When taking a vacation, I feel it’s common for people to complain that relaxation mode only kicks in halfway through the trip. I think we can all agree it takes a while to unwind and decompress from life, especially if you have a stressful job. So an eight-day vacation means you really only have four days of R&R, and that doesn’t even include the travel time! Vacationers try to maximize their leisurely hours by really settling into their surroundings, so whether that means ordering a cocktail en route to the islands or blasting local music on the drive to the hotel, here’s a list of my top recommendations for fast tracking into that much needed relax mode during your Hawaii vacation.

Although I mentioned it already, it’s necessary to go into details. Take Hawaiian Airlines up on that free mai tai when they offer it! But seriously, treating yourself to an adult beverage is a fine way to begin the relaxation process, plus it can also help with the anxiety of traveling. Take it a step further and make it a tropical adult beverage and you’re already halfway to Hawaii relaxation mode. Yes, I did just recommend ordering a drink on the airplane, but don’t blame me when the bill comes… I only suggested you get one!

Now you’re on island and have just loaded the suitcases into the rental car. My next tip: Tune the radio to the island music station. There are tons of island radio stations in Hawaii that play nonstop tropical/reggae/hawaiian/jahwaiian jams. If you’re renting a car, go ahead and program the radio buttons to the stations that will help you get into the island vibe, like 98.5 on Oahu, 98.9 on Kauai, 93.5 on Maui or 100.3 on the Big Island. Island music is a blend of local bands, popular reggae and classic Hawaii hits, guaranteed to get you feeling good.

Next, there are two things I recommend doing once you arrive at the hotel. The first one is to unpack. This means take your toiletries out of their cases and set them up in the bathroom, hang your nice shirts and dresses up in the closet, layout your jewelry, put your shoes by the door and find a bedside table for your book or magazine. By doing this immediately, you can enjoy the rest of the days comfortably at your home away from home. It especially helps when you want to take a shower and have all your items – your shampoo, razor, lotion, etc.- ready for you when you need it.

The second thing I suggest is stocking the fridge. Or at least making a list of what you want to stock the fridge with, making the grocery shopping a little easier. Make sure you get the basics like milk, bread and eggs, but also be sure to stock the fridge with Hawaii vacation items too! Like POG juice for the morning, Hawaiian sweet bread for lunches, pineapple, apple bananas and other fresh fruits, and maybe even Melona bars or lilikoi pie for dessert. Because what’s a vacation without the indulgences? There’s nothing like waking up the next morning after a long travel day and enjoying tropical fruit for breakfast! It’s a great way to really drive home the fact that YOU’RE IN HAWAII! If you plan to do some cooking at the condo, a few Hawaii cooking must haves are sea salt, shoyu, rice and island-style rubs. Don’t forget the wine pairings!

Next tip for fast tracking into relax mode is to hit the pool or beach as soon as possible. (You’ll notice I made my recommendations in order). Let’s recount the day: First, a cocktail on the plane ride over, then island jams on the drive to the hotel, next unpack to get settled in the hotel, then stock the fridge or make your grocery list. Now it’s time to…

Hit the pool! Or the beach, whichever sounds more appealing. Basically what I’m saying is go find a relaxing body of water that will further drive home the fact that you’ve just begun your vacation. Take a dip in the refreshing ocean to wash away the stress from the day, then lounge in the sun and let the vitamin D revitalize you. Taking quick advantage of one of Hawaii’s best characteristics (the warm ocean) is a great way to let the unwinding begin.

Depending on the time of your arrival, if you can get all this in then I’m sure you’ll also need to eat. That is if you haven’t stoked the fridge yet. But the next tip isn’t about finding a local restaurant with classic Hawaii fare (even though that’s a great idea!). It’s about dressing the part.

This means ditch the tennies and slip into your slippers. Toss the sweater back into the suitcase and save it for the plane ride back home. For dinner, you should dress in the island style attire you packed with you. Floral prints, aloha shirts, shorts, skirts and sandals, be sure to change into this to feel comfortable, casual and ultimately relaxed. Because nothing screams, ‘I’m on vacation!’ like a pair of surf shorts and your favorite Tommy Bahama shirt.

Lastly on my list, I suggest allowing yourself to sleep in on your first morning in Hawaii. And if you can’t sleep in, lounge in bed with a book, morning television show or scan through your favorite blogs (might I suggest the Hawaii Vacation Blog on hawaii-aloha.com). If you gear up with too many activities or have too much ambition for the day, it might have the reverse effect on getting you in relaxation mode. Allow your body and mind catharsis and you will most likely maximize your vacation time and feel calm and ultimately stress-free! Remember, when you’re in Hawaii, ‘no worries brah!’


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