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I've read through the information on FW forums for air tickets and used the FW recommendations successfully in the past. However, for the first time, I am in the market for air + cruise and am no longer sure on how to proceed. Basically, the family (2 adults, 1 toddler) has to attend a wedding in Honolulu on June 2. We've never been to Hawaii or on a cruise before, and would like to reach HNL a few days early to take a cruise around the islands, then attend the wedding and fly back June 3.

Air Departure May 24 from CID (alternatively, MLI)
Destination HNL
Air Return June 3rd (i.e. leave June 3 afternoon/evening and get back into CID on June 4- hopefully by noon)

Cruise dates could be May 25 - May 30th (or if needed, June 1).
I'm guessing cruises leave/return Honolulu only on fixed dates, so I could start the trip a couple days earlier if needed. We don't care much for the on-ship experience, since its the islands that we are hoping to explore.

I booked a hotel reward night (1 night) for June 2nd, but have been stymied beyond that.
Airfare CID-HNL currently seems about $800-1000/pax on United (it has the shortest travel times via Denver outbound, and 11-17 hrs with a toddler seem better than the 18-22 hrs on other airlines). Sites like Travelocity show air+hotel packages (with the hotels seemingly discounted), but I cannot find any air+cruise packages.

Any pointers or suggestions appreciated. Thank you!

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Given that airfare alone might run $3k, my budget is about $5-6k.

Fly to the nearest hub using FF miles. Find the cheapest non-stop via skyscanner (just introduced their buy now/wait price predictor).

Alaska has some very good fares to Hawaii from most of their West Coast gateways. Try partner flights (AA, DL) to PDX, SJC, SAN to prevent the need to re-check bags between flights.

Why cruise interisland? Interisland flights are readily available, cheap with some Advanced planning, MUCH better experience.

I have had some success finding low fares using hipmunk and airfare watchdog. They both allow you to put in alerts and different scenarios and will send you notices when prices fall. Have a wonderful time.

Thanks for the tips, folks, especially for reminding me to check skyscanner and hipmunk (very useful visual interface).

If we could travel to 1-2 islands only, what would you recommend (criteria- natural beauty, toddler friendly)?

Any other opinions on inter-island traveling, i.e. cruise ship vs flying?

FW10001 said:   If we could travel to 1-2 islands only, what would you recommend (criteria- natural beauty, toddler friendly)?
Assume you mean after Oahu, as you will start there.

We have spend a fair amount of time on The Big Island, Kauai and Maui. All are excellent candidates, becomes a function of your preferences. For example, Kauai is MUCH slower, less developed, there are some very touristy areas on Maui, Big Island generally falls in between.

FW10001 said:   

If we could travel to 1-2 islands only, what would you recommend (criteria- natural beauty, toddler friendly)?


Kauai and Maui. Kauai= Natural beauty + slower pace. Our favorite island is Maui. More going on than Kauai but without being too much. Not crazy about Oahu and don't have much experience with the Big Island.

Thank you, everyone, especially for recommending I fly inter-island.
I'll be to Big Island 3 days, then Maui 2.5 days, then Oahu (Honolulu, family gathering).

I'll try flying from CID to either ITO (Hilo), or HNL.
Return definitely HNL-CID. Still figuring out whether I can save money and time/airport aggravation by going CID-ITO instead of CID-HNL-ITO.

Any recommendations for sub $120/night decent places to stay on Big Island (the east side, closer to ITO airport) and on Maui? Thanks!

FW10001 said:   Thank you, everyone, especially for recommending I fly inter-island.
I'll be to Big Island 3 days, then Maui 2.5 days, then Oahu (Honolulu, family gathering).

I'll try flying from CID to either ITO (Hilo), or HNL.
Return definitely HNL-CID. Still figuring out whether I can save money and time/airport aggravation by going CID-ITO instead of CID-HNL-ITO.


Why ITO? KOA has many more flight options, MUCH nicer hotels, generally better weather, approx 2 hour drive. If you are going to be on the Big Island for 3 days, I would not stay overnight on the Hilo side. There are volcano tours that will pick you up from the KOA area in the morning, back that evening - or a few hours in a helicopter tour - few other reasons to venture over to the Hilo side for such a brief stay.

FW10001 said:   Any recommendations for sub $120/night decent places to stay on Big Island (the east side, closer to ITO airport) and on Maui? Thanks!

Lots of rental condo options on Maui, we prefer Kihei, should be lots of sub $120/night 1 br units - check out VRBO. Same for the KOA area of the Big Island.

We will be on the Big Island in early March, staying 2 nights in the Hilo area, trying dnsbnb.com based on Trip Advisor reviews, will let you know how it goes.

Hi, shank. Flying to ITO was almost $600 (200 x 3 pax) cheaper for me versus KOA. Who knows, maybe I'll lose that savings after I factor in hotels near ITO (I reach in the night, so not much point in driving to the Kona area).

Are you suggesting that the volcano tours will be harder to come by (or much more time) if we stay in Hilo?

Appreciate your tip about the rental condos. Might be savings for us, since we might have visiting relatives that'll want lodgings in the same or nearby complexes.

FW10001 said:   Hi, shank. Flying to ITO was almost $600 (200 x 3 pax) cheaper for me versus KOA. Who knows, maybe I'll lose that savings after I factor in hotels near ITO (I reach in the night, so not much point in driving to the Kona area).

Hilo is essentially a cargo port, older, dirty town, not much tourism, chain or resort hotels. Check out Trip Advisor - hotels are older properties, most are lower end, which is why we are going the B&B route. Most all of the typical Hawaiian tourist activities (snorkel/scuba, beaches, nightlife) are on the Kona side. Other than the volcano, the Puna / Pahoa area south of Hilo is interesting, unique - but not necessarily worth the trip to the Big Island.

Is the lower fare on UA, LAX flight to ITO? I believe it arrives late (after 9 pm), so it is not advisable to drive to the Kona side upon arrival.

FW10001 said:   Are you suggesting that the volcano tours will be harder to come by (or much more time) if we stay in Hilo?

Not at all. Volcano National Park is less than 1 hours drive from Hilo - Kona side is more than double that.

FW10001 said:   Appreciate your tip about the rental condos. Might be savings for us, since we might have visiting relatives that'll want lodgings in the same or nearby complexes. VRBO should also have 2 and 3 br condos, rental homes if you would all like to stay together.

Thanks, shank. Yes, I reach Hilo on the United LAX-ITO, and it'll probably be 9 PM by the time we get the luggage, car, etc. So I'll probably stay 2 nights in Hilo (we have relatives arriving LAX-ITO 8 PM the next night). Now need to figure out where to spend the remaining 2 nights

Thanks for the VRBO link.

FW10001 said:   Hi, shank. Flying to ITO was almost $600 (200 x 3 pax) cheaper for me versus KOA.

Did you check AS, HA? Is there any flexibility in the West Coast gateway? Fares to HA are dropping like a rock from select gateways for flights 1-2 months out. For example, we are flying home from OGG (to SAN) on March 6, one way fare just dropped to $154.50 each, AS issued a credit for the difference. Will require you to travel midweek, well worth it if your plans are flexible.



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