Take a Hike: Traveling Light, Hawaii: Part 1

Kailua Pillbox View

I consider myself a bit of an expert on this one. At least once a year, this year three times, I am traveling home to Honolulu, Hawaii. The first time I went home after moving to the mainland I packed two ginormous suitcases. The kind that are so big that you could hide your uncle and a few folding chairs in them and not have to sit on them when zipping them closed. This was back when it was normal for airlines to let you check one bag for free. For some reason I felt the need to make use of that free checked bag and pay for another checked bag. I would pack half of my closet, you know, just in case I was invited to a beach party and an elegant dinner all in one day (neither of which happened). If you have done this before you know what a pain it is to lug those big ass suitcases to the airport, to your rental car, to the hotel, and back again. Not to mention that I ended up wearing about 1/20th of what I brought.

The next time I traveled home I did a little better and brought one big-ass bag and a super stuffed backpack and a carry-on. Okay that really wasn't much better, but over the last 10 years or so I have refined the process and now i only take one carry-on and a small backpack. Hawaii is a very casual place and slippers (a.k.a. flip-flops...cringe) are perfectly acceptable to a nice dinner if you are wearing a mildly fancy top, guys wear an Aloha shirt and you are almost in formal wear. There really is no reason to get all black-tied-up in Hawaii, unless you actually are going to a black-tie event in which case, I have no advise for you. I have never been to an event in Hawaii where sandals and a cute dress wasn't enough.

My next trip home is in less than a week and I thought it would was the perfect time to share my homeward bound process. I almost always go home (Hawaii will always be home) for at least a week, usually 10-14 days. Sometimes my husband comes with me and sometimes he doesn't. When we travel together it means that there is a lot more to prepare. We have 3 cats, one of them is on daily medication. They are my main concern, but I also have my usual ritual that I believe will help you out if you happen to take an extended trip.

Part 1: What to do before you leave for an extended trip (more than a weekend away).

Part 2: How to travel for a 5 days or more with just a carry-on and tips to survive a long flight.

Part 3: Favorites, must-sees, must-dos, tips and tricks.


On to the good stuff: Part 1: What to do ahead of time.

Assuming that you already have your plane ticket and a place to stay, there really is very little that you have to do. If you happen to forget something at home, you are still in the US, and the shopping choices in Honolulu are amazing, but I have found that a few things make it easier to take a longer trip.

#1 Watch your habits for a day or two

About a week or two in advance of your trip watch your habits, ideally you should look at one to two weekdays and one weekend day.

  • Take note of all the toiletries you use on a daily basis.
  • What types of electronics do you use (consider leaving any work related items behind, this is a vacation)?
  • Are you on medication or supplements that might need refilling? Contact lenses anyone?

This can make a huge difference in whittling down what you pack. Seriously, do you really need to pack your curling iron, your flat iron, and three different styling aids? Please don't pack all of your toiletries "just in case", trust me you won't use them. Remember, you are on vacation...in Hawaii. Hawaii is seriously casual.

Thinking ahead can also and prevent the need for a rushed trip to the pharmacy or doctor before you leave. I personally noticed that I was about to run out of contacts and was able to get an appointment for the week before my trip and the office was nice enough to give me a free two week supply to hold me over until I got back from my trip and could get the year supply that I ordered.

My toiletry list looks a lot slimmer than it used to. I no longer stuff two zip-lock bags full of my special shampoo and lotions. The packed toiletries are now down to what I think are essentials. I say "think" because I am always looking for ways to reduce it further. In Part 2, I will have my list of packed items.

#2 Put your mail on hold

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Either put your mail on hold or have someone pick it up for you. There's nothing that says, I am away and no one is checking like a pile of mail at your front door. I am not one that worries about someone robbing me, I don't have much to to take, but I do not want my mail getting soggy unnecessarily (it rains cats and more cats here). If you are in the United States you can easily put your mail on hold here. Also if your mail delivery is like mine and, umm...not always reliable...make sure to keep the confirmation number just in case.

#3 Get a couple of electrical socket timers

I find that two does the trick, use one to control a lamp in the living room and one in the bedroom or some other common room. I personally do this more for my cats than for security, but it's something that people recommend to give the appearance of someone being at home. If you want to get fancy with it there are sockets that connect to your wi-fi so you can control everything while you are away from home and really give the appearance of someone being at home. Tip: the end date is the day they will deliver your accumulated mail.

#4 Get a pet-sitter

This really should be #1 since it kinda obsoletes #2 and #3, and it often should be done months in advance. If you have pets and you are traveling during the holidays consider booking your pet's accommodations as soon as you have an inkling of your travel plans. Even if you are not sure of the dates and need to reserve way more days than you need, go ahead and get those days saved. Many boarding facilities start taking reservations for the holidays the year prior, especially for Christmas and New Year. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful friend that lives nearby that I trust to watch my fur babies, even then, I make sure to check with her as soon as I think about leaving.

If your pet care instructions are more complicated than "dump food in bowl and clean litter box", make sure to leave detailed instructions for each pet. If they are on meds...see #1.

#5 Pay your bills

Yes you are going on vacation, but you are not on vacation yet and the last thing you want to do is to think about stuff like bills while on your vacation. If you have any recurring bills that are not on auto-pay this is a good time to do that. Electricity, water, rent, cell-phone, whatever, pay those bills with auto-pay. I semi-subscribe to the set and forget method, and check on the amounts coming out at least once a month to make sure there are no double charges or over charges. It happens. I have caught THEM trying to get my muhneh...really tho mistakes happen. Just make sure you aren't the one forgetting to pay, they might give you your money back if they charge you too much, but they will also charge you more if you don't pay them on time.

#6 Give two people an extra set of keys to your place

This is especially important if someone is watching your fur-babes. Keys can get misplaced, let your pet-sitter know that they can find another key with another person if needed. What if your baggage gets lost and you put your keys in whatever bag was lost and then you can't get into your house when you are finally home???

Shit happens. I like to fly by the seat of my tiny bikini and because of that I have found that doing some things before taking a long trip means that I get to fly with less crashing and mishaps. I prefer to skid along the surface when needed and fly high the rest of the time.

Next up...What to pack in a carry-on (and only bring a carry-on) and surviving 12+ hours of travel.