Packing Carry-On Only for Hawaii

 

I am incredibly lucky to have been to Hawaii more than a handful of times. It has been our annual family vacation spot for years. Maui is usually our go-to island, my favorite is Kauai, but this trip my mom and I went to North Shore, Oahu to visit my sister who was living there for the summer.

I challenged myself to travel carry-on only for this trip, which means it was my first flight without a checked bag. It was pretty miserable traveling through Europe with 3 pieces of luggage – one of those being a giant suitcase – and after that trip I decided I would try to pack carry-on only for all future traveling.

Most airlines now charge an extra fee each way for checked bags, which can add up if you’re planning a multi-city trip with flights in-between. Not to mention the time it takes to retrieve your baggage and the risk of it getting lost.

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Packing Carry-on Only for Oahu, Hawaii

Packing carry-on only for a tropical, summer vacation is MUCH easier than a winter trip to Europe because the clothes are smaller (shorts, tanks, bikinis) and I don’t need any winter jackets. The bulk of my time in Hawaii is spent in swimwear with lightweight, loose clothes because the humidity is no joke.

Now that the trip is over, I realize how many things I packed that I didn’t wear AT ALL. I somehow still over-packed even when I limited my space to a small suitcase and a backpack. I hope this paired-down list helps you to only pack what you need (plus a couple extra outfits for photos – if that’s your thing). I’ll break down each section with what I packed and what I actually wore.


The luggage:

Let’s start with the base – the luggage you’ll be using to pack. This was my first trip with a hard-case carry-on thanks to my friends at Chester Travels who gifted me The Chester to use on all my travels. I wrote my honest review about it which you can read here. Spoiler Alert: I LOVE this carry-on suitcase. It’s incredibly high quality and can hold a deceivingly large amount of stuff.

I also got packing cubes from Amazon that really helped me organize and pack efficiently.

PRO TIP: You can bring 1 carry-on (like The Chester), a personal item – max dimensions is a standard backpack, AND you can carry a camera and laptop in addition to these items.

I packed my Chester full, brought a backpack which I put my laptop in along with the things I wanted to be able to access on the flight, and I carried my camera separately since it did not fit inside my stuffed-full backpack.

SHOP CHESTER CARRY-ON | SHOP PACKING CUBES

Carry on suitcase by Chester Travels

The sun Essentials:

Sun essentials for a tropical vacation

For any tropical vacation, sun protection is a must. I am allergic to sunscreen and have only found one brand – Coola – that I can use and is also reef-safe, vegan, and cruelty-free. Reef-safe sunscreen is necessary when you plan to swim in the ocean and will soon be Hawaiian law.

Need extra protection? Sunglasses, sunhats, and lightweight swim cover-ups definitely deserve their spot in the “essentials” section.

I packed:
– 2 hats
– 3 pairs sunglasses

I wore:
– 1 hat
– 2 pairs sunglasses

I had to buy sunscreen in Hawaii because the one I packed – Sun Bum – ended up being one I am allergic to and I broke out in hives ALL OVER. Sun Bum is reef-safe, cruelty-free, and vegan, so if you aren’t allergic to sunscreen this is actually a good option.

I’ve never really used cover-ups because once I get to the beach I want to get my tan on, so I just use sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses as sun protection instead of clothing.


The Swimwear:

Swimsuits were my true “essential” when I was planning the packing. My favorite brand in the world is Vitamin A Swim because they are sustainable (made with recycled materials), ethical, and California-based! If you’re interested in trying more sustainable swim brands, I have a full post on sustainable/ethical swim brands.

I packed more swimwear than I thought I would need, but I ended up wearing it all except for one top. I was thankful I packed so many because wet swimsuits take FOREVER to dry in that humidity and we did not have a clothes dryer.

I packed:
– 4 tops
– 4 bottoms
– 1 one-piece

I wore:
– 3 tops
– 4 bottoms
– 1 one-piece


The basic clothes:

I definitely packed more than I actually wore, but wish I had packed a couple more pairs of jean shorts since I only brought one pair. They main concern for clothing in Hawaii is breathability and looseness because the humidity will make you wish you were naked. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to wear tight or thick clothing that clings to your skin when you feel so sticky and hot.

The clothes I actually wore were besides dresses were mostly crop tops, jean shorts, loose palazzo pants, and running shorts. The jean shorts really got their wear since they go with everything and aren’t workout attire.

I packed:
– 2 tube tops
– 6 crop tops
– 2 pairs Bermuda shorts
– 2 pairs running shorts
– 1 pair jean shorts
– 2 skirts
– 1 pair palazzo pants

I wore:
– 5 crop tops
– 1 pair Bermuda shorts
– 2 pairs running shorts
– 1 pair jean shorts
– 1 skirt
– 1 pair palazzo pants

I did not include dresses in this section because they have their own section below since they are an absolute staple for me on any travels.

Tops

Bottoms


The Dresses:

Dresses are what I felt most comfortable in because they’re lightweight, flowy, and can be thrown over any swimsuit. Plus, you can be super casual or wear a more dressy one for a nice dinner out. I always bring a few extra dresses that I want to take photos in, but this trip I didn’t wear any of the “photo dresses” because they were too hot and uncomfortable for the humidity. We also didn’t do a dressy dinner so the lightweight maxi I brought for that possibility I didn’t end up wearing.

I packed:
– 4 maxi dresses
– 3 mini dresses

I wore:
– 3 mini dresses

dresses to wear in hawaii

The Shoes:

I only brought 2 pairs of shoes and that was plenty for me! I’m casual so I didn’t bring any heels or fancy shoes. Shoes for hiking are a necessity for me because I love trekking through the jungle and being in nature while traveling. Flip flops/sandals are also a necessity because that is what I wear every day/night!

If you prefer shoes that can be worn in the water and on land, the best brand is OluKai. They’re a incredibly comfortable since they’re anatomically correct, they don’t have to be broken in so you can buy them right before a trip, and they’re made to be worn in the water and day-to-day – except for the leather ones.

I packed:
– 1 pair sandals
– 1 pair Nikes

I wore:
– 1 pair sandals
– 1 pair Nikes


The Accessories:

None of these are necessary in any way because they’re just for ~ f a s h i o n~, but I like to bring jewelry and hair accessories. Hair accessories are actually functional to keep my hair off my stick forehead.

I packed:
– 3 necklaces
– 2 pairs earrings
– 2 hair accessories

I wore:
– 1 necklace
– 1 pair earrings
– 2 hair accessories


The plastic-free stuff:

One of the most important things when traveling is to bring your reusable cups, straws, and bags. When traveling, you’re most likely going out to eat and getting takeaway more often than when you’re home so bringing a water bottle, straw, and tote is a great way to reduce the amount of plastic you use. I also fill up my water bottle after passing through security so I have plenty of fresh water for the flight.

I packed:
– 1 tumbler for tea
– 1 water bottle
– 1 bamboo straw
– 1 canvas tote

I used:
– 1 tumbler for tea
– 1 water bottle
– 1 bamboo straw
– 1 canvas tote

yeti tumbler in hawaii for traveling

Of course, I also packed things you absolutely need like toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, contacts, face wash, shampoo/conditioner, etc. You get the gist. I always bring my travel-size skincare products as part of my liquids. I have a post about cruelty-free skincare brands if you’re looking for new brands.

A few non-necessity things I packed:
Turkish towel
Canon T6i
Care/Of Vitamins
portable CHARGER

I hope this helps you pack lighter and experience the benefits of traveling carry-on only!