I’d recommend to start your Hawaii vacation on Oahu. First of all there are the best flight connections coming from Europe. When you catch an early morning flight leaving Europe direction San Francisco or Los Angeles you should be able to make a connection to Hawaii and arrive in Honolulu in the early evening. This way jetlag isn’t so hard on you. The hotels on the islands are accustomed to receive their guests at the oddest times. To be on the safe side, I would inform my first hotel about the late arrival. This way it’s guaranteed that your room is ready upon arrival. Just send them your flight number and arrival time.
Honolulu is the only big city on the islands and perfect to get acclimatized. After landing I would suggest to book a transfer. This way you will be greeted with your first lei and you don’t have to pick up your car and drive after such a long flight. Parking in Waikiki is rather expensive ($35,-/day is quite normal) and so you can make some savings on your travel budget. Waikiki is not that big and can be explored by foot. on top you will find a good public transportation system. A one way ticket in the buses costs around $2,50 (in 2014) and they get you almost everywhere. If you want to explore the rest of the island, you can always rent a car for the day at one of the downtown stations and drop it of in the evening. If you want to book a car for your whole stay, ask your hotel, if they charge a resort fee and, if by any chance parking is included in this fee. In Germany and I think in all of the EU your tour operator will have to include all mandatory fees. So if a hotel charges a mandatory resort fee, which includes things like parking, use of the spa, pool chairs and often even a welcome cocktail, you avoid the parking fees. So make sure you check this before you book your hotel. Some hotels make it an optional charge and ask you upon check-in, if you want to add this to your booking. I personally think that this resort fee is a marketing gag, since this enables them to offer pretty low lead-in rates. That you will have to pay up to $40/day per person is often only mentioned in the small print. When you travel in the US these fees are to be found quite often. So when you place your booking, make sure you check the inclusions and what you will have to pay directly when checking out. In most cases, when you book through a tour operator you might get the impression that the rate is much higher than elsewhere on the net. The good thing is that a) you mostly have all mandatory fees included and b) you will have a contact to call in case there should be a problem. Coming from Europe this is extremely helpful. If you first contact your travel agency in Europe which will contact the tour operator which will contact the agency where they booked the hotel you will loose at least 2 days due to the time difference. You actually are on the islands to spend your vacation of a lifetime and you simply don’t have the time to waste it by arguing with contacts that are on the other side of the planet. But usually all should go well. Just keep in mind that although you are in the civilized world the clocks might tick a bit slower here. So some things should just be stored as experience and you should think if what bothers you is really worth to get annoyed over.
On your trip back home you will probably start in the late evening towards the US-mainland. Since you have to quit your room around noon, you should ask the hotel, if they have an hospitality suite you can use. This gives you a last day on the beach or at the pool and you will have all the time to get ready for your departure. Your luggage can be stored in the meantime in a special room provided by the hotel. If you plan to make a stop between Hawaii and Europe, I would recommend you plan it on your return flight. Otherwise you will spend 2 days in aircraft’s and airports before arriving back home. So why not spend a few days in San Francisco or Los Angeles on your return? You don’t have to return to Oahu. The Airlines offer direct flights to the West Coast from all islands. You should also keep in mind that the flight back to the mainland is considered a national flight and therefore you won’t be served a free meal on board (At least as long as you don’t fly business). You will have the chance to buy food on board the aircraft, which is usually not really very tasty. So I would recomend that you plan some time to have dinner at the airport before you take off. There is not much choice at Hawaiian airports, but the food is better then in-flight. If you’re going back to Europe in one go, you will probably have another stop on the East Coast. This means a second national flight with no free food. Whenever I flew back I took this as a chance to take a walk and buy some food at the airport (thrombosis prevention).
Do you have any questions concerning how to get there? Are you being overwhelemd by the many choices of room categories and the included/not included things in your rate? Just ask me. I’ll be happy to help.