A Step-by-Step Guide for Traveling to Hawaii with Kids in 2021

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Hawaii has always been a popular destination for tourists and families and continues to be popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. And as restrictions loosen and even cruises begin to visit Hawaii again, more and more couples and families are considering traveling to Hawaii with kids. 

Traveling with children comes with a completely different mindset and set of preparations than people who are solo-traveling to Hawaii. Although traveling definitely brings health risks that could be minimized by staying at home, if you’ve decided that you’re going to travel, you’ll need to take extra precautions to stay safe. 

For those looking to travel to Hawaii with kids in 2021 and 2022, there are ways to travel safely. In this article, we’ll answer common questions about traveling to Hawaii with kids under 12, and walk you through what exactly you can expect from this destination and process.

Should my child get vaccinated before going to Hawaii? 

Pfizer’s BioNTech COVID-19 two-dose vaccine is now available to children 12 and older. As of September 2021, it is available to children younger than 12 as well.

Kids under 12 will still be allowed into Hawaii, and you can go with your original travel plans as long as you provide proper documentation of a negative COVID-19 test for your child, adhering to Hawaii’s specific testing procedures- more on this later.

If your child is eligible for the vaccine, they should get vaccinated. You’ll need a vaccination card to be cleared by Hawaii’s Safe Travels screening program. Note that the timeline for full vaccine efficacy involves giving two doses three weeks apart, and then allowing for another two weeks for full immunity.  

Hawaii Travel Guidelines 

Travelers entering the state from the U.S. and its Territories who have been fully vaccinated in the United States may bypass quarantine without a pre-travel test. Essentially, you can travel like you normally would while in Hawaii, once you meet a few simple requirements.

Hawaii Travel Documents

You will have to upload your vaccination record document to Hawaii’s Safe Travels portal. It’s wise to have a hard copy in hand when arriving, as well (print out the document prior to departure). 

If your airline offers a Pre-Clear service, you must bring your U.S. vaccination card or a paper copy of your negative COVID-19 test result and other required documentation for the Hawaii Pre-Clear service.

As a reminder, each individual 18 or older must have a unique Safe Travels account and QR code. Each child or dependent must be listed on one of their guardian’s Safe Travels accounts. Having the proper test and the negative results documented allows you to bypass the 10-day quarantine waived upon arrival in Hawaii. Register for a Safe Travels account online as soon as you’ve booked your flights to Hawaii.  If you don’t complete this process correctly, you will need to quarantine. 

Lastly, if you’re considering traveling to Hawaii from another country, make sure you will be allowed entry. For example, you may be denied entry to Hawaii if you’ve been in Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, Iran, India, Ireland, South Africa, or the United Kingdom in the past 14 days, even if you’re a fully vaccinated US citizen.  

What to expect after arriving in Hawaii

All incoming Hawaii travelers will have their temperature checked upon arrival. Temperature scans will be taken via thermal temperature screening and facial-imaging technology.

Should travelers have a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher or display COVID symptoms, they will be required to complete a secondary screening at the airport.

You may also undergo a health screening upon arrival at the airport in Hawaii, performed by trained staff. A couple of islands also require a second COVID test upon arrival to further protect residents. 

Travelers who test positive for COVID will need to quarantine at their own expense until they have recovered. Travel insurance is an especially good idea if you’re considering traveling during a pandemic.

What are Hawiian quarantine and COVID restrictions for children under 12?

Travelers aged 5 years to 11 years old are not eligible for Hawaii’s vaccination exception program (in which fully vaccinated travelers don’t have to quarantine).

However, children under 5 years old won’t have to be quarantined if traveling with an adult who has a pre-travel test exception or a vaccination exception. If your child is 5 to 11 years old, make sure to participate in the Pre-Travel Testing Program and test for COVID-19 with a Trusted Testing Partner to bypass the mandatory 10-day quarantine. This includes obtaining documentation for a negative COVID test from a trusted testing partner of Hawaii.

If your children haven’t received a negative test result prior to arrival, your entire family will have to quarantine for 10 days, even if others in your party have been fully vaccinated and are cleared for travel.

As long as you carefully follow Hawaii state and county testing protocols for those from age 5 to 11, they will still be able to bypass quarantine requirements even if not eligible to be vaccinated and can be cleared for travel alongside the rest of your group. 

Traveling to Hawaii with babies & toddlers

Traveling with young babies comes with higher risks. They are more susceptible to respiratory viruses, and often are too young to wear a mask effectively. The CDC actually advises against children under 2 wearing masks because of the risk of suffocation as well as ineffective masking practices that could potentially backfire.

In a heartbreaking COVID case, a young child became Hawaii’s first pediatric COVID-19 death, after showing symptoms within hours of flying to Hawaii with his vaccinated parents. For children with underlying health conditions, you’ll want to be as conservative as you can and travel in accordance to your own personal levels of risk aversion.

The general health and pre-existing conditions of the young child should be factored in. Picking off-peak tourist times to travel might also help you minimize risks and means that popular attractions may be less busy, which can help reduce your stress if you’re traveling to Hawaii with kids.  It’s a good idea to get a doctor’s recommendation for your children based on any pre-existing health conditions.

Recent studies have shown that breastfeeding from a vaccinated mother is beginning to be shown to be helpful in creating antibodies in babies, but it is unclear what extent of protection this provides.

Safe travel to Hawaii with kids

It can certainly be anxiety-inducing when traveling with an unvaccinated child. Rest assured that unvaccinated children can fly relatively safely, as long as mask mandates and safety best practices are followed.

Major U.S. airlines all have strict mask policies in place for passengers, which apply to both in the airport as well as on the plane. These masking mandates are required by the federal government for all individuals ages two and older.

A flight to Hawaii will be at least five to six hours, and easily longer depending on where you’re flying from. One concern for parents can be making sure toddlers and smaller children will properly comply with air travel mask mandates during long trips. Practicing with children before upcoming flights can help them get used to wearing their masks and keeping them on during the real deal. Continuously model best safety behaviors to your children by demonstrating proper physical distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitation. 

Kids should limit how much they eat and drink to keep their masks on the entire time they’re on the plane. You can prepare some movies set in Hawaii to get your children more familiar with and excited about the destination. You can also pack snacks, toys, books or whatever forms of entertainment your children enjoy. 

It’s important to be aware of flight lengths, and have a plan of how to safely navigate with your young child through the airplane ride and airport with minimum exposure or contact to other people. We’ve put together a comprehensive COVID safety travel packing list to help you pack to minimize your exposure to COVID.

Travel within Hawaii with kids

On June 15, 2021 all restrictions on intercounty travel were lifted, meaning pre-travel testing or quarantining is no longer needed for travel between the Hawaiian islands.

Ubers are generally unreliable in Hawaii and it’s advised to rent a car for travel. Keep in mind you won’t be able to drive or take a ferry between islands. If you have multiple island stops planned in your Hawaii trip, remember the only way to go between islands is by airplane.

Family cruises to Hawaii

Cruises are beginning to make a strong return to the travel industry. The CDC has allowed cruises to restart sailings from the United States, and there are many upcoming cruises for Hawaii in 2021 and 2022. 

Most of the best Hawaiian cruises have kids clubs for children to play, make friends, enjoy structured activities or simply hang out and watch TV. Many cruises also have kid-friendly pools, splash pads, rock climbing walls, and even attractions like bumper cars and minigolf. If you’re traveling to Hawaii with kids, a Hawaiian cruise can be a perfect low-stress way to vacation safely with your family.

If you’re planning a cruise with your family and children to Hawaii, you’ll want to check the COVID guidelines and testing requirements for your specific cruise ship. And check out our article about the Best Cruises to Hawaii in 2021 and 2022 if you want to find more information for your upcoming cruise vacation.

Should unvaccinated kids get a COVID test after traveling to Hawaii?

COVID-19 testing is an important and proactive safety measure to take when traveling with young children.

The CDC advises unvaccinated travelers to get tested one to three days before a trip and three to five days after travel. You can buy a convenient COVID-19 self-testing kit before your trip and pack it with you on your carry-on to use at any point during your trip.

If kids are visiting unvaccinated or vulnerable people, testing would be an extra layer of protection for all. If anyone in the family is sick, was exposed to COVID-19, or tested positive for COVID-19, travel plans should be canceled.

Minimizing risk for unvaccinated kids traveling to Hawaii

All the travel guidelines and restrictions put in place by the CDC and your destination are to maximize public safety for travelers and residents.

There are many more steps you can take to protect yourself and your family outside of these basic guidelines. Below are some prevention points to keep in mind as you travel. 

Research your destination and plan your itinerary early

Consider how much virus is spreading at your destination. It pays to do research ahead of time to determine the level of risk and benefit of specific vacation destinations. Get an updated report on the state of COVID-19 in Hawaii before you make plans, and check it again before you go. 

Travelers should try to avoid crowds and keep six feet of distance from others when possible. Outdoors is better than indoors, and less contact is always better. For example, you might want to skip the traditional luau dinners for some volcanic hiking for your upcoming trip.

Thankfully, there is plenty of beauty in Hawaii to be explored. With some pre-trip research and itinerary planning, it’s quite possible to avoid crowded indoor spaces during high foot traffic hours while having a blast. 

Follow standard COVID-19 safety practices in Hawaii

Mask use will continue to be important for younger kids on vacation in risky, high-foot traffic settings such as crowded stores or indoor events. Make sure to have a couple of masks on hand a day for your children in case they get wet or dirty. It’s a good idea to change disposable masks frequently, or wash them with detergent if you’re using re-usable ones.

Even though you’re on vacation, the now-classic rules for COVID-19 prevention still hold. If you haven’t done so already, teach your kids how to wash their hands effectively, and how to count to twenty full seconds as they’re doing so. 

Washing hands frequently with soap and water, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces should continue to be practiced by everyone in the family, even on vacation.

Minimize mealtime exposure

Mealtimes are a particularly high-risk time as you will be unmasked while eating, and be consuming food prepared by others.

You can plan ahead and check that the restaurants you are planning to eat at are following appropriate precautions and COVID sanitization practices. Not just meal prep, you’ll want to make sure they are cleaning and sanitizing surfaces like tables in between each party.  Taking your food to-go and cooking some of your own meals is a smart choice to avoid eating at restaurants. 

Traveling to Hawaii with kids safely

If you’re planning on traveling to Hawaii soon with your family, hopefully, this article was helpful in guiding you through what steps to take, what to expect, and best practices to help minimize your children’s exposure to COVID-19.

Please leave a comment below if your experiences or any concerns you might have towards traveling with your children in this pandemic era. Mahalo and safe travels!

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