Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In Transit

We spent the last two days working our way home from the mainland.  When we arrived finally, at our house at 2pm yesterday we were exhausted.
Traveling these days is not for the weak.

We have the option of flying via Honolulu or Maui.  Often Maui is a bit cheaper and because it is a smaller airport, seems the better decision.  You deplane, walk past a small food court and wait for your next plane.  If you have sufficient flights in one year, or buy the privilege you can even spend that time awaiting your next flight in the Premier Lounge at all Hawaii airports.

Here are some random thoughts about traveling to Hawaii right now:

  • If you do not have a Hawaiian Miles MasterCard, I would encourage you to apply now if you have plans to visit Hawaii in the future.  Right now, if you contact Hawaiian Airlines by phone (just about the only way you can access this offer), you can get 50,000 miles plus a discounted companion round trip ticket.  For traveling to Hawaii, this is enough miles for a free round trip flight between Hawaii and the mainland.  It is also just 2,500 miles shy of an additional one-way trip (17,500 miles off-peak) from the Mainland to Hawaii (you can pay cash for the return trip).  Since you need to spend $1,000 within the first 90 days to activate the offer, you would only have to use the card by spending a mere $1,500 additionally to get sufficient miles for that one way fare.  You would end up with two round trip tickets for the price of one one-way fare.  Spend the $2,500 on the credit card paying bills or groceries that you would normally buy and pay that sucker off.  Bargain.  Do not do this if you plan to purchase a house in the next several months.  New credit cards is not helpful on your credit report in this situation.  Be warned -- otherwise it should be an issue.
  • It is possible to hand carry two dozen Sift cupcakes to Hawaii.  Sift will even flash freeze the goods before you pick them up.  They are packed carefully in custom fit clamshells (no clams were harmed in the production of these shells) and placed in sturdy cardboard boxes.  Add some dry ice from Safeway and pack the buggers in an insulated carrier (we got ours at Trader Joes).  Good to go.  Next time we are going to smuggle Old Chicago Pizza back home.  Bring whatever food you want this way (as long as it isn't liquid or is frozen solid).
  • If a segment of your flight is cancelled, you need to go immediately to the nearest gate to rebook your flight.  However, while you are headed there (or are in line), call the airline and ask them to rebook you.  We checked in at the desk, but it was clear it was chaos so while we waited, I called (three times) to Hawaiian Airlines and was courteously rebooked on the next (apparently sold out) flight.  The folks on the phone actually have more seats available for rebooking than the desk folks -- no one will tell you this, however.  Everyone else in line was re-booked through Honolulu, meaning yet another plane change and hours' long delay.
  • Flights these days are almost always sold out.  I believe Hawaiian runs at an average of 85%+ capacity.  When flights are full, tensions are high and folks are stressed out.  Overhead bins fill early and tempers are short.  This was certainly the case with our Saturday flight to the mainland.  On the way home, we flew on a Sunday.  It was the most relaxed trip we've taken in years.  Are Sundays a better day to fly?  I know Sunday flights tend to be a bit more expensive, but I just might be willing to pay for a more relaxed flight.
  • Speaking of a more relaxed flight, rather than spending money on first class (it ain't what it used to be:  our flight out had five kids under five years of age in first class and one was a screamer), go for the preferred seating option on one of the Airbus flights.  Preferred seating really is not worth it on the older 767's as they are the bulkhead and emergency exit seats (which are narrower seats).  We managed to secure a couple of these seats recently (row 12 is preferred seating on the Airbus and regular seating on the 767 -- Hawaiian switched planes from the 767 to the Airbus and didn't kick us out of the preferred seats.  Win!) and would pay for them again.  Similar to other airlines, the preferred seats in the Airbus are a left turn when you enter the plane and are in their own section behind first class.  You miss out on the free champagne, but the rest is pretty damn close.  You also score two free checked bags and preferred pre-boarding.  It's the only way to fly.
  • If you can (and if it's free), consider checking your bags on the return flight.  It gives you more room to carry on delicate items (like food) and makes everything easier.  You don't care about losing your luggage on the way home, do you?
  • I may have mentioned this before, but in case I didn't:  Uber and Lyft are on Oahu (Honolulu).  Parking in Waikiki and traffic in Honolulu can be a nightmare.  Use a shuttle service (from just $10) to get to your Waikiki hotel then use one of the hop-on-hop-off trolleys to get to the sights in Waikiki and Honolulu.  If you want to travel a little further (there are some fantastic shopping and dining opportunities outside of Waikiki), I strongly recommend using Uber or Lyft (and look for coupons in advance).  The prices are great and the ride relaxing.  If you do rent a car, get a tiny one.  You would not believe how small the parking stalls are in the hotels in Waikiki.  This is my plan for all of my future Honolulu visits.
  • Hawaiian Airlines is the only domestic airline that still provides free meal service, but be warned: the dinner was good (teriyaki chicken and rice) but the breakfast (sort of a flatbread wrap) was inedible.  I mean inedible.  So bring snacks for the flight on the way over.  Be sure to enjoy the free alcoholic beverage while you're at it.  Not bad: wine in the afternoons and Koloa rum punch in the mornings.
  • Hawaiian's 767's don't have a lot of overhead space.  If you are bringing a full size carry on, be sure to grab the first available space in one of the overhead bins on the exterior of the plane. Your carry on will for sure not fit in the interior bins (over the middle three seats).  Yes, you're an asshole for doing this, but you'll have a slot.  Consider packing lighter next time. Lots of people aren't aware of this and you will be able to sit back and watch the hilarity of someone trying to shove their bag in an overhead bin that is clearly too small (but they just keep trying until the flight attendant eventually comes over and stops them).  This issue has been resolved with the Airbus.  All bins are much larger.
  • Another reason to fly on the Airbus (yes, information on the type of airplane is available when you book your flight -- if you can't find it, call Hawaiian and tell them the flight number and they will tell you what kind of plane it is, then hang up and book online -- its cheaper) is they have added entertainment systems in the seatbacks -- yay!  Music, TV Shows, and Movies and lots of it is free.  Distraction is very important on a five hour flight and people watching can be limited.
  • If you happen to win the TSA Pre Check lottery (a number of people every flight do), you will see it indicated on your printed boarding pass.  This means you get to queue up in the shorter Pre Check line.  But that's just the start of the good news: you get to keep your shoes, belt, and jacket on.  Additionally, your electronics stay in your bag as does your 3-1-1 bag. Definitely a treat (we both got Pre Check on our last flight).  I hate the shoes thing.  Wear comfortable flip flops (known as slippers in Hawaii) and the TSA line is easier.
  • One last word of advice: bring noise-cancelling earphones or earbuds.  I have an old pair of JVC headphones that work great.  There are many brands out now and most work very well.  I have two pair of noise-cancelling earbuds and they work great, too.  I find the most exhausting part of air travel is putting up with five hours of noise.  They will also drown out all but the loudest babies (poor things, I do truly feel sorry for their discomfort).  
  • Okay, one more, but this is the last one:  try to get a seat somewhere in front of the wings.  The jet noise if far louder behind the jet engines.
Have a safe flight and a wonderful trip (I hope one is in your future).
Do you have any other advice when traveling to Hawaii?

P.S.  I also recommend Pinkberry frozen yogurt in both the Honolulu and Maui airports -- all flavors are good.  Skip the toppings if you're watching your waistline.  They also have a very good green tea smoothie thingy.  Very refreshing.

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