How to Book Flights to Hawaii

Planning a trip to Hawaii this year? Airfares to Hawaii are traditionally quite high compared to other domestic destinations, and there are some pretty reasonable explanations for why that is. Nevertheless, we have some handy tips for keeping flight costs down for this beautiful (and always popular) vacation spot.

Know the Best Day to Buy Overall

cheap flights to hawaiiWhen we do our Annual Flight Report every year, we always carve out a special section for Hawaii. The state’s distance from the mainland and lack of a traditional low season (quite the problem to have – there’s no bad weather on Hawaii), generally means that flight prices are higher than most other domestic destinations and that you can’t sneak in during the mostly-nonexistent low season to get airfare “deals.” This year, the best day on average to buy your flight is 66 days from your travel date (just over two months from when you plan to travel).

Plan to Visit During Less Popular Times
As we mentioned, while there is no real low season to speak of, there are better and worse times to search for the best prices. Summer is not going to serve up flight deals. June is a busy month for weddings, and July and August also see a ton of tourist traffic. December and January are quite expensive too, due to Christmas/New Years visitors and folks escaping the deep freeze on the mainland.

The best flight prices can generally be found in mid- to late-April on into May, as well as in September and October. Look for the best prices and fewer crowds (bonus!) in these date ranges. If you’re wondering why these times are better, it’s simple. People visit when they have the time, and it’s typical for folks to visit during their kids’ spring break, Christmas break and during the summer when most Americans take time off. Because Hawaii is quite a hop for most people, Hawaii isn’t considered a weekend or even long weekend destination.

Keep a Close Eye on Online Prices
In March, the low-cost air carrier Southwest started offering flights to Hawaii (Maui, Oahu and Kona) from the following California gateways (Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, Ontario, Orange County and Long Beach). This should be interesting to everyone, even if you don’t live in one of these towns or prefer to travel on another airline. With Southwest jumping into the Hawaii market and offering inexpensive tickets (as low as $50 one way in some instances for certain dates), it’s driving down prices of the competition too. 2019 on into 2020 should see some record low prices for flights.

cheap flights to hawaii

Avoid Flying on Weekends
The best-priced days for air travel are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Avoid the more expensive flight days, which tend to be Thursday through Sunday, with Sunday being the worst day of the week to find a bargain. Having said that, make sure you don’t rule anything out before doing your research. It’s possible that the difference in price between a Tuesday and Friday departure might be minor.

Seasonality Affects When You Should Buy
Without getting too far into the weeds, we should mention that when you plan to travel also affects when you should buy. For instance, when you’re traveling to the islands in the spring (when spring break visitors tend to land,) you’ll want to buy your ticket about 80 days out from your travel dates. In fall, the best time to buy is about 2 months out. In the winter, you’ll need to start shopping a lot earlier – about 4 months from your travel dates to score a deal. And in busy, busy summer, you only need about 3 weeks in advance to (on average) find the best airfares.

So, Hawaii is a tricky, but not impossible destination to purchase reasonably-priced flights. With a little patience and our tips, you’ll be booking your Hawaiian dream vacation in no time. Mahalo!

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35 Comments

    1. We hear you. In fact, wouldn’t it be great if there was in-flight entertainment on all flights? Seems like a great diversion to us! Might make those small seats a bit easier to tolerate (we always like a good distraction!)

    1. Hi Ralph, Yes and no. The outbound flights from Hawaii are going to be more expensive than the stateside flights, mainly because of its distance from the mainland, but unless you;re traveling to a popular vacation destination the prices might not be outsized.

    2. Family of 5 (don’t have to sit all together) flying from PIT (or CLE) to HNL last week of July into first week of August. Currently, seeing 900-1000 prices. Was planning to wait until at least sub-800 or end of May. Any thoughts on that strategy?

      1. Hard to know if that will work as a strategy. While Hawaii is quite busy in the summer, now that Southwest does flights from the west coast, it has caused some pricing wars and good prices. Generally speaking, flights to Hawaii trend upwards the closer you get to travel dates, not lower.

    1. Hi Ralph, No these special rules are mainly for inbound travel to Hawaii. Having said that, you can expect flights from Hawaii to the states will be more expensive because of Hawaii’s distance from the mainland.

  1. Coming from New England to H.I., we wish you could allow those seats to tip just a little bit more so our heads will drop back instead of forward, ESPECIALLY FOR THE NIGHT FLIGHTS BACK TO THE EAST COAST!

  2. I am 5 months out and can get good times and connections for a flight from ATL to KOA for about a 1000. The proposed seats are good as I am with my wife and the flights we are looking at are 2-4-2 configuration for the ATL to Honolulu portion both ways. Wait or is this a good enough price to pounce with the other qualifications?

    1. Hi Randy, I see fares as low as $800 from October through December (these prices are a little on the high side already). Are you speaking of seat configuration?

    1. Hi Ann, other than the fact that flights out of Haewaii tend to be more expensive because of the distance from the mainland, you can treat travel to the other 49 states as domestic travel. You can read our Annual Flights Study right here (which will give you tips on the best times to buy, depending on what is important to you as a traveler): https://www.cheapair.com/blog/cheapair-coms-5th-annual-airfare-study-reveals-the-best-time-to-buy-airline-tickets/.

  3. Have never flown to Hawaii and am wondering what a reasonably priced ticket is from LAX to Maui in February 2020.

    1. Hi Sue, You can usually get flights from LAX to Maui in the $400-500 range when we get a bit closer to travel dates. I hesitate to say that this will be the case in February of next year because Maui has been seeing an uptick in spring break travel (not a ton but it might keep the airline tickets from getting very low – especially if you’re traveling in the latter part of February, closer to March).

  4. Looking at Maui the week between Xmas & New Years, even planning to fly out on Xmas day to save a little $$. Prices from Chicago to Maui have remained pretty steady over the last few months. Do you see that continuing?We are approaching the magical 4 month timeframe that you reference…

    1. Hi Matt, You’re sitting pretty so far but I wouldn’t wait much longer. The truth is that Hawaii is very unlikely to offer sale fares over the holidays (most places won’t, but Hawaii even more so). People tend to pay more as we get closer to the holidays so the fares tend to rise the closer you get. Watch the fares closely and plan to buy as soon as you can.

  5. We’re going to HNL 18-25 June 2020, with members of our family traveling from Omaha, Kansas City, and Seattle. In order to properly coordinate this how far out should I buy tickets? Three weeks ahead seems awfully risky!

  6. We are planning a trip to Honolulu from Chicago in early February 2020. Prices currently are around $750 for non-stop round trip. I am nervous to purchase too soon but more concerned that if I wait they will increase especially after the first of the year. Would you expect them to fluctuate much from now until February 2020?

    1. Hi Tina, $750 from Chicago is a pretty good fare and Hawaii doesn’t have a low season. We would err on the conservative side and buy early to make sure you get that good deal.

    1. Hi Kermit, which island are you interested in visiting? There really isn’t a great option for you out of GSP. The flights with one connection (12 hours total travel time) tend to be priced north of $1000, and the better-priced flights are a 21-24 hour travel time ordeal. If you can get to Charlotte, at least the flights are all in the $700 range right now. And I wouldn’t wait too long. Those prices won’t get cheaper and June is a very popular month in Hawaii (wedding season).

  7. I have a family of 5 travelling to OGG from DEN 12-19 June 2020. Fares are about $870 right now. 3 of my family are young kids and we want seats together. I’d like to wait til fares are at there best rate but not so long that I can’t find 5 seats together. How much longer should I wait?

    1. Hi Preston, As you probably guessed, June is a busy time for Hawaii travel and Maui, in particular, is busy with weddings. If it’s crucial everyone sit together and you don’t want to rely on flight attendant goodwill (they usually do their best to seat families together), I wouldn’t wait too much longer – would recommend buying by the end of the year, or January 2020 at the latest.

  8. Traveling to Maui July 24- Aug 1st 2020 from Detroit. When is a good time to start looking for flights and what kind of price range should I expect?

    1. Hi Greg. It’s not too early to look for flights right now. Hawaii in the summer is busy – so busy that you shouldn’t wait to start your search.

  9. We are a family of four traveling from ABQ to Honolulu in mid-May, then flying to LIH four days later, then back to ABQ May 27th. Should we buy now as prices are right at $700 per person, or is there a reasonable chance prices may fall?

    Thanks,

    Joe

    1. Hi Joe, I would jump on that fare if I were you. We always err on the conservative side. $700 for your itinerary is a pretty good price and not likely to go down.

  10. Hi, CheapAir! Thanks for this post!

    I am looking for 2 one-way tickets from the Big Island to New York (LGA preferably) for April 10th or 11th 2020. I am exactly 80 days out and the prices are not looking great (due to the proximity of the dates to Easter and Spring Break I am guessing). At the moment I am looking at $700-$800 each! One way! Should I grab this and consider it a good deal or wait a bit longer for a dip?

    Thanks very much.

      1. Great post. Planning to go to Big Island from LA last week of Jun to 1st week of July. Should we book tickets soon or wait 3 weeks? We usually go end of Aug or early Sept but going early this time.

        1. Hi Con, The COVID-19 situation has made travel planning for 2020 much more uncertain. However, if you were to buy airline tickets in the hopes that your plans will not be disrupted, now is a pretty good time to do so for customers. The airlines have instituted fairly liberal change and cancellation policies to help ease uncertainty and help people with their vacation plans later in the year.

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