Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

How to make your Hawaii arrival easier

You are planning your trip. You’ve got the flights, the condo, hopefully the rental car all lined up. But how can you make your Hawaii arrival easier?

I’ve told you about the official Hawaii Covid Travel website of course.

  1. Sign up for your Safe Travel account. Schedule your pre-travel test, or if you received your vaccination within the United States, you will qualify for a vaccination exemption. See the website for so much more information and details. On a side note, if you have been vaccinated in the US but are re-entering the US from another country (such as Canada), you will need to pre-travel test regardless of vaccination status. This is a US government requirement, not a Hawaii requirement. Here is a video detailing the steps required.

2. Certain airlines offer a pre-clear option to avoid the check at Kahului airport. Sometimes the line at OGG is pretty quick. However, at times there are multiple flights disembarking at the same time, causing a backlog.

Sig’s ‘fancy’ Alaskan pre-clear bracelet

What is pre-clear?

Airlines offering pre-clear will check your documents and Safe Travels QR code at the gate and give you a wrist-band. I’ve heard that the pre-clear is not always at your flight’s gate, but can be elsewhere in the airport. I recommend arriving at your gate in plenty of time to find the pre-clear desk. Sig and our oldest son recently returned to Maui from Seattle and say it was a breeze. Airlines currently offering a pre-clear wrist-band program are: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, South West, United Airlines. If you can, get it – it will make your Hawaii arrival so much easier.

Wrong tests or missing tests

Last weekend I chatted with one of the soccer moms. She works as a waitress at one of the airport restaurants/bars. I asked her, how often are people arriving without their Safe Travels QR code or the wrong test? You would think airlines, hotels, condo owners would be advising their guests of the rules (I certainly do). She says she works five shifts a week. Every shift she sees at least one person crying in the restaurant, waiting for a return flight.

If you arrive on Maui without your valid Safe Travels QR code, you will be flagged as having to quarantine. You will either need to book a room in one of the approved quarantine locations (NOT a vacation rental) and agree to stay within your room for 10 days, line up food and services you may need to be delivered. Or, you are asked to leave. You book a return flight to the mainland. At that point you can either get an approved test and return, or call the vacation over. What a mess.

Make your Hawaii arrival easy. Please make sure you take the correct test. Some approved labs have done unapproved tests. Double check!

Rental cars

In March 2020 tourists started leaving the islands as we became aware of Covid. At the time some 18000+ rental cars needed a place to go. They were temporarily parked in the fields surrounding the airport. Once Hawaii began reopening with the pre-travel test option to avoid quarantine in October 2020, those rental car graveyards began to empty. In the mean time we’ve had severe car shortages. Some cars were shipped back to the mainland or sold, and tourism numbers came back significantly stronger than anticipated.

Imagine my surprise as I was driving the back way (past the heliport) to Costco’s gas station and came across rental cars in fields. This was just a few days ago. Yes, tourism numbers have slowed again. I assume these are extra cars that don’t fit in the airport rental car facility. Talk about a flashback.