How To Plan Hawaii Family Trips

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With its white-sand beaches, lush mountain vegetation, mystical history and cheerful "aloha spirit," Hawaii is undoubtedly a magical place. Plus, there's so much to do on the islands: surfing, snorkeling, hiking, flying in a helicopter, touring vineyards, experiencing an authentic luau-or simply building sandcastles on the beach.

The 50th state has long been a popular honeymoon destination, but the Hawaiian Islands are incredibly appealing to families, too. It might be a long haul from the mainland, and it's certainly not an inexpensive vacation option, but think of the amazing experiences you and your family can share on these marvelous tropical islands.

If you're planning a family trip to Hawaii, consider these tips:

  1. Choose an island. Do you want to stay on Oahu's cosmopolitan Waikiki Beach or experience the remoteness of Molokai? Each of Hawaii's six main islands-Hawaii (the Big Island), Oahu (home of the capital, Honolulu), Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai-has its own personality. Research them all to determine which might best suit your family's needs. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's website is a good place to start: GoHawaii.

    Note: A trip to Hawaii can be a long flight for most families. If you have nervous flyers on the trip, try these tips to overcome fear of flying.

  2. Can't pick just one? Plan to visit two or more islands. If you're traveling with small children (preschool age and younger), it may be a heck of a lot easier to hunker down in one locale and only unpack once. But if your kids are older and you're feeling adventurous, consider accommodations on one or more islands. It's easy to hop from one island to the other with interisland flights on carriers such as Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines.

    Or take an ocean cruise to hit many ports of call. Princess, Norwegian and Carnival are just three cruise lines that offer Hawaiian itineraries. That way you can still unpack just once, but also experience the diversity of the different islands.

  3. Book a condominium. Hawaii is not a vacation destination for the truly budget-minded traveler. Expect to spend plenty for sightseeing excursions, restaurant meals and gas for your car rental (see below).

    One way to save money is by foregoing a hotel room and staying in a one- or two-bedroom condominium with a full kitchen. Eat breakfast at your condo, store midday picnic fixings in your refrigerator and save your dollars for more upscale dinners out. An Internet search of "Hawaii Vacation Rentals" will turn up hundreds of listings for condominium resorts, many of which are on or near the beach, with access to swimming pools and other hotel-like amenities.

  4. Research island activities. Lots of things to do on Hawaii are truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences. How often do you have the opportunity to take a helicopter ride over an erupting volcano? Or snorkel with giant sea turtles? Take the time to do some online research to determine what activities are available on the island you've chosen so you a) won't be so overwhelmed with options once you arrive and b) can budget accordingly.
  5. Rent a car. Unless you only plan on staying on your hotel or condo property, you'll probably want to have a car to best explore the island. Sure, buses can take you to most of the tourist destinations, but if you don't want to be tied to a public-transit schedule, or you prefer to explore a bit off the beaten path, you'll want your own vehicle. This is particularly true if you're staying on the larger islands of Oahu, Kauai, Maui or the Big Island.
  6. Keep expectations in check. Taking a family trip to Hawaii is a big deal. It's likely each family member has long awaited this vacation, and you've spent a lot of money to book it-so everyone better have fun, darn it!

    But remember that anytime you travel, things can go wrong. You might miss a flight, the car rental agency loses your reservation, you get sunburned or someone comes down with a stomach bug. Try not to set expectations too high or stress out to create the "perfect" family vacation. After all, no matter what happens (good or bad), you and your family will experience it all together-on a gorgeous, tropical island to boot! Laugh lots, and you'll come home with plenty of great vacation memories.


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