What to Really Pack for a Trip to Hawaii

I have this weird thing about packing for a trip.  I have a personal pride in not overpacking, in taking as little as possible while still having everything I need.  My husband tells a (true) story about a time we were packing for a Disney World trip where we would have a washing machine and dryer.  As I went through his suitcase (he likes me to double check that he didn’t miss anything), I grabbed a pair of underwear and handed them to him saying, “You’ll only need  five pair of underwear, I’ll be doing laundry on day four.”  He responded by throwing them back in the suitcase and saying, “It never hurts to have an extra pair.”

I became totally exasperated.  “BRET!  I’m trying to pack light!” 

Yeah, I’m still trying to live that one down.

When we went to Australia for three weeks before we had kids, I made him share my razor so we wouldn’t have to take two.  And you’ve probably heard about how I make people in my family pack by color when we travel.  That’s actually a pretty good idea, by the way.

But I didn’t know what to pack for a trip to Hawaii.  Afterall, I have never been to Hawaii.  And this was a dream trip a long time in the planning.  And I didn’t want to NOT have the right stuff.  So, for the first time ever, I allowed myself to take one whole suitcase just for me.  And you know what?  I wore almost none of it.

Most people would probably think there’s no harm in that.  I mean, I was totally prepared for anything and it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?  But you know what?  Having so much stuff with me made me a little stressed out.  It was more to pack, more to unpack, more to carry, more to repack.  Just. More. Stuff.  And with the cost of checked bags today, who needs that?

So, I decided to take a photo of the clothing I actually wore for the 12 days we were gone so that I would remember next time we go to Hawaii or anywhere else for that matter.  And because I like to let others learn from my mistakes, I decided to post it here for you to see!

Because it was our anniversary, I brought one nice dress, the one on the left.  I picked up an awesome sundress that I love while at the Maui Swap Meet (the dress on the right).

what to pack for a trip to Hawaii

Between the two dresses is the outfit I bought for walking the beach if it got cool (it never did) or if we had gone to the top of Haleakala for sunrise (we didn’t).   I wound up wearing this just around the room like sweats.

The shorts and tank on the far right I wore when we did hike.

The other three outfits worked for everything else.  Skirts were perfect because most days I didn’t know where we would wind up and I was dressed for anything.  Their length was great for walking along the beach and they were cool enough for sightseeing.  My khaki pants fulfilled the same purpose but were a little less bright so I wore them in the evening.

Because we often have a washing machine and dryer in our room when we travel, I did a load of laundry here and there.  But, honestly, things didn’t even really get dirty.

travel outfit for trip to Hawaii

I couldn’t let you see my head, I’d just been on a red eye and up for 36 hours.

Of course I also had swimwear and a coverup.  And truth be told, I probably wore that more than anything else. For traveling, I wore jeans that worked left long (for going in and out of Minnesota ) or could be rolled with big cuffs for the rest of the trip, a sleeveless shirt, a cardigan and a sweater.  It turned out that this was the perfect choice as I had to take off and put on layers may times throughout the flights.  Once we arrived in Maui, however, I didn’t wear any of it until the return trip home.  Not even the light sweater.

So, if you like packing a lot of things to be sure you’ll be well prepared, go right ahead.  But you don’t need to.  Not for Hawaii.  I promise!

Categories: Traveling | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Family Travel Transitions to Unaccompanied Minors

Yesterday we crossed over into a new realm of parenting.  We sent our three (young) teenagers alone and unaccompanied on a flight to see their grandparents in Phoenix.  They were officially unaccompanied minors for the first time in their lives.  Even though the kids have flown with us several times in the past, our love for family road trips means that they haven’t flown in quite a few years.

The whole thing went quite well.  I had imagined they might be a bit nervous at the prospect of navigating themselves through the airport but instead they acted as though they have been traveling alone all of their lives.

Rumor has it that not only did they land safely at their destination, where grandma and grandpa met them with a fully decorated vehicle that said, “The Party is HERE!”  but that they also didn’t have any disagreements to speak of while in transit.  In short, they can’t wait to do this again.unaccompanied minors

A few things to keep in mind if your kids will be traveling alone…

  • I didn’t realize they had no understanding of how the 3oz liquid restriction worked.  Although common to most adults these days, I guess the last time they flew they were too young to have liquids of their own.
  • Quite a few things can fit in a carry-on.  We didn’t pack any suitcases, but instead each kid had a small carry-on and a personal item.  Kids rarely need (or want) to change outfits and they are fine wearing things more than once.  Besides, grandma has no problem letting the kids do laundry while they’re at her house.  Not having to worry about baggage saved everyone stress (and money).  For tips on packing light, you may want to visit another post I did recently called Packing by Color.
  • Packing small snack boxes at home can be just as much fun, but a whole lot cheaper, than the ones sold on the plane.  We’ve always let our kids spend their budgeted categories as they see fit.  And on past flights, they’ve splurged on the in-flight snack boxes because they were fun and full of things they don’t get at home.  So this time I packed reusable plastic containers with a few of their favorite treats.  Before I gave them out, I told them they could look if they wanted, but if they wanted to be surprised, they could wait until they were on the plane.  One kid decided to look, just to make sure I hadn’t snuck anything in that would have caused a security concern!
  • Light beach-reads are just as much fun for kids as they are for adults.  Before they left, Bret and I went to a real bookstore with real books and bought each kid a completely fluffy book to read.  Nothing that they needed to read for school, but something they would enjoy.  Even though two of the kids have e-readers, my thought was that if this particular “real” book got lost, left on a plane or dropped in the water, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue.  We gave the kids the books the night before they left so they could decide if they wanted to lug their electronic devices with them.  They didn’t.
  • Pay the extra money to have their seats assigned if your kids get along.  It is no longer a given that family members will be allowed to sit together once they board.  If they don’t get a long, you can put them in various parts of the plane, but then again, why are kids who don’t get along traveling on their own anyway?
  • When you check them in at the airport, ask if you can accompany them to the gate.  Many times there is a fee to do so ($60), but depending on the airport, and airline, you may be allowed to go through security with them and wait at the gate.  Even though I knew they could handle it by themselves, it made me feel better to see them actually get on the plane.  Strangely enough, when we arrived at the gate area, the flight ahead of them was still boarding.  It was headed to Cancun.  Without reading anything, the kids jumped in line to board.  Now, I do realize they likely would have been stopped, but I had a family member just a few years ago (post 2001) actually board the wrong plane and wind up in the wrong city.  He didn’t realize it until he landed.  Apparently, he was reading a really good book and wasn’t paying attention.  So it can happen.  Another thing I wouldn’t have thought to mention to the kids if I hadn’t seen it myself.
  • Chemicals in new, unwashed clothing can set off the sensors when going through security.  My sons were wearing new pants and the chemicals in them got picked up.  My clear plastic sequins (sound lovely, don’t they?) also were a threat to the sensors.  Just the fact I was wearing them meant automatically going through the full body scanner.
  • Make sure they have their own headsets so they can watch the onboard entertainment if it is offered.  Apparently on Sun Country, dvd players were also available for rent for $6.  Each kid decided it was well worth the cost.  

Those are a few of the things we learned on our first “unaccompanied minors trip.”  What tips do you have for making airline travel easier for unaccompanied minors?

Categories: Family, Traveling | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Doesn’t Every Dream Vacation Begin at the Maui Swap Meet?

Our trip began in Maui, where we landed at 10:30pm local time.  On paper, this seemed like a great idea.  We’d land at bedtime, tired from our travels, and get a good night’s sleep for heading out on our first day’s adventures.  Perfect, right?  Huh.

For us there was a four hour time difference which really didn’t seem like it would be a problem. And maybe it wouldn’t have been if we didn’t get up at 5am at home.  We’ve been getting up at 5am for more years than we’d like to remember.  So imagine our surprise when we were both wide awake and ready to go at 3:30am!  I guess our bodies figured that it was really 7:30am for us, and that was enough sleeping in!  Of course nothing was open at that time of the morning, we didn’t even have our rental car yet, so we spent time watching reruns of Law and Order and finishing reading material from the plane.

We planned to spent three days acclimating ourselves to the time difference and taking leisurely drives and walks through the spots where locals hang out.  This was a very good idea.

Maui Swap Meet SpoilsThe Maui Swap Meet was our first stop.  Although I love farmer’s markets at home, none of them compare to the Maui Swap Meet held on Saturdays, where fresh fruit (in February!) abounds and local artisans show their wares.  We stocked up on as much fresh fruit as we could eat before it spoiled and began our 10-day quest to find the perfect, yet inexpensive, souvenirs.  My only regret was that I didn’t buy more that day.  I mistakenly thought that since I had found so many beautiful treasures that very first day that surely I would find more throughout the trip.  This was not the case.  Each island has a very different flavor, and although there are some things (think dashboard hula girl) that can be found everywhere, I never saw some of the really cool items from that day again.

The rest of the day was spent exploring.  Driving the backroads and not really caring where we ended up.  It was a perfectly marvelous way to begin a vacation.

Categories: Traveling | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Our Dreamy, Kid-Free, Hawaiian Adventure: A New Type of Family Travel

There are some places people just dream about.

For some, it is seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

For others it might be the blue seas of the Caribbean or the mountains of Alaska.

For me, it has always been Hawaii.

I’m not sure what exactly I expected Hawaii to be, a land of palm trees and sand and crashing waves, I suppose.  Oh and the pineapples.  I certainly imagined the pineapples.
kid free travel is fantastic
Whatever I dreamed, it couldn’t hold a candle to what I found, what we experienced on our 20th anniversary trip.  One of our first opportunities for kid-free travel, it was a trip that truly has to be experienced to be understood.  How else can you explain how such a small land area offers so many opportunities?

From the Keanae Arboretum on the Road to Hana, to Hawaii Food Tours in Waikiki, there was so much to do and see that it was a party of the senses.

There was something so relaxing, so cool about the fact that on this trip, it was just Bret and I.  Just the two of us.  Although we truly love our family travel, it was magical to have a kid free trip where we could decide what we wanted to do and when we wanted to do it.  It was amazing  to wake up in the morning wondering what we should do that day, to be able to change our minds and reservations at a moment’s notice without worrying that someone would miss out on their most wanted experience by doing so.

Yes, I realize this is a blog about family travel.  But in the end, family begins and ends with the parents.  It is good and right that on occasion we experience things kid-free.  For their sakes and for our own.

Categories: Traveling | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Honolulu Good Eats – Enjoying the Hawaii Food Tour

As if we didn’t have enough opportunities for great food on Oahu, we went on a food tour in Honolulu, the Hole in the Wall Tour by Hawaii Food Tours.  What a blast!  Over the course of five hours, Matthew and Keira drove us around Honolulu and treated us to some of the best street food we’ve ever had.

First stop (for breakfast?) was a manapua from Royal Kitchen in Chinatown.  Traditionally these little buns are done steamed with Chinese sweet roast pork called char siu.  At Royal Kitchen they do a baked version with a choice of a bunch of other fillings.  Tracie had the kalua pork, while I opted for the Portuguese sausage.  They were both great, but I liked her Kalua pork better.


Next stop (for breakfast dessert?) was the Liliha Bakery, famous for their Coco Puffs.  These were heavenly little balls of cream puff with a dense, decadent Chantilly frosting.  The Liliha Bakery itself was a hoot, with some items in the display case that we’d never seen before, like these hot dog pastries.

True story: the definition of the word “Liliha” in Hawaiian: To be nauseated by rich and fatty foods.

Liliha Bakery Hawaii Food Tour

 Hawaii Food Tour Liliha


Hawaii Food Tour Coco Puff


Finishing up dessert, we headed back down the hill for an hour and a half in the heart of Chinatown.  The first stop was the Ying Leong Look Funn noodle factory, where we waltzed right into the kitchen and watched them make rice noodles.  This unassuming little shop turns out thousands of pounds of rice noodles each day – all made by hand.  These noodle sheets are then sent off to local restaurants that make fresh chow fun (noodle) dishes.  We were treated to some noodles, fresh off the rack, prepared stir fry with Korean BBQ chicken.

Matthew Gray Hawaii Food TourChinatown treats Hawaii Food Tour


Up next – exotic fruits.  We tasted the longan (Dragon’s Eye) and rambutan (Big Red Hairy Ball) – both related to the lychee in flavor.


This was followed very quickly by the “local boy plate” featuring Spam musubi (kind of like a Spam maki roll) and fresh pineapple with and without li hing powder.


Without a moment to rest, Keira showed up with coconut tarts and fried apple banana lumpia.  The food was arriving just about as fast as we could take it all in.  Just when we were starting to feel full, Keira whipped out some cocktails, a lychee vodka pineapple smoothie which Matt called the “Keira Cocktail.”  Okole Maluna!

Time for a change of scenery – we walked a couple of blocks to the Char Siu House and tried pork two ways: char sui (Chinese sweet boneless) and the 5 layers of heaven roast pork, with crackling crunchy skin.  This was the high point of the tour for me.  Yum!  Meat!


Now, time for some digestion.  We got back in the van for a 20-minute tour about the town.  We saw the Iolani Royal Palace and several churches, and got a bit of a history lesson from Matt as we traveled.

Our final stop was the legendary Leonard’s for malasadas, the Portuguese doughnut.  These were served fresh and warm from the fryer, and were spongy and soft, unlike traditional “American” doughnuts.


This tour really surprised me, not only for the diversity and the quality of the foods that Matt and Keira found for us, but particularly for the service and attention our guides gave us.  For five hours, we had a party all over Honolulu, while Matt and Keira stayed a step ahead of our every need.  We had a lot of fun, and it was obvious that they were enjoying us having fun as well.


They offer several tours in addition to the Hole in the Wall tour, if you prefer traditional restaurant fare, or even fine dining.  There are several teams of tour guides – I would suggest you call up and see which day Matt and Keira are leading tours.  They were that good!

If you take one of their other tours, please let us know how it went – we’d love to hear about your adventures with Matt and Keira!

Categories: Traveling | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment