Mission to Molokai
July 25, 2014 7:30 PM   Subscribe

Travel gurus: I need to get a family of five, without a lot of money, from Anchorage to Molokai for the middle two weeks of December. I am not a travel guru. What is the cheapest way to do this? I mean, flying, obviously. But where do I look? SO MANY TRAVEL SITES!
posted by Alaska Jack to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Try Hipmunk and Kayak - they are flight aggregators that search all airlines (except the discount airlines like Southwest).
posted by kdern at 7:41 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're not likely to have very many routing options to choose from between Anchorage and Molokai but you might be able to benefit by working Alaska Airlines' various deals.

To start with, do any of the individuals have Alaska Airlines credit cards? If so, this would be an excellent time to consider using the yearly $99 companion fare benefit. If not, and if you're willing (and able) to open up an Alaska Airlines Visa, it might be worth it just to get the companion fare deal. If you have two adults and can both do it, you could reduce your outlay from (round trip ticket price * 5) to ((round trip ticket price * 3) + ($99 * 2)) [and a bit extra for airport charges.] If you can work that, it could be a substantial savings. Be sure to check first to make sure that you won't be affected by blackout dates on the companion fare deal.

Another option which is potentially workable is Alaska Airlines "Fly and Buy" miles.. You can buy miles from Alaska's mileage program and use them to book a trip, but usually this isn't all that attractive a deal. However, when you are booking a ticket on Alaska, you get offered the option to buy additional miles at a reduced rate when you are making your booking. That rate can be more attractive and sometimes it is cheaper (depending on ticket price and number of miles required) to buy Fly and Buy miles and use them for a ticket than it is to buy a ticket using dollars.

One last thought is that if you haven't settled the plans by fall, Alaska Airlines usually has its biggest fare sale of the year in October, timed to coincide with the distribution of Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends. PFD Sale fares are about as low as fares routinely get, but popular routes and dates get snapped up quickly because everyone in Alaska has just received a cash windfall. I do not know for sure whether Alaska Airlines still does this, but it's worth checking whether they have a low price guarantee. It USED to be the case that if you booked a fare and the price dropped between booking and travel that you could call the airline and ask for an adjustment. They wouldn't give you a refund but they would give you a credit for the difference, good towards future travel. If they still do that it would be worthwhile making your travel plans before the fall PFD Sale and then checking when the sale is going on to see whether the price has been lowered and whether you qualify for a partial credit refund.

(in case it's not clear, Alaska Airlines doesn't fly directly to Molokai. you'd fly to Honolulu or Kahului and transfer there.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:08 PM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Nobody flies direct to Molokai, but Hawaiian Air recently launched an island-hopper subsidiary called Ohana that will get you to MKK. So, if you (or anyone you know) has Hawaiian miles to use up/share, you can spend 'em on the hop. Ohana flies nice sized turbo props, too... most of the other small airlines that serve Molokai are bush plane affairs, like 7-passenger Cessnas.

(There is a ferry service from Maui to Molokai, but it's priced about the same as flying, leaves at a terrible pre-dawn hour, departs from Lahaina—nowhere near the Kahului airport—and the choppiness of the channel tends to nauseate passengers.)

Enjoy Molokai!
posted by mumkin at 10:41 PM on July 25, 2014

In checking Kayak, it seems that the least expensive price is $1,064 per person. This is with multiple airlines:

Alaska Airlines to Seattle

Hawaiian Airlines to Honolulu

Hawaiian Airlines to Molokai

The return is:

Mokulele Airlines to Honolulu

Alaska from Honolulu to Anchorage

Now I'm no fan of itineraries like this. So my next step would be to price Alaska Airlines for direct/non-stop flights to Honolulu, and then local Hawaiian airlines for the Honolulu to MKK hop.

You're still looking at $1100 round trip, give or take.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:05 AM on July 26, 2014

Best answer: As Nerd of the North says, first I would see if the family is willing to open up two those Alaskan Airlines credit cards and get the two $99 companion fare certificates, to pay for 2 of the member's 5 tickets.

Also you can find cheaper flights if you can be flexible on your dates. I just did a search on ITA Matrix for a 14 day/13 night trip, and was able to find fares at $666 if you can depart on Monday the 8th and return on Monday the 22nd.

You can also this kind of low fare search on Google Flights. After you do a search, click on the bar graph. It will show both a graph of lowest fares and a calendar.

Option A (includes overnight layover on the way there) at $666pp:

Anchorage (ANC) to Honolulu (HNL) - Mon, Dec 8
Alaska Airlines Inc. 870
Dep: 1:25PM
Arr: 6:45PM

(overnight layover)

Honolulu (HNL) to Hoolehua (MKK) - Tue, Dec 9
Mokulele Flight Service 1700
Dep: 6:30AM
Arr: 7:05AM

Hoolehua (MKK) to Honolulu (HNL) - Mon, Dec 22
Mokulele Flight Service 1775
Dep: 7:25PM
Arr: 8:00PM

Honolulu (HNL) to Anchorage (ANC) - Mon, Dec 22
Alaska Airlines Inc. 871
Dep: 9:50PM
Arr: 5:06AM

Option B (no overnight layover on the way there but a $300 difference for 5 tickets) at $726pp including taxes and fees:

Anchorage (ANC) to Kahului (OGG) - Mon, Dec 8
Alaska Airlines Inc. 824
Dep: 10:00AM
Arr: 3:25PM

Kahului (OGG) to Hoolehua (MKK) - Mon, Dec 22
Mokulele Flight Service 1739
Dep: 5:35PM
Arr: 6:00PM

Hoolehua (MKK) to Honolulu (HNL) - Mon, Dec 22
Mokulele Flight Service 1775
Dep: 7:25PM
Arr: 8:00PM

Honolulu (HNL) to Anchorage (ANC) - Mon, Dec 22
Alaska Airlines Inc. 871
Dep: 9:50PM
Arr: 5:06AM

Everything shoots up starting Friday, December 19th, due to winter break starting for kids still in school. Approximately December 15th is when high season starts on Hawaii. This is why seasoned Hawaiian travelers often choose to go in May, September, October, November (excluding Thanksgiving), and early December, to get the most bang for their buck. Travel to Hawaii is the most popular when it's winter on the Mainland (mid-December to mid-April or so) and kids are out of school (Memorial Day to Labor Day).
posted by kathryn at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fly to Maui and take the HOP ferry over to Molokai. It takes less than 2 hours and hey, it's awesome! Adults cost $75 bucks and kids cost $30 - there are always coupons on island and probably from off-island if you look. Traveling with kids, I'd spend the night in Lahaina.

You'll need to travel fairly light, but that's doubly true on flights between islands. Carrying anything larger than a small duffle bag is going to cost you on the inter-island leg.
posted by 26.2 at 12:10 PM on July 26, 2014

Best answer: Oh, speaking of luggage fees.. You're probably already aware of this, but just in case you haven't traveled since they started the program: If you're traveling to/from Alaska on Alaska Airlines, it will save you on baggage check fees if the members of your party all belong to Alaska Airlines' "Club 49."

Club 49 covers residents of Alaska who sign up for it and gives various benefits, the best of which is up to two free checked bags per traveler on itineraries to or from Alaska when traveling on Alaska Airlines.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:26 PM on July 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all so much! Tickets booked. You guys are so helpful -- I really appreciate the time you took out of your own lives to give me some guidance!!
posted by Alaska Jack at 10:10 AM on August 1, 2014

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