A Long-Awaited Visit to Hawaii (+ 5 Excellent Travel Planning Resources)

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A wave of excitement consumed me the moment I booked my flight to Honolulu, Hawaii.

I spent those two months prior to my trip patiently waiting for the paradise I've been dreaming of for as long as I can remember. Tamika's job was sending her there for a brief work assignment (how tight is it to get biz trips to Hawaii!?), and I basically told her, "Sis, I'm coming with you!"

I lucked up on a flight with Allegiant Airlines for only $305 (LAX-HNL round trip), which was significantly lower than competitors' prices. The luck ended there though and I ended up coming out of pocket another $145 for the round trip when it was all said and done -- $35 for a checked bag each way, $50 freaking dollars for exceeding their 40lb limit after weighing in for my flight there, and $25 for a second carry-on for my flight back home (instead of paying another $50 overweight fee, I lightened up my checked bag and utilized an extra carry-on bag). I could have gone without the unnecessary baggage fees,  but either way, my round trip total would have been higher if I flew with Hawaiian Air or any line other than Allegiant.

My problem is that I'm a chronic over packer.

There's really no reason I needed a 40+ lb suitcase, a backpack full to the brim, and an additional, second carry-on for a 5-night trip. No. Reason. But I packed a lot because I didn't know what all I'd be getting into, what I'd want to wear every day, if I needed heels or booties (definitely did not), so I brought options. I've got to cut the shit and learn to just pack light.

And while we're on the subject of confessions, admittedly, I felt a tiny qualm during the days leading up to the trip, because 4 and a half days in Hawaii just wasn’t seeming like it’d be enough. I was happy to have this great opportunity to tag along with Tamika, but I was slightly kicking myself for not taking at least a whole week and just booking myself a hostel or hotel for the extra days. "I wish. I had. More time. (Denzel Washington voice)," I thought.

You know how some people only are ready to get home from vacation after only a few days? Nope, not me, I'm never exactly ready to tap out. The beaches, the sights, the activities, the wandering, the responsibility-less living -- vacation life just doesn’t get old to me.  I was doing my research about the island and discovered a hundred different things to do and see on Oahu. I would need a good two weeks if I really wanted to conquer everything on my list.

But still, I was thrilled. I was going to Hawaii!! Even 24 hours in such a majestic state would warm my soul. It was über special for me because Hawaii has been on my travel list for as long as I can remember.  I’ve lusted over its perfect beaches and the many exotic facets that make Hawaii so dreamy ever since I was little, knowing that I had to get there one day. I vowed to make the most of my trip, making a personal pledge not to regret a single day.

I was indecisively juggling between wanting to plan my trip out to the tee versus just going with the flow. I settled somewhere in between. Well, if we're being accurate, the real reason I didn't end up creating a complete itinerary is because  I let time slip away from me. The two months I had to plan quickly dwindled into two days, and then  a few hours. I barely packed my bag in time, much less figured out what all I'd do in Hawaii and when. (I've gotta do better.)

I came across a few travel resources (for any destination you can think of) during my research that I definitely suggest checking out for your next trip, if you’re not already hip!
 


Vayable (App/Website) - "Vayable is a new way to discover unique, cultural experiences from design, photography and street art experiences, to ethnic food tours, private dinners hosted by locals, backroads wine tastings and underground history, sightseeing and immersive cultural exchange."

As of now on the app, you can only view tours in the 6 cities below, however, by visiting the actual website, you can pull up additional cities and tours via the "Where are you going?" search bar.

Vayable tours seem really interesting and unlike your typical big tour group experience. I imagine it’s like a friend showing you around to local and popular hotspots, giving you the real deal advice on the best things to do. I really wanted to join The Poor Man's Guide to Hawaii or another Oahu Paradise Adventure tour, because of how highly their reviewers spoke of the experiences, but silly me waited too long to contact the tour hosts. Of course their awesome and inexpensive excursions get booked up to months in advance!

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Tripadvisor.com forums - I was already a big fan of TripAdvisor as a great resource for hotel, restaurant, and attraction reviews, but I more recently turned to Its forum discussions also as great places to seek out any travel advice I might need. I perused through a few Hawaii posts and found out helpful bits like where to park in Honolulu, what beach had the best snorkeling, which luau to attend, and more.

Destination-specific apps - I’m sure I can safely say that there are multiple travel applications out there for each of the globe's major cities, dedicated solely to journeying through that city specifically, or its country as a whole. The right apps can be great go-to’s for travelers seeking out the area’s most noteworthy information. For my Thailand trip, I downloaded two free “Thailand” apps to my phone, which both came in tremendous use before I went and while I was there. I could easily pull up currency conversion rates, common Thai phrases, insider tips about how to find certain places, etc. And before this recent trip to Hawaii, I downloaded an app called “Oahu Top 5 Guide” which provides all sorts of helpful info about the people of Hawaii, its history, and a score of the island’s top 5s: top 5 restaurants (at all price levels), bars, clubs, cafes, museums, must do activities, and so on. Very clutch. 

Trover (app) - a bit like an Instagram specifically for travel destinations. Great for discovering travel stories and inspiration, by way of vibrant photos/snapshots of local gems curated by various Trover users.

Trippy.com (website) - another community-driven place to learn really helpful information, similar to Tripadvisor forums. You can type in your destination, browse through its Q&As, and pick up advice you never even knew to look for!


Aloha, Hawaii...

After flying for almost 6 hours over nothing but the vast ocean, the Pacific montage of islands finally came into view; my my, were they already beautiful.

I greeted Hawaii with a heart full of aloha. #MakingOahuMine was the mission -- and I enjoyed every bit of Waikiki, Honolulu, and the greater region of Oahu I had the pleasure of seeing. I thought my trip would feel too short and that I would be sad to depart so soon. But at the end of my time there, I really felt fulfilled by everything I got to do in the 4.5 day time span. I filled my days by paddle boarding, hiking, biking, touring the island, capturing iconic views, hula dancing at a luau, swimming in idyllic beaches, and most importantly, simply enjoying.

It was amazing. It was gorgeous beyond words. It was absolutely a blessing! 

+ I'm excited to share lots more photos and adventures next week. Let's get it!

Kristen Noelle

I consider myself a softly eccentric urbanista. I’m quiet by nature, and I’ve generally always had a mellow laid-back vibe. However, when it comes to my preferences for fun, my style, and my overall thought process, I get a bit more eccentric. I like stepping out of the box of normalcy -- but without forcing anything. I’m a thrill junkie and I live for things that get my adrenaline pumping, such as riding on top of party buses in New York City and hanging off of skyscrapers in Vegas. I spring for bold hues, colorful prints and patterns, and a relaxed look that gives effortless-chic. I like exploring new places and capturing exciting sites. I’m a creative, with a million different ideas running through my mind each day. Whether I’m designing waistbeads, imagining up new clothing concepts, envisioning my next business venture, or planning my next adventure abroad, I’m always thinking of how I can create something great. Being raised in the suburbs but not far from the city and constantly traveling, I developed a love for the best of worlds. The calm and the crazy. The easy-going and the always-buzzing. The soft and the eccentric.