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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    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.

    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):

  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!

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