How to Fly Free to Hawaii – The 5 Best Options for Families
Visiting Hawaii is near the top of most American travelers’ list of destinations. Idyllic tropical islands, warm water, and you don’t even have to break out a passport. It’s the perfect vacation. It’s also 8-10 hours away by air from much of the country, and getting there can be a chore, not to mention expensive.
But there are ways around that. Things are definitely easier out here on the west coast, but there are some decent options for people elsewhere in the nation as well. Here are five ways you can cut the cost and fly free to Hawaii using miles and points.
West Coast: British Airways Avios
One of the most well-known sweet spots in the entire award travel realm is that nonstop U.S. West Coast to Hawaii flights can be had for a mere 13,000 Avios one-way. This is one of the best awards you can find, short of a crazy award sale. Avios can be used on either American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, and there are plenty of options available between these two carriers. Most large West Coast airports have nonstop flights to one or more Hawaiian Islands.
If you’re seriously about a family trip to Hawaii, consider picking up the Chase British Airways Visa when they are offering 100,000 bonus miles (like they currently are). The card carries an annual fee of $95 the first year, but the tiered welcome offer will get you what you need for multiple people. It does require a massive $20,000 in spend, but this can be done over a year. Once you meet it, this is enough for 4, nearly 5, round-trip tickets to Hawaii. Keep the 5/24 rule in mind for Chase applications.
If you’re not keen on picking up the British Airways Visa, there are other card options. Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards both offer 1:1 transfers to British Airways Avios, so you should never have a shortage. Sometimes, you’ll even see a transfer bonus of up to 40%!
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering a 60,000 point welcome offer which transfers 1 to 1 to British Airways Avios.
Great Flexibility: Chase Ultimate Rewards
Honestly, unless you need to fly from a tiny regional airport, using miles to get to Hawaii these days doesn’t represent all that great of value. Fares often dip below $300 from the West Coast, putting your return per Avios at barely 1.1 cents per point at times. That’s not all that hot, but I’d still be willing to go the Avios route if I needed flexibility. Remember that the cancellation fee for Avios bookings only forfeit taxes, which are minimal on U.S. domestic flights on American and Alaska.
Assuming you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you only need 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points to book a $300 fare to Hawaii. This beats any other program aside from Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles in a mile-for-mile comparison. You also truly fly free to Hawaii, as there are not even taxes owed. Points cover the full cost.
The other upside is that you don’t need to search for award space. Just wait for a deal, find the best schedule, and book. Boom. Done. Using UR points for 1.5 cents each through the Chase travel portal is how I tend to redeem them these days (unless I transfer a few to Hyatt). I save my other transferable points (i.e. Citi and Amex) for conversions to airline miles.
Easy to Amass: Singapore KrisFlyer
Singapore KrisFlyer miles are an excellent choice if you need to aggregate points from various programs for booking awards to Hawaii. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy points all to Singapore KrisFlyer miles. Even given that ease of accrual, I’ve actually never personally used Singapore KrisFlyer to book anything! But they are an option I’ve looked at using many times.
You’ll need to fly United Airlines, and I find the best way to search for seats is via the United website, looking for saver economy (X) space. You can then pull up the Singapore site to see if these Star Alliance awards appear. If they don’t, calling is always your backup option. Singapore KrisFlyer charges just 17,500 per person each way to Hawaii from the lower 48, compared to United’s 22,500 per person.
The standard bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is enough for three one-way seats. Just two welcome offers, if both spouses signed up, and you potentially have enough to fly free to Hawaii with the whole family!
Singapore: Part Two
I’m not done with Singapore yet. You can also use them to fly Alaska Airlines, and the rates are attractive. The only issue is Singapore’s funky award terms, which basically limit you to nonstop flights (based on what I read). If anyone has other experience booking these, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Basically, KrisFlyer awards to Hawaii from the West Coast cost just 12,000 miles one-way per person on Alaska Airlines. Yes, this is a different rate than what they charge for United and other Star Alliance airlines. But it is a nice sweet spot.
What confuses me is Alaska’s pricing for other regions of the U.S. Some are actually better than what Singapore offers. But the terms state “transfers and stopovers are not permitted”. If transfer means a layover, why offer awards at all from other regions, since you’ll obviously have to connect in SEA/PDX/SMF/OAK/SFO/SJC/LAX/SAN?
You’ll also need to call to book these awards. I should give it a try one of these days, just to see if it is possible to fly from other western states with a connection for just 11,500 miles. It’s silly that awards from some states other than California, Oregon and Washington are priced lower than the coastal states themselves.
New Hotness: Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
I’ve written a couple times about how lucrative the Turkish Airlines loyalty program is for domestic awards, including that you can now book some Turkish Airlines awards online! The Turkish Miles & Smiles award chart is attractive for domestic tickets:
- 7,500 miles one-way in economy
- 12,500 miles one-way in business/first
Unlike pretty much any other program, Turkish classifies Hawaii and Alaska as domestic as well. Most other programs treat these states as a separate award region.
The issue with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is that you will likely need to call in to book. I guess this is the same as with Singapore KrisFlyer, but the Turkish agents are a hair less reliable (and harder to understand). But the pricing makes this more than worth it.
Another hurdle with Miles & Smiles is that their only transfer partners are Citi ThankYou (1,000:1,000 transfer rate) and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 ratio). As always, it is best to transfer Bonvoy points in batches of 60,000, which will give you a 5,000 mile bonus, for a total of 25,000 miles. For those without a Citi ThankYou point-earning card, you may be out of luck.
Still, with one elevated 60,000-point Citi ThankYou Premier welcome offer, you’re looking at four round-trip economy tickets to Hawaii!
Hit or Miss: Delta SkyMiles
Delta ditched its award chart a few years ago, so it is often kinda difficult to figure out what awards are supposed to cost. On the whole, awards to Hawaii often cost quite a bit when flying with them, both in cash or miles.
But sometimes you can stumble upon an excellent miles deal. Delta will routinely offer award sales to various locations, and Hawaii sometimes makes the list. Rarely, you can even find an airport not on the sale list that is offering very good fares. I once found an award for just 12,000 Delta SkyMiles one-way from San Francisco to Honolulu.
Still, having a bunch of SkyMiles in your pocket for a potential deal to Hawaii is a good strategy. I priced out tickets for us at one point for 130,000 SkyMiles. At 26,000 per person round-trip, this is an excellent deal, and on par with using Avios (except we’d have to connect in LAX).
Best Way to Fly Free to Hawaii?
I see these as the easiest and cheapest ways to fly to Hawaii, especially if you need to make it happen for multiple people. Rather than chasing a couple scattered award seats, you can often get round-trip tickets for multiple people after just 1 or 2 welcome offers.
Remember that “miles” aren’t always the best way to go, and simply chasing a fare sale with points you can cash out for travel (the straight Ultimate Rewards option) could be the best. I hope you and your family can enjoy Hawaii sometime soon and do it for pennies on the dollar!