Getting to Kilimanjaro is one of the hardest parts of the entire trip.
While this is an obvious point, the farther ahead you book your tickets, the better off you will be. These things can get expensive fast and if you are trying to go via frequent flyer miles, 6 months early is not a bad idea at all.
Starting out in Phoenix, Arizona. I hopped on a 3 hour flight at 5:30am that took me to Minneapolis Saint Paul (MSP) international airport. I had a 5 hour layover that which was kind of nice in that it let me walk around before the next, and significantly longer leg of my journey to Amsterdam.
On my second of three flights that took me from MSP to Amsterdam, I tried to get some sleep in order to adjust to the ten hour time change, but it was tough. This flight clocked in at around 8 hours. Amsterdam airport is a lot of fun to walk around in, and they have a lot of great food that I highly recommend obtaining for the flight to Kilimanjaro.
On the third flight of my journey that took me from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania via KLM Airlines, it was really hard staying awake through all 8 hours of it, but the good food I brought on from Amsterdam definitely helped. There isn't much at Kilimanjaro Airport, so do not plan on eating upon arrival. You will have to wait until you get to your hotel.
Once you are on the ground, try to be the first off the plane, because passport control can be extremely hectic and confusing. Basically, there will be one or two guys there that will stamp your Tanzania Visa and take your $100 entrance fee (I mean visa processing fee). Couple of tricks to this process, if you are in a group, have one person collect all the money and travel documents, and sneak to the front of the line. They will accept all the papers from one person. The rest of the group can either wait on the side or go through customs to get the bags. The customs officers aren't paying that much attention. You may or may not need your yellow fever proof of vaccination here. I was told that it would be inspected here, but they never asked for it. So just be aware of the possibility and have it handy.
This is where being on a tour does come in handy. Our transportation was already handled for us and we were taken right to our hotel, the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge, which is an incredibly beautiful hotel right outside of Arusha, the largest nearby city. If you are not on a tour, there were taxi right outside the airport and I assume they will take you to wherever you need to go.
While the journey wasn't bad, the flights were fine and I got a little sleep, it was extremely long, clocking in at over 30 hours of total travel time. Just be aware of this and plan accordingly.
We spent our next day at the Mwereni Integrated School for the Blind, a school KC Summits supports on every expedition.