Hawaii has been our family's choice for vacations for the past 12 years. We have stayed in all types of places: small hotels, B&Bs, resorts, and condos on almost every one of the Hawaiian islands and we have tried almost every type of activity. Here are some tips we learned along the way that helped make our vacations a lot of fun.
#1. Respect the Hawaiian Sun. Hawaii is in the tropics and the sun is very intense. People without sunscreen can get a sunburn in under 20 minutes at midday. Pour on the sun screen, stay in the shade, wear a hat, and acclimate the first few days until you get a feel for the intensity of the sun to your skin. On every trip to Hawaii we see people with painful sunburns. A really bad sunburn can ruin a great vacation. We have had a few ourselves. The one we remember the most was on a long kayaking and snorkeling trip where we used lots of sunscreen but after snorkeling forgot to put it back on the top of our feet where the snorkel fins rubbed which left a painful sun burn on the part of our feet not covered with sun screen. Two of our best remedies for a burn are aloe vera (the fresher the better) and tea (we throw tea bags in a bath to help take out the sunburn sting).
#2. Plan your Budget and research the cost of the activities you want to do to include them as part of your overall vacation budget. Sometimes we stay in a cheaper hotel to allow a budget for lots of activities. Renting snorkel gear can be $10 a day per person, a scuba outing starts at $75 for an hour per person, helicopter rides start at $100 a person . There are so many things to do in Hawaii, that activity costs can add up fast. If our Hawaii vacation is mostly to relax and lie around the pool, we spend more on the hotel and travel off season so we can get a really good deal at a top rated resort. Most hotels charge a parking fee for a rental car. If your rental car is sitting in the parking lot while you are relaxing around the pool it may be cheaper to take a taxi when transportation is needed. If we plan to drive to multiple places, we spend more on a nice car and stay at less expensive places to make up for the extra cost. When on vacation it is often harder to say "no" to your kids or yourself, after all it is a vacation and arguing over money is the opposite of relaxation and fun. But coming home after having spent thousands more than expected can create post-vacation stress.
#3. Plan for Romance in Advance. Line up a baby sitter at the hotel when you arrive or bring one along with you so you get the time together you deserve. If you are going at high season, set up the babysitter before you arrive so you will be sure to have one. We find Hawaii incredibly romantic and the things we especially like to do, our kid does not enojoy or is under age to do. So we make sure to prepare in advance to have time together and get the romance.
#4. Buy the most enjoyable flight to the islands that you can Afford. It is a long way from the mainland to Hawaii and the flight can add to or subtract from the overall experience. Pick departure and arrival times that best suit your sleeping schedule. Leave after a great night sleep, arrive while it is still light and easy to get to
your hotel in an unfamiliar and new place. Try and get on the newest planes with the most leg room. If you can afford it, fly first class or upgrade to first class with frequent flyer miles or try and get on standby to first class at the airport. The fun can take longer to get to if you arrive exhasted and all the relaxation gained from the trip can be lost by taking a red eye flight home to arrive the morning you are due back at work.
#5. If you're traveling with Kids, plan in advance to make the vacation Fun for them. When our son was small we let him pick a small toy that could be opened on the flight after take off and brought activites to keep him occupied during the long flight. We brought snacks for the plane and snacks for the hotel that we knew he really liked. We picked hotels that had kid friendly cable channels and activities. We planned for lots of free time for him to play in the pool and do nothing. As he got older, we picked activities that he enjoyed like jet skiing and hiking in to see lava flows. Here are some suggestions for fun activities with kids in Hawaii. A couple of trips we brought his Nintendo game cube in our luggage and later his computer to keep him happily occupied. We found condos to be more comfortable with a teenager than sharing a hotel room. Our vacations are the most fun when everyone has a great time.
#6. Bring a device to access the Internet. We bring a laptop computer to access our email, banks, and internet. Hotels and rental cars often have better deals through the internet then in person or on the phone. We use the internet to check out local activities, get park times, and find driving instructions. Hotels in Hawaii can't be relied on to provide internet access, so making sure you have your own internet access to events, information and maps can really help on a trip.
#7. Buy luggage that supports your trip. We've tried to go the cheap route with luggage and have found that they often did not last even one trip to Hawaii. Dragging luggage with broken wheels and broken zippers through airports is really a pain. Having handles that don't come up high enough causes back pain. So we have become believers in investing in luggage that supports our trips. We like multi-level duffle type suitcases. We put our snorkeling gear and beach stuff in a compartment separate from our clothes. The compartments are easier for us to keep separate the clean from the dirty or wet clothes while moving from place to place.
#8. Stay close to the activities that you enjoy. If you want to snorkel all day stay near the best snorkel spots. If you want to hike in Volcano National park, stay in Volcano town a few days. Having to drive to your activities every day and dealing with parking and crowds is less fun than being able to walk directly from your hotel room to your favorite activity. Our favorite activity is snorkeling, so we stay at hotels where we can walk to great snorkeling. If we are going to do several activities on a trip, we change hotels to be near each activity for the time we are doing it. We have met many families that spend most of their Hawaii vacation driving from one activity to another each day.
#9. Stay for as long as you can. Europeans have told us that you need the first two weeks of the vacation just to relax enough to have a vacation. We often spend the first few days in Hawaii just sleeping and relaxing. The more time we can spend, the more we can enjoy the relaxed pace of Hawaii. Getting a large block
of time is not easy and it is one of the reasons we have spent so many Christmases in Hawaii because that was often the only way we could get more than five days of vacation in a single block of time. Later in our career we had more time, so we spent 3-4 weeks in Hawaii each year. We rented condos and got great rates by renting for a month, even if we ended up leaving before the end of the month. We believe longer stays in Hawaii kept us healthier during the rest of the year.
#10. Sketch out your days in advance Whether you want to catch up on sleep, have an adventure, or reconnect with your family, having a plan for your time while in Hawaii will better ensure that you come home with your desires accomplished. If you want to see an erupting Volcano, visit a Telescope on Mauna Kea, see Hawaiian Turtles, or any of the many possibilies a vacation on Hawaii Island offers you and your family, advanced preparation gives you more assurance of it happening the way you want it.
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