Packing Your Bags for Hawaii
With airlines now charging for a second–or in some cases even for the first–piece of luggage, and strict “50 pounds per piece of luggage” weight limits being enforced, the thrifty traveler is forced to plan ahead wisely to avoid racking-up expensive luggage fees. I used to travel by the motto “Don’t check your baggage unless you can afford to lose it; if you can afford to loose it, don’t bring it”, thus I never traveled anywhere with anything more than my carry-on. While it is always good to travel as lightly as possible, with the advent of stringent new carry-on limits and my advancing age (and concomitant increasing desire to travel in comfort) I have learned to travel with only one piece of checked baggage plus my carry-on. The key is packing smart so you can pack less.
Be Smart About Your Carry On Baggage: Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on bag and a personal item such as a purse or a lap-top. I push this a little by bringing a carry-on bag plus my lap-top in a computer pack which also has room for one video camera, my SLR Camera and an emergency change of clothes (in case all my other luggage is lost). Usually they let me get away with this. Because I trust neither baggage handlers nor TSA inspectors and my luggage has been lost more times than I remember, I pack my other video camera and the majority of my clothes in my other carry on bag so they don’t have to be checked. In this bag I also carry a quart of water (purchased at the airport, after security inspection) and some snacks.
You’ll want at least one book to read on the flight; your tickets, reservation confirmations, travelers checks, list of phone numbers, spare glasses and medications should be put in a water-proof bag in the carry-on bag you intend to hold most tightly to.
Remember that more books, extra batteries, memory cards, video tape or film for your cameras can be purchased at Wal-Mart or Costco on-island almost as cheaply as on the mainland and it isn’t necessary to fill your luggage up with extras. If you do pack film, and it is in your carry-on, be sure to protect it against x-rays.
Plan for Your Activities: You may be planning on indulging in some particular activities while in Hawaii that require specific gear or clothing–it is best to think this through thoroughly when packing. If you are going snorkeling, many people intend to save money by bringing their own gear. This is false economy if it causes you to pay for an extra piece of luggage on the plane. Buying snorkel gear on the island is fairly inexpensive and renting it is fast, easy and even cheaper. The same can be said of renting diving gear and golf clubs. Activities such as hiking and horseback riding require a fairly specific wardrobe, but if you plan correctly, you only have to bring your hiking/riding boots and an extra pair of pants and shirt suitable to the activity. If you plan on visiting the mountain summits, remember that they can be quite cold–even snowy or rainy–so plan and pack accordingly. If you bring boots, I advise wearing them on the plane to save room and weight in your bags. As for photography gear or musical instruments–any expensive or delicate equipment for that matter–my philosophy is to never turn loose with it. Never check your cameras, your guitar, your laptop, etc–it’s a recipe for loss.
Plan for the Weather: Being tropical, temperatures at sea level in Hawaii vary only by about 10 degrees between day and night and throughout the year. It’s hot during the day, plan a cool wardrobe. The windward side is generally rainy and the “up-country” towns (mountains) frequently can experience afternoon showers. Evenings, particularly up-country, are delightfully cool as there is generally an evening or onshore breeze. With forethought, your wardrobe can cover all these situations without being bulky, heavy or ornate.
Specifics: Suits in Hawaii are unnecessary; even Circuit Court judges wear Aloha Shirts under their robes here. A nice shirt, generally an Aloha Shirt, and a pair of khakis are the wardrobe of choice at the finer restaurants and nightclubs–everywhere else, it’s shorts and sandals. I would advise a total wardrobe consisting of a polo-style shirt and a couple Aloha Shirts, one pair of long khakis and three pair of shorts, a couple tank tops or t-shirts; that’s all you need to cover most bases. Women may want to toss in a light sundress or skirt. Sandals are all you’ll need or want in the way of footwear (your feet will be HOT)–unless you want to toss in a pair of running shoes for exercise or hiking.
Bring two swimsuits–you will be amazed how pleasant being in the water is in the hot tropics, whether you are just cooling off in the pool after a hot day or snorkeling with the turtles and fish daily, so you’ll probably want to swim everyday. Swimsuits rarely dry overnight and it’s a lot more pleasant to get into a warm, dry suit than a wet, cold one.
If you plan on riding horseback or exploring the higher elevations such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Mauna Kea, be sure to bring some jeans and hiking shoes, a warm sweater and light rain jacket/windbreaker also. A compact traveler’s umbrella is always a good idea.
Don’t forget to pack your toiletries and personal items; I used to carry these on, in case of lost luggage, but restrictions on liquids and gels and razors make this impractical. Medications, of course, go in the carry-on. Sun block, sun hat, sunglasses and sun-burn cream (I use an aloe gel) will make your vacation smoother, but can be purchased cheaply locally if you don’t quite have room for them.
Just as an aside, two things you need to be head’s up about when you are in Hawaii–if you begin to feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long to get a drink of water; if you begin to feel the sun, you’ve waited too long to put sun block on. Drink more water than you think you need, apply sun block before you go out and re-apply more often that you think you need. Your body is used to more moderate climates and won’t warn you in time of the danger.
Many people plan ahead by leaving ample room to bring back souvenirs and gifts; modern restriction on the number of pieces of luggage allowed make this impractical. Instead, I spend the month before my trip weeding through my wardrobe, taking one very nice set of clothes and the remainder of the clothes I take are items bound for the thrift store. Thus, I simply leave them at the end of my stay and thereby have more than enough space in my luggage for anything I buy. Remember that the U.S .Post Office sells flat-rate, pre-paid, specified shipping-weight boxes for very inexpensive rates. Ask for “Flat Rate Shipping Boxes” and ship those gifts home safely, cheaply and with no fuss on your part.