What I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Hawaii
Get used to paying shipping costs by shipping the car, packing your essentials, and shipping the car.
I finally admitted the bitter truth: I could have planned things better as I tossed and turned for the third night in a row on a thin air mattress.
It sounds like a dream to relocate to Hawaii, and it is. However, as I soon learned, paradise isn’t just about dazzling rainbows, blushing sunsets, and donning fragrant leis. Additionally, it’s about overcoming issues like island fever, bugs (never leave food out unless you want cockroaches as pets), and the never-ending question “But do they ship to Hawaii?”
When the thought of relocating to the Aloha State was brought up, I immediately said, “Yes.” The chance to live near the ocean and be in a state where we could be outdoors safely (and masked) was one I didn’t want to pass up, regardless of the fact that we would be moving with a young child in tow and observe a 14-day quarantine in a cramped hotel room.
I’m not the only one who is excited about visiting islands now that the ban on trans-Pacific travel has been lifted as of October 15. Within the first two weeks after restrictions were lifted, an estimated 82,000 or more travelers arrived. Each day, more than 100 of them register as “Intended Residents.”
Be aware that moving to paradise comes with some restrictions before you jump on board and part with your snow chains. You must first carefully plan your relocation, including which island you will live on, how you will obtain furniture quickly, how you will get around, and the associated costs (flights, postage/shipping, interim housing, etc.). Finally, accept the fact that being far from friends and family will occasionally feel isolating. Check and double-check the timing process, obtain a negative Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a reliable partner, and make peace with the fact that you will need to accept this. It should be noted that Hawaii today is very different from Hawaii in the days prior to COVID: many establishments and tourist attractions are still closed, there are no Friday night fireworks displays from the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and Tier 1 restrictions may once again be implemented should new infections rise above 100 cases for longer than seven days.
If none of the aforementioned discourages you from pursuing your island dreams, here is everything you need to know to get settled quickly and embrace Hawaii’s aloha spirit, from what to pack to finding an apartment to where to buy a gallon of milk for $5.
Prepare for Your Test Appropriately
Nobody wants to stay in a hotel room for their first two weeks in Hawaii. Read through Hawaii’s Pre-Travel Testing program in its entirety here to prevent this. Do more than is required: print out your negative test result and carry it with you, finish the Safe Travels Hawaii Form prior to your trip, and double-check that your test is coming from a reputable source. Look into the pre-arranged testing programs offered by Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines if you’re departing from a city they serve. For instance, Hawaiian Airlines sells at-home testing kits for $143; in addition, the airline operates a drive-through lab in San Francisco (more locations will be added in the upcoming weeks), where customers can pay $150 for results on the same day or $90 for results that arrive within 36 hours.
Don’t arrive without making accommodations
While organizing a place virtually may be appealing, it is advised that you visit potential locations in person to get a sense of the neighborhood. Elizabeth La Riva, a realtor with Locations, said: “Sometimes people see great prices for an oceanfront condo but they may not be aware of how the area is. She also suggests using CrimeMapping.com to determine whether a location is “safe.” Taking temporary furnished housing for a month is the easiest option (though it might not be the cheapest). Since Hawaii has strict laws governing short-term rentals, request a tax ID number (if one is not already included in the listing) to make sure the rental is legitimate.
Explore the various neighborhoods this month and look into longer-term options on websites like Zillow, Zumper, and HiCentral. Generally speaking, most landlords prefer a minimum six-month lease; however, options for month-to-month leases do occasionally become available. The time will also enable you to order what you require (prioritize selecting a mattress, as good ones are frequently in short supply), as well as provide you with an address for receiving your mail and shipping boxes. Beware of fake rental ads that ask for $2,000 for an entire house as a general rule, on Oahu you can expect to pay $1,500–1,800 for a decent one-bedroom apartment, $2,600–3,000 if it’s a newer condominium with amenities.
Ship the Car If You’re on the West Coast
If you intend to stay for longer than three months, and especially if you want to live somewhere other than Oahu, it might seem like overkill to transport the car, but what it will cost in money (roughly $1,500 from California (Long Beach and Oakland) to Honolulu by Matson) and nerves (read: there’s paperwork involved) will end up saving you. The cost of renting a car in Hawaii isn’t cheap (we paid about $70 per day for a standard SUV in Oahu), and not all rental office locations are open every day aside from those at the airport, which makes it difficult to return the vehicle. There is also a surcharge to take into account if you’re under 25 years old (roughly $20–$30 per day). Otherwise, look through the online used car classifieds prior to your trip; in addition to people arriving, a large number of people are leaving for the mainland and selling their cars quickly.
Pack lightly but well
If you can’t box it, throw it away; however, if it’s necessary, ship it. You won’t need many things in Hawaii, including your entire winter wardrobe and anything that will mold (e.g. leather, antiques). Plan carefully what you’ll need for the first month because many companies don’t ship to Hawaii or only after charging a significant surcharge, Amazon Prime is available but two-day shipping is not (more like every 1-2 weeks).
Whatever you consider to be essential, such as a coffee maker, vitamins, a computer monitor, or priceless relics, it might be worthwhile to pay more for excess baggage or have it shipped using a USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate box. A word of advice: Include a twin-size air mattress in your checked luggage. It will be useful while you wait for your furniture and mattresses to arrive.
IKEA and Wayfair don’t charge shipping
In Hawaii, finding good furniture at an affordable price can be challenging, particularly if you live somewhere other than Oahu. Consider hiring a PODS container if you have sentimental attachments to certain pieces of furniture. The cost of the portable container, which can be delivered to Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, and the Big Island, starts at $3,859 plus tax from Northern California and $6,402 plus tax from the East Coast. This price includes two months’ rent as well as delivery of the POD to your home. If you’re set on getting specific IKEA items, haul2hi, which ships IKEA products exclusively, advertises a regular shipping deadline on its website.
Sort Out Your Banking
Because there are no Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or Chase branches in Hawaii, make sure you can access your mainland bank’s website, have enough cash and checks on hand, and can use the eCheck service. A Convenience Checking account from Bank of Hawaii is an alternative that requires a $25 minimum opening deposit. Applications are accepted as long as you are over 18, have a Social Security number, and can provide documentation of a U.S. address in any of the 50 states, Guam, Saipan, Palau, or American Samoa (for existing customers).
Bring Your Job
There is no way to overstate how severely the coronavirus has affected Hawaii. 15.1% is the unemployment rate as of September 2020. Even with islands slowly opening up, many hotels and tourism-related businesses won’t reopen until 2021, if at all, as the majority of Hawaii’s open jobs are in the tourism and service sector. In summary, there are few job opportunities, and many locals already hold down multiple jobs to make ends meet. According to a report by Indeed, the average annual salary in Honolulu is $70,000, but when the city’s high cost of living is taken into account, the actual figure is more like $56,100. If you’re fortunate enough to have employment when you arrive, you might need to change your lifestyle to stretch your budget. Though this might not seem like a big deal given that the beach is free and the water is an inviting 75 degrees all year round.
Get Used to Deal-Shopping
Everything you’ve read about how expensive Hawaii is is accurate. Milk will cost you $8 per gallon (unless you buy it from Sam’s Club for about $5), chicken breast can cost you an eye-watering $6 per pound (and that’ll be a deal), and an 18-pack of eggs can cost you up to $6, despite the chickens you see crossing the road. Prepare your Costco and Sam’s Club membership for large two-week shopping trips, get used to looking for deals (Times, Safeway, Target, and Foodland all run regular ads), and freeze items you purchase on sale. Keep an eye out for roadside fruit and vegetable stands to purchase from (when we’re up north, we like Kahuku Fruit Stands). Depending on where you live (strictly speaking for Oahu), grocery delivery may not be an option, so you may need to drive to find the best deal at the right time.
It becomes hot and muggy.
It takes some getting used to Hawaii’s subtropical climate, and if you live on the wetter (windward) side of the island, you’ll also have to deal with rust, mold, mildew, and various bugs. Although it isn’t always available and for good reason, air conditioning is helpful. Get used to being cooled by a fan, or even better, the trade winds, as the average cost of electricity in Oahu in 2019 was 0.3134 per kWh (it’s higher for other islands). It won’t take long for you to start spending time on your lanai with the doors and windows open.
Compared to packing up a U-Haul and driving across the country, moving to Hawaii is undoubtedly much more difficult (and expensive). Even though it’s not for everyone, for my family and I, the experience thus far has been likened to seeing a double rainbow: full of wonder and joy, and a gift in these unsettling times. Mahalo!
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By: Travel Pixy
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