Hacking Our Way to Hawaii (Round 2!)

Hacking Our Way to Hawaii (Round 2!)

We’ve been able to fly Hawaiian Airlines quite a few times – domestically and internationally, economy and first class – but it’s only in the last 12 months that we’ve flown HA with the kids.

The first trip to Hawaii with the kids was a wonderful week in Maui March of 2018, when Baby J was 9 months old. You can read here about the costs of the entire trip, as well as comparable costs if we had paid cash.

This year we wanted to do a similar trip, with the perk of upgrading to “extra comfort” seats (economy plus) if possible. Baby J will be 21 months old this time, so he takes up a bit more space as a “lap baby”.

A couple reminders, which we’ve discussed before:

1. If you don’t want to do a long flight with your kids, Hawaii may not be the vacation for you. Minimum flight time from the continental US is going to be 5-6 hours off the south-west coast. It will be 8-9 hours from the central US and 10+ from the east coast.

2. If you are looking for a cheap beach vacation, Hawaii is not your spot. There are many, many other lovely beach destinations in the world that are cheaper to get to and cheaper to stay in.

Travel Hacking Hawaiian Air

This year, we had a whole bunch of Hawaiian Airlines miles to spend (and the corresponding card to give us free checked bags, etc), but the points turn out to be nearly impossible to use compared to the miles/rewards from other programs we used in 2018.

The Hawaiian Air “50% companion fare” is only good for a discount off the “base fare”, does not apply to child tickets, and is useless unless you want to pay cash (not use points) and fly round-trip (no multi-city or one-way discounts).

If your travel dates and cities are incredibly flexible, I can see Hawaiian Air points being very useful. That’s not our situation, so we will be shutting down these cards next month and not trying to accumulate Hawaiian Miles again anytime soon.

The Flights

Once again Southwest came to the rescue, and we were able to hop from Phoenix to San Diego (a ~1 hour flight) for $33.60 for all of us. From San Diego we were able to use our Hawaiian miles and some cash to do exactly what we wanted to do: fly to Honolulu, take a long layover to show our boys Pearl Harbor, and then jump over to Maui for a week before flying back to the mainland direct from Maui. For some mysterious reason, this was impossible to do with miles out of Phoenix.

We were able to get “extra comfort” bulkhead seats for the outbound flight (6.5 hours) and “extra comfort” window, middle, and aisle seats for the homebound flight (5 hours). The reviews told us this upgrade would amount to extra leg room and not much else, but we like extra leg room so we shelled out the money.

We didn’t upgrade the inter-island flight seats, because we’ve flown HA enough to know that those seats are basically all the same and the flight is actually just about 30 minutes long – so unless you desperately want to over-pay for a mai tai, you’re better off with the basic economy fare.

The Cost

Our total cost was $1,234.81 plus about 106,000 HA miles.

The comparable cost had we paid cash for the same booking would have been $3,968.57 (a savings of $2,733.76).

We also get a free checked bag, so that’s another $60 in our pocket.

I begrudgingly admit that opening the Hawaiian Air cards (after subtracting annual fees) saved us $2,603.76 this year.

I’ll post a full review of our in-air experience flying Hawaiian Air with the kids when we get home in a couple weeks!

Related post: You can read our review of flying British Air as a family here.

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