We made it! We have always wanted to go to Hawaii but we never thought we actually would. I’ll be doing a series of posts on our trip. We really didn’t plan it and I’m no expert, so I am just going to share our experiences and what we learned by doing.
- If you are a coffee drinker, bring 5 Hour Energy or some other concentrated form of caffeine. This is the most important advice I have to offer. We got to Kona at 8 pm, which is 1 a.m. Wisconsin time. I woke up at 5 am the next morning with the worst caffeine withdrawal headache. We left the house at 7 am looking for coffee but not much opens before 8 a.m. (1 pm Wisconsin time). I thought I was going to die. Or kill someone. Or be killed by someone who was fed up with my terrible attitude.
- Bring melatonin. There is a 5 hour time difference between Hawaii and Wisconsin and jet lag is a serious consideration. I’m a morning person. I enjoy the quiet time in the morning before everyone else wakes up. But I don’t enjoy waking up so early that I’m exhausted for the rest of the day. Without melatonin, I would have woken up at 3 or 4 am. With melatonin, I woke up briefly but was able to go back to sleep.
- Bring eye covers. After working nights for so many years, I’m pretty attached to these babies. These are the ones I use. Hawaii is near the equator so sunrise isn’t super early. However, you don’t really know what kind of light pollution you are going to run into until you get there. For some reason our bedroom had little nightlights. One changed colors and the other continually flashed a white light. I got up in the middle of the night and unplugged one but the other wouldn’t come out of the socket. I got out the little eye covers and slept like a princess. You are also going to need these on the return flight. More on that later…
- Layovers are not a bad thing. (Note: I kind of changed my mind on this one after the return flight. I hope to write a post about that too.) Seat space has gotten so small on planes that a direct flight would have been intolerable. Our trip was broken into segments of 1.5 hours, 5 hours and 6 hours. Sitting in a tiny space where I can’t cross my legs or reposition myself for 6 hours was enough for me and too much for Juan. Luckily we were not near any screaming kids or chair kickers. However, there was a group a young people sitting in front of us who appeared to have made a pact not to bathe or use deodorant. It was impressive. Let me just say, I’m glad it was a 6 hour flight and not 11 hours.
Embrace it. Don’t try to get any work done. Don’t try to get your kids to get any work done. Watch lots of movies. Eat junk food. Order whatever you want from the flight attendant. Drink coffee till 8 pm if you want. As my friend Kevin advised me before we left: “Don’t say No.”
- If you have kids, rent the minivan. We had a big debate about this when we were planning our trip. The kids and I wanted a cool Jeep or something four wheel drive. Juan wanted the minivan, which we ended up getting. The minivan was the right choice for two reasons (the same reasons we have one at home): First, You can carry lots of beach equipment (think big, like boogie boards) or anything else you want in the back. Second, there is a lot to see and it takes a long time to see it all. That means a lot of time in the car. Our kids get along a lot better when they don’t have to sit squished in the back seat together. Also, it is unlikely you will need four wheel drive.
- Consider a vacation rental instead of a hotel. We have 3 kids so we don’t fit in one hotel room. A rental home is more comfortable and cheaper than two hotel rooms. For that reason, we have been using VRBO.com for years. We even owned a VRBO until recently (read more about that here). Juan found us a wonderful home in a quiet gated community with three bedrooms and a pool. It was stocked with beach towels, boogie boards, coolers, a scooter for Benny and everything you could need for a beach vacation. Also, sometimes you need a down day on vacation and spending it in a home instead of a hotel is much more relaxing. Finally, food is expensive in Hawaii. Being able to eat a few meals a day at home is a real money saver and less stressful than having to run out to a restaurant every time someone gets hungry.
Bonus info for travel to the Big Island:
- We bought a copy of Frommer’s Hawaii, which we didn’t use a whole lot. This was mostly because we only had 9 days to plan the trip and I was working the whole time. It covers all the islands.
- Once we got to Hawaii, the house we rented had a copy of Hawaii The big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty. If you go to the Big Island, I highly recommend it.
- Late April, May and September are the slow months. We went late April to early May and the weather was great and there weren’t any crowds (except at the Volcanoes National Park, which I suspect it is always crowded).
- Stay in Kona. It has the most options for accommodations and the least chance of having your vacation get rained out. It is close to everything except the Volcanoes park which is about 2 hours drive.
- If you want some relevant homeschool lessons prior to your trip, Khan Academy has a series on the Hawaiian Islands, Volcanos and another series on Polynesian culture that were really interesting and relevant.
- Go. Just do it.
Have you been to Hawaii? I would love to hear about it!