Hawaii in The News: Reopening Soon? What About Travel?

Why Preparing For Holiday Hawaii Travel Means Caveat Emptor

Many of you are looking forward to spending the upcoming holidays here in Hawaii. And we look forward to welcoming you. The only thing is, there may be some significant hitches in the near-term Hawaii travel scene that we should all be prepared for. We say that in the short term, caveat emptor (buyer beware). On a good note, airfares at the holidays are running lower than normal, and may be the best bargain that you’ll find.

1. TSA issues at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year.

There are big problems ahead for TSA. In Hawaii that could be even worse, since TSA resources are already stretched so thin. TSA says that 40% of its workers including screeners (nationwide) are unvaccinated and in that regard, a big deadline is pending. On November 22, they are mandated to be fully vaccinated. While TSA remains hopeful, the possibility remains that there could be an extreme shortage of TSA workers at airports both here in Hawaii and at the Hawaii gateways visitors travel from.

One thing you can do is to check the estimated TSA wait time before heading to the airport. TSA offers wait time information via its My TSA mobile app. Download the app to check real-time. Jeff’s missed a flight from Hawaii due to far longer than expected TSA wait time, so you can be sure we’re taking this advise ourselves.

2. Lack of restaurant hours and availability.

Hawaii restaurants are already in short supply, for a multitude of reasons including remaining capacity limited at 50% for now. The Hawaii Restaurant Association is asking for changes to allow more capacity. Come November, Hawaii will see big increases in tourism including international arrivals that had been on hold.

Last month both Oahu and Maui implemented vaccination passport requirements for restaurants. To be seated indoors you must either be vaccinated or have had a COVID test within the prior 48 hours.

Inadequate and demoralized restaurant staffing issues. First, a significant percentage of Hawaii restaurant employees never returned to their jobs. For those that have, frustration emanates from customers who don’t understand the supply/demand issues and from those who haven’t been entirely willing to comply with the new vaccination/testing rules. When customers don’t comply, restaurants can face $5,000 fines or jail.

Restaurant hours are frequently reduced. So if you’re thinking of eating out for lunch, for example, you’d better check first. Many restaurants are no longer keeping their normal hours. Be sure to check first, and make reservations when booking your travel.

We don’t know whether the governor will change the current capacity limit prior to the holiday season, but that’s entirely possible.

3. Sky-high car rentals.

We said last week that Hawaii car rentals continue to be at a premium, or worse, especially during the upcoming holidays. Prices for Christmas and New Years’ period range from $971/week in Honolulu to $1237/week on Maui, $1147/week on the Big Island, and $1149/week on Kauai.

We have a slew of ideas on this subject, and in more than 500 comments, you do too. Read the post on Hawaii car rentals.

3. Hotel rates are no better.

We are also reporting Hawaii Hotel Average Prices Up To $913. This is going to be far worse at the holidays when there is less availability and more demand.

Will you be visiting Hawaii this year at the holidays, and if so, how have you prepared?

11 thoughts on “Why Preparing For Holiday Hawaii Travel Means Caveat Emptor”

  1. I love Hawaii. I hope things improve so I can once again visit my happy place. The island is beautiful and the people are the friendliest. I hope any tourists will treat everyone with respect. Covid rules are everywhere and will remain for some time. A hui hou.

  2. We are planning on coming to the Big island in December for Christmas. We are not vaccinated and do not plan on getting it, we will do a covid test prior is the going to be accepted?

  3. I’ve been planning our Dec family trip since April. I joined a Facebook group that was very helpful in guiding travelers through the Safe Travels guidelines & also the Hawaii Facebook page to know exactly what was happening on the islands. I booked our stay through Vrbo & rental car through Turo. I used Google Flights & Skyscanner for flights. Due to covid precautions, many things have changed in the world of travel if you are planning on going to Hawaii start now to see what these changes are!

  4. Thank you for always providing great info! Our 1st trip to Hawaii was a cruise around the Islands back in 2018. We are returning this year to spend a week in Waikoloa on the Big Island over Thanksgiving. We will definitely heed your advice on getting to the airports early and have already started looking for restaurants to visit so we can make reservations ahead of time. Thanks again for all the information you provide. Mahalo!

  5. My wife and I will be visiting our son who works on the the Big Island. Due to schedules it had to be over the Thanksgiving week end, 10 days total. It’s been two years since we’ve been there and looking forward to the trip. I’m sure it will be a great adventure and thanks for all of the info that you guys give to those is us that love to travel to Hawaii

    1. Hi Dave.

      Thanks. As you can see from other comments, you aren’t the only ones heading to the Big Island for Thanksgiving. Enjoy!


  6. Just left Kauai after a great 8 day stay in Poipu. Had no issues with getting into restaurants and found plenty of food trucks for back up plans. Toughest find was coffee prior to 7am. Traffic was horid in Kapaa and some construction delays going south from north east area but everywhere else was good and the shutdown though Hanalei was over! Staff at our hotel was good and did not seem stressed but definitely less working than normal. Rented a Jeep Wrangler for a little under $800. Great Trip!

  7. I’m coming to Honolulu in early November (yippee!!). I found a decent rate for rental cars on Skyscanner. AutoEurope had pretty good rates too. Granted, I wasn’t looking at rates for holidays. But those websites might still be worth checking.

  8. Sounds like a great time very relaxing. I look forward to spending 3x the money and being frustrated the whole time.


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