Traveling with Kids


Yellow Margin Moray Eel

The Big Island of Hawaii is one of those vacation destinations that can bring pure enjoyment and amazement to kids of all ages.  However, planning and traveling to Hawaii with kids is a big challenge!  Air travel nowadays is an exercise in patience and endurance - things not easily done with kids.  Having traveled to Hawaii many times over the years with kids, we’ve written this article specifically to address how to best prepare for this long journey.

Choosing your Travel Itinerary
It all starts here.  When you are searching for the cheapest plane tickets to Hawaii, pay attention to the actual itinerary itself.  If your flight departs really early, how will your family and kids respond?  Can you turn your family into early risers and make it to the airport without too much stress?  Remember that the early morning flights are usually full and things such as the TSA security line will be backed up.

Other things to consider when choosing your flights - is it better to have two long legs (for instance, Atlanta to Honolulu) or would it be better to break things up (for instance Atlanta to Los Angeles to Honolulu).  The latter requires one additional plane transfer, but will allow your kids to disembark, stretch their legs, and get some hot food and drinks.

Pack for your Flight
Once you get to the airport, being prepared and packing right will help smooth things out for you.  Make sure you pack plenty of snacks for your kids - remember a flight to Hawaii is much longer than traveling in the continental United States.  After you pass through security, purchase plenty of beverages (water, juice, milk) for your kids - they will get thirsty.  We like to pack an insulated sippy cup or sports water bottle (such as those made by Camlebak and Polar Ice) and simply pour the drinks into those containers - it will minimize spills and keep the drinks colder longer.

How can you entertain your kids on those long flights?  Every parent has their technique for this.  However, we suggest packing portable DVD players (and movies) for your kids to watch.  Don’t forget a set of headphones so that they can listen privately on the plane!  We recommend a headset that fits over your kids’ ears, preferably noise-cancelling.  Another gadget we love to bring on long trips (or any trip for that matter) is our IPod (IPod Touch or other media player).  It is compact, light weight, has a long battery life, and you can download hours and hours of programs, movies, and TV shows for your kids to watch without having to carry dozens of DVD discs.

Don’t forget to bring your child’s car seat.  The easiest thing to do is simply check the car seat at the airline ticket counter when you check your luggage.  Car seats do not count as a check-in bag, so this is not only the easiest, but also economical thing to do.  We recommend packing a stroller for your trip to Hawaii.  On the Big Island, the attractions are spread out, and even in towns such as Kailua-Kona, the parking is sparse.  You will end up walking all over the place - and a stroller will help you immensely.  If you are a runner, consider bringing your jogging stroller - there are plenty of places to jog (you’ll see people jogging everywhere in Hilo and Kona.)  Most Big Island beaches are stroller-accessible.  An alternative to the stroller is a baby carrier backpack which we found invaluable on a recent trip to Hawaii.

Kids playing at Green Sand Beach

Kids’ Packing List
Make sure you read our Hawaii Packing List article that lists things to pack for your whole family.  However, in this article, we would like to point out the kid-specific things to pack.

  1. Rash Guards for your kids.  These are the shirts that are made of lycra and your kids can wear at the beach, in the pool, and in the ocean.  They will keep your kids warm and also they are typically SPF 30-50 and will keep your kids from getting sun burnt.

  2. Hats.  Make sure you pack a couple of good hats to keep the sun off your kids heads and faces.  A baseball cap will do, but a wide-brim bucket-style hat works even better.  Many are made out of lightweight nylon materials that will also keep heads cool.

  3. Footwear.  As a minimum pack one good pair of walking shoes.  Often your kids will be wearing flip flops or sandals, but, especially on the Big Island, there is a lot of walking around and shoes will fit and feel better.  Also if you plan on doing any hiking at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or at other locations (check out our Big Island Hiking Guide), make sure you have comfortable shoes and socks.

  4. Life Jackets or Snorkel Vests.  If your kids are non-swimmers or weak swimmers and your kids have their favorite jackets/vests at home, make sure you pack them too.  This way they will feel most comfortable in the water and also swim safely.

  5. Snorkeling Gear.  You can pick up a quality set of snorkeling gear for kids at a Target or Wal-Mart or Sports Authority in your town.  Find a set that fits your kids and pack these too.  Don’t worry, if you don’t own a set or don’t have room in your luggage, you can always rent a set from a vendor such as Snorkel Bob’s.

Jet Lag
Even of you are taking a short flight from the West Coast, you will end up being jet lagged once you arrive in Hawaii.  The good thing is that Jet Lag going west always seem to feel a little better than when traveling east.  I like to take advantage of my jet lag every time I fly from the mainland to the Hawaii.  The first couple of days after arriving Hawaii, your internal clock will be skewed - as such, you will likely go to bed much earlier each night and rise much earlier too.  That is not a bad thing in Hawaii!  I use this as an opportunity to make an early start on the day’s activities - whether it be hopping in the car for an early drive to the Volcano or to hit the beach while they are empty and the waters are calm.  Also, since Hawaii is located at a much more southerly latitude than the rest of the United States, the sun rises and sets evenly throughout the year summertime daylight is about 6 AM to 6 PM.  So, wake up early and take advantage of the day!

Check out our Big Island Family Vacation article with advice on what activities to do and attractions to best see with a family.

Related blog posts about Traveling to the Big Island with Kids:

Read our next article: Packing for your Trip

Travel Planning Articles

Planning your Trip When to come, how long to stay, books

Vacations for Families Best family beaches, activities for youngsters, infants, teens

Hawaiian Cruise Passengers Information about port calls in Hawaii

Sample Travel Itineraries Suggested itineraries, 1-2 day, 1 week

Island Activities Guide Guide to the activities & tours

Tips for Traveling with Kids Packing and flying with kids

Island Hopping Visit more than one Hawaiian island

Regions of the Big Island Geography and climate descriptions

Big Island Transportation How to get there, plan your driving

Rent a 4-Wheel Drive SUV Off-roading on the Big Island

Top 5 Attractions (You Might Miss) You’ll never hear about these…

Packing for your Trip Big Island scenery & weather is diverse

Big Island Wedding Planner How to plan your wedding in Hawaii

Accommodations Articles

Where to Stay Three different parts of the island to stay - which is best?

Bargain or 5 Star Hotel Stay at a resort or a bargain hotel

Vacation Rentals Big Island Vacation rentals are a deal

Discount Big Island Hotels Check out the latest rates

Shopping in Hawaii

Big Island Shopping Guide Guide to the shopping destinations

Hawaii Souvenirs The best souvenirs to buy in Hawaii

Gear & Equipment Articles

Gear for your Trip Get outfitted with the right gear

GPS Points of Interest (POI)
GPS Coordinates for Points of Interest

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Related Posts:

  1. Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 2 - Hilo/Hamakua)
  2. Busy Big Island Day with Kids (Part 1 - Volcano)
  3. Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 3 - Captain Cook)
  4. Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 4 – Waipio Valley)
  5. Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 5 - Green Sand Beach)

Hawaii Activities

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