How to Get to Hawaii
In Hawaii, the North American continent is known as “the mainland.” There are two ways of getting from the mainland to the islands: by plane or by boat. Unless you're planning to take a cruise ship, your best option is to fly, and most visitors do just that. It's possible to reach the islands from virtually anywhere on the globe, but it might involve a change of planes or airlines before you get to Hawaii.
The majority of flights arrive and depart from Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, although a few airlines will make direct flights to places like Maui or to Kona on the Big Island. Be aware that such direct flights might not be available on a daily basis. Some of the airlines work together to offer more destinations, so you might start on one carrier and end up on another.
Most airlines have some sort of frequent flier program for their regular passengers. Several now have partner airlines that will accept transferred frequent flier miles. Even if your usual airline doesn't fly to the islands, perhaps one of its partners does. Be aware that there are often restrictions on use of these miles to popular destinations such as Hawaii, including the possibility of “black-out” dates when mileage points can't be applied.
Choose to Cruise
Back in the old days, before jet travel was popular or practical, many visitors to the Hawaiian Islands came by steamship or passenger liners. Regular service of this sort from the mainland to Hawaii is essentially a thing of the past. Visitors seem to prefer a five-hour flight from the West Coast over a five-day cruise across the Pacific. Still, it is possible to visit the islands by sea. Several large cruise lines include Hawaii as a stop in their Pacific itineraries.
Some cruise ships offer a real tour of the islands by sea. You board either in Hawaii or on the West Coast, and your floating hotel brings you to stops on the four main islands. Shore excursions provide a way to see the sights on land, and the ships typically offer great food and entertainment on board.
JUST FOR PARENTS
Most cruise ships are child-friendly and offer some fun activities for entertaining the youngsters. Check with a travel agent or the cruise line. The children's programs that a particular cruise line offers might be a factor in choosing which ship is best for your family.
Traveling on a cruise ship is a great and convenient way to see a lot of the islands and to enjoy the romantic appeal of a ship at sea in Polynesia, complete with invigorating sea air and fresh breezes. Norwegian Cruise Line offers seven-day circle island cruises all year round on their two luxurious ships, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Wind. Princess Cruises offers fifteen-day cruises to Hawaii roundtrip from Los Angeles. Stops are made at Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, Honolulu, Kauai and Lahaina, and Maui. Holland America Lines has fifteen-day cruises from San Diego and a couple of other ports in January to April and October to November. An American Express travel office called America's Vacation Center provides online cruise sales as well.
A State Like Any Other
Although Hawaii might feel like a different country, it's as American as any of the other 49 states. Any American citizen can enter and leave the islands without trouble. If you don't have American citizenship, be sure to review your visa stipulations to make sure everything is in order as you plan your trip and before you get to the airport.
These days, most airports around the world have stepped up their security measures. According to legislation that went into effect on December 31, 2002, all bags checked in at American airports are required to be screened. This, of course, can add a bit of time to your departure arrangements. It is now recommended that passengers flying to or from Hawaii arrive at the airport at least two hours before their flight's scheduled departure. For interisland flights, give yourself an hour and a half.
Some people like to travel with their pets. This is not a good idea in Hawaii. Pets brought into Hawaii will spend their time in a lengthy quarantine, from 30 to 120 days, to ensure that they won't introduce harmful diseases to the islands. Unless you plan to move to the islands, it's best to leave Fluffy at home.
Most airlines allow a maximum of one small carry-on bag plus a “personal item” in the form of a briefcase, laptop computer, or purse. Be aware that any sharp objects or anything resembling a weapon (including golf clubs) must be checked with your baggage — otherwise, these items will be confiscated as you pass through security. Don't forget to carry a valid piece of picture identification — you won't be able to check in without it.
As an agricultural state, Hawaii is very concerned about any pests that might accidentally be carried to or from the mainland. Consequently, all passengers go through a required agricultural inspection. Upon arrival, visitors are asked to fill out a Plants and Animals Declaration Form to determine whether they are carrying certain items. For those leaving the islands for the mainland, baggage is physically inspected.