaper flights that make 2 stops, in ALT and LAX.
However, if you want to take the 2-stop flights, it’s going to take you upwards of 17 hours to get to Hawaii, so bare that in mind.
All this to say that Hawaii is a bit further away than you might have thought, and that it isn’t really a weekend destination.
If you’re going to spend upwards of 10 hours in the air, never mind how long you’ll have to spend in the airport, both ways, then you want to make sure that you have enough time there to fully enjoy everything.
Finding The Best Flights
There are a few ways to find the best deals on flights, because the last thing you want is to spend all of your money on a 12-hour flight and then not have any money left to buy drinks or souvenirs once you actually get there.
Catch A Red Eye
The most well-known way to ensure that you get a cheaper flight is to catch a red-eye. This means a flight in the very early hours of the morning, like 4am.
Nobody wants to fly at this time, mostly because it means that you actually have to get to the airport at 2am, and end up getting no sleep at all.
For a lot of people, starting your holiday at such an ungodly hour is a bummer, but I posit that you could try to reframe it as an adventure.
Particularly if you’re travelling with children. Being out of the house at that time is so far against what you usually do that you can try to make it an event.
Plus, you’ll probably end up sleeping on the flight, especially if you’re on a 12-hour flight.
The majority of flyers are either on business trips or holidays.
The most common flights are on Fridays (for the weekend) or Sunday (if they’re going for the week).
This means that there is far less demand for flights on a Wednesday, for example.
If it’s possible, try to find a red-eye flight on a Wednesday morning, this should, statistically, be the cheapest flight you can find.
However, all of these things are subject to change, and there is no sure-fire way to guarantee that these flights will end up being the cheapest.
Use A Comparison Site
If you go through an airline, you’re a lot more likely to end up being charged more. However, comparison websites want to streamline the process for you.
Instead of spending hours and hours trawling through airline websites, comparison sites will take all the best deals and compile them in an easy-to-read list.
This makes it much easier to find the cheapest flight. Just be aware that if you want cheap, you’ll probably have to spend longer in the air, waiting for a connection, or in a less comfortable seat.
Always follow the cardinal rule of booking flights – book direct.
Though I recommend using a comparison website to get a good idea of the deals, make sure that you only ever book directly with the airline.
If you go through a third party company, and there are issues with your flight, it makes it really difficult to get anything done.
This is because if you book through someone like Expedia, it’s the company that holds your reservation, not you.
This means that if there are delays or your flight is cancelled, the people working at the gate won’t be able to help you, and if it’s a red-eye flight, you might be waiting a long time until the third-party site is able to get back to you.
Clear Your Cookies
I don’t mean eat all of your snacks whilst you’re searching for the flights.
When you’re going through the options, make sure that you either don’t allow websites to save your cookies, or actively clear your cache frequently.
This is because of something called dynamic pricing. This is when a travel agent site or airline knows (see also: Is Delta A Good Airline? (14 Pros And Cons You Need To Know))that you’re looking for a holiday, and then hikes the prices up during your search.
Some people might think to get around it by using an incognito browser, but clearing your cookies is going to be a safer bet.
What About Jet Lag?
One of the good things about such long flight times is that you have the opportunity to trick yourself into adjusting to the time zone whilst you’re in the air.
Hawaii doesn’t observe daylight savings, so the time difference depends on the time of year that you’re travelling.
They’re 2-3 hours behind West PST, 4-5 Hours behind CST, and 5-6 hours behind EST.
Jet lag is going to hit you differently depending on where you’re travelling from, but if you’re travelling from the West Coast outside daylight savings, you probably won’t even notice it.
Do your research. Know what the local time will be when you land, and set your watch to local time as soon as you’re on the flight.
Though it might be difficult to sleep, try to match your schedule to the local time once you’re in the air.
This might mean staying awake for a little whilst once you get on your flight, then sleeping/napping/resting for a few hours in the middle, and then trying to keep awake until you land.
This should help you adjust easier – and then you can do the same thing on the way back in the opposite direction.
Should You Pay More?
I love a good bargain as much as the next person. However, when your flight times are as long as this, then I think that you need to allow yourself to be flexible.
You don’t want to be in an uncomfortable chair the whole time, you don’t want to have too many connections, or any if that’s possible.
I definitely recommend paying more for a better seat or even a better aircraft – using a site like seatguru.com will allow you to check the flight number and see which aircraft is scheduled to be used.
Knowing that you’re going to be in a bigger aircraft, or a fancier one with screens in the seats is going to make a big difference to your experience.
When your flight is more than half a day, it’s important to try to frame it in your mind as a part of the holiday. Once you’re in the air, you’re on holiday – maybe even once you’re through security.
If you can budget for it, see if you can get business class seats, or pay extra for a direct flight rather than a one with connections.
Surviving The Journey
12 hours in a plane sounds like a nightmare, if you have kids, it might sound like actual torture.
However, as a long time flyer, I can pass on my wealth of knowledge that I’ve passed on in order to help you feel like your flight is still a part of your holiday.
Charge Your Devices
Whether it’s your phone, tablet, wireless headphones, e-reader etc. If it has power, make sure it’s charged.
Bring a charger for everything and bring a fully charged battery pack with you as well.
You can get great cable bags to keep everything together and organized – that can also easily be removed from your carry on when you go through security.
Audiobooks, music, movies/shows on Netflix? Get then downloaded.
You don’t want to be at the mercy of on-board Wi-Fi, ensure that you can still access all of your media even when you’re completely offline.
Definitely over-estimate how much media you need as well, you’ll need it for the way home as well.
Set Yourself A Comfort Budget
If you have the funds, give yourself $50 or $100 to spend on random things that can keep you comfortable on the flight.
This might include neck pillows, ear plugs, facemasks, blankets, new headphones or even an inflatable foot rest. Don’t just assume that you’ll be fine without these things.
The first couple hours you might be okay, but by hour 6 you’re going to really wish that you had something to prop your head on.
The best thing about this tip is that once you’ve spent the money, you don’t have to do it for every flight – you’ll have a long-haul flight survival kit ready to go whenever you travel again.
Get A Great Carry-On Bag
In the same vein as the previous tip, get yourself a good carry-on bag. I can’t understate how having an organized travel bag is going to make your flight so much easier.
Bring Your Own Food
Give yourself the time to eat a great meal before you get on the flight – nothing greasy, heavy, or fast-burning.
Something that’s actually going to keep you going before you get on the flight.
When you’re in the air, you might be offered food, but you’ll be lucky if it’s actually edible.
Instead, opt to pack yourself a bunch of snacks and food that you can eat throughout your flight, including some hard sweets in case you need to suck them whilst your ears pop.
As well as food, you want water. So much water.
As much water as you’d normally drink in a 12-hour period.
Take an empty water bottle with you then fill it up once you’re past security – your flight attendants will also fill it up for you.
Travelling With Kids
If you’re taking your children on holiday to Hawaii, first of all, well done because you’re an awesome parent. Second, take a deep breath.
Opt For Shorter Travel Times
Depending on the age of your kids, a 12-hour flight might sound hellish, but 6 hours could be more doable.
Consider taking the train or a road trip to LAX to give yourself less time in the air.
A couple of days road tripping and seeing some sights might end up making your holiday ever more fun, though obviously that does raise the price of this holiday a lot more.
Get Them Their Own Bag
Even if they’re just toddlers, give them a backpack that is their responsibility that has all of the things they could possibly need in them.
Give them their own water bottle, books, and activities they can engage with on their own, and snacks.
Lots and lots of snacks. If you’ve packed everything in their bag and there’s still space left, pack more snacks.
Get Them Their Own Seat
Even if they’re small enough that they wouldn’t normally need their own seat, there’s nothing more important than making sure that they have their own little space to sleep and play.
Start Weeks Before
If you want things to go smoothly (or at least give yourself the best chance for things to go smoothly) then start talking about how they need to be acting on a plane and establish certain expectations before you’re actually on the plane.
They’re going to be tired. They’re going to be overwhelmed by the new sounds and smells. They might even be scared of the prospect of flying.
Be patient and calm with them and try to help them enjoy the adventure of flying – there’s no reason why the flight can’t be part of the holiday for all of you, but I completely understand that travelling for this long with a child is a completely different experience than travelling without kids.
There you have it. The flight times to Hawaii range from about 5 and a half hours to nearly 14, and that’s without connections in between.
There’s no doubt that it’s a trek, but the islands are absolutely worth it.
The areas you can explore in Hawaii are absolutely incredible, and it truly is a paradise to see.
Try to see your journey as part of the holiday, whether you take the time to just relax and read or watch TV, it’s still time that you’re away, there’s no reason that travelling should be painful so long as you’ve prepared yourself.
Even delays and cancellations can be an adventure (a frustrating and difficult one, but whoever said adventures were all smooth sailing).
Hawaii is more than worth the time and money to get yourself there, but hopefully this article has helped you feel a bit more prepared and ready to tackle it.
Oh, and finally, you probably need more snacks.
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