Oh, wow. What have I got myself into? Among other questions after booking my trip to Hawaii for Feb/March 2015, rearing their ugly heads are: why are the agents insisting on travel insurance, when does my passport expire, and what do I pack? More importantly, what should I NOT pack?
There are actually numerous travel check-lists available for free on the internet. I really like Air Canada’s because it could be custom made by selecting everything that applies, one section at a time. It wasn’t long before I had assembled my own and printed them out: the PRE-trip check list and the packing check list. (I actually have a third one, which I call my “Hawaii Bucket List”.)
At the top of the Pre-trip check list: Renew Passport. Taking a closer look – due to expire the day before I would be leaving the island to return to Canada! Oh joy. This summer Jeff drove me in to Hamilton (his old stomping grounds) to the Passport Canada office and talked me into getting the 10-year renewal. The new version is digital. Cool! Check!
The travel insurance was a little trickier. You definitely want to shop around. Don’t just take the travel insurance the agent is offering you. In their line of business, this is referred to as “Add ons.” I have worked in enough retail situations to be familiar with the art of pushing the smaller items that occupy the check-out desk. They are there to “remind” you that you need them. They are batteries, lighters; in clothing stores you will see socks, ties, etc. When a travel agent books anything for you, the travel insurance is an add-on. Maybe it is the best rate, maybe it isn’t. You owe it to yourself to shop around first. I found travel insurance via my bank, and it turned out to be golden. Check!
After flights with Air Canada and West Jet were booked – and paid for! Check! – I consulted the airline websites for carry-on and checked luggage guidelines. Confusing. Um…. un-check?
Okay, what’s that now? We have to pay for our baggage? It looks like November 2nd is the cut off date, boys and girls! Check! And also, the following tip from the same Air Canada website:
I just wanted everyone to see that bit about the toner cartridges, in case you were planning on taking those with you on your trip to Hawaii. And dang, I can not wrap my bungee cords around my baggage, that puts a serious dent in my travel plans, like in case I wanted to go bungee jumpin offa bridge r somethin. Check. No, un-check…..
Do we have enough luggage locks? Yes, Jeff bought extra. And not those cute plasticky ones. He got those heavy brass ones that come with real keys. Do I really need to use a luggage lock on my carry-on? Yes. At the very least the lock will hold the zippers shut during the high winds of flight turbulence. So, check and check.
Do not do it. Resist, resist, resist. Save, save, save those $$ to spend on clothes from the islands! Imagine yourself telling an outfit admirer later that these threads were purchased in actual Hawaii!
Actually, shopping with my brainy 15-year-old daughter turned out to be a great experience. Not only did she verbally hold me back, she made some really good practical suggestions. For example, pointing out that I’m only going to be staying there for 10 days, she said I wouldn’t need to take regular-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, I really only need to take a 10-day supply with me. She talked me into buying a package of 50 ml bottles to fill with shampoo and conditioner, and some small jars with screw lids for things like skin cream and hydro cortisone. After that I used every excuse to shop to scour the pharmacy sections at Walmart and Giant Tiger, as well as combing through the travel section of Shopper’s Drugmart. I found a small version of my favorite underarm deodorant, a travelling toothbrush and toothpaste combo with flossers, and the cutest, tiniest jar of Vaseline I have ever seen, and even though I don’t use the stuff I am taking it with me! Is it cute? Check!
I have read quite a few travel advice articles online. One of them, written by a man – self-proclaimed! – stated that there is nothing simpler than travelling to far-off destinations with nothing more than a carry-on and very few essentials. He claimed there is nothing you can take with you that you can’t buy when you get there. Excuse me, but if I already have it at home then it costs me nothing to pack it and take it with me. I would much rather spend my $$ on activities and souveniers while I am there. More money in my pocket? Check.
My Hawaii Bucket List
I have also made my own list of things I would like to do while in Hawaii. The first time I went to Honolulu on the isle of Oahu was 12 years ago with the X ogre. I was only there 7 days and I say that because I tried to do as much as possible and came away wishing I had had just 3 more days. One of my regrets is actually a tie between not visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center and not visiting Iolani Palace. Since an optional excursion to the PCC is available on the tour, I immediately started a “Hawaii bucket list” of things I would like to accomplish on this visit, with the Palace right at the top. While researching online I discovered the botanical gardens and added a visit to the Foster Botanical Gardens to my list, along with a tour of the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific. These are either free or on a donation basis, so that is a plus for walking touring.
Another thing I discovered while surfing the net was that there is a Surfing Museum located at Jimmy Buffet’s at the Beachcomber Restaurant. There are several ukuleles featured here, and since the museum claims to be free, online anyway, I really hope I can squeeze it in. Which then lead me to read all the related results, and I find – surprise – one block away from our hotel is Cheeseburger in Paradise. Jimmy Buffet rules!
I have plans to take some (a lot of) photographs while there. I am sure it will be almost impossible to take a bad picture in paradise! One of my plans on the bucket list is a hike up the Aloha Tower to the observation deck to take pictures. I am packing my tri-pod for just this purpose, because one of the features on the camera Jeff gave me for Christmas is the panoramic or 360 degree photo. It sounds like a great place to try out this feature.
Another photo op: Hukilau Beach. Oh yes, it really does exist! The Hukilau Song is one of my group’s favourite songs, one of the first songs we learned after mastering our first 4 chords. One of the lines in the song, “down in old Laie Bay”, got me thinking: is Laie Bay a real place? Sure enough, the first thing to come up in the search engine was Hukilau Beach park! And this town is also the location of the Polynesian Cultural Center, so I am definitely going to ask the tour bus driver if he/she can make a brief detour into the beach parking lot so we can get our pictures taken next to the sign.
Other than that I am planning on relaxing at least once a day either on the beach or by the pool, eating at a real seafood restaurant and walking along the Ala Wai Canal. Oh yeah – and playing my ukulele!!!
Last Words of Advice
Lastly, here are a couple more words of wisdom from the advice lists from my new favourite website, Beat of Hawaii. Remember to either print out or email, all of your travel information to your next of kin, or someone who will be able to help you if your travel documents or wallet or both! are lost or stolen while you are travelling. One brilliant suggestion was to scan all of your ID that you are taking with you – your Passport, Driver’s license, birth certificate, etc. – and upload them as images to iCloud or some kind of website location so that you can access them yourself if disaster should strike. You should make sure to look up the address and phone number of the hotel you are staying at and pass that along to your contact person as well. Lastly, before you leave home, research and write down and bring with you, the address and phone number of the nearest Canadian Consulate. Hopefully, you will never need to use it. Check!