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Hawaii has so many places to explore, things to do, sights to see -- it can be bewildering to plan your trip with so much vying for your attention. Where to start? That's where I come in. I've compiled everything you need to know to plan your ideal trip to Hawaii.

The first thing to do: Decide where you want to go. See which islands fit the profile and offer the activities you're looking for. I strongly recommend that you limit your island-hopping to one island per week. If you decide to go to more than one in a week, be warned: You could spend much of your precious vacation time in airports and checking in and out of hotels. Not much fun!

My second tip is to fly directly to the island of your choice; doing so can save you a 2-hour layover in Honolulu and another plane ride. Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai now all receive direct flights from the mainland; if you're heading to Molokai or Lanai, you'll have the easiest connections if you fly into Honolulu.

So let's get on with the process of planning your trip. Searching out the best deals and planning your dream vacation to Hawaii should be half the fun.

Packing 

Hawaii is very informal. Shorts, T-shirts, and tennis shoes will get you by at most restaurants and attractions; a casual dress or a polo shirt and long pants khakis are fine even in the most expensive places. Jackets for men are required only in some of the fine-dining rooms of a very few ultraexclusive resorts, such as the Halekulani on Oahu, the Big Island's Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, and the Lodge at Koele on Lanai -- and they'll cordially provide men with a jacket if they don't bring their own. Aloha wear is acceptable everywhere, so you may want to plan on buying an aloha shirt or a muumuu (a Hawaiian-style dress) while you're in the islands.

So bring T-shirts, shorts, long pants, a couple of bathing suits, a long-sleeve cover-up (to throw on at the beach when you've had enough sun for the day), tennis shoes, rubber water shoes or flip-flops (known as "slippers" in Hawaii), and hiking boots and good socks if you plan on hiking.

The tropical sun poses the greatest threat to anyone who ventures into the great outdoors, so be sure to pack sun protection: a good pair of sunglasses, strong sunscreen, a light hat, and a canteen or water bottle if you'll be hiking -- you'll easily dehydrate in the tropical heat, so figure on carrying 2 liters of water per day on any hike. Campers should bring water-purification tablets or devices.

One last thing: It can get really cold in Hawaii. If you plan to see the sunrise from the top of Maui's Haleakala Crater, venture into the Big Island's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or spend time in Kokee State Park on Kauai, bring a warm jacket; 40°F (4°C) upcountry temperatures, even in summer when it's 80°F (27°C) at the beach, are not uncommon. It's always a good idea to bring at least a windbreaker, a sweater, or a light jacket. And be sure to toss some rain gear into your suitcase if you'll be in Hawaii between November and March.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.