Start Your Hawaiian Vacation at the Airport

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I have always viewed air travel as a means to get to my destination. When planning a trip to Hawaii, why not step into your vacation mindset before you leave the ground.

Hawaiian Airlines expanded their operations to those on the east coast with a daily non-stop flight from New York City’s JFK airport to Honolulu, Oahu. We are big fans of traveling across the border to enjoy the many benefits of flying out of the US, so making the trip to New York City isn’t a big deal. If you don’t want to travel that far (it can seem rather long when you’re returning home after an overnight flight) you can catch a flight out of Buffalo, NY to JFK through a partnership between JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines. No need to worry about finding your way around JFK either as both Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue domestic use the same terminal (terminal 5 when we flew).

After the praise I heard from the folks at the Oahu Visitors Bureau, I was interested in flying with Hawaiian Airlines for our Oahu trip, however, when you’re traveling as a family of five cost is an issue. I was worried that a specialty airline such as Hawaiian Airlines would be pricey but it turned out they offered me the cheapest flight and it was the only airline that enabled us to fly direct to Honolulu, another important factor when traveling with kids. The least amount of plane transfers and layovers the better. If you’re on the west coast, Hawaiian Airlines also offers direct flights to Honolulu, Oahu from Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Las Vegas, Nevada , Phoenix, Portland, and Seattle.

I also found the best rates are quoted on Hawaiian Airlines’ website, even cheaper than calling Hawaiian Airlines directly. Unfortunately we ran into a number of problems trying to book through their site. It just wouldn’t let us complete our purchase. We did book elsewhere but it cost us more than the quoted price through the site’s online reservation tool.

On the day of our flight we arrived at the check-in area at the terminal. If you can, check-in online as the airport check-in is via kiosks.  I’ve heard Hawaiian Airlines is now compatible with Apples Passbook, making it easier for those checking in without access to a printer. Even with the kiosk our whole check-in process went really smooth and we were waiting at our gate in no time

As we boarded the plane we were greeted with both a blanket and pillow waiting for us in our seats. No need to ask the attendant for them later. The seat back TVs were all displaying beautiful Hawaiian videos of sunsets, dancers, and palm trees, while lovely Aloha music played throughout the plane. I always find getting the kids seated and carry-on stowed to be a stressful time but the music and visuals had the ability to put me at ease, making our readying process enjoyable. You can almost smell the salt water and feel the warm sun.

Hawaiian airlines jfk family travel seating

The staff at Hawaiian Airlines are obviously very efficient as we left the gate on time, if not a little early, which lead to us arriving in Honolulu almost an hour early. That’s unheard of but you aren’t going to hear me complain about the extra beach time.  That is another feature I like about the JFK non-stop flight with Hawaiian Airlines. The flight is early enough in the morning to get you into Honolulu to enjoy the afternoon and the return flight leaves in the late afternoon, arriving back in New York City early the next day, giving you time to soak up every last drop of Island sun before you head home. They really seem to have taken their guests into consideration when planning this schedule.

Hawaiian Airlines customer service continues while in the air too. While in flight we were offered complimentary drinks and snack mix at the beginning of our flight. Midway we were also offered a hot lunch. Unlike other domestic flights, Hawaiian Airlines provides their meal service for free. You have the option of upgrading your meal to a limited number of premium meals, which I did on one flight for comparison. The quality of the food was a little nicer with fresh salad and sandwich options being offered but the complimentary meal was just fine.

Hawaiian airlines jfk family travel premiummeal

Hawaiian airlines jfk family travel meal

 Later in the day, before we landed, we were also offered a snack box. This offered a nice mix with something to suit everyone’s taste.  Arriving mid afternoon, I was thankful to have the snack for the kids. This enabled us to avoid the hassle of finding the kids something to eat as soon as we landed, one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to get from airport to hotel.

Hawaiian airlines jfk family travel snack

Our kids busied themselves with homework and games on their iPads while in the air but Hawaiian Airlines also offers a variety in-flight entertainment options. My youngest daughter loved listening to the various Hawaiian music channels, as did I. It is a nice way to cut out the dull buzzing you often hear on an airplane. Each seat has its own built-in screen where you can monitor the plane’s flight and watch some Hawaiian cultural programs. These options are free but if you are looking for regular television programs or movies, you’ll have to pay a fee.

Like most airplanes, you can purchase new movie releases. You may be able to swallow a $7 movie but if someone else in the family wants to watch the same thing, it can get pricey.

Parent Travel Trick: After watching a film, I discovered I could rewind it all the way to the beginning. I just swapped seats with my oldest daughter and she could watch the same film and I avoided the double charge.

If you want to avoid paying for one new release after another on the long flight, Hawaiian Airlines offers an Unlimited Movie and TV package. For a flat fee you gain access to a selection of TV shows and already released movies, plus music videos and seatback games (like solitaire). You pay once and can access any of this content throughout your trip.

Parent Travel Trick: If it’s unlikely that all the kids will be watching television for the entire trip, save some money by purchasing just one entertainment package. Pick one seat that is easily accessible by the kids (best if they sit beside each other) and they can switch seats to give each other a turn to watch something. While one child is working on homework or sleeping, the other can watch TV. If you do switch seats, remember to be cognizant of the passengers sitting around you.

For younger kids, Hawaiian Airlines offers a Keiki (child) package, with a selection of unlimited movies, television shows, music videos, and games with a more G-rated selection (and a reduced price).

Hawaiian airlines jfk family travel sleeping

Another noticeable difference with Hawaiian Airlines is the people. Too often we have come across flight attendants who feel you are more of an inconvenience to them. That’s not to say there aren’t great attendants on other flights but it was refreshing on both our flights to have such a pleasant crew. Like any experience, the people make a huge difference.

Hawaiian Airlines proved to me that a Hawaiian family vacation can start at the airport, offering many benefits for those traveling with kids, including non-stop flights, complimentary meals, and affordable entertainment options. I know Hawaiian Airlines will be our first choice for any future Hawaii trips. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

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