Surviving the Flight to Hawaii

We have found that being cramped on long flights across the ocean to Hawaii can take a while to recover from once there. Being tall or large increases the need for leg room and seat space on air flights even more important, in some cases it is required in order to not damage your back or legs.

The bad news is that airlines are continuing to reduce legroom by putting the seats closer together. Many have gone from 37 inches of leg room in economy to 31 inches. That is a huge difference on a long flight. To make flying even more uncomfortable, seats in front of bathrooms or emergency exits often don't recline, so if you are in one of these non-reclining seats and the person in front of you reclines, you will have an extra uncomfortable flight.

airplane leg room

Recently we tried a new approach to getting more seat space. We upgraded on Hawaiian to first class. Hawaiian has the most affordable first class prices to Hawaii and if you wait to upgrade right before boarding, it is even cheaper. Their first class service was excellent and the extra space made the 5 hour flight go by much quicker and the extra leg room really helped.

Leg room

One downside of first class is that really spoils you, making it harder to deal with the economy seats after getting a taste of all the room up front.

Beyond flying on airlines with bigger seats we try to fly on off days, (Tuesdays through Thursdays). These are usually cheaper days to fly as well and we have a better chance of getting an empty seat next to us. We try to book aisle and window seats , leaving the middle seat open. This strategy often rewards us by the middle seat remaining open (since they are unpopular). Worse case, if it is filled, we can switch with the person making their day by giving up an aisle or window seat to sit together.

We store our carry-on suitcases overhead to give us more leg room under the seat in front of us. We take out what we need for the trip and put it in the pocket in front of us. We can usually fit a small bottle of water, a book, and our Game Boy in the pocket.

Another issue about price and comfort is how many layovers or airplane changes are required to get to the destination. Some of the best deals are on flights that don't have great connecting service to the other Islands. You may have to change flights in Honolulu or another island, have a long layover, and then fly on to your destination island. Looking for deals with the least airplane changes and layovers saves travel time and makes the vacation start sooner. An option for reducing the stress of a lay-over is a multi-island trip, using the layover in Honolulu as one of the island destinations on your trip.

Multi-island trips are a great way to see more of Hawaii and experience the diversity of the islands. Airlines sometimes have specials on inter-island airfares if you fly over on their airline. If the weather is clear you can get a great view of the islands as you fly between them!

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