How to Survive the Long Flight to Hawaii (+ Tips for Jet Lag)

I’ve made the long flight to Hawaii more times than I can count. I’ve done everything from the first flight of the day to the red eye coming home. Some flights literally fly by and some feel like they’re never going to end, but by now I’ve got a pretty good system down for flying to Hawaii and tips for making the time pass quicker. 

Plus tips for minimizing jet lag both going to Hawaii and coming home. 

Surviving the Long Flight to Hawaii

Here’s a quick round up for everything you need to know about surviving the long(ish) flight to Hawaii…

How long is the flight to Hawaii?

First things first, exactly how long are we talking? Well it depends where you’re traveling from. From the west coast, flights are only 5-6 hours (longer going there, shorter coming home). 

From the midwest, flights can be 7-9 hours (hey, America is a big country and there’s a big difference between Denver and Atlanta). 

And from the east coast, flights can be 10+ hours (yikes!). 

Now I have not flown directly from the east coast, but I have flown direct from Dallas, TX (8 hour flight) so I have some personal experience here. I will say, these are DIRECT flight times (my preferred method of travel), but the majority of flights to Hawaii connect on the west coast so you could break it up if you want to. 

Any tips for handling the long flight?

I’ve listed out most of the tips I use below, but the best method for passing the time for me personally is scheduling out the time. Sounds crazy but it works and keeps me from glazing over watching six hours of movies or feeling bored out of my mind. 

I’ll come up with a rough game plan like…I’ll spend the first hour listening to a podcast and playing a game on my phone. I’ll spend the next hour reading. I’ll spend the next two hours watching a show or movie that I’ve saved up especially for the flight. I’ll spend the last hour working, etc. and BOOM I’m there. 

Having the options of activities to cycle through makes the time go by a lot faster than if I let myself get “bored.”


Charge all of your devices: Make sure everything is fully charged, bring your cords, and I like to throw in a battery pack for good measure. 

Download all of the things: Whatever you’re binging on Netflix, your audiobook, your favorite Spotify playlist. You may not have access to Wifi on the plane. 

Nothing beats an actual book: A screen is great for watching movies and shows, but for reading, nothing is better than an actual book for me. 

Bring the right headphones: So many people use wireless headphones now, but if you’re wanting to take advantage of the in-flight entertainment, you’ll need the old fashion kind with the jack (the round jack not the flat one the iphones use!).

Bring your own food: I cannot stress this enough. Airplane meals I’ve had on flights to Hawaii have ranged from “meh,” to “I’d rather be hungry,” to “if I eat that I will throw up” to being completely non-existent since COVID. If you have time before your flight, eat a good meal (but nothing too heavy) and grab a few snacks. If you’re tight on time, plan ahead and pack a meal.

Drink so much water: While you want to drink plenty of water once you get on the plane, if you’re already dehydrated, it won’t help as much. So make sure you drink plenty of water the day or two before your flight.

Get up and move around: Your legs will thank you. It will help with circulation and swelling. Also, when you’re drinking a lot of water, it will force you to get up and go to the bathroom so win/win. 

Wear warm clothes and pack a blanket: Yeah, you’re going to the tropics, but they’ll let you change clothes once you get there. I always freeze on planes and there’s nothing I hate more than being cold. I always wear leggings, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt and a sweatshirt. Again, I’m a cold wimp, but also a blanket always makes me feel cozy even when I’m not cold.

Watch out for germs. This isn’t just a COVID thing. Airplanes (and airports) have always been gross. Take antibacterial wipes to wipe down the surfaces around your seat. Bring hand sanitizer. You won’t want to have to wash your hands in that tiny bathroom. Bring face towelettes. I don’t know about you but I feel so grimy after a long flight and being able to clean my face really helps. Take an Emergen-C (or Airborne). Traveling can wreck your immune system so I always take an Emergen-C packet everyday for a few days after flying.

Is the jet lag bad? Tips for handling it?

Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time so the time difference depends on the time of year. It’s 2-3 hours behind west coast time, 4-5 hours behind Central Time, and 5-6 hours behind Eastern Time. So your jet lag experience will vary greatly depending from where you’re traveling. If you’re going from the west coast, you may not notice it much at all.

Here’s what I’ve found after traveling back and forth a lot: It’s way harder to adjust to coming home than going there. Mostly this is due to the direction you’re traveling, but I also think adjusting to a non-vacation routine just isn’t as much fun as the other way around.

So, what’s the easiest way to adjust? Personally, when I’m traveling (4-5 hour time difference from where I live) for a week or less, I try to stick to my home schedule (wake up and bedtime) as much as possible. It’s easy to get up at 5 or 6 in Hawaii with the time change and since sunrise is so early, I like to get my day started early (a good strategy for beating the crowds at popular spots) and hit the hay pretty early. This isn’t too hard in Hawaii as outside of Waikiki there’s not much nightlife. This makes the transition back home a lot easier.

Now if you’re trying to acclimate to Hawaii time…most flights to Hawaii arrive in the afternoon. Do not nap! Stay awake and busy as late as you can. If you can make it until 8 or 9 PM, I consider that a victory!