10 Helpful Tips to Planning Your Hawaii Vacation

If you're looking to travel to Hawaii, you probably know about the sunny beaches, pleasant weather, and great sites. But did you know that you can find snowy mountain peaks, multiple languages, and great feasts in Hawaii? Before you rush to pack your bags and change into your Hawaiian shirt, AOL Travel offers 10 Hawaii travel tips that may turn your Hawaiian vacation from good to excellent.

1. When to go on your Hawaiian vacation

Hawaii is known to have little variation in its climate, making it an attractive travel destination year round. But ask yourself this: when do you think travelers in the northern hemisphere are most likely to take a Hawaii vacation? The answer, of course, is when winter weather strikes! Airline and hotel operators know this and raise rates to take advantage of the swell of tourists.

If you're concerned about seeing Hawaii on a budget, then know that it's more expensive to travel there between roughly mid-December and mid-April. The days that surround and make up local holidays also tend to be more expensive. To save money on airfare and hotel rooms, try to plan your Hawaii vacation between mid-April and mid-June, and also between September and mid-December.

2. Which island(s) to visit on your Hawaiian vacation

Hawaii is actually a chain of islands, comprised of eight main islands and over 130 smaller islands, reefs, and shoals. This means there are numerous options on where to visit within the island state. The Big Island is the most obvious travel destination, featuring a wide array of things to see and do for individuals and families alike. Long proclaimed "Best Island in the World" by Conde Nast Traveler, Maui remains a beautiful spot for newly married couples looking to enjoy Hawaii honeymoons. And the island of Kauai makes for some of the lushest and fertile scenery in the islands, offering up stunning sunsets from its rocky shores.

For those seeking nightlife as brilliant as the day, look no farther than Oahu. Known for its vibrant restaurant, bar, and nightclub scene, you'll be hard pressed to not enjoy a few nights in Oahu. Lanai is known for its luxury accommodations, spas, and health resorts. Molokai makes a great destination for the traveler looking for a bit of traditional Hawaiian culture. If you still can't decide where to go, consider looking online at the travel board for each island and judge for yourself. You'll probably have just as much fun planning your Hawaii vacation as you will taking it!

3. Planning your flight to Hawaii

Hawaii has 15 different airports to serve you. Of them, Honolulu International Airport on the island of Oahu is the busiest. Twenty-four different airlines from around the world offer flights into Oahu, making it relatively easy to find the flight option that best suits you. As with most other flights, checking travel aggregators like Kayak.com will likely help you find cheap flights to Hawaii.

Something else to keep in mind when you fly is the travel time. The islands of Hawaii are at least six hours away from the western coast of the United States. Flight times could take as long as 12 hours from the U.S. eastern seaboard and over 17 from the U.K. Be prepared for the long flight by drinking plenty of water (to combat jet lag), bringing a pullover or jacket (air-conditioned flights), and bringing plenty to do while onboard.

4. What to pack for your Hawaiian vacation

While it's true that the average high temperature doesn't get much lower than 74°F in many coastal portions of Hawaii, bring along something warm just in case. At a minimum, bring a pullover or long-sleeve shirt for the air-conditioned flight to and from the islands. And of course if you decide to hike up any of the volcanic mountains (especially during the winter), you'll want to bring warmer clothes. Bringing a couple of swimsuits is always a good tip when planning your Hawaii vacation.

Also, if you're a U.S. citizen, you don't need to bring a passport with you; non-U.S. citizens will, however. Also consider bringing a good sun cream no matter what time of year. Travelers to the islands are often surprised at how quickly they burn in the sun.

5. Where to stay on your Hawaiian vacation

Where to stay in Hawaii may depend on both what activities you plan to do and what kind of budget you have. If you plan on soaking up some sun on one of the many beaches, then perhaps a beachside hotel is right for you. Plan on hiking up one of the state's many volcanic mountains farther inland? Then you might want to find something closer to your hiking destination.

Like airfare searches, using travel aggregators to find hotel specials makes perfect sense. The majority of hotels will have their rates available on these websites. However, some hotels choose to make their specials a little less public. Don't be afraid to call around.

For those who are traveling on a budget and will likely spend more time playing than sleeping, Hawaii has numerous hostels scattered around the islands. A bed in a shared dorm may start in the $20 range, leaving you more money to snorkel, surf, hike, or party it up.

6. Things to do on your Hawaiian vacation

With so much to do in Hawaii, it's difficult to know where to start. For many the official tourism site for Hawaii makes an excellent start point for planning activities. Start off by choosing an island and go from there. Relax on the beaches of Kauai's Coconut Coast. Watch amazing surfing competitions on Oahu's North Shore. Hike up the snowcapped peaks of the Big Island's Mauna Kea. Dance the night away in Maui. Make planning your Hawaii vacation something you do at home before you leave so you can spend your time in Hawaii doing, not deciding.

7. Dining in Hawaii

Whether trying out Hawaii's traditional Poi or sampling the Hawaiian-influenced Japanese food, there are plenty of food discoveries to be made in Hawaii. If you're looking for suggestions, try AOL Travel's index of Hawaii restaurants. If you're still looking for restaurant ratings, you can always turn to Honolulu Magazine's All-Island Restaurant Guide, with an updated guide coming out soon.

8. The cost of vacationing in Hawaii

Something else that many visitors are shocked by is the price of items and services in Hawaii. At almost 2,400 miles away from California, the isolated nature of the state leads to higher costs of imported goods and services. When you factor in "high season" rate increases in the travel, hotel, and restaurant industries, it's easy to leave Hawaii spending more money than you anticipated. That said, make sure you effectively budget for your Hawaii vacation. Carry a little emergency cash with you in case you accidentally go over budget.

9. Be aware of the time difference in Hawaii

Hawaii falls in Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST), which is two hours ahead of the U.S. Pacific Standard Time (PST) and five hours ahead of the U.S. Eastern Standard Time (EST) outside of Daylight Savings Time (DST). As Hawaii doesn't use DST, add one hour to those estimates when DST is in effect everywhere else in the U.S. Japan is 19 hours ahead of Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time.

10. Other things to consider when traveling to Hawaii

Here are a few miscellaneous tips for planning your Hawaii vacation:

• Hawaii has two official languages: English and Hawaiian.
• Though rare, keep in mind that Hawaii can be affected by natural processes like hurricanes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Know how to react should you be thrust into dealing with such a situation.
• Be aware that there are strict customs regulations on what agricultural products can be brought to and taken from Hawaii. If you've recently worked on a farm before or during your trip, you may face additional travel delays with U.S. customs.

Photo by Justin De La Ornellas via Flickr
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