Packing For Hawaii: Eleven Tips For Upcoming Carry-On Rule Changes

Packing For Hawaii: Eleven Tips For Upcoming Carry-On Rule Changes

News today that the airlines are planning to “standardize” the size of carry on luggage. Reading between the lines we know that means in most cases, we’ll be able to bring less with us onto the plane in the near future. IATA is suggesting an “optimal” size of 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5, which is smaller than the current size most airlines allow.

On the other hand, packing for Hawaii can still be easy. Here are our top 11 suggestions revised, plus several shared by visitors. Please let us know if you have anything else for the list. We think the main rule to go by is “Keep it Simple.”

1. Leave the turkey at home. We once met a visitor who brought a turkey from the mainland for Thanksgiving dinner.  Just remember there’s nothing much you can’t buy here if you need it, including food and medications. And much of it won’t cost any more than on the mainland. So don’t loose sleep if you should forget something.

2. Travel clothes that make sense. Pack things that don’t need a lot of care. Stay away from dry cleaners and you won’t pay $10 or more per garment. One product we’ve found that works well is t-shirts and other travel clothes from Ex Officio. They wash in the sink, dry in a few hours and always look good.

3. Pack carry-on snacks for the trip and some for after you get here and are tired and hungry.

4. Unlined Goretex type shirt/jacket is helpful for rain and wind protection without making you steam. Something warm for the plane and nights, like a lightweight sweatshirt or sweater, might be good too.

5. Hiking boots are useful and can be worn to lighten your baggage. If you have old shoes/boots, consider wearing those and leaving them behind to have even more luggage space on the return.

6. Limit T-Shirts you bring. There are so many great shirts to buy in Hawaii. Even living here, we all have a plethora of Hawaii t-shirts.

7. Snorkeling gear can stay home. Why not rent, or purchase inexpensively in Hawaii.

8. Avoid checked bag fees entirely by sticking with limited clothes in a carry-on bag.

9. Travel with an inexpensive and lightweight luggage scale and know your carrier’s limitations. This is a “can’t travel without” item at Beat of Hawaii.

10. USPS Flat Rate Boxes. With an abundance of post offices throughout state, take advantage of fast and relatively inexpensive shipping in both directions to supplement what you can take with you. Including liquids that won’t make it in a carry-on environment. Easy to find bubble wrap keeps fragile things safe.

11. Dufflebag or Tote for the return trip. Consider either bringing a nylon dufflebag or buying a Rubbermaid tote for the return trip. After you go shopping, you may need it. Yes you will pay for the checked bag, but it will likely be far cheaper than shipping all that stuff home, even by Priority Mail.




  1. Vanessa (1 week ago)

    Another Aussie travelling to the beautiful Hawaii soon. Unfortunately Jetstar have changed their carry on luggage limits to 7kg…COMBINED! I have paid for 15kg checked in allowance to Hawaii (empty suitcases) and 40kg checked in allowance going home….a lot of room for shopping! I’m just taking the bare minimum and buying everything there.

    • Beat of Hawaii (1 week ago)

      Hi Vanessa,

      We’ve never had Jetstar check carry on weight. Let us know if they do when you board.


  2. Tracey (2 weeks ago)

    We always take checked luggage (it’s free with Qantas for us Aussies) and also a cabin bag.. we take only what we need .. and need plenty of room for my shopping .. yes a shopping junkie .. haven’t yet gone over the luggage weight have come close .. but when you’re only taking tee’s, shorts & thongs (slippers) you don’t need much. Just wear a thicker cardigan and scarf on plane both ways.. so no heavy clothing at all!

  3. Mary S (3 weeks ago)

    Bring old undergarments, old shorts, shirts and shoes. Throw them away them as you wear them so you go home with lighter suitcases, less laundry to do when you get home and if you feel you have to fill your suitcase, carry home fresh new clothing or gifts for family & friends.

  4. Tracy (3 weeks ago)

    I can’t believe you are suggesting people plan to buy items on the island and leave them behind. Waste is a huge problem on the islands. Suggestions to leave items to schools or charities would be a great idea.

  5. Chris Azar (3 weeks ago)

    I always tell folks that come to Hawaii to bring half the clothes and twice the money.

    • Maleka (2 weeks ago)

      Good one. Statement is very applicable.

    • Tracey (2 weeks ago)

      Chris always take more money than needed .. exchange it all at home and just take USD with us and allow between $1k-2k a week. Hawaii is our only holiday destination and when we go we totally spoil ourselves .. no budgets allowed.

  6. Shawn (3 weeks ago)

    I can’t agree more with the thrift store suggestion. My 3 favorite aloha shirts were from thrift stores in Kihei and Lahaina, and a pair of board shorts each trip.

    DB’s husband’s “2-2-2-2 rule, 2 pairs of board shorts, 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs shorts, and 2 Aloha shirts” is spot-on, as well…or I might actually take 3 pairs of board shorts (one pair solid-color that goes with most of my tees) and minus 1 pair of cotton/cargo shorts.

    Buy new slippahs at the ABC store.

    Thanks for the spices suggestions.

  7. Steve (3 weeks ago)

    Dont take t-shirts at all-just buy the 6 for 20 at ABC and bring them home as gifts or donate them when you leave.

  8. Sherri (3 weeks ago)

    I agree with the response about taking your own snorkel gear–I guess it depends on how much you like your own stuff (and I do). I use my luggage space for that and what doesn’t fit, I ship a Priority Mail box with other stuff (including some food), and shop the Thrift Stores. I often take a small travel pot or immersion heater. Like the person who bought the coffee pot, I once bought a toaster oven–all I really needed!

    • Beat of Hawaii (3 weeks ago)

      Hi Sherri,

      Concur about something for heating like an immersion heater or travel pot. There are even international immersion heaters that work on 110 or 220.


  9. Colleen (3 weeks ago)

    We have always traveled with just a carry on bag! Our kids think we are nuts – but it is truly a case of Less is MORE!! More freedom. Less Stress. Sure hope they don’t shrink the standard too far :0(

    I lay everything out on the spare bed. ALWAYS THINK CASUAL for Hawaii. I also make sure that everything I take will ‘go with’ something else. Mix and Match. I do mostly black and white and add a couple other color for tops. 1 pair of casual thong sandals for the beach and one pair of nicer ones for going out. 2 pair of nicer capris for evening wear and a couple pair for play. 4-6 tops. I wear my hiking/water shoes if the bag will be too heavy. 2 swim suits.

    We stay in condos – so we assume we will do laundry.

    We just take our very favorite casual clothes and what is the comfiest!! BE FIRM about ONLY taking what will fit in the that carry on! You will thank yourself later.

    Then I do a preliminary packing up – and what does not fit does not go. OR I take something out so something else will fit in the bag. :0)

    Anything we buy as a souvenir – which isn’t much – we mostly take photos – we ship back via USPS. We don’t like the hassle of waiting around dealing with carousels at the airport.

    Loved the thrift store idea and plan to put a stop on our list of ‘things to do.’

    Heading back to the Big Island for 3 weeks next year!

    Condo – check! Airfare – check! check! Nothing left to do but play around with that carry on bag!!! Can’t wait!

  10. DB (3 weeks ago)

    I always bring a small power strip. There never seem to be enough outlets in the hotel rooms. I also bring spices in a small container made for camping. My husband uses the 2-2-2-2 rule, 2 pairs of board shorts, 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs shorts, and 2 Aloha shirts…wears the hiking boots on the plane (pain for security, but keeps the bag light) and packs his flip flops.

    • Beat of Hawaii (3 weeks ago)

      Hi DB.

      Ah yes – forgot that one. Also suggest packing extension cords (either electrical or USB).


  11. rikii lee (1 year ago)

    I can not wait to go op shopping as we call it in Australia. Can not wait for My girlfriend and I to be in Hawaii in two and half weeks!!!!!!

  12. Terri (1 year ago)

    I agree with the thrift store idea. It’s a great way to get items without spending top price. We did this on our trip to the big island and them donated them back before we left. Everybody wins.

  13. Alice (1 year ago)

    My Last trip to Hawaii, I got smart, I looked on the Internet for thrift stores in the we were going to be in.
    Previously when we went to Maui, We went to a very cool thrift store and Found Nice snorkel gear there! My Son-in Law is a fish and got lots of use. Plus, loads of grass mats are there, etc.
    We went real cheap in Kauai and our room didn’t even have a coffee pot- Thrift Store! Mugs too. Brought home the Mugs, left the coffee pot! We Always have a Blast!

  14. Joe Sapinski (1 year ago)

    Just returned from 2 weeks iin Kauai – Sheraton, Poipu -umpteenth time. USPS Priority Flat Rate boxes have been a great way to send back heaviest items (guava jelly, Anahola granola, etc) back home to NJ rather than carry them on plane.

  15. Karen (1 year ago)

    I’m not sure if Keoki Smith has ever actually tried taking the “mini liquor” bottles she suggests, but the airlines don’t allow any alcohol to be carried on board. You can pack wine and a limited amount of hard liquor in your checked bags, but I doubt the TSA would just laugh at liquor being carried on board.

    As for clothing, I usually pack a foldable bag and take minimal shorts and tops since Hawaii is where I buy most of my summer clothing. I pack everything in the folding case for the trip home and check it through. I have at least saved the luggage charge one-way.

  16. Heather Walker (1 year ago)

    Cotton, cotton and more cotton, especially for ladies at or near the menopause. Talke comfy shoes and a great hat, but you can buy the best clothes, cosmetics and homeward there, leave lots of room in your a beach mat there, and loads of sunscreen. As an Aussie, I find the shopping there the best in the world.

    • Tracey (2 weeks ago)

      Hi Heather Walker another menopausal aussie but I tend to wear rayon or cotton blends nothing that needs ironing… I’m on holidays and I avoid any work at all costs just the trip down to the laundry once a wek as we always stay in a condo. Never go shopping in the supermarkets we eat a light brunch usuallly at Dennys and then go out for an evening meal.
      Only wear thongs but wear them down home in Melbourne all year long too… don’t wear a hat and only use a very light sunscreen on my face as I’ve had a few large skin cancers removed from it.

  17. Keoki Smith (1 year ago)

    Stock up on single shot liquor bottles (correctly placed in a one quart zip lock bag) of you favorite libations. You can carry on unlimited amounts if packed correctly, TSA just laughs. Order cups of free ice, club soda, tonic, ginger ale, whatever your mixer of choice from the drinks cart on board.. Imbibe responsibly and be descreet, and you’ll enjoy a relaxed trip at a fraction of the cost; the rest instead of $8 – $10 dollar charge from the hotel stocked mini fridge.

    • Amanda Elliott (1 year ago)

      Kevin–Can you really get away with carrying those small bottles on the airplane? What’s the size limit? Sounds great but I thought they didn’t allow liquids like that!

    • Tracey (2 weeks ago)

      Amanda can’t see why you can’t carry on the single shot bottles as they hold less than the maximum 100ml requirement … like your thinking Keoki :)

  18. Val (1 year ago)

    For condo renters:
    Small baggies each w/ 1 load’s worth of detergent and maybe a laundry sheet or two. Just so you don’t have to say “Really! $1.50 for detergent and another $1.00 a laundry sheet “. And that’s before you even start the washer!

    • Dana (1 year ago)

      Good idea Thanks Val

    • CJ (1 year ago)

      There’s a lot you can pack if you’re a condo renter. Since groceries at Foodland or Safeway is a lot higher than we are accustomed to on the mainland, I always pack spices I cook with and coffee. We mostly shop at Foodland stores and use the Maika’i card for extra savings.

    • Tracey (2 weeks ago)

      When we go we always go for a minimum of 5 weeks and I don’t want washing powder in my luggage traveling from Australia and seen it’s only me and my hubby as the kids are all in their 30′s I find with such light weight clothing I only wash maybe once every 5 days if that .. delicates I quickly handwash at night and hang to dry in the bathroom and they’re dry in the morning..

  19. Patricia Shields (1 year ago)

    One tip I dispute is leaving snorkel gear at home because by buying cheaply made gear on the islands, it adds to the rubbish and therefore the landfill. Besides, isn’t using your own reliable gear better than something that might not last your trip? Wouldn’t you rather use your money on a luau or a great show?

  20. Kestie (1 year ago)

    Sunglasses, water shoes and flip-flops.

  21. mary meinert case (1 year ago)

    my deal is that you can ALWAYS find shampoo etc on /in the islands,. there is nothing you can’t get there, so LESS is MORE. i WOULD say, for ladies, a COUPLE of bathing suits, flip flops and you’re done.


We look forward to your comments and questions. While we are not able to respond to all of these individually, we hope that we have answered many of your most asked questions here or in previous comments. If you would like to respond to others’ comments and questions, we welcome that.

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