Updated: Nov 24, 2018
Hawaii was on our bucket list but was a destination we had been putting off until we had kids. Challah's family had been inviting us for years but we always opted for something more adventurous and exotic. While we're glad we saved Hawaii for when we had baby SuDS, it was more interesting that we expected, which was humbling.
Here are our top 10 tips for venturing off the mainland:
1. Island Selection
Hawaii is made up of over 130 islands though only 6 are visited and each one has its own unique identity and theme. Since we were making the long and expensive trek from the east coast to Hawaii, we were determined to see more than one island while we were there. We joined our family in Maui for 5 days and then split off to enjoy Kauai for 5 days after hearing how it was rugged and untamed. If you have more than 5 days, try to check out more than 1 island. A good rule of thumb is to allot 5 days per island.
Traveling to the east coast from Hawaii takes as long as traveling from the east coast to Europe (and may be more expensive). We decided to lessen the impact a little by stopping in Los Angeles on both ends of the trip. It gave us chance to visit Challah's sister and break up the journey a little bit. Of course, this does cut into your time on the islands. Pack a bag of activities to occupy their time on the plane including some surprises. We found these decals to be great!
3. Time Change
The 6 hour time difference is no joke, especially when it comes to kids. You'll want to help them adjust by maintaining their routines as much as possible and keeping the first day you land somewhat light. Lack of sleep and interruption to regular meals can result in kids getting sick and no one wants to tend to a sick child on vacation.
4. Baby Gear
Hawaii, in general, is very baby friendly but that doesn't necessarily mean its stroller friendly everywhere you go. If you have a little one, make sure to pack a stroller and carrier. There are companies from which you rent these items and more such as a crib, highchair, beach toys, etc. Maui On the Fly is one such company.
We found Hawaii to be vegetarian friendly so we did not have much trouble finding food though, obviously, fish is a big part of the diet, so something you want to check for, if you're a pure vegetarian. Fresh fruit is always an island highlight and salads are great to have when it's hot outside. You'll find some great restaurant recommendations mentioned on our YouTube channel, MonkeyPod in Maui being a highlight!
Now that we're traveling with a little one, we know to keep our expectations to a minimum because you never know if little one gets sick, is extra clingy in a new place, or there are other factors beyond your control. When we're planning and researching, we also like to make a short list of our must see's and must do's for that destination. For Hawaii, it was seeing dolphins, parasailing, learning more about Hawaiian culture, and hiking Mount Haleakala to see the sunrise. The first and last of these did not happen, unfortunately. We just couldn't make it happen having a toddler and had to add those to the regret list you have after a trip.
We stayed in a resort in Maui and a VRBO rental in Kauai. Each has its pros and cons though we usually prefer to have our own place. The location of the Kaanapali Resort in Maui was great, the staff was nice, and the grounds were well maintained. They boast being the oldest authentically Hawaiian hotel. However, the whole resort experience does feel a bit uncomfortable. In Kauai, our rental was off a lagoon, we made some of our meals and were always able to make breakfast for baby SuDS in the home before heading out.
We were delighted to see how much of Hawaiian culture had been preserved and not appropriated though we did see that as well. Meeting native Hawaiians who still spoke their language and practiced their customs was such a neat experience! It was interesting to learn how similar Hawaiian culture was to that of Asian cultures, which makes sense since most Hawaiians are Polynesian descedants.
As we mention before and will mention again, learn some words in the local language. It will enrich your life, grow baby's brain, and, most importantly, show a sign of respect to the people who call your vacation spot their home. Learning the real meaning of Aloha from natives gave so much more meaning to a word that many of us came to believe meant a simple hello or welcome.
10. Maximize Time
The great thing about being on an island is that there is free, built in, endless fun for kids. Lazy time on the beach is a great way to entertain kids and have some downtime for the parents. Beach time or nap time can also be an opportunity for one parent to escape to pursue an activity or passion of their choice. While baby SuDS slept one afternoon, we were able to take turns going for a bike ride and stand-up paddle boarding.