How to Get A Cheap Ticket to Hawaii: 5 Insider’s Tips

by | Mar 1, 2020 | Affordable Hawaii, Get Started, Planning

I paid $474.81 for a first-class ticket from the west coast to Maui. That ticket tripled in price by the month the flight departed. This is how I get cheap tickets to Hawaii.

To get cheap tickets to Hawaii, follow these 5 steps when booking your flight:

  1. Use an incognito window
  2. Search on Skyscanner for price comparisons 
  3. Search on Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar
  4. Fly from the cheapest city
  5. Find airline flash sales

I flew first-class because it was such a good deal. I don’t always fly home to Maui first-class but I may continue with all the cheap tickets to Hawaii.

With Southwest entering the Hawaiian market in 2019, the competition amongst airlines continues to be fierce in 2020. Southwest is offering $139 one-way tickets to Hawaii in 2020, for example. 

Take advantage of the cheap flights by following the 5 steps below to get cheap tickets to Hawaii. 

Plus, read on to see if flights to Hawaii will get cheaper. 

 

Cheap Flight to Hawaii 5-Steps

 

How to Find Cheap Flights to Hawaii

You are not being paranoid, ticket prices are increasing the more you search for tickets to Hawaii. Researchers say your smartphone isn’t listening to you but that United Airlines ad for flights to Hawaii was a startling coincidence. 

Finding a cheap ticket to Hawaii does not have to be complicated or consume your Sunday morning. 

You can save hundreds of dollars on your ticket to Hawaii with a little understanding of the Hawaii airline market. Save those dollars to upgrade your hotel room.

 

Cheap Airlines That Fly to Hawaii

Airlines that fly to Hawaii are forever changing. Budget carriers go bankrupt, big airlines cancel flights, and new players enter the market. 

Right now, the cheapest airlines for flights to Hawaii are the following:

🍍 Alaska Airlines 

🍍 Southwest Airlines

🍍 Hawaiian Airlines

 

They offer the cheapest tickets and they all offer phenomenal service. Their prices are competitive so you may find the same or similar ticket prices to Hawaii. 

Erica and I have flown on all of them as we hunt for the cheapest flights to and from Maui. 

United Airlines is the dominant airline in Hawaii. With two west coast hubs, they offer the most daily flights to the Hawaiian Islands.

Delta Airlines is also a big-weight contender. Delta offers flights from its Pacific Northwest hub and other cities on the mainland. 

 

Hawaii’s Southwest Effect

“We are very bullish in Hawaii,” said the Southwest Airlines Executive VP Andy Watterson.

Hawaiian Airlines, Alaskan Airlines, and the other Hawaiian carriers slashed prices to compete when Southwest entered Hawaiian airspace. This Southwest Effect made flying to Hawaii affordable for many more people. 

Even inter-island prices got slashed. Erica and I flew to Oahu in February for $39 each way. 

Southwest started flying to Hawaii in 2019. It hit the market hard with $99 one-way flight offers. They have continued to roll out more flights in 2020 from their established west coast cities. And, we expect them to provide more flights to Hawaii from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Spokane in 2020. 

Southwest continues to offers deals to the Hawaiian Islands. Tickets for the month of May are $139 one-way from the mainland. I’ll show you how to find the cheapest tickets to Hawaii from Southwest below.

 

Be Flexible

Not everyone can set their vacation schedule. But for those that can, you will be able to save money on your Hawaii ticket. 

Try to give yourself 2 to 3-weeks of wiggle room on your dates to find the best deals. The fare calendar method described below will show you how to compare rates and dates.

 

Add a Little Misery to Get a Cheap Flight: Connections and Layovers

The flight search engine Hipmunk, who sadly closed its doors in January 2020, used to have a feature where you could sort by misery. Multiple flight connections and long layovers can make a trip to Hawaii painful. 

If you have the luxury of time and enjoy airports, as I do, then you can save some money by having multiple stops and long layovers. Flights returning to the mainland provide the best deals for long layovers. 

With this general background on finding the cheapest ticket to Hawaii, use my five steps below to get a cheap ticket to Hawaii.

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5 Steps to Get a Cheap Ticket to Hawaii

Follow these 5 steps to get your cheap ticket to Hawaii.

Finding the cheapest flight takes patience and research. One can save $50 to over a $100 dollars on your ticket by doing these 5 steps and then booking your ticket in 20-minutes. 

But to save more money, you can track ticket prices over a few weeks or a couple of months to find the cheapest ticket to Hawaii. This takes far more patience, something I don’t have, but you will find flash sales from the three low-cost Hawaiian carriers with this method. 

 

1. Enter Incognito Mode

They are watching you. When you land on a flight comparison website or an airline website, they put cookies on your browser’s computer. The more you search flight routes, over a period of hours, days or weeks, the more the ticket price will increase. 

Avoid the stress of watching your flight to Hawaii increase in price. 

The first thing I do when I start researching cheap Hawaii tickets is I clear my browser cookies. I remove all traces of my previous website visits. 

If you don’t want to clear your cookies, as pre-fill is convenient and staying logged-in is helpful, then enter incognito mode on your browser. 

To turn on incognito mode on Google Chrome or Safari browser, press Control if using a PC or Command if using a Mac + Shift + the letter N. 

For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer browsers, press Control or Command (Mac) + Shift + the letter P.

Pressing these keys at the same time will open a new browser window where your Hawaii vacation flight search is not tracked. 

Your cookies are reset every time you open a new incognito window. Therefore, if you want to guarantee a clean slate when starting a flight search you should open a new incognito window and start shopping.

 

2. Use the Best Flight Search Engines to Get Cheap Ticket

When starting my cheap flight search, I check two websites to get the lowest ticket prices for Hawaii.

  1. Check a flight search engine to find the cheapest airline for my dates
  2. Then, go to the cheapest airline’s website to find their lowest ticket 

 

All flight search engines are not created equally. They all have their own inflated prices based on taking a fee from the airline for the booking. 

Erica and my favorite flight search engine for booking flights, especially to the Hawaiian islands, is Skyscanner.com. Another good comparison site is Google Flights

Skyscanner includes the carriers that fly to Hawaii, except Southwest Airlines. Southwest doesn’t put their flights on flight search engines.

Skyscanner is good to use when not flying from the west coast as they will provide a mix and match of airlines to get you to Hawaii on the cheapest flights possible.

Don’t buy your ticket over the flight comparison websites due to the small additional fees. Go directly to the cheapest airline’s website. 

The airline will also take better care of your reservation if it was made directly with them instead of a 3rd party like Expedia or Skyscanner.

3. Use Southwest’s Low-Fare Calendar to Find the Cheapest Ticket

I love the Southwest Effect. Southwest continues its expansion plans into Hawaii from more US cities in 2020. Southwest also continues to offer great prices. To find the cheapest time to fly on Southwest to Hawaii, use their Low-Fare Calendar.

On the Southwest Airlines homepage click on “Flights” in the top menu bar. A pop-up screen then presents you with a menu of flight reservation options. Look for the Low Fare Calendar link. If you are on another Southwest page, you may need to click on Flights in the menu twice to bring up the pop-up screen that shows the Low Fare Calendar.

Low Cost Hawaii Flights Southwest Low Fare Calendar

From the calendar screen, enter your departure city and Hawaiian destination. Pick a month to start your search but don’t sweat it, you can toggle the months to see all the prices.

The Low-Fare Calendar works for one-way and roundtrip flights. It also works for inter-island flights. 

This calendar gives you a fast and reliable way to find the cheapest ticket to Hawaii on Southwest. Be flexible and save some money.

Then compare Southwest’s results to all the other carriers using Skyscanner. 

Note: Southwest only allows reservations 6-months in advance. Other carriers let you make reservations up to 12 months in advance.

 

4. Fly from the Cheapest City

While you may not live in the Bay Area with its many airports all within an hour or two drive, you can still have some flexibility in flying from the cheapest city.

Look for flights to Honolulu. Honolulu is the most popular arrival city in Hawaii and the most competitive with the airlines. Fly to Honolulu and then grab an inter-island flight to the Hawaiian island of your choice.

If you do have multiple regional airports in your area, then broaden your search filter to include those airports.

Erica and I rarely fly directly to San Francisco (SFO) when returning to the Bay Area to visit friends and family. We fly to Oakland or San Jose. The flights are significantly cheaper. The cheap first-class ticket I bought was out of San Jose Airport.

 

Book Your Own Interconnecting Flights

Flying from the east coast? Southwest doesn’t offer red-eye flights so you will need a connection with them from a west coast city. You can save money by booking your own connecting flights. 

Note: This way to save money comes with an increased risk but it may be worth it for you. Balance the risk with the financial reward.

 

Flying from the midwest or the east coast is a long trip, especially with young kids in tow.  Give yourself a 1 or 2-day trip to Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area before you arrive in Hawaii or on the way back. 

This way, for example, you can fly United Airlines to San Francisco International Airport (their hub) and then fly Southwest from Oakland to Honolulu. 

If you want a same day layover, then schedule multiple hours between flights. Especially if you have to transfer airports like in my example. If you miss your connecting flight, your arrival airline won’t compensate you or rebook you. 

5. Book When Airlines Offer the Cheapest Flights to Hawaii (Flash Sales)

Starting your planning early will save you money on your flight to Hawaii. Getting the cheapest ticket to Hawaii can be broken down into three parts.

🍍 Time of the year to go to Hawaii

🍍 Day of the week to go to Hawaii

🍍 Time of booking before departure

 

Cheapest Time of the Year to Go to Hawaii

The cheapest time to go to Hawaii is in the spring and fall shoulder seasons. 

Spring low season is late April to early June. The fall low season is September to early December, excluding Thanksgiving. Look in those months for the best fare prices to Hawaii.

January and February are also the cheapest ticket prices based on Skyscanner data

You’d be surprised to learn the cheapest time to fly to Maui: The Cheapest Time to Fly to Maui.

If you are looking for the cheapest ticket to Hawaii, avoid Christmas and New Year’s, spring break, and the summer high season of mid-June to mid-August. 

 

Day of the Week to Go to Hawaii

Flying on weekdays will give you the cheapest ticket options. 

There is no hard rule that one mid-week day is better than another. I’m looking at you Tuesday. 

Use the flexible fare calendars to find the cheapest mid-week day to fly. 

Southwest isn’t the only airline that lets you get a visual of prices for a whole month.

On airline websites, click on the “flexible dates” option instead of entering exact dates for your flight to bring up the whole month with prices.

On Skyscanner, enter your departure and arrival cities. Then, click depart but select “Whole Month” and then “Cheapest Month.”

Having the flexibility to leave for your Hawaii vacation any day of the week is a huge advantage when looking for the cheapest ticket to Hawaii.

 

Time of Booking Before Departure

Don’t wait to book your flight to Hawaii. In my experience, it is rare for flights to get cheaper as the date approaches for Hawaii flights. 

I recommend booking 4-months in advance of your departure to get the cheapest ticket to Hawaii. 

You will be able to find the cheapest month for your Hawaii vacation by looking at the Skyscanner monthly fare visual described above.

Surprisingly,  Skyscanner’s data analysis of 2-years worth of historical flight price data says to buy your ticket 1 to 2-weeks in advance. For example, flights to Maui are 11% cheaper than the yearly average when booked 1-week in advance. 

For peace of mind, I like to book earlier to ensure I have a flight home. If your vacation time isn’t flexible or you can’t get a return on your hotel then I recommend booking 4-months in advance.

 

Sign up for flash sales and other deals with airlines and price trackers

🍍 Southwest Click ‘N Save Newsletter

🍍 Hawaiian Airlines Newsletter

🍍 Alaskan Airlines Mileage Program

🍍 Skyscanner’s Price Alert – create an account to track your flight cost

🍍 Hopper App – Use this app to book the best day and time to fly to Hawaii. The Hopper app predicts the best airfare price with up to 95% accuracy.

 

Will Hawaii Flights Get Cheaper?

I expect flights to Hawaii to get cheaper as 2020 rolls along. The first reason is competition remains fierce.

Southwest is already running a $139 one-way fare offer for the spring. We expect $99 flash sales to occur so keep watching Southwest. They only offer a few hundred tickets at $99 from the mainland during these sales.

Cheap Hawaii Tickets Southwest Airline Deals

Hawaiian Airlines will cut prices to compete with Southwest on inter-island and mainland fares. Alaskan Airlines had $77 one-way fares in late 2019, we expect them to do this again in 2020. 

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is causing many people to cancel their trips to Hawaii. This is opening up seats on otherwise booked flights so airlines might start slashing rates to fillup planes. Look for last-minute deals, if you have a craving to come to Hawaii.

 

Get Your Cheap Ticket to Hawaii

Follow these 5 steps to get your cheap ticket to Hawaii. Remember to go into incognito mode on your browser before you start your search. Book that ticket and we will see you in Hawaii.

For more tips and steps on making your vacation to Hawaii more affordable, check out our series on Affordable Hawaii

I have no doubt you will be able to save thousands on your trip to Hawaii for your family.

 

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Jordan Fromholz

Jordan Fromholz

Author

I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I have a thing for photographing pineapples and learning to surf.

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