Aventura Pacifica: The Planning

I had been putting off working towards the travel hackers golden ring, The Southwest Companion Pass (CP), for a long time since we didn’t have Southwest at our home airport. When they finally did come to Syracuse airport in 2021, I started working towards getting CPs for both myself and my husband for 2022. The CP allows you to add a companion to fly with you for free, at any time as long as there is room on the flight, even if you use points to book your ticket. Once you get the CP, you have it for the rest of that year and the following full year. This is an incredible deal and many people get it and then fly like crazy wherever SW flies (mostly the US) for two years in order to take advantage.

I did have plans to use the CP as much as we could, which given work and school schedules was not going to be nearly as much as my travel hacking buddies. We did use it to take a quick trip to WDW in September 2022. We did have a trip planned to visit some national parks in Texas and New Mexico in the week between Christmas and New Years, however that trip was decimated by Southwest Airline’s massive meltdown during that week. The only other time we would really be able to take advantage of the CP was summer 2023. I did want to try to at least use SW to fly to Hawaii since that is one of the farthest places the airline will fly from the continental US.

Flying to Hawaii straight from the east coast sounded hellish, so I decided to start the journey with a leg to California. I perused different options of CA cities to fly into, and L.A. had the best and cheapest (via SW points) options. We are still trying to work on visiting all of the US National Parks, and Channel Islands is in LA so we decided to include that in the trip. I have also always wanted to visit Disneyland. From L.A. we will fly to Hawaii and go to the Big Island and Maui, where the two national parks are. We did take out a Hawaiian Airlines credit card to get enough points for an inter-island flight and a flight back to the U.S. For the last leg of the trip we are flying direct from Maui to Seattle. We have wanted to take a road trip through Washington State to visit the 3 national parks there: North Cascades, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic. After spending a couple days in Seattle we will rent a large campervan and make our way through the parks, before eventually flying home. The itinerary is as follows:

Day 1: Fly from Rochester, NY to Los Angeles (direct, evening flight) on SW

Day 2: Rent car in L.A., drive up the coast to Ventura.

Day 3: Channel Islands NP

Day 4: Disneyland!

Day 5: Fly direct L.A. to Kona on SW

Day 12: Fly direct Kona to Maui on HA

Day 16: Fly direct Maui to Seattle on HA

Days 17-18: Explore Seattle

Day 19: Pick-up Campervan, drive to North Cascades NP

Day 21: Drive to Mt. Rainier NP

Day 23: Drive to Olympic NP

Day 27: Drive back to Seattle, drop of campervan

Day 28: Fly back to Rochester (direct, SW).

This trip definitely has a lot of moving parts and was challenging to plan. All of the hotels were booked using points or free night certificates except 2 nights near Hawaii Volcanoes NP. For the Washington leg, I had to play the National Park campground reservation game 6 months in advance, which was nerve-wracking but I was able to get sites at all the campgrounds I wanted in the Washington National Parks.

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