The other day I was talking to my husband about our 2020 plans for visiting Hawaii. A side note: for years we’ve discussed going to Japan, but never pulled the trigger. The main reason had to do with the length of the flights. Anyway, I casually mentioned that compared to Japan, flying from west coast to Hawaii is a piece of cake. To which my husband replied: “Well, if I have to get on a plane in LAX, I might as well go all the way to Japan.”
Stop the presses! I thought I had zero chance of convincing him, especially after making him cram his large body into tiny economy seat on our recent 14-hour flight from Sydney to San Francisco. And a few other flights. But here was my window of opportunity, so I had to seal the deal before he changed his mind. He said I could go ahead and plan the whole thing. It certainly doesn’t hurt that my husband is a Japanophile. He loves manga, sushi and all the latest electronic gadgets.
I’m more into ancient Japanese culture and primarily want to visit Kyoto. Tokyo scares and intimidates me. Like in any large city, there are obviously freaky things going on. But I think Tokyo takes it to a whole new level, at least based on “Parts Unknown” episode (RIP Anthony Bourdain).
The one I can’t get over is special cafes staffed by women in their early twenties (mostly dressed in school uniforms). They cater to middle-aged businessmen and besides food, their job description is to serve up compliments like “You are so smart! You are so interesting!” By the way, guys, if if you have to pay someone to tell you that you are smart and interesting, chances are, you are neither of those things.
Hmm, I wonder if they have similar cafes that cater to middle-aged American/Belarusian housewives?
But wait, there is more!
I told my sister-in-law about the plan and asked her if she wanted to come along. I wanted to stick to only Tokyo/Kyoto itinerary, but she decided that we should also do a cruise while we are there. What!? She mentioned it to my husband, who got all excited. Then, my father-in-law heard about the plan and said he ain’t sitting this one out.
Originally, we weren’t planning on inviting my husband’s parents on account of them being old and decrepit. My father-in-law had a heart failure plus a stroke this year alone. He lost his ability to read and we weren’t sure he would be able to handle our trip to South Pacific. The doctors didn’t think he would be around much longer.
But my father-in-law is one stubborn dude. He got on a treadmill, worked hard on learning how to read again, he basically refused to give up. He said that flying for 12 hours in economy to Japan is no problem. Whether this will truly be the case remains to be seen, but for now, the plan is for all seven of us to go to Japan in June of 2020.
That means I should be able to book the flights in seven months, which isn’t that far off. My mileage and points balances aren’t that impressive, but if all goes well, I will cut the costs significantly.
Why stopping in Hawaii on the way to Japan (sort of) makes sense
Our biggest concern is 12-hour outbound flight from LAX to Osaka. So, my sister-in-law had an idea. Why not stop in Hawaii on the way? I definitely don’t need to be convinced to go to Hawaii, but the main issue is whether my husband can take off enough time in order for us to pull off 5-night cruise, few nights in Tokyo/Kyoto, plus a stopover in Honolulu. This would require a minimum of two weeks.
But I’m very tempted, and my husband said he will talk to his boss when the time comes. Hawaii isn’t exactly on the way to Japan, but it’s a logical stopover point.
It takes about 5.5 hours to fly to Hawaii, plus another 8-9 hours to Osaka or Tokyo. So, you are looking at 13.5-14.5 hours in the air compared to 12, not a significant difference. Is Hawaii worth a detour? I’ll let this photo speak for itself.
Of course, for someone who has been to Hawaii already and who is short on vacation time, this may not be the best route. But for some folks, it’s a good chance to kill two birds with one stone. If you fly in economy, sitting 8-9 hours in a tiny seat sure beats 12.
With Southwest entering the Hawaii market, getting to this gorgeous state will soon be easier than ever. Fortunately, getting from Hawaii to Japan is cheaper than you may think. This is a very competitive route and prices tend to be fairly reasonable. Several low-cost carriers like Scoot and AirAsia have entered the market, which makes it possible to snag a ticket for as low as $150 one-way. Note that Scoot has just announced that they will soon stop Hawaii flights.
I don’t know how the future will look for Air Asia but right now, they are selling Hawaii-Osaka flights for a very competitive price. See this example in early June of 2019:
Keep in mind that since it’s a discount carrier, you will pay extra for everything. Still, a $189 flight from Hawaii to Japan is tough to beat.
Mileage deals in economy:
1) Virgin Atlantic program
The cost is 20,000 miles one-way on Delta-operated flights from Honolulu to Tokyo. Interestingly, the same award seats run at 30k-35k miles on Delta.com Availability is decent.
2) Lufthansa Miles and More
The cost is 20,000 miles one-way, and you would be redeeming on United flight from Honolulu to Tokyo. There should not be any fuel surcharges, just a tax of $6. United award availability on this route is pretty good.
3) British Airways Avios
The cost is 20,000 Avios for flights to Tokyo and 25,000 Avios for JAL-operated flights to Osaka. Be aware that there are fuel surcharges of $100 per person. Availability is pretty good.
4) Jet Blue
Huh? Hang on, I’ll explain. You can redeem 30,000 Jet Blue points on one-way Hawaiian-operated flight to either Tokyo or Osaka. Those same flights cost 40,000 Hawaiian miles. It’s not exactly dirt cheap, but if you are swimming in Jet Blue points, it’s an option. I may end up going that route, actually. Availability is OK, not great.
5) Avianca Lifemiles
You can redeem 27,500 Avianca miles (plus $30) on United-operated flight from Honolulu to Tokyo. Don’t forget that through 12/12/2018, you will get a 25% bonus on transfers from Citi Thank You program.
Of course, low-level availability in respective partner programs is (usually) required in order to book the award tickets. None of these rates are as good of a deal as paying $189, but if you prefer to fly with an established carrier, those are probably your best bet. Now you just need to find a way to get to Hawaii.
Right now I’m still in the early stages of planning. Will we pull it off? Who knows. But rest assured, this trip will cost a significant amount of money. But that’s the great thing about miles and points. They give you courage to take the leap, to get off your butt and go for it. Challenging itinerary, you say? I’ve dealt with it before while planning our recent trip to South Pacific.
And I can’t think of better travel companions than my husband’s family, my partners in crime. Sure, there are times we drive each other crazy on trips, but at the end of the day, those memories we make are truly priceless. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Get on that treadmill, Pops!
P.S. Don’t forget that Tokyo will be hosting summer Olympic games at the end of July of 2020. See Nancy’s related post.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.