Flight Attendant Q&A with Tips for Flying to Hawaii

Sunset from the Plane

Flying to Hawaii is not like flying to any other US state. The first time I flew to Hawaii from the US Mainland, I was caught off guard a little. For you folks who might be flying to Hawaii for the first time, I wanted to share some advice so that you’ll know how to be prepared. So, I went to an expert, Kailani, to ask for her insight Kailani is a experienced Flight Attendant who lives in Hawaii and frequently flies to and from the US mainland. (Kailani also writes a popular blog called An Island Life where she shares about her busy life as a Mom and Flight Attendant from Hawaii. I’m a fan!) So, let’s get started with our interview with Kailani.

Go Visit Hawaii: What seems to surprise the passengers the most about their flight to Hawaii?

Kailani: I think a lot of people are surprised at the flight time. Usually, it takes between 5 and 6 hours if you’re arriving from the West Coast. [Sheila’s note: Let me add that depending on which island you are going to visit, connections, and your originating destination, flights to Hawaii can take upwards of 17 hours from the East Coast of the US Mainland.]

One of the most common questions I get when we’re closer to the island is, “What is all that white stuff in the water?” People seem to think it’s trash but it’s actually white caps on the waves.

Passengers are also surprised at how populated and developed Oahu is. It looks like any other metropolitan city.

Go Visit Hawaii: Passengers can’t bring certain foods onto the island due to agricultural restrictions. Is there a simple way to remember what food you can bring and what you can’t bring to Hawaii?

Kailani: Basically, it’s almost any kind of fruit or vegetable. If you bring these items, you can eat it on the plane but you just can’t take it off with you. If you’re not sure what is and isn’t accepted, it’s better to go with the safe side. You don’t want to delay your vacation with a visit with the Agricultural Inspector.

Every person or head or household will need to complete and turn in an Agricultural form that’s handed out on the flight. Make sure you have a pen handy!

Go Visit Hawaii: What are some of the biggest mistakes passengers make on their flight to Hawaii?

Kailani: Like on any other flight, I think the biggest mistake is when they don’t bring enough things for their kids – diapers, extra clothes, toys, snacks, etc. The plane does have milk but in limited supplies.

Go Visit Hawaii: Traveling with kids can make a flight to Hawaii even more challenging. As a Mom and a Flight Attendant, I’m sure you have special insight, so what tips do you have for traveling with children?


    • If using a car seat, make sure you have the sticker that says it’s FAA approved for airplane travel.
    • You can bring milk in a bottle for your child but not water or juice.
    • If you have a stroller, it must be folded up and put through the X-ray machine. Kids also need to remove jackets and shoes.
    • If you bring toys for the kids, try not to bring tiny things that could easily get lost under a seat or messy items like play-doh.
    • Always have wipes on hand and keep them handy in the seat pocket.
    • Try to bring food for your kids. They may not like what is being served on the plane.

Go Visit Hawaii: What final advice do you have for people preparing for a flight to/from Hawaii?

Kailani: The plane usually gets cold and since it’s a central air conditioning system, it’s a good idea to bring a jacket. A lot of people don’t bring one because they feel it’s not needed in Hawaii.

Also, if you’re bringing home food type souvenirs like pineapples, allow extra time at the airport to get them inspected. The shops will sell boxed pineapples that are allowed on the plane. However, any fruits or flowers that are hand-picked will not be allowed.

Many thanks to Kailani for taking the time to participate in this interview and share her expert advice!

You might also find some helpful advice to make your flight to Hawaii more comfortable and enjoyable in these articles:

Do you have any tips or tricks for making your flights to Hawaii go smoothly? Please share them in the comments.


  1. Hi Sheila,

    Nice interview!

    One thing worth mentioning regarding pineapples and other fruits and flowers:

    Pineapples are fine for export and need not come from the airport. Since you will be going through USDA inspection anyway, no extra time is required. Probably the best place to buy Maui pineapples is at any of our Costco stores (usually $3).

    Further, homegrown fruits are fine (no different than store-bought), as long as they fall within USDA guidelines. Same is true for flowers.

    PS: gardenias are a no-no (I know, I’ve tried).


  2. Aloha, Jeff, and mahalo for that pineapple money saving tip! Fresh Hawaiian pineapple is a real treat back on the mainland.

  3. Sheila:

    I enjoyed this interview very much. Every time I read your articles, it brings to life a vivid picture of myself flying to Hawaii for either a major speaking engagement or a nice, prolonged vacation.

    It is through your blog, with wonderful, tasty, delicious pictures that keeps my dream of visiting Hawaii alive!

    THANKS! And don’t give up – keep going. We need you. 🙂

  4. Hi Stephen – I’m so grateful for your very kind words.
    I’m glad that you are enjoying the articles and photos. The photo in this particular post was taken from the plane at sunset as we left Maui several years ago. It’s a bit of an odd photo, but it brings back nice memories.
    I do hope that you get to Hawaii sooner rather than later. I have a feeling it’s going to be sooner and I’ll especially look forward to your posts of gratitude when that happens!
    Many thanks, Stephen, for your comment and encouragement! You ROCK!

  5. Stephen – thank you so much for your comments! I’m going to make a mental note to come back and read your comment whenever I get the blogging blues. You have such a talent to find the perfect words to say for motivation and encouragement.
    I get almost as excited for other people going to Hawaii as I do when I get to go. I just know what a great time they will have. So, I can’t wait until you get to go to Hawaii, but do beware that once you go, you’ll long to go back. Going to Hawaii can become quite addictive. 🙂

  6. Hey there Sheila:

    I appreciate your compliments about how my writing seems to lift you up and that it will do just that when you get the blues. Thanks for inspiring me like that. You make me want to keep going, even when the words aren’t coming forth.


  7. Great interview Sheila. I thought the questions you asked were good ones. I thought the Q & A about traveling with children was especially helpful because many families travel to Hawaii.

    1. When you are traveling from the Mainland to Hawaii, you can carry on fruits and vegetables, BUT, you must consume them before landing in Hawaii. Basically there aren’t any “allowed” fruits and vegetables that bypass the declaration and agricultural inspection process.

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