Getting to the Hawaiian islands is no quick jaunt. On the contrary, you’re facing at least five hours of flight time, plus drive time to the airport, and a security screening line before you even get to the gate. And that’s if everything goes smoothly. Heaven forbid your flight runs into a delay.
So what would make the journey to paradise less of a chore and more of a delight? We assembled all of our tried-and-true travel accessories to narrow down this list of our absolute favorites.
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If there’s one travel accessory I can’t live without, it would be my packing cubes. The cubes do more than keep things organized, making it easy to group similar items together and separate outfits.
They must be imbued with some manner of sorcery, because I’m able to fit more in my luggage when packing with cubes than without. And if TSA security pulls you aside for secondary screening, packing cubes make it easier to repack anything the security agent pulls out.
While some say RFID wallets aren’t worth buying, I disagree. John once had a credit card number skimmed while traveling in Florida. The physical card hadn’t otherwise left the house, and it was a card we hadn’t used in months. One trip to Florida, and suddenly we had unauthorized charges show up on the statement. While we didn’t lose any money, it was a hassle filing the claim with our card company and getting new cards.
An RFID-blocking wallet can help prevent card skimming by blocking chip readers from accessing your data. For lightweight travel, I like the slim, minimalistic style of this wallet.
The Hawaiian islands are remote — you’ll spend at least five hours in flight to get there.
And no one wants to wake up with a sore neck after a long nap on the plane.
So I looked everywhere for a neck pillow that wasn’t cumbersome to lug through the airport and wouldn’t take up precious space when not in use. If you’re the type of person who likes to get shut eye one the plane, you’ll definitely want to pack one of these travel pillows.
I read somewhere that airplane tray tables aren’t terribly sanitary. And while airlines have upped their cleaning regiment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I doubt that the tray tables get much attention. I’ve seen airplanes land, offload passengers, and begin taking on new passengers in way too little time to allow for individual tray table cleaning.
That’s why I carry disinfecting wipes. It’s a ritual I started even before the pandemic. I get on the plane and wipe down areas that I commonly touch: the seat belt buckle, armrests, and, yes, the tray table.
Germaphobe? Maybe. But the last thing I want is to get sick at the beginning of a Maui vacation. So I’m okay taking a few minutes to wipe down my seating area to avoid that.
One of the newest additions to my packing list, this airplane seat organizer holds everything I use during a flight. The best part? No bending over and rifling through the bag under the seat in front of me. This organizer keeps everything easily accessible, from my iPad to my earbuds to my hand sanitizer. I even store snacks and a pen to fill out the mandatory Hawaii declarations form.
At the end of the flight, simply grab the organizer handle and slip it into a tote bag or backpack. Then pull it out again for the flight home.
I always bring a lightweight day bag that packs flat in my luggage and doubles as both a short hiking bag and day purse. I usually reach for my mini Fjallraven backpack. Its durable nylon has held up well through everyday use and travel.
Even though it’s a mini, the backpack holds more than you think. I regularly carry my mirrorless camera, a light sweater, my wallet, sunscreen, antibacterial gel, sunglasses, and other small items with room to spare. And as a purse replacement, it allows for hands-free use when shopping and hiking.
Your hotel will probably provide you with beach towels, so bringing your own may seem like a luxury. It’s just that these compact and lightweight Turkish beach towels work so well on the island. The towel dries quickly to avoid musty smells, and it’s easy to dust off sand at the end of the day.
Compression socks. Admittedly not the most endearing fashion choice. But they sure do make your calves feel good if you’re sitting for a long periods of time… say, during a flight to Maui?
Not only do compression socks relieve some leg stress from sitting (or standing) so long, they help keep your toes warm when the cabin air becomes crisp during the flight.
A friend recently gifted me a vinyl sticker that proclaims “Emotional Support Water Bottle.” It hits a little too close to home, because you won’t find me more than an arm’s length distance away from my trusty Yeti water bottle.
Especially when I travel. You need to stay hydrated on those dry airplane flights. And while most travel sites recommend collapsible water bottles, I prefer an insulated bottle that can keep my water chilled while in Maui’s balmy climate.
I use reusable Stasher bags at home all the time, so packing a few of these silicone food-safe bags is a no brainer for Maui trips. You can choose from different sizes to store and transport just about anything — from snacks to cell phones. I love the Go size, which has a carabiner clip you can hook to your bag for easy access.
You can get by without packing a small microfiber towel, but I find having one on hand to be so darn handy. It’s hot and humid on Maui. You can mop your sweaty brow after a long hike. Or use it to dry off just-rinsed toes at the beach shower. You can even soak it in cool water and apply it to your skin when feeling overly warm.
Even better, the x-small microfiber travel towel takes up very little space in your luggage.
Most people think about the sunny, warm weather they plan to enjoy when packing for Maui. But it is a tropical island, after all. With plants. Lots of green plants. That need water. Which means rain.
That’s why I recommend packing a lightweight rain jacket or poncho, especially if you’re visiting during the rainy season or hiking around the east side of the island.
Typical Maui weather trends toward hot and humid, which can give you (and your clothes) that not-so-fresh feeling after traipsing about all day. And unless you’re staying at a vacation rental on Maui, chances are you won’t have a washing machine readily available. And who wants to do laundry during vacation, anyhow?
Still, there are times when your favorite t-shirt or bikini could use freshening up. In those situations, a quick sink wash can freshen a few clothing articles without much effort.
This pack of Sink Suds even comes with a drain stopper that you can use in the sink or bathtub.
Tech neck. That’s the painful crick along your upper spine that rears up when you stare down at your device screen for six hours at 30,000 feet in the air.
Unfortunately, not all airplanes come with device stands built into the seats. (The Boeing 737 planes I fly with Alaska Airlines don’t have them in the main cabin. I have, however, used a built-in device holder in the first class cabin of Alaska’s Airbus.)
For flights without device stands, this nifty phone holder solves the neck strain problem when you’re watching in-flight movies on your cell phone. Simply attach the phone holder to either the tray table or seat back pocket in front of you and enjoy the in-flight entertainment hands free.
Crying babies. Overly chatty seatmates. In-flight movies. These are all reasons why noise canceling headphones make my must pack list any time fly.
I used to carry a set of Bose noise canceling headphones but recently switched to Apple Airpods, because the latter takes up almost no room in my hand luggage. The one downside of Airpods: the batteries don’t last the entire plane ride, which top out at 4.5 hours of listening time.
Imagine this: You’re in Maui, capturing every part of your trip on your cell phone. From the shave ice stand to the Haleakala sunrise, you’re determined to get photos and videos of every delightful moment for posterity’s sake.
Until your battery dies. In the middle of the afternoon.
Forget the photos. Now you can’t even pull up directions to the next stop on your list — Leoda’s for pie.
That’s just one reason why I carry a portable charger battery whenever I travel to — well, anywhere. No one wants to get caught in Maui’s Upcountry, for example, where there are almost no places that might allow you to plug in and charge.
When my battery starts getting low, I plug my device into the portable charger without missing a beat — or a precious moment during my Maui trip.
I can watch only so many hours of in-flight movies. More often than not, I find my mind wandering or feel my contact lenses drying up from staring at the screen for so long.
That doesn’t seem to be a problem when I have a good book in hand, though. And so my Kindle has become my constant travel companion. Sure, I can read books on my phone, but the paper-like texture of the Kindle keeps my eyes happy. And the device’s light weight keeps my shoulders from feeling the burn as I scurry from the TSA security line to my flight’s gate.
This newer Kindle version takes the benefits a step further, even. It’s waterproof — which gives you license to devour the written word while poolside, without fretting about the inevitable water fights coming from the kiddie area.
18. GyPSy or Shaka app
If your itinerary includes a drive on the Road to Hana (without a tour guide), a GPS-enabled guide is a must download before you step foot on Maui.
The app keeps you on track — quite literally, since there’s no cell phone service through most of the Road to Hana — by guiding you through waypoints of interest along the popular highway. We swear by the GyPSy app, even with the dry dad joke humor of the audio guide.
It’s a tangled web we weave when packing, particularly if you’re as dedicated to your tech devices as I am. That means stuffing cables of the USB-C, USB-A, micro USB varieties into a lumpy, misshapen pouch… along with a hodge podge of back-up batteries, memory cards, and adapters.
A proper cable organizer not only keeps those small items tidy and within reach while on the go, but also allows you to see, at a glance, whether an essential battery charger is missing from the bunch.
If there was ever a place made for an action camera, Maui is it. We carry a GoPro with us every time we’re in Hawaii.
The GoPro is lightweight and portable for capturing hikes, such as at Waihee Ridge Trail. And its waterproof body makes it a perfect fit for capturing once-in-a-lifetime images and video of Turtle Town snorkeling trips or cannonballs at the resort pool.
There are few things more annoying than finding a single available charging port, only to discover that no fewer than five of your devices — cell phone, Kindle, Apple watch, camera battery, and Airpods — are all in dire need of a battery top-off, pronto.
A multi-USB charger resolves this vexing issue by allowing all of your devices to charge at one time and quickly putting the unrelenting flashing red battery icon to rest.