Packing for Your Hawaii Vacation

by | Last updated Apr 10, 2024 | General, Trip Planning

Packing for Hawaii can be an adventure within itself – whether you’re going for business, to visit family, attend a wedding, or live out your bucket-list dream vacation, it’s really easy to overpack, under pack, or pack the completely wrong things. In Hawaii, there are a lot of things you can do, the weather can vary depending on when you’re traveling and where you’re going – did I mention we have approximately 10 of the 14 climate zones found around the world? – and well, let’s just say if you’re planning to lounge at the beach for seven days you might pack differently than if you’re planning on hiking every hike-able surface on the islands!

For those who just want the quick list.

Here is the Hawaii Packing List:

  • Comfortable and versatile clothing
  • One nice outfit
  • Swimsuit
  • Reef-safe sunscreen and/or UPF clothing
  • Shoes – walking shoes/sandals, Hawaii-style slippers
  • Waterproof Floating Phone Case
  • Sunglass with UV protection
  • Personal meds
  • Anti-chafing balm

There are other factors to consider to create your own list and details are below, but above list will give you a good baseline.

For me, I always try to consider the following while I’m packing:

This is my go-to, refined-by-trial-and-error guide to packing since I’ve been guilty of packing badly for a Hawaii vacation even though I’m from Hawaii.????

  1. DURATION: How long are we staying?
  2. LOCATION: Where are we staying during our vacation? < – Remember to include all places, especially if you’re island-hopping!
  3. ACTIVITIES: What are we planning to do?
  4. MY FAMILY – SPECIFIC: Things we need to accommodate?  (i.e. skin sensitivity, special clothing types or sizes, children in diapers, allergies, etc.)

Before we really get into things, let me just say that if you forget toiletries or basic clothing items don’t fret! We have Target, we have Costco, CVS, and Walmart, plus outlet malls on Oahu and Maui and shopping centers on all islands. So if you forget to pack shampoo, sunscreen, or even a hoodie or a swimsuit it’s okay and you can definitely pick these up once you’re in Hawaii. Well, we don’t have Chipotle, but you can survive for 7-10 days, right? (I’ve survived without for years. ????)

So first, let’s cover the basics: What should I definitely bring to Hawaii?

1. Comfortable, versatile clothing

Sorry, that’s so vague, I know, but it’s true! For most Hawaii locals – outside of work wear –  our outfits consist of t-shirts, shorts, and slippers (flip-flops for you mainlanders ????). If we want to look spiffy while out and about we might dress it up with a blouse or polo instead of a t-shirt and cargo shorts instead of athletic shorts or leggings. Fancy, right?! Hehe.

But seriously, if you’re on vacation, then for your daily wear, dress comfortably. While it often gets hot during the day, Hawaii is often prone to random, brief rain showers plus it can get breezy in the evening, so shorts and a t-shirt plus a thin, packable jacket are usually good. Any additional clothing will depend on what you’re planning to do: Hike? Tour historic sites? Horseback riding? Fine-dining? Chase around your 2-year-old while they try to lick every public surface on Oahu? (True story.)

When possible, I usually try to multitask my clothes – can my swim shorts be used for hiking as well? Can I wear pants on the plane and use them for horseback riding?

At the same time, that’s me, so no judgment here if you have specific items you’re planning to bring for your activities!

Here are some other clothing items to consider:

  • One nice outfit – Usually one is enough, sometimes a person (me) may want two – in case that person changes their mind about the first one! Eating out in Hawaii is pretty casual, this includes many nicer venues. Restaurants in Hawaii know that a lot of tourists don’t come with an entire closet of clothing so attire requirements are usually flexible. Think khaki pants and polo rather than shirt and tie or cardigan and maxi-dress rather than heels and a gown. If you see restaurant-goers dressed-up beyond that, it’s usually because they want to – a birthday or engagement party – not because it’s required by the venue.
  • Jeans or long pants – if you’re planning to go ATVing or horseback riding, it’s nice to have a good pair of pants. This also applies if you’re planning to visit Haleakala in Maui or Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, both places are located at higher elevations and have much cooler temperatures. (Okay, really I mean cold – typically not “snow” cold, but it’s possible!). Haleakala at its summit is over 10,000 ft and the temperatures range from 32 – 65 F; Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park at 4000 ft can range from 52 – 77 F. On the Big Island, the summits of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are over 13,000 ft!

*I personally like thinner, baggy pants rather than jeans (which will suction to my skin in humid weather) but my husband is a die-hard jeans person. Just remember to layer leggings or heat-tech under your thinner pants when you visit Haleakala.

  • Jacket – A light, thin jacket is always useful in Hawaii. The tradewinds that keep the sunny weather from getting too hot can also make it cool in the evenings. Also, the higher you get up the mountains on any of the islands, the cooler it gets, although it’s significantly more noticeable on Maui and the Big Island.
  • Layering pieces – If you’re planning to visit Haleakala or the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, I’d recommend bringing clothes you can layer. If you’re coming from a wintery place and already have a winter jacket with you, that’s great. Otherwise, I’d at least pack some h

    How we dressed for Haleakala in the summertime.

    eat-tech clothing, some items to layer, and gloves or something to keep your hands warm. In our case, thanks to living in Minnesota for over 15 years, we have become near professionals in the art of layering. So, when we went to Haleakala to watch the sunset, we had some variations of the following: tank tops and/or t-shirts, followed by a long sleeve shirt, then hoodies, sweatshirts, and pants or leggings plus pants. It was cold, but we were warm enough, and having a car with a heater also helped. At least two of our kids walked around in t-shirts and pants and only put on jackets as the sun began to set. My husband wore shorts (but he was really cold) and he recommends pants. Oh, and if you’re taking a lot of pictures, gloves are highly recommended. It’s hard to take pictures if your hands are shaking…or if you can’t feel your hands at all.  If you bring a portable beach blanket, it might be a good time to use it too. Haleakala is pretty windy at the summit so the layers help buffer the wind.


2. Swimwear & Cover-Up

I’d pack at least one swimsuit.  We have a number of local swimwear designers here on the islands and it might be fun to pick up souvenir swimwear, but just in case you can’t find something you like in Hawaii, I would bring at least one swimsuit. As for cover-ups, in my family, I’m the only one that has one and I don’t always wear them. Still, it’s nice to have in case you want to pause your beach time to grab a bite to eat or run and get something from a store, or if you’re just walking around your resort. The kids usually just wrap themselves in a towel — they used to wear those hoodie towels when they were little. My husband just throws his t-shirt back on.

The “daddy-burn.” You can see the handprints on his back and sides.

It also might be a good idea to consider rashguards – especially for small children. I’ve seen whole families, including babies, sporting bright red sunburns while walking the streets of Waikiki because they underestimated the strength of the Hawaii sun. All our kids wear rashguards when they swim, at first because we dressed them, then later, because they wanted to avoid getting what we call, “the Daddy burn.” (Referring to a specific incident when my husband ended up with hand-print sunburns on his back.) Seriously, that’s not the kind of souvenir you want to bring home! LOL.

Ah, two more things regarding swimwear:

  • Thongs – While thong swimwear is often a thing in many tropical locales, it’s not very common in Hawaii. This is more of an FYI since you might end up being the only one on the beach in a thong. For anyone who might feel self-conscious, I just wanted to put that out there.
  • Topless sunbathing and nudity – While topless sunbathing is allowed on some beaches (not Hawaii State Parks), it’s also not common (as in, I’ve never seen it.) Honestly, I only thought about it because I was curious about the topless sunbathing part and many sites also mentioned nudity.  Basically full nude sunbathing is technically in violation of Hawaii’s indecent exposure law, but I don’t know much about this.


3. Sunscreen and/or UPF Clothing

So, as you probably know by now, Hawaii has a sunscreen law; this applies to the sale of sunscreens not what you bring into the state.  However, the main purpose of the law is to protect our oceans – keeping them healthy and beautiful for everyone to enjoy – so, of course, it would be greatly appreciated if everyone used reef-safe sunscreen while visiting Hawaii. We have a whole article about this that I’ll link here. You can use that list to buy a Hawaii-approved sunscreen before you come or you can just buy sunscreen once you arrive. All sunscreens sold in Hawaii are approved as “reef-safe” since that’s all they’re allowed to sell, but if you want to be extra careful, non-nanoparticle zinc oxide or titanium dioxide sunscreens are the way to go (more about that in the article).

You can also avoid covering yourself in greasy or sticky sunscreens if you use UPF clothing. Then you only have to apply sunscreen to exposed skin areas.

Our sunscreen article also has more information about the law, FAQs, and more, such as where people forget to apply sunscreen: on top of a balding head or the bottoms of your feet when you’re snorkeling.


4. Shoes

At first, I was going to include this under “clothing” but decided to separate it because what you bring can vary A LOT depending on your activities. For our family, the main shoe staples while in Hawaii are:

  • A good pair of walking shoes or walking (not fashion!) sandals – Whether in Waikiki, checking out the volcano tubes on the Big Island, or touring Pearl Harbor Memorial, a good pair of walking shoes or sandals beats blisters on your feet (which will definitely sting when you swim in the ocean!).
  • A pair of Hawaii-style slippers (flip-flops) – If you have your own sandals or slippers you can just pack them with you but if you don’t have anything, you can also buy any basic rubber-type slippers (flip-flops) in Hawaii. Any ABC Store (a local everything store usually located in tourist areas), Longs, Target, or Walmart in your area should carry them and the basic rubber style should be $10-$15 with sizes ranging from toddler to at least a men’s size 13 (which is my husband’s shoe size). These are great for the beach as well as quick walks around town…and yes, you can probably go into most restaurants in flip-flops, with the exception of fine-dining restaurants (I think…I’ve never looked at anyone’s feet when I eat out!)

Here are a few other kinds of footwear you might need depending on your vacation plans. Honestly, most of the time you can probably just use footwear you already own; like an extra pair of old sneakers with decent grip for both hiking and water activities. These are just suggestions in case you’re planning to do a lot of hikes and/or water activities. I usually only bring 1-3 pairs of shoes for my Hawaii trips.

  • Hiking shoes – I’d only bring hiking-specific shoes if you plan to hike a lot or if they are versatile (i.e. my favorite sandals can double as everyday walking shoes and hiking sandals). Otherwise, an extra pair of sneakers with a good grip should be fine. Some hikes are muddy and/or slippery so the main thing is to have shoes with a good grip that you’re okay with muddying up.
  • Reef walkers or water shoes – If you think you might go snorkeling, kayaking, or just like having something on your feet in water, these may be good to have. I don’t think you need them for everyday beach-going – Hawaii has mostly soft-sand beaches and most people are barefoot. If you don’t have any, I don’t think you need to worry. There are some relatively inexpensive sets at Walmart and Target once you get to Hawaii. (Keep in mind however that once in a while, stores will run out if a wave of students needs them for a camp or school field trip (which happened to us). I personally only wear them to walk around tide pools since the rocks can be sharp. I personally prefer softer water shoes because I feel

    My constant Xero Shoes sandal tan.

    more balanced when walking on uneven terrain.

  •  Hiking sandals – These types are my personal favorites because they’re so versatile. I’ve been using Xero Shoes for over 6 years now but there are other brands as well: Teva, Keen, Ecco, and more.  I use mine for daily errands, hiking, going to the beach, really all day every day! Plus, some hikes have streams and/or places to swim and I’m more comfortable walking the slippery, muddy, wet, and dusty trails in hiking sandals.
  • Nice sandals or slip-on shoes – If you’re planning to dress up for dinner or eat at the nicer venues in your resort area, it might be good to bring one non-sneaker/slipper type of footwear. I only did this when we had one of my family’s giant family vacations (think grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) at the Waikoloa Village on the Big Island. There were a few nicer restaurants where I didn’t think my hiking sandals would work with the ambiance.

*Also, if you’re going on any tours or activities, check the company websites for any special requirements (i.e. some Kualoa Ranch activities require closed-toe shoes).


5. Waterproof Floating Phone Case

These have saved our phones from rain, snow, mud, pool water, oceans, and just about any other “dangerous-to-our-phones” element. Make sure you get one that sort of floats in the water so you can use them when you’re in the ocean! Even if your phone has a waterproof case, if a rogue wave hits you and knocks that phone out of your hand, it’s crazy hard trying to sift through the waves and churned up sand to find your phone in the water. While we recently used them on a beach trip, we’ve also used them while hiking, while in or near a pool, and simply when the kids want to take pictures during a downpour. Since these cases tend to be relatively inexpensive, we like to have a few on hand. The lanyard is also great for our son who tends to drop his phone…A LOT.????

*Just make sure you test that it’s waterproof before you entrust it to protect your phone.


6. Sunglasses with UV Protection

Did you know your eyes can sustain UV damage too and it can eventually affect your eyesight? Plus Hawaii is bright – I mean the views are gorgeous and the colors are unreal, but if you’re squinting the whole time, you’ll miss a lot!

I currently don’t have a favorite pair of sunglasses but I have some that work and am always on the lookout for a “#1” pair. ???? In my husband’s case, I tend to look for relatively inexpensive ones with polarized lenses – polarized lenses to help with the glare and cheap because he misplaces sunglasses almost everywhere we go. In fact, it’s highly possible if you’ve found a random pair while in Hawaii, they may be his…so, I guess we’re inadvertently doing a “pass it forward” kind of thing? Ha. Anyway, any sunglasses with UV protection should work. Lots of people like polarized lenses too but I find they sometimes make it hard to read my phone’s GPS; mine just have UV protection, not glare reduction.


7. Miscellaneous

Here are a few other random things we pack based on our family’s needs.

  • allergy medication – One of our children has a severe peanut allergy so we always make sure we have an epi-pen and benadryl with us.
  • extra glasses and glasses prescription –  We don’t wear glasses but I’ve seen glasses get knocked around at the beach before. People lose or break their glasses while swimming – so far, I’ve never seen anyone hurt from broken glasses or anything. However, I have seen someone get their glasses knocked off when they’re hit by a strong wave. I think they did end up finding them, so that’s a relief, but I just wanted to put it out there.
  • anti-chafing balm – It gets hot, there’s lots of walking, and stuff chafes – sometimes it helps to have some anti-chafing balm on-hand to keep the chafing from going full-blown otherwise, the ocean will not be your friend. I also sometimes use this to prevent blisters.
  • Costco Card (Sam’s Club too but Costco has gas stations) – There are Costcos on all the major islands and on Oahu, I think we have four of them now. Ooh, FUN FACT? The Costco Iwilei on Oahu is the busiest Costco in the world. Good to keep that in mind since it’s the closest Costco to Waikiki.????



I think these items aren’t really a high priority but it will also depend on personal habits and lifestyle. For example, while we record everything on a vacation, my parents usually forget to take pictures completely, so an extra camera (besides their phone) is probably not important for them. For our family, once we get the clothes and underwear in our luggage, these get packed next!

8. Reusable Water Bottle

To combat disposable plastic bottle waste, the State of Hawaii has begun adding water refilling stations to many of their parks and hopes to add more; as a plus, some businesses are starting to do the same, so reusable bottles have become pretty handy! In fact, now that the kids are older, we usually have everyone carrying their own. Reusable water bottles are great for two big reasons: one, it makes it easier to keep hydrated while playing under the Hawaii sun – it’s very easy to get dehydrated while playing on the beach – and second, having your own reusable bottle reduces the number of disposable plastic bottles you have to buy while on vacation.

My favorite brands are Yeti and Thermoflask with Hydroflask coming in a close 3rd. With kids and their sports, I feel like Yeti and Thermoflask are sturdier, especially after my kids somehow mangled a couple of Hydroflasks within a 3-month period. However, for travel, Yeti bottles can get pretty heavy. Quite frankly, whatever works for you is what’s best. Another bottle type I like but don’t see around as much is the pouch-style foldable bottles. They can get heavy when full, but you can also collapse them after they’re empty so I like using those for hiking or all-day outings. About 8 years ago, my Aunty bought me a Vapur and I’ve been hooked to this brand of collapsable bottle ever since.

*Costco often sells 2-packs of various brands of water bottles – these are often good deals and they sometimes have both BPA-Free plastic and stainless steel (sometimes, not always.)


9. GoPro

Actually, we have a DJI Action, but I listed Go Pro because it’s more well known. You’d be surprised how often we use that little device. While most people

How our kids use our DJI Action?!

use it for snorkeling and other underwater activities, we also use ours with a harness for just walking around, when biking, hiking, and even in a car (I like to attach ours to a tripod and stick it out the window for some additional shots of our surroundings when I’m not driving.)

Because our Action (GoPro too!) is sturdy and waterproof we also feel comfortable letting the kids use it – when we download the footage later it’s funny to see our vacation from their perspectives!

We have the original DJI Action, but there’s a newer model out now.



10. Portable Charger

With our family, if we’re bringing electronics, we bring a portable charger. We currently have two of them but I’m probably going to get another one soon since my daughter keeps borrowing (and draining) mine. LOL. My favorite brand is Anker but there are a lot of options out there as well.


11. Power Strip 

This is something we started doing before we even thought of it as a “vacation item.”  With so many of us and multiple devices between the six of us, it just makes sense to avoid fighting for outlets, hogging outlets, and dead devices – we’ve even brought it to events at my Grandparents’ house so the kids wouldn’t hog all their outlets! They’re not very big and with one power strip, a single outlet becomes 5+ (and maybe a few extra USB ports as well!) It’s so helpful! That way we’re not unplugging all the lamps in the hotel room just to charge our devices!

*On that note, I also always bring a car USB plug when traveling as well. Just in case the car doesn’t have a direct charging port and also because we always need multiple charging ports in our family. 


12. Beach Bag / Reusable Bags 

A big throw-around beach bag is great to have in Hawaii. You can probably buy one in Hawaii as a functional souvenir but if you don’t want to spend your vacation searching for a tote, there are lots of options on Amazon and many store brands offer some kind of tote as well! When we go to the beach I usually have two go-to bags for the beach. One is a mesh bag for things like sand toys, goggles, floaties, etc. and the other is canvas with a laminate cover for towels and extra clothes (so they don’t get sand and water on them). I don’t know about you but I can’t stand drying off with a sandy towel — it’s literally adding more sand to my skin as I’m trying to wipe sand and water off! These kinds of bags can also double as grocery totes – Hawaii does not provide plastic bags at store check-out so you have to bring your own shopping bags (or you can just throw everything back into the cart and bag your stuff at the car ~ that’s what I get to do when I forget my reusable bags in the trunk. Every. Dang. Time.????????)

My typical beach experience: kids, beach blanket, bags of stuff.


13. Beach Blanket

I absolutely love the softer, water-resistant types of beach blankets, they’re great on grass or sand AND they’re machine washable and relatively soft. They also are great to use as a regular blanket when the kids get cold (we didn’t bring ours on our trip to Maui, but we should have! We would have totally used it at Haleakala).


14. Day Pack 

This has become more of a lifestyle for me rather than a packing tool but I have to say, I just love having a backpack “purse” versus a regular purse. In fact, since I’ve had kids, I almost always use a backpack as my go-to “handbag.” The type may vary depending on whether I needed to carry diapers, toddler snacks, extra water bottles, toy cars, umbrellas, or whatever else the kids (or my husband) can’t fit in their pockets. I even used a backpack for work!

Currently I’m using the Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack – the brand has a really great replacement guarantee that I hope I never I have to use. I think a few other brands also offer long-term or lifetime guarantees so if you’re looking to get a sturdy everyday backpack, it might be good to check into that. My previous bag — accidentally left when we moved — was a small Kipling backpack. I liked it because it dried easily if I got caught in one of Hawaii’s famous surprise downpours. I bought mine from the Kipling store at the Waikele Outlet Mall on Oahu at one of their Black Friday sales so it was quite a bit cheaper than the prices I’m seeing on Amazon right now, it could also be because I got mine about 10 years ago.


Super Extra or Other Items That Did Not Make My “Must Pack” List

When I asked my family what other things they recommend when visiting Hawaii, I got these suggestions. Some I think are great add-ons, while others I don’t think I’ll use myself. Either way, since everyone has different preferences, I think it’s still worth putting out there for your packing consideration:


15. Reusable Utensils

Whenever I traveled with the kids while they were toddlers and preschoolers, it was so much easier to bring their own utensils – they were used to handling them and I always got great usage from bringing them, from restaurants to Grandma’s house. Back then, it was also easier than dealing with plasticware, since one of my kids liked biting off the plastic tongs on disposable forks when they were little.

Nowadays, even adults are carrying around their own utensils as Hawaii is trying to move away from their disposable counterparts, and for a good reason. If you’ve ever done a beach clean-up — at least on Oahu — you’ll find tons of plastic disposable utensils washed up on the beach. Oh, and don’t forget the plastic straws, which are terrible for Hawaii’s endangered sea turtles. If you’ve ever seen a video of someone extracting a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose…ouch. It’s definitely a good reason to consider reusable flatware. Anyway, with new ordinances in Hawaii regarding plastic utensil ware sales and usage, it might just be easier to bring your own. We’ve often carry our own even prior to any ordinance because we have 6 sets from our Cub Scout camping days and, well, it makes sense to use them if we have them, I guess?! ????

I’m adding the link to the Hawaii government website regarding plastic utensils here. I believe places still have them available but you have to ask.


16. Dry Bag or Waterproof Bag

If you’re going to be carrying electronics or other items (wallets) to the beach or pool, I’d definitely recommend getting at least a small waterproof pack. Also, remember that the Hawaiian Islands are prone to random rain showers, especially during the winter season, so, basically, if you’re going to be doing a lot of ANY outdoor activity it might be a good item to have handy. It’ll keep things dry and they usually fold up for easy packing too! Just remember to make sure that the bag is completely waterproof – I once bought a water-resistant backpack with a waterproof pocket. Ugh. It was my fault for not reading the description well enough. I still use it to this day, but after getting caught in multiple downpours I can tell you that a fully waterproof would have been so better!

This version comes in different sizes and with a waterproof phone case too!


17. Foldable Cooler 

I can’t say that this is a “must have” item for your Hawaii vacation but if you have kids or are bringing a big family, this might be a good option. We usually had a cooler in our mini-van since we’d often be running between Costco, soccer practices, kid parties, and more but we lived in Hawaii so it was easy to keep a cooler in the van so our Costco frozens wouldn’t melt on the way home. We also had a collapsable wagon so it made transporting all kinds of things, including a cooler, easy. As a visitor to Hawaii, however, I’ll leave this one up to your discretion. This one I’m ordering from Amazon since I need a bigger cooler than the one I currently have. But as a visitor coming to Hawaii for only 1-2 weeks, I’m neutral on whether you should pack one of these with you just for a vacation. It might be something to consider, but you could also find a cooler bag once you’re in Hawaii if the need arises.


18. Snorkel Gear

Okay, so this might depend on how often you plan to snorkel in Hawaii…or how serious you are about snorkeling. If you’re planning to try it one time, there are a lot of beach gear rental places that offer snorkel gear for rent too. If you already have your own gear, you may want to bring it, however, if you’re not sure what to get, I’d recommend just coming to Hawaii first and see what’s available. The stores that sell (sometimes almost exclusively) snorkel gear have a wide variety of types from basic to high-end, and they can help you get fitted properly — whether you’re looking to rent or buy and they’ll help you find the right equipment and type based on what you want to do.


19. Beach Towels 

Okay, first off, I would check with wherever you’re staying to see if they provide beach towels. These can get bulky so you’ll have to determine if they deserve precious real estate in your luggage. This may be a great thing to get as a souvenir since most tourist areas in Hawaii will have a wide variety of silly, pretty, and fun beach towels available. When we travel anywhere, I often use whatever towels are provided but also bring a couple of thin quick-dry towels as well. The ones linked here are our favorites because they come with a small hand-sized towel and a big towel (there are different sizes, so check before you buy). These have come in handy whether we have hotel-provided towels or not because we have kids, I guess. LOL. They roll up pretty well so we’ve used them as blankets, pillows, and extra towels if someone forgot to grab theirs. They even come in handy if we get caught in the rain!


And, the things you may NOT need: 

  • Too many toiletries

Okay, so, I’m not saying don’t bring any toiletries. I love my facial cleanser and skin care products, so I always bring those but I have a big family (six of us) so if we’re traveling for more than a couple of days I either bring my own bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash (because I usually don’t like ANY hotel ones and there’s never enough) OR I just buy small-ish bottles of each once we arrive at our destination. We usually end up using the whole bottle (or close to it) anyway! My parents just use the hotel ones but there are just two of them and my dad doesn’t have a lot of hair so…it works. Anyway, if your luggage space is tight, I think you can forego some of your toiletries and buy them once you land in Hawaii. Besides, in my experience, even when double-bagging products, they still sometimes leak…a lot — it doesn’t help that luggage gets tossed around like crazy and the air pressure sometimes makes the bottles pop open. Basically, since I’m the primary packer, for our family vacations, if we need to leave some items behind, toiletries are the first to get the boot.

  • Too many clothes

I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to overpack the kids’ clothes whenever we go on vacation. Of course, it depends on their ages – or how many poopy blow-outs they can commit over the course of a multi-connection airplane ride.

But even without babies, I’m always a little worried I won’t have enough clothes for my vacation, which is hilarious because most likely everyone will be wearing swimsuits, t-shirts, and shorts for most of their vacation. My suggestion is to keep it simple. Leave the fancy shoes and five gazillion outfits at home — you probably won’t need them. If you find you need an additional outfit, plan to leave some space in your luggage and budget to bring home a lovely locally-designed ensemble instead.  People tend to match Hawaii with shapeless muumuus and garishly, gaudy aloha shirts but actually, there are a lot of local designers who create a wide variety of styles that could both add to your wardrobe and be a great souvenir from Hawaii.  If you have time during your vacation, take look at these local small businesses in Hawaii (I think primarily on Oahu). There’s a range of apparel, food, accessories, gifts, and more. This list is actually put together by a local bank to help Hawaii residents support local businesses so some of the locations listed may not be applicable to vacationing visitors, but many will be! Check these out here – many have websites so pre-vacation shop if you’d like ????…just throwing the idea out there. Hehe.


  • Beach Toys

I confess I have purchased and transported a cool inflatable tube from Korea to Minnesota to Hawaii and I have zero regrets! LOL.  That being said, most tubes, sand toys, and body boards can all be rented while in Hawaii. Also, some hotels and resorts may loan out sand toys for children, but you should call and check. I guess, the main thing is: I don’t think beach toys are something you need to actively search and buy prior to your Hawaii vacation. Also, if you’re okay purchasing sand toys once you arrive, ABC Stores (on practically every corner in Waikiki), Target, Walmart, and Costco have relatively inexpensive sand toys available. Just Google Map check where your hotel is in and what stores are available in your area. If you’re in Waikiki or most places on Oahu, you’ll have all these stores and more – same for many locations on Maui. With Kauai and the Big Island, it just depends where you’ll be staying and if you have a rental car.

  • Umbrellas

Definitely do not buy or bring those large beach umbrellas, a lot of beaches near hotels will rent them out if you need them (we don’t use them) and if you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, they often have chairs and beach umbrellas set up for their guests or available for

A double rainbow in Hawaii.


In terms of a regular rain umbrella, at most, I would bring a small one but they’re usually not that practical (I’m usually wet by the time I pull out an umbrella, and then the rain will just stop – poof! – while I’m just standing there wet, with a partially-opened umbrella. Yup, my life.

If you’re worried about rain, don’t worry too much. But, if you pack anything, a thin, water-repellent jacket would be much more multifunctional. Also, Hawaii rains are usually brief OR, they’ll be so heavy you’ll get wet no matter what because rain tends to blow sideways here. If anything, at least the rain in Hawaii is warm and hopefully you’ll get to see a rainbow or two afterward!


So that’s everything I can think of for now.

Of course, we’ll continually update this post if we think of anything else. Also, please comment and let us know what your “must have” and “leave at home” items are! It’s so fun to see how other people pack!

At the end of the day, don’t stress too much. ❣️ We hope your vacation is absolutely wonderful! ????


Hi, we are the Kim Family. We wanted to share our experiences living on Oahu and traveling around Hawaii.  We have four kids and who enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities.  We’ve learned a lot raising our kids here and wanted to share with you.  We hope it helps with whether you are visiting, living, or a little bit of both. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to also participates in affiliate programs with Fareharbor, Clickbank, CJ, ShareASale, and other sites. is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

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Please note that many of these places we have visited personally or have been recommended by one of the more seasoned travelers within our friends-and-family circle. As someone who was born and raised in Hawaii and then had the experience of being a transplant from the mainland as an adult with a spouse and children, we want to make sure that we recommend things we enjoy or would like to do ourselves. Thank you for your support!

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