Hawaii Part 4 – Island Hopping

Island hopping (visiting more than one  Hawaiian island in a trip) will cost a little more money (unless you’re cruising).  However, for most visitors, the airfare to get to Hawaii is the most expensive part of the trip.  After that investment, you’ll probably want to see and do as much as you can on the islands – to get as much value from that airfare purchase as possible.  That means “island hopping”.

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View of Maui from Mokuele Airlines

Planning transportation for island hopping can be a little over-whelming at first.  However, with just a little time and research, it will all come together and you’ll find it’s DEFINITELY worth the effort.   THEN, en route, it requires patience –as there are bound to be bumps in the plan.  Just do the research, make a plan, then stay flexible and you’ll have a WONDERFUL trip.

 

What Are The Options for Inter-Island Travel?  :

  • By Air:  This is the most common mode of transportation for visitors and residents alike.  Most of this post will be devoted to that…in a moment…..
  • By Ferry:  Ferry service was a wonderful option ‘once upon a time’, however, it has fallen victim to EPA regulations/restrictions – and was discontinued to all but 2 islands in 2009. WORD OF CAUTION TO TRAVEL PLANNERS:   The Ferry Company’s website (Hawaii Superferry) is still up as a tribute and ‘eulogy’ to the company (There seems to be a lot of anger over it’s closing….) to remind people of what the EPA cost them. However, only in the ‘small print’ does the website say that their site is a ‘eulogy’;  their last ‘run’ was in 2008. There are schedules, prices, etc…that could lead unsuspecting readers to conclude they can show up and get on a ferry…  I understand their anger, but the website could really affect visitors’ travel plans…ugh!!  Don’t get caught up in that!!!

The ONLY operational  ferries leave from Lahaina Maui and go to the islands of  Lana’i or Molokai.  The Maui-Lana’i Expeditions ferry operates from Maui to Manele Bay Lana’i.  They also offer tour packages  – just fyi.  🙂    The Maui-Molokai Ferry operates from Maui to Kaunakakai Harbor, Molokai.

Please Note:   The channels between these islands can be pretty rough in the afternoon as the winds across the water strengthen.  Even those not typically prone to sea sickness may have problems – especially on the Maui-Molokai route.  Be prepared with sea sickness remedies or travel in the morning.

  • By Cruise Ship:  This, of course, requires the booking of a Hawaiian cruise.  🙂    I’ve never seen the islands this way, but the advantages are having inter-island transportation, accommodations, and food all planned/arranged.  That’s probably a nice way to see the islands though the disadvantage, as I see it, is the limited amount of time allowed on each island… typically only 1 day/island.   Of course, it’s all a matter of preference.  🙂

Inter-island flights

NOTE AS YOU’RE PLANNING:

  • Some islands have more than one airport. Be aware of this as you check fares to make sure you’re going where you want to go…and reserve the rental car at the right airport.  🙂   On the Big Island (Hawaii) Kona is almost always cheaper to fly in to than Hilo.  On Maui, Kahului  is typically cheaper than Kapalua and DEFINITELY more convenient than Hana.  Recently, Maui’s OGG (Lahaina)  airport has become a secondary hub within Hawaii for flights to and from the Mainland. (secondary to Honolulu)

IMGP1299Inter-island Air Travel Carriers

There are several airlines that “hop” from island to island:  Hawaiian Air, Island Air, Mokulele Airlines and Go! Airlines (Mesa).  On our most recent trip over, we flew on 3 of these.  It seems that these companies come and go as quickly as you can snap your fingers…  However, here’s my “take” (and links) on the companies we used.

Hawaiian Airlines This airline is the flag carrier for Hawaii and has frequent flights to all the major islands.  They are more expensive than the smaller companies, and their baggage fees are significantly higher ($25/bag compared to $15-17 for the smaller airlines as of this writing) however, their more frequent flights, larger planes and more reliable aircraft makes them the preferred airline of many. Depending on your situation, that MAY be worth the extra money.

So many of the smaller airlines come and go so quickly…but this next little airline must be doing SOMETHING right, because they’re still going strong….

 

Mokulele AirlinesMokuele Airlines http://www.mokuleleairlines.com/

Mokuele is operared by Mesa and is an off-shoot of smaller line merger. This very small airline flies to Oahu (2 airports), Maui (3 airports), Molokai (2 airports), Lana’i and The Big Island (2 airports) on Cessna aircraft.  🙂  Yes, they go to all the very small airports.

 

Do NOT let the size of these aircraft deter you.   Flying with them was actually a pleasant experience.  Their terminal is outdoors…It’s a pre-fab building covered by an awning.  There’s a restroom, vending machines and 15 chairs for passengers as they wait for their flight.  ha!! Mokulele Airlines Kona (When we arrived, I HAD to take this picture.:) )  We knocked on the door and someone came out of the office to check us in….  We not only weighed our checked bags, but we weighed ourselves while holding our carry ons to get a total weight on the aircraft.  (NOTE:  Their policy doesn’t allow passengers over 350 lbs to fly – it’s not a ‘discrimination’ thing…it’s a weight issue on the aircraft…)  The pilot checked our boarding pass and gave us our seat number before we walked across the runway to board.  He then boarded the plane with us and went over safety procedures. Everyone gets a window seat (wonderful when flying over the islands) because there are single seats on each side of the aircraft.  When we got off the plane, we walked around to wait for our luggage, then I took a quick picture with the pilot before we rolled our luggage off the runway.  I didn’t have a problem with any of that.  It was an “experience”.  I just took pictures.  🙂

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Here are some of the wonderful views I got while flying over Maui…and into Kona:

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I would fly with them again!!!

 

 

Go! Airlines (Operated by Mesa ) was once the second largest inter-island carrier in Hawaii with a fleet of smaller aircraft. We flew with them in 2013, but alas, they are now no longer in business.  Recently, Island Air suffered the same fate.  This seems to be all too common with these small airlines in Hawaii.

For this reason, I recommend not booking interisland flights too far in advance…but it’s not necessary to completely avoid them…  Our “Small Airline Story” included a stressful morning, cancelled flight and the rebooking of a flight on Hawaiian Air to catch our flight home…but we DID make it just fine.  Lesson in That? If you find yourself with a ticket on one of these smaller airlines that falls through for whatever reason, it’s fairly easy to get a last minute seat with Hawaiian Air – just don’t book things too close so you have time to make necessary arrangements.  We were even reimbursed for the extra cost by the smaller company when we got home.

R.I. P. Mesa Go! Airlines

 

Finding the Cheapest and Shortest Flights:   As I’ve said many times on this blog, explore all your options (airline websites AND travel brokers) before making a decision. We went from Oahu to Kona to Maui, then back to Oahu for our flight home– on 3 different inter-island airlines. I checked fares and flight times and made the decisions that were best for us on that day…   There’s no one ‘right answer’…  You just have to find what works best for you.

Just Consider these things before making that decision…..

 My Thoughts: 

  • Don’t be afraid of these smaller airlines.  They ARE a savings over Hawaiian Air.  Do your research and be flexible and you can save some money.   however…..
  • Do NOT book with a smaller airline as your last flight if you need to make a connecting flight.  (i.e. you’re flying back to the Mainland)   In that case, book with Hawaiian Air.  Their frequent flight schedule won’t leave you stranded on the islands when you’re supposed to be flying home – You can catch a later flight if yours happens to be delayed.
  • When booking that inter-island flight to connect for your flight back to the Mainland, allow enough time for possible delays. This is NOT the time to try to squeeze every minute out of your vacation.  OUR EXPERIENCE:  We were due to arrive in Honolulu at 6:30 and fly out at 10 pm.  With the delays and finally, our last minute purchase of Hawaiian Air tickets, we barely made our connection.  Had we been more “squeezed” for time, we probably would not have made it. Another family in the same predicament that evening was trying to catch a connecting flight at 8:15. I’m assuming they didn’t make it in time as we didn’t get to Oahu until 8:30 and we took the first available flight on Hawaiian Airlines.  They just didn’t have enough time to make other arrangements.  Give yourself time to deal with unexpected situations.
  • Though you don’t have to book these flights MONTHS in advance as advised for most other flights, don’t wait too long.  As the airlines inventory shrinks, the rates go up (Law of Supply and Demand….)   My experience is  that booking 3-5 weeks in advance in the Spring should secure fairly good rates…  Book At Least 6-8 wks in advance during the busier summer season.
  • Find out which Inter-island airlines have “agreements” with your airline for the flight home.  They each have their own agreements with different Major airlines  When we rebooked with Hawaiian Airlines, we found out they had an “agreement” with United.  We checked our bags with Hawaiian Airlines in Maui and THEY transferred them to United in Honolulu for us. What a relief after the tight layover we had with all the delays. Before that change, we were going to have to pick up bags in Honolulu, check in AND re-check bags with United then go BACK through security.  I don’t think we would have had time to do that.  (We and/or our bags most likely would have missed our United flight.     

Other articles in this series

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The Souvenir You’ll Keep (and LOVE) Forever

IMG_4403It’s Christmas time!!  Our tree is up and decorated….and while everyone else is sharing pictures of their Christmas trees on Facebook, I’m sharing ours here, on my vacation blog.

Why?  Because our tree is a compilation and remembrance of all our vacations.  THIS is the very place my pictures ‘fit’.  🙂

Most everyone likes to bring home a souvenir from their travels – that one item (or two…or three…) to remind us of our vacation. We may shop and shop for that  ‘perfect’ item.   The souvenir or curio shops will offer you many MANY options – from t-shirts to trinkets of all types…   How do you choose???  

 

The questions that go through my head as I browse are: 

  • Is this item ‘timeless’?
  • Will I still want it in my house in 10 years?  25 years? 
  • Will it even LAST 10 or 25 years? 
  • Do I want to dust it for the next 10 years?  or 25 years? 🙂 🙂 
  • Do I have room for (and want)  25 more of these as we continue to vacation?  

Perhaps you’ve made souvenir purchases and KNOW that these things can begin to pile up over time.   When an item gets old or out-dated – it stops being treasured and becomes something we no longer want (and something our kids ridicule…ugh!!!)  We may even begin to see it as ‘clutter’…. Then, that ‘memory’ finds its way into the attic…or a garage sale…or worse…the trash bin. Where’s the ‘memory’ in that?  😦

For a while, our family bought t-shirts. However, even that ‘useful’ item had it’s drawbacks. It wasn’t timeless. The children outgrew theirs. They become faded and eventually, the drawers got FULL.  Maybe we could store them in the attic until we have time to make a quilt, but even that plan can get overwhelming with everyone having their own t-shirts…  It’s just difficult to keep up with that.

Photo of the tree WITHOUT the lights so you can possibly see the collection of ornaments from our travels.

I came up with an alternative – on our very first vacation -without even meaning to.  ha!!

It all began on our very first vacation after we got married.  We went to St. Louis, MO and while shopping that that ‘perfect souvenir’ I saw a Christmas ornament of the Arch over the St. Louis skyline. What A Wonderful Idea!!  – Being newly married, we didn’t have a lot of Christmas ornaments, so I bought it.  Our ‘tradition’ had begun…quite by ‘chance’…  🙂   That Christmas, our St. Louis ornament got a prized position on our first Christmas tree.  🙂 🙂  We were hooked!!!   From there came Walt Disney World…and Yellowstone, Tetons, Florida Keys, Grand Canyon, Boston,  and the list goes on and on over the last 26 years.  We’ve purchased an ornament (or several) on every vacation and our tree has ‘filled up’ quickly.

Old North Church, Boston, MA

 

 

In fact, there’s even 2 ornaments our children purchased on their vacations with their grandparents WITHOUT us.  🙂   (ON THEIR OWN, without prompting from us, they made the decision to buy an ornament…  🙂  )  Our oldest has already taken her ornament to her new home (and tree).  Our 2nd will do the same in a few years.  Those are THEIR memories.

WHY do I love this idea?  It’s a ‘remembrance that will NEVER become outdated.  It doesn’t gather dust because it’s not out year round.  It comes out once a year and we ‘delight’ in that time. If you could hear our conversations during our tree decorating evening, you would hear things like  “Do you remember that day when so-n-so  did such-n-such on that vacation?”  or “Oh My, do you remember what Dad said when we walked into _____?”  and the conversations go on and on.  Decorating the tree is always fun for every family – but these ornaments add a whole other dimension to OUR evening.

The Biltmore

The Biltmore

 

Walt Disney World 1990

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve found recently that dated ornaments are best for us as we have ‘repeated’ several vacations.  My husband and I went to Yellowstone in 1991 as a young couple then we took the whole family back in 2011.  We have ornaments from both trips.   We went to Walt Disney World before we had kids  in 1990, then took our children in 2006.  The dated  ornaments differentiate between these ‘repeated’ trips.  Same destinations…VERY different memories!!!    🙂

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta  2014

 

As you’re beginning to think about your next vacation – (it’s never too early…)  give this idea some consideration.  🙂

Merry Christmas To All and To All a Good Night!  🙂

 

Cruises: Part 5 Clothes/Personal Items to Pack

Kona sunsetNormally, I wouldn’t post a list of clothes to take on a vacation.  That seems ‘insulting’ to the intelligent reader.  However, for those new to cruising packing can be a little intimidating…. formal wear, smart casual wear, ports and excursions, etc…  So, just this once, I’m posting a packing list of clothes.  🙂  Note:  This pertains mainly to warm weather cruises.  I plan to write an entire group of posts on Alaskan cruises as they break many of the rules for almost everything ‘cruising’.

 

CLOTHING:

  • Formal Night – The ‘level of formality’ on formal nights seems to be decreasing on many cruise lines (luxury lines excluded).  Cocktail dresses or elegant pant suits for women work well. For the men, a jacket/blazer with dress shirt and tie are adequate. You’ll also see some suits on the men. The general rule is to dress as you would for a nice wedding.   Elegant gowns and tuxedos may be expected on luxury cruise lines, and you will see a few of these on the more casual cruises, but it is not a ‘requirement’.  Most ships have formal wear rentals if you don’t want to pack these items.
  • Non-formal nights in the dining room are typically business or ‘smart’ casual, though you may see some cocktail dresses then too.  The little black dress is so versatile that it’s always an EXCELLENT choice.  Accessorize it ‘up’ or ‘down’ for formal or informal nights and certainly wear it more than once.  Also working well are maxi dresses, sun dresses, pantsuits, slacks and blouses.  Carnival has recently begun allowing jeans in the Dining room on casual nights.  For the men, dress slacks and a collared shirt with or without a tie works fine.   Jackets optional.  🙂   In the interest of packing light, we wear pants/skirts several nights with a different shirt/blouse/top each night. We’re usually changing clothes after dinner, so they’re only worn about 2 hours each night.

  • Days in Port:  Dress is determined by what you’re doing so follow the instructions given by the excursion vendor.  Note:  Do some research on the norms for the port areas.  In some areas of Europe, Asia and a few Caribbean ports, modest apparel is socially ‘required’ to avoid offending the locals.  (i.e. cover ups or shorts/t-shirt over swimsuits)  Modest apparel is necessary for admittance to religious sites.  Remember your Feet:  If you’ll be doing significant walking, ‘comfort’ trumps ‘fashion’….except in European ports where sneakers are considered taboo.   🙂
  • Sea Days:  Obviously, this is determined by climate and temps, but ‘casual’ is the mode here.  Shoes and a cover up over swimwear are required in the dining areas (buffet and dining rooms) on most cruise lines. (Norwegian allows swimsuits in the buffet area.)
  • Swimwear – many recommend bringing 2 – 3 swimsuits for back-to-back pool or beach days.  Swimwear is only appropriate at the pool areas.  (typically a requirement)  A swimsuit coverup is also culturally required in many ports as noted above.  Most cruise lines provide beach/pool towels (ship AND port use) so don’t be concerned with packing your own.
  • Shoes:
    • Low-heel rubber sole shoes for sea days
    • Comfortable walking shoes for excursions/port days
    • Gym/workout shoes ??
    • Shoes for dinner attire
    • Excursion-specific shoes??  consult information about your chosen excursions

NOTE:  Though many people wear flip flops on a cruise, I will never take them again.  We purposely take the stairs around the ship as much as possible and they were difficult to climb stairs/walk in.   Just a personal opinion….   🙂

  • Workout clothing  if you plan to work out on board….or walk the open air decks in the mornings.

    walking deck

    wrap-around deck where everyone walks in the mornings

  • Sweater/light jacket for cool evenings on deck or in the dining room where the a/c can be chilly.

PERSONAL ITEMS:

  • Sunscreen, sunblock and/or after-sun lotion.  This is very expensive on the ship.
  • Personal Products in TRAVEL SIZES:travel size bottlesI buy travel size containers and put my favorite products in them.  Your cruise line may put a few personal items  (toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc…) in the stateroom but there’s no guarantee of what will be there.
  • Jewelry:  Keep security in mind as you make your choices of jewelry to bring. Expensive pieces are probably best left at home, however, if you DO choose to travel with them, bring it on board in your carry on and put it in the safe when not wearing it. The cabins have room safes, but only valuables locked in the purser’s safe are covered under the ship’s insurance (check your cruise contract).  I also bring a watch as I turn data off on our phones when we leave port – to avoid roaming charges.
  • Lip balm (with sunscreen)  The sea air can be very drying!
  • Insect repellant with DEET
  • Hat and/or sunglasses
  • Umbrella or poncho  — depends on itinerary
  • Medicine:  These are VERY expensive on board.  The pill organizers from Dollar Tree are great for either daily medication regiments…or to keep a supply of Over the Counter meds in (different med in each compartment) medication containers
    • prescription medications (obviously….)
    • pain killer of choice – Tylenol, Advil, etc…  Travel sizes!!
    • antacid  (your diet may be quite different from when you’re home)
    • anti-diarrheal
    • cortisone cream
    • antihistamine
    • motion sickness remedy –  Bring more than  one option as you don’t know what will work for you)  For detailed information on medicines and homeopathic/natural remedies.  Dealing with Motion Sickness
    • antibiotic cream
    • stool softener (diet changes affect digestion…..)  🙂20170613_142858
    • Band-Aids/bandages
    • germicidal hand cleaner  (You can get this at Dollar Tree – for $1)

Though the ships have irons and ironing boards, they will be in a laundry room, NOT in your cabin. I try to just bring items that don’t require ironing. If you DO need to iron on formal night, do it early in the day to avoid long lines.

A Word About the Luggage Tags:

Cruise lines provide these.  Most cruise lines put them online for you to print – in an effort to go “green” (I’m not sure that saves much paper ha!  but it DOES save the cruise line money.)   That leaves you to figure out how to attach them to your luggage so that they STAY THERE during travel.

If you are flying and handling YOUR OWN bags at the airport, I recommend NOT attaching the cruise tags until after your flight to ensure they are not lost en route. When you pick up luggage at baggage claim, remove the airline tags and attach the cruise tags.

If you are flying and have purchased transfers from the cruiseline (they’re picking up your bags at the airport) you’ll need to attach those tags BEFORE LEAVING HOME.  I suggest putting TWO tags on each piece of luggage, securely attached,  as they need to STAY attached through all the handling your bags will go through.  (It’s a LOT – airport, transfer and cruise terminal…)

OPTIONS FOR MAKING SURE THOSE TAGS STAY ON:  🙂

  • Print and “laminate” the tags using clear plastic packing tape or contact paper.  Punch a hole  and attach to the bag with a zip tie  OR duct tape
  • Make a luggage tag protector (pocket) from plexi glass. Cut 2 – to size – and tape together with clear packing tape.  Punch a hole in the top and attach with zip tie.
  • Make a protector from a plastic page protector cut down to size, folded, stapled, and taped with clear packing tape over the ends and staples.  Attach with zip tie or staples.

zip tiesZip ties are available at the Dollar Tree – for $1.

Remember… 2 tags/bag is a good idea to keep things attached through much handling.

  • ONE MORE OPTION:  Several years ago,  I ordered vinyl luggage tag covers from Favors by Serendipity   These run around $2.50-$3 each.  – with an extra charge of .25 for the 9″ loops –which I recommend as the 6″ loops are challenging to attach to the suitcase. I’ve used them for all our travels – cruises AND flights.  I really like them!  Similar ones are available from Amazon for a little cheaper, but only in quantities of 4 or 8 and they don’t carry the 9″ loops.  I personally think the 9″ loops are worth the extra $1-2 it costs to order from this company.

Here’s hoping this list takes a bit of the mystery out of packing for that first (or possibly subsequent) cruise.

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