Navigating the ever-fluctuating world of Hawaii travel prices, especially when it comes to your dream trip to Hawaii, can be an emotional rollercoaster. It can also lead to great results, as you’ll see.
One example comes from our regular commenter Sherri, who said, “…keep checking for fare reductions. For my trip at the end of November, the fare has gone down twice in the last month…”
Editor Jeff is a deal-hound, and he says, absolutely keep checking. Why? You may discover, as he does most of the time, that Hawaii vacation costs can take an unexpected dip. Now, what do you do about it? Well, that’s the more complicated (he calls it interesting) part. It all depends on the travel products you’ve chosen, who you purchased them through, and the timing of your discovery.
Why do prices fluctuate so wildly on Hawaii vacations?
The pricing landscape for Hawaii travel and elsewhere has been transformed and driven by the industry’s dynamic pricing strategies and solutions. This has left travelers wondering why prices fluctuate so wildly.
Gone are the days when there were fixed and largely unchanging prices for Hawaii vacation costs. Airlines, vacation rentals, Hawaii hotels, and car rentals fully embraced dynamic pricing, wherein prices are constantly tailored and re-juggled based on contextual signals.
Your best friend on Hawaii flight prices is Google Flights.
Airfare alerts on Google Flights are invaluable for securing the best Hawaii airfare deals, with one exception: Southwest doesn’t participate in Google Flights. When purchasing on Southwest, checking for price drops is on you. But for all other airlines, Google Flights is what you need.
Google Flights is a user-friendly tool for searching for flights, checking prices, and monitoring airfare changes when alerts are set. It caters to both novice travelers and seasoned Hawaii enthusiasts, keeping an eye on price fluctuations pre and post-purchase.
Earlier this summer, editor Jeff recently tracked a huge drop in the price of a first-class ticket on Hawaiian Airlines, which plummeted suddenly by over 60%, from $1,659 to $630. Thanks to the prompt Google alert, he snatched up tickets within five minutes, only to witness the price go back up soon thereafter. It’s crucial to note that airlines alter prices multiple times daily.
What to do when price changes are found within 24 Hours:
If Lady Luck strikes, and the price drop occurs within 24 hours of your purchase, that’s indeed good fortune. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates that airlines permit fee-free cancellations during the period. In this situation, airlines like Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, and United are quite amenable.
But one caveat applies there, too. We suggest purchasing a new ticket before canceling the old one, as this helps assure you that you actually got the new flights. It also facilitates an easy refund process of the original ticket, with the funds being returned to your original payment method.
One pro tip gleaned from our own trials and tribulations is to maintain your own meticulous records of airline credits and refunds, including the original booking and ticket numbers. This practice is particularly useful until you can readily see your refund online.
What to do when price changes are found beyond 24 hours:
The situation becomes somewhat more complex after 24 hours and depends on the airline:
- Alaska Airlines: If you don’t hold the cheapest “Saver Fare” and possess a regular main cabin economy ticket or higher, Alaska Airlines offers a price guarantee. This entails a refund credited to your Alaska Airlines wallet, accessible for use on your upcoming trips within one year of the initial ticket purchase. This process has proven to be quite hassle-free in our experience, including recently.
- American Airlines: American Airlines provides a trip credit that can be applied towards future flights, with a one-year window to utilize the funds from the date of credit issuance. They and other airlines are also offering more refundable fares. For all but basic economy, American has a change fee waiver. That means that they aren’t charging a change fee, but they aren’t eliminating doing so in the future. For trip credits, you’ll receive an email with a 13-digit number that begins with 00115. You can redeem it online within a year of purchase.
- Delta Air Lines: Delta provides an eCredit for all fare classes except basic economy. This eCredit is accessible via your SkyMiles account and expires within one year from the original purchase date. Keep track of your dates!
- Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines now frequently offers refundable fares, too, sometimes priced just slightly higher than non-refundable options. These are your easiest bet in the case of price drops. It’s a valuable alternative to purchasing trip insurance if you suspect you might need to cancel. For Hawaiian’s non-refundable fares, cancellation results in a credit that can be redeemed for a future ticket. However, there are two caveats: Firstly, remember that Hawaiian has a new reservations system implemented earlier this year. They are continuing to make changes. It has been necessary to contact Hawaiian Airlines to book your new flight using the credit since this cannot be done online, but that is changing. Secondly, the airline has required that entire flight credit must be used in a single transaction. Moreover, it’s essential to remember that seat assignment and upgrade fees are typically non-refundable unless you’ve purchased a refundable airfare.
- Southwest Airlines: Southwest makes life easier with a straightforward policy. They allow changes or cancellations without any charge up to 10 minutes before your flight’s departure. The lowest fares provide a flight credit for future use, while the higher fares are eligible for credit card refunds. Even if you purchase early boarding options, these will be converted into flight credits – an online, hassle-free process. Jeff just changed tickets on a flight to Honolulu when he found a lower price and a better time. He did the entire process online in under 5 minutes.
- United Airlines: United Airlines also offers refundable tickets for a variable (reasonable to outrageous) increase in price compared to non-refundable ones. Basic economy fares come with limited flexibility, and there are no options for change or cancellation beyond the initial 24-hour grace period. However, for regular economy tickets, changes can be made at no cost, other than any applicable fare difference. Changes on United are easily done via their app.
Navigating airline change intricacies can be somewhat challenging, but understanding your rights and the airline’s policies ahead of time is key to making the most of price fluctuations when booking your Hawaiian vacation.
Hawaii hotel prices, too, can fluctuate hugely.
Hawaii hotels come at a big cost. Finding the cheapest hotel prices can be helped again using Google.
Start by checking Google for the price of the hotels you want to stay at. Simply enter the name, and Google will present prices, based on the dates you insert or not, from various booking websites.
Then, check with the hotel online directly or contact them by phone to check for any special rates (AAA, AARP, etc.) we may not have realized. Hotels will sometimes match prices you find on another site.
Hotel loyalty programs help, too. When you sign up, you’ll be getting some perks, whether lower price, early or late check-in, etc.
Even though hotel prices tend to be somewhat more stable than car rentals and airfares, they still fluctuate, especially within the last 90 days and even more so within the final 30 days.
Our case in point is regarding an upcoming stay in Honolulu. Scoring what appeared to be a great deal for residents (Kamaaina), we paid a total of $313 for a luxury Waikiki oceanfront hotel including all taxes and resort fee. Sounds good when the hotel is typically promoting Kamaaina savings as being 40% off. But the reality was that by checking Google search results, we found that anyone could book the same hotel via Priceline for $324, fully refundable, all inclusive. Duped by alleged saving, with the Kamaaina rate in reality yielding just a 3% savings! We’re back to the drawing board on this one and will report later.
Hawaii car rental price drops. Oh yeah!
Here’s how upcoming savings just unfolded in editor Jeff’s pursuit of a cost-effective car rental for an upcoming trip to Honolulu. After purchasing a week-long rental (not pre-paid, of course!). That was all done online using Kayak, Priceline, Discount Hawaii Car Rental, Costco Travel, and Autoslash. The best rate found turned out to be CostcoTravel. And the total price for the full-size rental was $679. Not so good, we thought, but a start.
For what seemed like the longest time, the rates remained high, and it felt like there was no point in continuing the search. Jeff had already set up a price-change alert on Autoslash, but what it was yielding was car rentals from lesser-known companies he wouldn’t rent from.
Our resident curmudgeon, also known as the “Arthur Frommer of Hawaii,” wouldn’t give up. What happened is that in the final seven days before travel, prices start to drop and pretty dramatically.
Jeff’s persistence paid off when he got an alert he’d set with Autoslash. It led first to a $50 drop in price, still with Avis, one of his two preferred rental companies. It was via Priceline. He took it, still refusing a somewhat cheaper option to pre-pay at that point. Smart move. Over the days leading right up to the flight, the prices continued to drop.
The next fare alert showed an even better price, which he again purchased as non-prepaid, and it was once again on Priceline. But he had the idea to check CostcoTravel again. And what he found was an even better-priced rental there for which he’d received no alert. In the end, an initial $700 rental ended up costing $354 (and it still wasn’t prepaid). Enough for dinner out or more. And over time, repeated, again and again, these techniques are enough to pay for whole trips!
Tip: Don’t take anyone’s word, even if they promise to notify you of price drops.
1. Best price and nearly 50% savings were by going beyond the price alerts.
2. Opt for refundable options whenever possible. If you pre-pay, only do so in the final week.
3. Maintain a vigilant, calm eye on deals, especially in the final week leading up to your travel.
The best deals can be unpredictable, and they can change frequently. It’s a dynamic target that requires continuous monitoring. Let us know your strategies in the comment section below.