Don’t forget to think about the airplane when you’re thinking about your Hawaii packing list. Keep scrolling to find out what I pack in my carry on bag for Hawaii!
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I’ve flown to Hawaii about 35 times so far and I think I’ve got my airplane Hawaii packing list paired down brilliantly.
I know exactly what I need (vs the stuff I never use) and I can practically pack it up the morning of our flight.
Now that our kids are a little older, this Hawaii packing list works for our entire family.
I’m also sharing some of my favorite products that we always add to our packing list for Hawaii that get used during the flight to Hawaii.
Find out the 17 things people always forget to pack for Hawaii!
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Hawaii Itineraries complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Hawaii Carry On Luggage FAQs
Carry on luggage is any bag that is 22″ x 14″ x 9″ for domestic flights in the United States. It should either fit underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. If you have a rolling suitcase, those dimensions do include the wheels and handle.
Yes. You can have the backpack be your personal item and then bring along your carry on bag. Other personal items (besides a backpack) include a purse, briefcase, laptop, or other handbag.
There’s a rule where you can’t bring liquids bigger than 3.4 ounces (or 100ml) and you need to keep them in a clear, one quart size bag. You also can’t bring sharp items, like box cutters or knives. Your nail clippers may or may not be confiscated depending on the agent at security.
Best Carry On Bags for Hawaii
The first thing I want to talk about is my favorite types of carry on bags. Now, if you don’t want to over-pack, you should find a bag that will also work as a beach bag.
Personally, I like to keep them separate as they serve very different purposes.
I want my carry on bag to be comfortable to move around the airport and I want enough compartments for everything to be easy to find.
For my beach bag, I need it to be waterproof and have large pockets to store items like beach towels and toys.
So, let’s talk about my favorite carry on bags.
Since having kids, I’ve been using backpacks as my carry on bag for family trips. I love being hands-free and it keeps me from getting a sore back when I’m trekking around the airport.
I have an older version of this backpack and it’s the bag I’ve been using for the past 4 years when flying with kids. Check out the latest prices and more details.
There’s really a pocket for everything and a padded sleeve for my laptop.
When I travel to Hawaii without kids, I usually take a tote bag because I don’t need to haul around so many electronics.
I like that I can just stash things in it without having to be overly organized. And I can usually put it under the seat in front of me for easy access.
It doesn’t get much cuter than this Aloha print tote bag. There’s a zippered pocket on the outside where you can stash keys or your phone for easy access.
I have this bag in a different print and I use it for my carry on bag as well as my beach bag (and to go shopping). It’s insanely lightweight and can fit SO many items. Check out the latest prices and more details.
I really only use a rolling suitcase for Hawaii when I’m packing a lot of items I won’t need during the flight. It’s way too cumbersome to open up a suitcase mid-flight.
It’s really best to use a rolling suitcase if you are only packing carry on luggage (instead of checking your bags.)
This rolling suitcase is really easy to wheel around the airport. There are zippered sections of the suitcase that easily fit some packing cubes.
I love that it comes in a variety of colors so you can pick one that will be easy to spot at baggage claim, among the sea of black backs. Check out the latest prices and more details.
12 Hawaii Packing List Items to Take on the Plane
1. Reusable Water Bottle
It’s crazy easy to get dehydrated on an airplane without even realizing it. That’s because the air is really dry and always circulating. See the top rated water bottle here.
Most airlines are still offering complimentary beverages, but only a few times during the flight.
That’s why we make sure every family member has their own water bottle.
I’m actually a really slow drinker, so I like to sip my water bottle throughout the flight. My kids are really clumsy, so they will knock over their complimentary beverage if we don’t pour it into a water bottle.
We’re pretty obsessed with our Hydro Flasks. They keep drinks ice cold for hours. We usually add stickers to them to customize.
The flight to Hawaii is about 6 hours from the West Coast and 10 hours from the East Coast. You will definitely get hungry at some point.
Unfortunately, many airlines are no longer offering complimentary in-flight meals. Some aren’t even carrying food you can purchase (or they might run out before they get to your row.)
That’s why it’s important to bring your own food on the plane.
We try to bring pre-packaged snacks that we can eat on the airplane, while we’re waiting for our bags, at the car rental place, or on the drive to the hotel.
Some of our favorite items are protein bars, jerky, granola bars, crackers, etc.
But, we also try to get something “fresh” at the airport. Sometimes that’s a sandwich, fruit, salad, yogurt, etc.
3. Antibacterial Wipes
The first thing I do on the airplane is wipe down the tray, window, armrests, air vent dials, and anywhere I think my family might touch.
4. Noise Cancelling Headphones
I used to think my husband was exaggerating when he told me he “needed” noise canceling headphones to travel. I mean, the good ones are so expensive. See the top rated noise canceling headphones here.
Then, I tried them. Holy moly are they a game-changer.
Usually, the 6-hour flight to Hawaii from Seattle leaves me feeling exhausted. But when I wear the headphones, I don’t feel nearly as drained.
We love them so much that even our kids have them to use with their iPads. It helps to improve their moods a lot when we land.
While we’ve tried several brands, the best ones are Bose.
If you are traveling with electronics, you will definitely want to carry them on the plane. Otherwise, you risk damage or theft in your checked luggage.
My husband always packs all his camera equipment in a special camera backpack.
6. Charging Cables
You will definitely want to pack charging cables for all the electronic devices you will be using in flight.
Plus cords for the Nintendo Switches and my laptop.
7. Battery Pack
One of the travel hacks I picked up a few years ago is to always fly with a battery pack. See the top rated battery pack here.
While many airplane seats now have USB chargers that can charge your phone, they aren’t super strong and won’t charge up an iPad.
So, if you’re bringing iPads or other entertainment devices, you’ll definitely want to have a battery pack to keep it charged for the full flight.
Just make sure it’s TSA-approved and don’t pack them in your checked luggage.
We have several battery chargers, but we tend to bring our Anker one the most.
8. Sweater or Sweatshirt
I know that I’m easily cold, but it can be downright chilly at the airport and on the airplane.
We see a lot of people dressed like they are heading to the beach, but they are shivering on the airplane for hours.
While airlines used to hand out pillows and blankets for flights, that’s becoming rare.
So, plan ahead and bring your own sweater, sweatshirt, or jacket to keep yourself nice and comfortable on the flight to Hawaii.
One of the things I love about the airports in Hawaii is that many of them have areas that are open air. It’s amazing to get that first boost of sunshine!
But, that also means it’s super bright.
It’s super smart to keep your sunglasses in an easy-to-reach pocket of your carry on bag. That way, you can put them on while walking to baggage claim.
Plus, it saves you from having to dig around in your checked bag before heading to pick up your Hawaii rental car.
10. Travel Documents
There have been times when my phone has died during the flight and I’ve left my charging cables at home.
Of course, I usually realize this when I’m on the shuttle to the car rental place and I’m trying to pull up my car rental reservation.
So, I’ve learned to print out any important travel document just to make sure I’m square before heading anywhere.
That means not only the car rental reservation but any vacation rental instructions (like the code to the lockbox.)
This is the item I forget the most on my Hawaii packing list. And it’s the one I always need.
Just before you land in Hawaii, you will be asked to fill out a declaration form. This is where you write down where you are staying in Hawaii, what you are bringing into the islands, who are traveling with you, etc.
The airlines will not give you a pen. So, you either need to bring your own or ask around the airplane.
Also, some airlines offer a bunch of bonus miles if you sign up for their credit card during the flight. You’ll need a pen if you want to take advantage of any of the deals.
12. Screen-Free Entertainment
Throughout the years, we’ve experienced all kinds of technical issues when flying to Hawaii.
Sometimes the in-flight entertainment is glitchy, a charging cable isn’t working, or the flight is delayed and we run out of battery life.
That’s why it’s really helpful to have a screen-free activity to entertain yourself.
I usually find a lighthearted book to read (either from Costco or at the airport) or I bring along a little book of crossword puzzles or sudoku.
And there you have it. My favorite Hawaii packing list items to use on the airplane. We also usually download one of these Hawaii travel apps (in addition to our airline app) before we go.
Hopefully, this post helps you figure out what to add to your Hawaii checklist to make sure you have what you need for the flight to Hawaii!