My family and I just returned from Hawaii (below are my trip reports) so not surprisingly, I’m getting a lot of questions from readers who are planning their own Hawaiian getaways. One reader sent me a question that I’m sharing publicly because I think others might find the answers helpful, too.

Mike S, writes: I’m probably sure you get this question a lot. My wife and I are going to Kauai in October. Should we purchase our plane tickets now? We could use miles on United but don’t have to. Would another airline be a better choice? We will be flying out of LAX and really would prefer nonstop flights. Thanks for any advice you have!!”

After quickly checking the fares, I here’s an expanded version of what I told Mike:

I wouldn’t use miles since fares are cheap (starting at $159 each way at press time). You really only want to use your miles for either expensive, last-minute tickets or flying in a lie-flat seat – especially on a long-haul flight where you will get the most bang for your buck (or mile).

In terms of when to buy your tickets, my advice is to find out what that route’s prices usually are and set a fare alert to monitor a particular flight or route (here’s how to set a fare alert). I would buy now since they can’t get much lower but setting a fare alert will help you roll the dice.

I would fly United if you have elite status so you can get perks like free checked bags and seat assignments but if you don’t, then just fly whichever airline has the best schedule and seats available.

If you’re planning on flying first class, then I would fly via Honolulu (HNL) to get a lie-flat seat like we did but know that airlines can change aircrafts, especially when booking this far in advance. But right now, Hawaiian on their A330 flights and United on their 777 flights have lie-flat seats so be sure to pick wisely (see screenshot below).

If you’re flying coach then fly nonstop between LAX and LIH.

I hope these tips help! Here are my Hawaii Trip Reports. I’m rolling out four Hawaii trip reports so get ready ?: On Sunday, I posted Part One (our United LAX-HNL flight ✈). Here’s Part Two, which is of our four-night stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Here are more tips on how to save money booking airline tickets.

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