Hawaii Is Offering Free Round-Trip Flights To Remote Workers

by Joseph K. Clark

Since the coronavirus hit the U.S., roughly 40% of U.S. employees now work from home. If you’re one of them, you may fantasize about trading your boring apartment walls and modest desk for tropical air and sandy beaches.

A new program, Movers and Shakas, offers just that: A free round trip to Hawaii for remote workers in exchange for a few hours of community service.

The program was launched through a partnership that includes the Hawaii state government, business leaders, alum associations, and organizations, including the Central Pacific Bank Foundation, Hawaii Executive Collaborative, Island Holdings, Inkinen, and FCH Enterprises, the parent company of Zippy’s restaurants, according to a press release. The goal? Diversifying Hawaii’s economy amid business shutdowns and decreased tourism.

“Now that many people can work remotely, there’s an opportunity for former residents to return home and for out-of-state individuals and families to live and work from Hawaii for longer,” said Jason Higa, CEO of FCH Enterprises. “We believe this program will attract many former Hawaii residents and professionals seeking a safe, warm environment to continue living their normal lives while contributing to the Hawaii community.”

So what’s the catch, you’re asking? There isn’t one, but it does require some planning (and maybe saving) to participate. Here’s a closer look at the initiative.

How Do I Qualify For A Free Trip To Hawaii?

First, you must be a U.S. resident at least 18 years old to apply. It would help if you also were employed and worked remotely or had the option to do so. Current residents of Hawaii can’t participate at this time.


You must be able to move to Oahu within a month if you’re selected for the program and stay there full-time for at least 30 consecutive days. You must also commit 15 weekly hours to volunteer with local partners, including the Chamber of Commerce, Girl Scouts of Hawaii, and the Pacific-Asian Center for Entrepreneurship at UH Mānoa. Program participants are also asked to sign the “Pledge to Our Keiki,” a commitment to respectfully treating the lands and waters.

You have until Dec. 15 to apply for the program. Fifty participants will be chosen (selection criteria are still in the works), and additional participants will be added on a rolling basis. Those who get picked receive free round-trip airfare to Hawaii and other perks.

Members of the same household, such as couples and families, are encouraged to apply, too. However, if you have pets you plan to bring, remember that traveling to the island and securing housing will require extra time and planning.

Is There Any Cost To Participate?

Though the program is free, including your plane ticket to and from Hawaii, there are several expenses you’ll need to plan for.

The program offers significantly discounted rates on hotels and some potential discounts on long-term rentals such as Airbnb. However, housing is a cost you ultimately have to shoulder. If you also have a rent or mortgage payment to make back home, you could be doubled up on housing costs for the month (or longer) you’re there.

Transportation is another expense to consider. Oahu is a sprawling island that requires a car to get around. And you’ll want to check out landmarks such as Diamondhead, Hanauma Bay, and the North Shore while you’re there. That means budgeting for a rental or relying on rideshare services and other public transportation. One option you probably don’t want to consider is having your car shipped, which costs about $1,000-$1,500 each way.

You’ll also be responsible for food, entertainment, and any other expenses you incur as a short-term island resident. Also, check with your accountant, as earning income in one state while you live in another could add to your tax bill next year.

What About The COVID-19 Pandemic?

Sure, a month-long work vacation in Hawaii sounds like a dream. But what about this pesky pandemic that’s put a damper on travel, eating out, and being within six feet of another human?

Hawaii is pretty serious about keeping new coronavirus cases off its islands. As a result, the state has the fewest points per capita in the U.S. When you get there; you must test negative for the virus within 72 hours of landing or self-isolate for two weeks.

Still, life on Oahu is far from pre-pandemic existence. The island follows a four-tier system to determine which businesses can operate. It’s currently only at Tier 2, meaning most companies, such as restaurants, gyms, and salons, can open with significantly limited capacity. Bars and clubs are closed.

As for the required volunteer work, it’s unclear whether the program will offer virtual options or if you must show up in person. Program leaders didn’t respond to the request for comment.

Ultimately, some risk is involved with traveling to Hawaii to work and volunteer. You’ll have to consider your comfort level. And, of course, that’s assuming you are picked for the program in the first place.

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