Hawaii is one of America's favorite vacation destinations. A recent poll from US News and World Report reported that two Hawaiian cities ranked in the top 10. Now that Southwest Airlines started flying to Hawaii, travelers have more flight options and the opportunity to save more money. In fact, I'm going to show you how to fly to Hawaii for free using miles and points.
Resource: Learn more about Travel Rewards with the free ChooseFI Travel Rewards Course.
How Much Does It Cost To Fly To Hawaii?
You may have already read how to use hotel points to stay in Hawaii for free. Now the focus turns to the other big expense of travel–flights. Typical flights from the West Coast to Hawaii start around $400 and go up from there. The variables include departure date, arrival date, airline, and your city of origin.
Since flying to Hawaii is such a long flight, many families choose to fly to Hawaii during spring break, summer, or Christmas break. This way they have more time to spend on the beach without worrying about having to hurry back in time for school.
To compare each of the airlines, I searched for summer availability to find the lowest cash prices from Los Angeles to Honolulu. The dates fluctuate for the searches, but the goal is to stay in Hawaii for one week. My assumption is that you'll have more flexibility while traveling from June through August since most schools are out of session.
American Airlines To Hawaii
American Airlines is a popular airline with a worldwide reach. Searching for flights was a bit more difficult. You have to select specific dates, then you can move forward or back days at a time. Searching this way was more time-consuming.
During the most popular times of the summer, ticket prices were almost $1,000 each. Towards the end of summer, I found flights for $501.
Using American Airlines AAdvantage miles was a much better option. I was able to select flights for as little as 34,000 miles and $11.20 in taxes. The departure flight was 20,000 miles as a “MileSAAver” fare and the return was a “web special” that was only 14,000 miles.
You can earn American Airlines miles from both Barclays and Citibank. Both banks issue co-branded credit cards that earn AAdvantage miles. Sign-up bonuses are usually in the 50,000 to 60,000 miles range, which is almost enough for two round-trip tickets. The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select is a great card for this with it's 50,000-mile bonus. It does have a $95 annual fee but it also waives checked bag fees, so you may make up for the annual fee with just that one feature.
British Airways To Hawaii
Although British Airways does not sell tickets to Hawaii, you can use their Avios points to book flights on their partners, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. The British Airway's website can be slow and tedious, but your persistence will pay off.
Booking flights from the West Coast to Hawaii are only 12,500 each way for a total price of 25,000 points and $11.20 in taxes.
The British Airways Visa Signature is a great card to use to earn Avios points. You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Avios at a 1:1 ratio.
Delta Airlines To Hawaii
Searching on Delta Airlines is very easy. By clicking “flexible dates”, your search results will return in a matrix so that you can see the prices based on your departure and return dates. And if you want to compare between cash and miles, you click a button and the prices will toggle between the two.
Delta Airlines had round-trip tickets listed for $377 or 39,000 miles and $11.20 in taxes. With cash prices so low and mileage redemption prices so high, you're getting less than $0.01 in value per mile. I suggest that you save your Delta SkyMiles for a higher-value trip.
The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express is a good place to start if you are looking to fly Delta.
Hawaiian Airlines To Hawaii
When you think of flying to Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines is one of the first names that come to mind. Their website offers the ability to pick the duration of your vacation and then browse a two-month calendar to find the lowest priced departure dates.
If you don't have many miles, Hawaiian Airlines also has the option to pay for your flight with a combination of miles and cash. To me, these don't seem like good options because the lowest priced miles and cash ticket I found was 20,000 miles and $195. For two people, that is 40,000 miles and $390. That is the same thing as paying for one ticket with miles and the other ticket with cash.
The Hawaiian Airlines credit card is issued by Barclays. Sign-up bonuses are often 50,000 miles, which is more than enough to book one round-trip flight to Hawaii. If both spouses apply, that will provide enough miles for two round-trips and a one-way flight.
Southwest Airlines To Hawaii
Southwest Airlines started flying to Hawaii in March 2019. Under the threat of their entry into the market, other airlines dropped their prices to maintain market share. So, even if you don't like flying Southwest, you should be glad that they now fly to Hawaii.
It is easy to find low fares on Southwest's website because they offer the ability to search a month at a time with their “low fare calendar”. Keep in mind that the fares shown are each way, so the price might be double what you initially think it is. It is easy to compare cash vs. points simply by clicking on “cash” or “points”.
Although Southwest is known as a low-cost carrier, the prices I found were actually higher than average. Switching to points did not help because their loyalty program assigns a relatively fixed value of 1.4 cents per point.
The great equalizer with Southwest, however, is their Companion Pass. Holders of the Companion Pass can bring their designated guest with them for free whenever they fly on Southwest. Having the Southwest Companion Pass can cut your flight costs in half!
To earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you'll need to apply through Chase. Chase offers three personal versions of the credit card and one business. An average sign-up bonus is 60,000 Southwest points. Savvy applicants will get both the personal and business version within the same calendar year so they can easily earn the Companion Pass.
I'd recommend the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.
Also remember that Southwest just started flying to Hawaii, so their planes are a little more full right now. As the newness wears off, their prices will come down a bit as well.
Take note that Southwest is having issues with return flights to the Midwest and East Coast at the moment. The airline does not fly red-eye flights, so combining a long flight and the time change, all of their flights from Hawaii currently terminate on the West Coast. They are working on the problem, and I'm sure they will come up with an acceptable solution.
United Airlines To Hawaii
United Airlines also offers a 30-day calendar to identify the lowest cost flights. You can use this search feature for both cash or reward flights. I found flights as cheap as $377; however, they were Basic Economy tickets. As with other airlines, Basic Economy flights do not get assigned a seat until after check-in and passengers are not allowed to bring a carry-on suitcase with them. For $60 more round-trip, you will receive the normal economy ticket.
Another option is to book your flight with United Airlines MileagePlus miles. For 45,000 miles plus $11.20, you can avoid using cash for your flight. However, you would be redeeming your miles for less than 1 cent each, which is considered a horrible redemption.
You can earn United miles with credit cards from Chase. There are several personal versions and one business version. Sign-up bonuses are usually in the 40,000 to 60,000-mile range, which would pay for at least one round-trip ticket after you've met the minimum spend requirements. A good starting place is the United Explorer Card, you get free checked bags, priority boarding, and two airport lounge passes every year.
How I Would Fly To Hawaii For Free
With so many airlines offering flights to Hawaii this summer for less than $400, I would be reluctant to use airline miles to book this flight. The only airline miles I would consider using to book to Hawaii would be British Airways Avios for 25,000 points if you can find an award space that works with your calendar.
Here is a chart that compares the prices of flights in cash versus airline miles:
|Airlines||Cash||Miles||$ / Mile|
As a general rule of thumb, you want to redeem miles and points for greater than 1 cent per mile. Ideally, the value would be higher than 2 cents. But as you can see, many of these flight options fall below these minimum hurdles and, therefore, are considered poor redemptions.
Using Bank Points Instead Of Miles
Because of the low value of these redemptions, I recommend going a different route. Many banks offer credit cards that have their own points currency, similar to airline miles. You can redeem these bank points as if they were cash.
Credit cards that earn these points include Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi ThankYou Premier, The Platinum Card from American Express, Barclays Arrival Plus, and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.
Cardholders have options to earn at least 2 points per dollar spent in various categories, making these points easy to earn. And they are extremely valuable to have in your arsenal because of their flexibility and power when paying for your travel expenses.
My recommendation is to save your airline miles for an international trip and use one of these points programs to book flights to Hawaii. Your flights will be free using the points as if they were cash. You will earn miles on these flights towards a future flight. Not only that but since you won't have to worry about the flight availability many people complain about when redeeming miles, you will have complete control of your itinerary.
What is your favorite way to fly to Hawaii? Do you pay cash for your tickets or use miles? Let us know in the comment section below.
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If you really want to maximize your travel rewards check out ChooseFI's free travel rewards course.