I’m Moving to Hawaii With Just 3 Bags—Here’s the Summer Gear That Made the Cut

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BEIS The 29" Large Check-In Roller

Real Simple / Daisy Rodriguez

My first big move after graduating college was to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean: Oahu, Hawaii. I lived there for roughly a year before being yanked back to the mainland by family commitments, vowing to go back when possible (and always looking for ways to give back and support locally within its island community). This summer, I got the opportunity to go back, and I immediately jumped at the chance. Still, moving to the island always presents a logistical challenge: what does it make sense to take versus what should I buy there instead?

I move often, so I’m well-versed in slimming down my stuff to “just the essentials” while keeping  factors like comfort, climate, duration, and more in mind. However, packing to live in Hawaii is perhaps the most difficult. Shipping times take longer, importing goods is generally expensive, and you have to rebuild your material culture from scratch, forcing you to triage your most helpful and appealing belongings. Since I’ve now done the digital nomad move multiple times, I’ve figured out that the best balance for me is approximately one checked suitcase per month of my stay.

Considering the home goods, apparel, fitness gear, tech, and more, and my 50-pound hardshell capacity, here’s what made the cut to drastically improve my standard of living for my summer on this tropical island—and what’s on my wishlist to buy next.

COOLING EUCALYPTUS AiryWeight Eucalyptus Move In Bundle


The Summer Packing List for Travel and Home Goods:

On my way home from Utah, my suitcase was (tragically) lost and so I’m mourning my absent Monos Check-In suitcase. But the bright colors of Béis’ new line of oh-so-convenient hardshells could soothe my weary soul because I have a major crush on its sherbert shades. Do I splurge? Since I also hope to island-hop, I’d definitely get my cost-per-use out of this funky roller, complete with a handy weight-limit indicator that changes color if you’ve gone over the limit.

My first suitcase is always full of home goods that will elevate my quality of life and make me feel more at home. I’ll be living in a house I previously resided in, so luckily I know our air conditioning units are powerful. As a hot-running sleeper, I crave cooling bedding like this eucalyptus set from a favorite home goods brand of mine, Sijo; they make it especially convenient with a move-in bundle complete with everything you need. Similarly, I know I need a memory foam pillow so I don’t wake up with a headache, and I’ve recently fallen in love with this blackout sleep mask, complete with light-blocking eye cups, for its portability and effectiveness.

Similarly, I’m nothing without my coffee maker, and I’ve tried a whole bunch of them over the years. Enter the Keurig K-Iced Brewer, which has an iced coffee setting guaranteed to be refreshing and flavorful during those hot island mornings. I also swear by this utility of a power strip for my carry-on, a TV stick for streaming comforts on the go, and a candle for some scents of home.

  • Wishlist Checked Suitcase: Béis 29-Inch Large Check-In Roller, $328; beistravel.com.
  • Carry-On Bag: Lo and Sons Catalina Deluxe Bag, $129 (was $215); loandsons.com.
  • Personal Item: Monos Metro Duffel, $210; monos.com.
  • Cooling Eucalyptus Bedding: Sijo AiryWeight Eucalyptus Move In Bundle, $384 (was $515); sijo.com.
  • Memory Foam Pillow: Nolah Cooling Foam Pillow, $79 (was $99); nolahmattress.com.
  • Blanket: Verloop Flower Stripe Throw, $158; verloopknits.com.
  • Blackout Sleep Mask: Manta Sleep Light Blocking Eye Mask, $35; amazon.com.
  • Fire Stick: Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, $40; amazon.com.
  • Alarm Clock: Loftie Smart Alarm Clock, $120 (was $149); byloftie.com.
  • Coffee Maker: Keurig K-Iced Single Serve Coffee Maker, $100; amazon.com.
  • Candle: Threshold Lidded Glass Jar Candle, $13; target.com.
  • Power Strip: Alestor Surge Protector, $18 (was $22); amazon.com.
Camp Chair - Low

Eddie Bauer

The Summer Packing List for Beach Days, Hiking, Surfing, Exercising, and More:

My second suitcase this time around is all about the daily adventures. Nothing makes me feel better than getting outside and into the sunshine everyday, and it also generally tends to be free or low-cost, making it easy to save on core memory gatherings with friends.

One of my favorite activities on the islands is to camp on the beach, so bringing or buying a solid tent is a must for me. Waking up by the ocean to run immediately into the waves for a morning dip makes me feel beyond refreshed. Of course, every beachgoer needs a fantastic towel or blanket, which is where this upcycled, ethically-crafted blanket comes in handy. It’s both adorable and extra-large. 

If we’re relaxing, what’s more fun than this floating cabana complete with drink-holders to hold our sips while we swim? On the flip side, a dry bag is a must for protecting devices and clothes while on some more involved hikes and excursions. I’ve gotten caught in the rain quite a few times!

  • Camping Tent: Coleman Sundome Two-Person Camping Tent, $61 (was $70); amazon.com.
  • Beach Chair: Eddie Bauer Low Camp Chair, $39 (was $65); eddiebauer.com.
  • Insulated Drinkware: Hydro Flask 32-Ounce Water Bottle, $45; hydroflask.com.
  • Hydration Sticks: Cure Lemonade Hydration Sticks, $24; amazon.com.
  • Beach Towel: Caminito Luna Upcycled Blanket, $92; madetrade.com.
  • Hammock: Yellow Leaf Signature Mojave Hammock, $199; yellowleafhammocks.com.
  • Floatie: Funboy Floating Cabana Bar, $99; funboy.com.
  • Dry Bag: Ultra Sil Dry Day Pack, $60; seatosummit.com.
H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport Waterproof Bone Conduction Headphones


The Summer Packing List for Swim and Apparel:

While I’ll definitely pack more apparel items than just this, here are the necessities by category for me. For hot-weather packing, the apparel categories can best be described as items to feel like you’re wearing nothing: light fabrics, breezy dresses, sandals, etc,. You should be able to throw on anything while greasy from sunscreen and covered in sand. I will also try to expand my bikini collection while on island, these triangle bikini tops from H&M are solid go-to picks for me.

I’m currently training for a marathon, so my packing list for this venture is heavy on athletic apparel like these running tops (that look sleek enough to wear with a “real” outfit)—especially since I’ll likely spend a lot of my leisure time on the trails. The more pieces that can do double-duty in both recreation and everyday wear, the better. For example, have you enjoyed the magic of the exercise dress yet?

  • Cover Up: Dandy Del Mar The Malta Crochet Dress, $149; dandydelmar.com.
  • Sundress: For Love & Lemons Serena Sleeveless Dress, $232; forloveandlemons.com.
  • Swimsuit: H&M Padded Bikini Top, $16; hm.com.
  • Hat: Katin Mental Vacation Hat, $29; huckberry.com.
  • Casual Sandals: Reef x Sanctuary Cushion Vista Hi Capricorn Sandals, $70; reef.com.
  • Dressy Sandals: Larroude Miso Platform Sandal, $315; larroude.com.
  • Hiking Boots: Hi-Tec Apex Lite Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots, $60; hi-tec.com.
  • Sports Bras: Nike Dri-Fit Medium Support Sports Bra, $23 (was $40); nike.com.
  • Exercise Tops: Vitality Synergy Open Back Tank, $44; shopvitality.com.
  • Athletic Shorts: Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Short, $95; smartwool.com.
  • Running Shoes: Hilma Personalized Running Shoes, $159; join-hilma.com.
  • Exercise Dresses: Outdoor Voices Volley Dress, $108; outdoorvoices.com.
  • Sweatshirt: Huckberry Trail Fleece Pullover, $59 (was $148); huckberry.com.
Bubble The Base Routine

Bubble Skincare

The Summer Packing List for Toiletries and Other Personal Essentials:

I didn’t want to think too hard about which skincare items to bring, so Bubble Skincare’s seven-piece essentials set (gone viral on TikTok many times over) was a solid base choice to check all my boxes. Of course, I’ll go through tube after tube of sunscreen, so Kinfield’s SPF was a helpful addition to my repertoire. Aside from that, I could keep my toiletries relatively minimal—but highly recommend including a hair treatment made for dry, damaged strands, as the ocean wreaks havoc on your mane over time. I’ll keep this one in my beach bag and slather it on as soon as I’m out of the water. Finally, I’m tossing in a small discovery I’ve adored: This toothbrush protector pack is perfect for traveling hygienically.

For other personal must-haves, I love to load up an e-reader with library titles then splay out by the water for an afternoon. As for actually going in the water, I plan on cross-training this summer with a healthy amount of swimming laps, but have often struggled to stay motivated while in the water; enter these bone-conduction headphones which allow you to listen to your workout playlist while completely submerged.

While in Hawaii, many remote workers align with East Coast or Pacific hours, myself included. Since I start work at 5:30 a.m. my time, I’ll rely on a sleep tracker like the Oura Ring to track my recovery, sleep quality, and more to best optimize my days and physical wellness. Good sleep is always my most worthwhile investment, which is reflected across all my buying habits.

Since I’ll largely be living on just the essentials with no frills, having one décor item as an indulgence will keep me feeling at home. To round out my nesting experience in Honolulu, I finally took the plunge and bought this “Raise Hell, Kid” camp flag I’ve been wanting for months. Since it’s small and flat, it’s obviously easy to transport.

And while I’ll spare you the details of my entire camera setup, one of the perks of living in a place that always looks like a postcard is that everything is beyond photogenic, so I prioritized bringing my Pivo, an auto-tracking smartphone and tablet mount that allows me to take pictures on the go by following my movement, no cameraman required. While I personally have the pricier Pivo Max version compatible with tablets and DSLRs, those looking to copy this island adventure would also do well with this entry-level Pivo bundle ideal for getting your feet wet in content creation—as you get your feet wet.

  • Sunscreen: Kinfield Daily Dew SPF 35 Sunscreen, $26; kinfield.com.
  • Skincare Routine: Bubble Skincare The Base Routine, $99; bubbleskincare.com.
  • Deep Conditioning Hair Mask: Vegamour Hydr8 Deep Moisture Repair Mask, $52; vegamour.com.
  • Toothbrush Protector: Steripod Toothbrush Protector Two-Pack, $6; target.com.
  • E-Reader: Kindle Paperwhite, $140; amazon.com.
  • Sleep Tracker: Oura Ring, $299; ouraring.com.
  • Waterproof Bone Conduction Headphones: H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport Headphones, $160 (was $180); amazon.com.
  • Camera Gear: Pivo Bundle, $150 (was $170); amazon.com.
  • Décor: Oxford Pennant Raise Hell, Kid Camp Flag, $60; amazon.com
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