Things I learned While Traveling In Hawaii

Recently, D and I were lucky enough to spend 11 days in Hawaii.  We spend most of the trip staying in Waikiki and seeing much of the island of Oahu.  Then we flew to Kona and got to spend a few days on the Big Island of Hawaii.  I’ve been reading a lot about minimalist travel and light travel for backpacking and got inspired to try to go minimalist.  I got about half-way there.  Here are some lessons I learned on our recent trip.


Lesson 1. Just because you can save $25 in baggage fees by only checking 1 bag between two people does NOT mean it’s going to be worth it!!
Thanks to having only 1 checked bag between the two of us (filled mostly with scuba gear), tor the first time I managed to not overpack my clothing!  But we still brought a ton.  Any time I vacation somewhere I’m in the water a lot I tend to wear a lot more clothes because I end up changing twice a day.  Not to mention we were gone for 11 days.
Here is the breakdown of our luggage (for two people):
  • 1 giant checked bag (that was over 50 pounds every time we checked in at an airport) which held both of our snorkel/dive gear, some clothes that didn’t fit into the carry-ons, and everything that isn’t allowed on planes (toiletries and liquids, dive knives)
  • 2 rolling carry-on bags- packed to the absolute maximum with clothing and shoes.  1 for each of us.  (By the way I had 4 pairs of shoes- flip flops, tennis shoes (worn on the plane), boat shoes, and heels.  Wore every pair.  D had tennis shoes (worn on the plane) and boat shoes.)
  • 1 laptop bag that D carried which held his laptop and cords, plus all our plane snacks (we flew for about 8 hours to get there and the airlines did not offer a free meal)
  • 1 giant tote bag that I carried which held: my purse (wallet, tickets, chapstick, etc); all my electronics and cords (camera, cell phone, nook plus chargers); a jacket, blanket and pillow (if I’m not comfortable I will NOT be able to sleep on a plane), my binos, my scuba diving regulator and computer (I don’t check those because they are the most expensive things I travel with and I don’t want to take my eyes off of them); and a water bottle (that I filled up inside the security checkpoint which subsequently leaked all over the place on the plane- lesson learned).

Watching White-tailed Tropicbirds outside of the Jagger Museum, Volcanoes National Park, HI.

If the Airlines actually enforced the whole “1 Carry-On and 1 Personal Item” rule I would’ve been in trouble as that giant tote back didn’t actually hold all that stuff, but I find that as long as you only have one carry-on in the overhead compartments and can fit everything else under the seat they overlook the number of items.
They do, however, enforce the “50 pounds per checked bag” rule and we had to re-pack twice and paid the overage fee once.  On top of that we had a LOT of stuff to drag through airports while trying to catch a connecting flight.  Next time we will spend the additional $25 and pack another 50 lb checked bag and it will save a lot of airport stress.
Lesson 2.  Minimize clothing and maximize accessories.

Dressed up for a Catamaran Dinner Cruise off of Honolulu, Oahu, HI. The only time I wore my heels while in Hawaii.

This is something I did right and it’s the first time I’ve attempted.  I usually travel with wayyy too many clothing choices and just one or two necklaces.  I wear the same earrings daily and don’t bother with bracelets, hair pieces, etc.  Well this time I packed a ton of jewelry into a toiletries bag and went with the minimum clothing to cover the activities we would be doing (lots of time on boats, lots of walking, and a few nice nights out).  I wore everything I brought and some pieces I wore over and over but I never felt like I was wearing the same thing because I would change up my jewelry.  Not to mention I bought lots of clothing and jewelry while there.  By the way the most common and easiest accessory?  Flowers in your hair!
Lesson 3.  Pack for the style of the place you are going.

Dressed up for a Luau in my swimsuit, a sarong and accessories!

I brought most of my ~tropical~ style clothing and accessories and I’m so glad I did.  It’s not everywhere that you can wear a giant flower in your hair or a bright orange and white sarong as a dress, but you can do it in Hawaii and fit right in.  And it really helps get in the ~island~ mood which in my opinion made my vacation richer.  I’m glad I brought that stuff with me or I would’ve wanted to buy more than I did.  I know I won’t wear this stuff much at home but on a beach vacation I definitely will!
Lesson 4.  Things I’m Glad I Brought

My ScubaPro split fins. They are big and bulky in my suitcase but so worth it to have my own fins while snorkeling and diving.

  • My super awesome new cell phone (an unlocked, rooted and ROM’d HTC Rezound) with a great camera on it, for quick pics, easy uploads, and check-ins on Facebook.  By the end of the trip I was checking in at EVERY place we went so when I got home I could go through and remember where we went.
  • My rooted Nook (Android tablet) for internetting, reading, and playing games on the long flights.  This replaces my big clunky laptop which I used to bring on every trip.  I’m so glad I’ve switched to a tablet for travel.  Lighter and you don’t have to take it out while going through airport security!
  • All my snorkel and dive gear (includes: mask, snorkel, fins, booties, regulator, and air-integrated computer).  We got to snorkel a lot more than I expected and I was so happy to have our own gear.  Our gear was superior to the rental gear and we were always first in and last out of the water.  Yeah we had to lug it around and clean it but it was worth it to be able to jump in ready to go.
Lesson 5.  Things I’m glad I left:

Taking pictures of coral and fish while free diving off the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m always happy that I brought my camera’s underwater housing!

  • My big Canon DSLR.  I instead opted to carry only my Sony Cybershot point-and-shoot and it’s underwater housing.  My Canon takes superior pictures but it is heavy and changing out lenses is kind of a pain.  If my mother-in-law didn’t have her DSLR with her I would’ve regretted not bringing mine but she got a lot of great pics and shared them with us.
  • Lots of toiletries.  I really minimized the toiletries I would have normally brought and instead used the hotel’s shampoo/conditioner.  I also minimized the size of the bottles.  I poured some makeup remover into an old hotel shampoo bottle to avoid bringing the whole 6 oz. bottle.
Lesson 6.  Things I Wish I Brought:

I probably wore this shirt the most while in Hawaii!

  • Febreeze and laundry detergent.  I remembered the Oxyclean but I really needed more laundering stuff.  I wore some of the same clothes over and over and they got pretty stinky, especially the ones I put on after getting out of the ocean.  Then when we traveled to the big island and I had to pack everything together, EVERYTHING got a bit stinky.  I was very glad to be home and in fresh clothes.  On-the-go laundry stuff will definitely be in my luggage next time.
  • A USB car charger.  I knew that most of our flights were going to have power ports but I didn’t realize that most of them would be for car lighter chargers.  I had a charger perfect for this but I left it at home.  Next time I will definitely be in my bag.  At one plane ride had regular power outlets and we watched videos on D’s laptop, played Angry Birds on my Nook, and listened to comedy albums on my phone.
  • TWO blankets.  D raises his eyebrows when he sees me bringing a jacket, pillow, and blanket all the way across the Pacific Ocean, but on the way back on our overnight flight, he was trying to get some of my blanket!
It was an amazing trip and I learned so much.  Not only about the Polynesian culture but about myself and how I like to travel.  I can’t wait to incorporate what I’ve learned into our next trip!