The key to packing well for a vacation in Hawaii is to know two things. First, what do you already have, and second, what is easily available on the islands. This week, I read two different posts about what to pack for a vacation in Hawaii and I disagreed with both.

The list of what to bring is very simple.

* a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The weather is perfect for walking, the scenery is fantastic and nothing spoils a vacation faster than blisters (or a sun burn). Wear them on the plane. Throw in flip-flops and a pair of sandals if you already have them, if not you can get them here. You do NOT need multiple pairs of shoes.

* a swim suit. If you have a second one, bring it along. If not, don’t worry – your suit will dry in time for an afternoon swim while you are touring other sites. Or you can buy one here as a souvenir.

* your camera and charger, phone and charger, a computer if you feel the need. Some hotels still charge for internet access, so you might experiment with being unplugged for a week to see if you can survive.

* a couple pair of shorts and a couple of shirts. I found standard cotton tee-shirts to be too hot on our first visit; lightweight fabrics are more comfortable. Long sleeves offer additional protection from the sun.

* a light jacket, sweater or shawl for evenings – wear it on the plane for the chill and to save room in the bag.

* any prescription medication you require

* sun glasses – especially if they are prescription. If you don’t already have a pair, they are sold everywhere in Hawaii.

* a hat that covers your face and neck. You can purchase one here if you don’t already have one.

I would NOT pack things easily obtainable in a drug store โ€” you can purchase small quantities in Hawaii for much less than the cost of a checked bag. This includes sun screen, aloe, first aid kit โ€” you would have to be in a VERY remote area not to find such things easily available. It also makes no sense to buy things you don’t already own that you can get here, and then pay for the privilege of hauling them around.

With the cost of the first checked bag at $50 for some airlines, it’s time to welcome the idea that less is more โ€” and very little is actually required to enjoy Hawaii. Pack a good attitude and you’re set!


  1. Very practical take on this. I love it. It’s true I tell everyone if they have to bring a sandal, slippers, and shoes, wear the shoes, pack the others in a carry on, you don’t need too much clothes when coming over, 1 shared bag between a couple or even a few kids should do the trick. People sometimes forget, we do have stores here. LOL. Thanks for reinforcing our thoughts.

  2. One of the columnists suggested buying large tubes of sunscreen on the mainland because they were cheaper! By the time you calculate the checked bag cost, it’s pretty expensive lotion.

  3. If you have to buy something, try -not- to shop at the ABC store. You’re paying for convenience there. If you’re willing to step a little outside Waikiki there’s Walmart, Longs or even Ross for decently priced necessities.

  4. JJ – thanks, yes I call them “slippers” but before I came here, I would have imagined something pink and fluffy. ๐Ÿ™‚ When I was growing up, we used to call them “thongs” but that has a different meaning now, too. “Flip-flops” seems to call to mind a sort of rubber shoe.

  5. Kathy – if you are planning a fine dining experience, something dressy would be good but the island is still more casual than the mainland. A sun dress or sleeveless and skirt would work fine for that. It is a matter of personal style. I noticed some people wearing “dressier” clothing at the Royal Hawaiian luau but others did not. The primary “look” for women seemed to be a sun dress and a sun burn, so don’t forget the sun screen!

  6. My wife has M S she uses a scotter is it best to rent one there or bring hers? And if so where do we rent one from ?

  7. Rich — It appears that there are several places to rent a scooter here. I’m not sure of the advantages of bringing vs. renting. You could discuss with a HAT agent as part of trip planning. If I find out more, I’ll do a blog post.

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