This past holiday season was the first I’d spent back in my hometown in eastern North Carolina in five years. It was also only the second time I’d made that trek since moving here, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t mind what a seriously long trip is was. Not being able to sleep on a plane is a major part of this, but I’ve never been the greatest traveler anyway, so I took careful note of my travel experience in order to offer information that hopefully might help potential visitors who are flying from the east coast to Hawaii.This sort of says it all: Mainland winter grey to Hawaii color.

LEG 1: ILM -> CLT This is about an hour’s flight time from Wilmington NC International Airport (ILM). I’ve had trouble getting to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) in the past and found this very first flight of the day to be more reliable, as it arrives before delays start multiplying across the east. CLT is a major hub in the east, so many flights ending in HNL start here. CLT airport is a nice one. It is large, but feels small and friendly, is airy and light, has good free wireless, and has rocking chairs spaced around for travelers to rest in. Nice touch. But let me warn you, a change in concourse for your next gate means you will be hoofing it if you have a connection in less than an hour. I had just less than that, and that meant I barely had time for a restroom stop, and NO time to stand in a long Starbucks line. I literally ran right into the departure line where my next flight had already started boarding.

LEG 2: CLT -> PHX Now I had time to relax for about four hours. The flight to Phoenix Airport (PHX) was completely full (as usual), which spread the attendants rather thinly. But it was a flight with only one tummy-turning turbulent event, and the travelers were serious and silent. I was hungry and needed coffee. I travel with only protein bars, fruit and water. When we made it to PHX, I was ready for more hydration and food, and I was concerned about making my connection. For the former, I was disappointed. The water vending machines were broken, the lines at food counters were long, the selection of restaurants was limited and not to my liking, and the free WIFI was not connecting. For the latter, even though my layover was over an hour, and I did not have a concourse change.An airport restroom sign in Honolulu let’s you know you’ve made it to Hawaii, along with some other island things you might see.

LEG 3: PHX -> PARADISE The captain comes on the intercom and announces the six hour flight time to the Honolulu International Airport (PARADISE), and I gotta tell you, I’m already about done in (and hungry). From my window seat, I do enjoy watching the changing topography 30,000 feet below me. The plane is full of travelers who are obviously excited

and ready to start a vacation. And FINALLY! I see it below me – my beautiful Hawaii. The plane slowly cruises over the windward side of the island. And truthfully, my jaw dropped down as far as the visitors in the seats next to me, as we looked out my little window. After three weeks of grey, I honestly had almost forgotten how gorgeous this island is. And when I got off the plane, not only did it feel wonderful, but it smelled wonderful, too. With perfect weather, the Honolulu terminal is open air and let’s you experience Hawaii as soon as you deplane. You know you have reached your destination.

VIDEO: Watch as the colors of Hawaii become even more vibrant as you approach the beautiful islands.

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