Q. Four of us want to travel to Hawaii in March 2006. We need help with ordering airline tickets and finding accommodations in Oahu and arranging a one-way trip over to Maui. Would we be better off going to a travel agency or trying to plan this ourselves? Would we be better off renting a condo a few blocks from the beach or staying in a hotel?

A. It's hard to answer a question regarding making reservations through a travel agency versus making one yourself, because of numerous variables: date of travel, whether the travel agent has special deals with hotels and airlines, your skills at finding deals on your own, and so on. What I normally encourage people to do in these situations is to first get quotes from a couple of travel agents, and then check online (using services like travelocity.com, orbitz.com, expedia.com) to see if you can find a better deal within the same parameters of travel dates, hotels and airlines.

A handy site to find local travel agents is the American Society of Travel Agents, where you can find a list of travel planners by specifying your destination and your zip code. Another good resource is the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's site, where you'll be able to find travel agents and tour companies that that specialize in Hawaii. But it might be easier just to use a knowledgeable travel agent, especially if this is your first trip to the islands.

A condo can be a good idea if you plan to spend at least a week there, as you'll most likely have a kitchen (so you can save money by preparing breakfast and lunch), and possibly even a washer/dryer, which means you can wash as you go and pack fewer clothes (and thus keep the gentleman in the first item, above, happier).

A round-trip ticket between Honolulu and Maui typically starts around at $112 round-trip. You can check with either Aloha Airlines (800/367-5250) or Hawaiian Airlines (800/367-5320). While it's possible to just do a day trip to Maui, I suggest either skipping it altogether (and spend the day driving to Oahu's North Shore) or spend at least one night there on the island, since there's a lot of do there and a day trip won't do it justice.

Q. My husband and I are traveling to Hawaii for our 25th anniversary during the Thanksgiving holidays. We plan to spend about eight to 10 days there depending on expenses. We would like an all inclusive travel package. Are those available and where might I find them? Are there particular web sites we should visit or would it be better to go to a travel agent?

We plan on visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial and an active volcano. Someone advised us to go to Maui instead of the Big Island, as Maui is a bit more relaxed and not as commercial.

A. A travel agent who has been to Hawaii recently would be your best bet. Don't hesitate to interview the agent extensively to try to determine her depth of knowledge about the islands. Hawaii is a great place to visit during Thanksgiving, but keep in mind that prices tend to be higher during the holidays, as is the case with most destinations. All inclusive travel packages are readily available from companies such as Pleasant Holidays (800/742-9244). If by "all inclusive" you mean a package that includes meals, drinks, and entertainment, your own travel personality will determine whether it's a good value or not. If you tend to eat and drink a lot and don't wander "off property" then all-inclusive resorts can indeed be a bargain. If you mean an air/hotel package, I'd suggest pricing out the package elements separately to see if you're saving money. Sometimes packages cost less than buying air and hotel on your own, and sometimes they don't.

As for your second question: I think the Big Island is less commercial than Maui. Lahaina in Maui is somewhat of a tourist trap.

You can find more information from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (800/464-2924).


Q. My husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in November 2006. We are thinking about taking a trip to Hawaii. Any suggestions as to what time of year would be the best as far as weather and crowds? Are there bed and breakfast places in Hawaii? We will be on a budget.

A. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding anniversary! For most of the year, Hawaii has pretty temperate weather. The dry season runs from April to October and the rainy season from November to March. Keep in mind that rain in Hawaii generally doesn't last very long. Otherwise, when you go all depends on what you plan to do there. For example, if you want to see humpback whales, you should visit between November and March. If you want hot weather, then it's May through October when the average temperature during the day is in the mid-80s (from May through October, it averages in the mid- to-high 70s).

To avoid crowds and to get the best bang for your buck, we suggest anytime between Labor Day and mid-December, or mid-January and April. These are typically the shoulder seasons between school vacations. Also keep in mind that the between the end of April and the beginning of May it can get busy in Oahu, since this is when Japanese tourists flock to Hawaii during their holidays.

The island of choice also depends on you. If you want to shop or visit Pearl Harbor then pick Oahu. If it's volcanoes (extinct, dormant or active), then choose Maui or the Big Island. If you want an island away from the hustle and bustle of tourists with a landscape that's untouched by man, then you have your choice of Lanai, Kauai or Molokai.

An excellent resource I always direct people to is the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (800-464-2924), where you can check out the events and activities around the islands, and plan your trip from there.

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