Moving to Hawaii:  Oahu

Or, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

We have some work to do before we can relax :)

Let's get this out of the way:  there is a lot to do.  I'm going to put this in some semblance of order, but it may not work out in that way for you, and that's fine.  This is what works for me.

Golden Rule:  Be honest with yourself.  Stand in that truth!

Before we start with those somewhat arbitrary steps, we have this.  In all things, be honest.  Be honest in your priorities, your expectations, your available income, your preferences.  Dreams are great, really, but in the here and now, things have value and meaning and only by working with that will you get to your destination.  YOU WILL SEE THIS AGAIN!

Silver Rule:  Take care of yourself!

You're going to get sick of it.  You're going to want to chuck that to-do list out the window.  You're going to want to throttle someone over the phone.  Plan time to relax, eat right, and go easy on yourself.  A move like this is stressful even if it all goes smoothly.  You're gonna want to be in good shape when you finally are able to enjoy Hawaii :)

(Side note:  The steps are more of guidelines than actual rules...)

(Side...side note:  There is no optimal timeline.  My first move was accomplished in ten days, the second was about thirty, but I know people who planned for more than a year.)

Prep Work and Organization:


The Lists and Checklists:  Make sure you have a trusty notebook/computer/phone app to organize yourself.  Also, the coincidence of having "lists and checklists" on a list is not lost on me...

  • Calendar:  Put all of your appointments, dates, goals, etc., on a calendar.  Mark when records were requested, or payments made.  DOCUMENT!!  And keep it handy.
  • A list of contacts:  Realtors, doctors, rental managers, veterinarians, school officials, contractors, future neighbors, etc., get phone/fax numbers, email addresses, whatever you need.  
  • A file of photos and videos of your cars/household goods.  Document EVERYTHING, down to the seal on the containers, keep it handy and on you as you move.  Include a list of items you're moving (and their worth, if possible).  Best case scenario, you won't need it. 
  • A list of documents that you'll be hand carrying:  social security cards, passports, marriage licenses, etc.  I find it useful to also have scanned documents available on a computer.
  • A running list of what you'll be hand-carrying on the plane.  Documents, devices, heirlooms, medications, and whatever else you will need to survive and thrive until your HHG shipment arrives.  Here's mine!
  • Your MASSIVE to-do list:  Self explanatory.  Know it, use it, update it, love it.  Here's mine.

Step 1:  Visit Hawaii

This may be one of those "duh" steps, but it's completely necessary, and it's a huge step.  I'm focusing on Oahu here, but check out any island you may want to live on.  *Before you plan your trip, start following local Hawaiian news and weather to get a feel for the area.

Rent a local home on a site like VRBO.  Shop at the farmer's markets or local stores.  Set up job interviews and appointments with schools and realtors.  Talk to the locals and take notes!  For specifics, head here. 

Step 2:  Find the Money

Paying for a massive overseas move isn't the cheapest of undertakings.  So price it out, and be honest about it.  Cost of living in Hawaii is among the most expensive in the US.  Figure out what kind of home you can afford, what kind of moving expenses you're going to incur, what the actual pay of your intended job is.  The argument for this being step 1 could be made ;)  For real life figures, see here.

Step 3:  Start Minimalizing NOW

You will pay over $1.50 per pound for shipping your crap.  Think about that.  You aren't going to need three winter coats...maybe one.  Maybe.  Two giant stand mixers?  Nope.  But, bear in mind that moving it NOW can be cheaper than buying it there.  For more info, click here.

Step 4:  Find Your New Home

I know, you want to jump in and do this first.  I did too.  Thing is, as relatively small as Oahu is, there are a lot of options that need to be weighed and considered BEFORE you're ready to actually sign on the dotted line.  Head here for the nuts and bolts of housing in Hawaii.

Step 5:  Prepping Family and Pets

Got kids?  You'll need to check into transferring into schools.  There is a HUGE range of options in schooling here.  Medical issues don't stop just because you're in paradise, so be prepared.  Moving pets to Hawaii is a giant undertaking, IF they're allowed here.  The sooner you check into this and start the process, the easier it will be.  Start ASAP.

Step 6:  The Massive Move:  Break it Down

The Processes:  These are the move-related areas that take the most time and/or steps and may become the biggest headaches IF they aren't tackled.  There is some redundancy here, but really, it won't hurt you:

  • School transfers:  We will be doing this for the first time in 2016, but I imagine this is one of those that you'll want to figure out first.  Research, visit, and interview schools.  Then contact your chosen schools and start the process.
  • Pets:  This one we've personally done--there is a mandatory 120 day quarantine for all animals moving to Hawaii, if they're on the approved list in the first place.  It can be as short as a few minutes if you do it right.  Check this out and make arrangements ASAP.
  • Shipping company for household goods (or HHG):  You know how it is when you're playing phone tag with a company?  Plan on that while you're prepping for this move.  Scheduling a move like this could very well involve a visit to guesstimate the weight, another 1-5 days to pack, another to load onto a truck, shipping (by truck) to a dock, loading it onto a container ship, the actual shipping time, unloading at destination, reloading onto a truck, then finally unpacking at your final destination.  See?  Process.
  • Shipping company for automobiles:  Same as above, but for autos.  I'm gonna put this here too, just in case:  the car/truck/suv must be clean and EMPTY.  TOTALLY EMPTY.  Do not think you can pack some stuff in the car.  NOT GONNA HAPPEN!!  We even had to take out the stuff we normally left in there, like a jack, which we then donated because we'd already shipped our HHG.  You've been warned!
  • Medical insurance:  If you're changing jobs, you may end up with a gap in coverage.  Check out COBRA coverage or other options to make sure you're covered.  You'll be most likely flying commercial and exposing yourself to new germs.  You'll be schlepping boxes and possibly dropping them on yourself (or others...in my experience).  Make sure you're covered.
  • Arranging your housing/accommodations in Hawaii:  Seems obvious again, I know.  Bought a house and they gave you a close date?  Doesn't matter, book a hotel JUST in case.  Check out the cancellation policy.  Thing is, there aren't a lot of "hotels down the street" that you can just pop in if the closing doesn't go quickly.  Rented a place?  Book a hotel too.  The rental manager may get sick and not be able to meet you.  Or maybe your flight gets delayed and they're sleeping when you arrive.  Just cover your butts.  
  • Mail:  Yep, this needs to be figured out before you go.  Most people can't get a P.O. box in Hawaii, so you'll need to find something that works for you.  We hired a box through a UPS store to collect and then paid them to mail it to our new location once we arrived.  There are other ways.
  • Banking:  We bank online, so this isn't an issue for us.  When I arrived in 2008, one of the first things I did was open an account at a local bank in Hawaii.  Another related note:  let your credit card companies know you're moving.  Last thing you need after a several thousand mile flight is to have your card declined at the car rental desk.  Also, check your autopayments if you're living close to paycheck to paycheck, because a huge move may put you into the red.  And one last bit of advice:  pay off whatever you need to before you go and get a zero balance statement.  I'm talking specifically about utilities, cable, wifi, whatever, at your non-Hawaii house.  Document, document, document!!!
  • Medical:  check your prescriptions, upcoming appointments, dental, etc.  Make sure you're set for a bit so you can find new docs/dentists/vets once you get there.  Request your medical records and hand carry them if you can...most medical offices charge and require 30 day notice to copy records, and they're only allowed to copy what is theirs.  Keep this in mind; there can be a huge time difference between HI and wherever you're coming from, so requesting records after the move may be difficult.

Reality Check:

The Plan:  Only you can make and implement the right plan, and this can be redundant, but it's important.  I'm trying to be as comprehensive and transparent in my help as I can, but the reality is that I'm a mid-30's military spouse with two little kids.  If you're a 70 year old multi-millionaire retiree, we may not have much in common.  But, I can still help!

  • Quick gut check:  Are you ready and willing to uproot yourself and possibly your family and move to a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?  Are you being honest with yourself about the financial reality of living in Hawaii?  How about the reality of being THOUSANDS of miles from friends, family, and an amazing Chicago deep dish pizza?  Yes?  Good!
  1. You've got your income figured out, and it works with what your real life cost of living will be in Hawaii.
  2. You've got a home, either rented or bought, to go to when you get there.  AND you've got back up accommodations, just in case.
  3. The kids' school is figured out and in order; you've got everything you need such as transcripts, vaccination records, etc.
  4. You've figured out continuing medical care and insurance.
  5. Your pets are up to date with the current state of Hawaii regulations and ready, and you've got approved transport cages, bowls, meds, leashes, etc.
  6. Your minimalized household goods (HHG) are packed and on their way, and you've got all the info on when/where/phone numbers/names for the other side.
  7. Your car is on the way, and you've got all the info for pick up in Hawaii.
  8. You've got plane tickets for yourself and your family and pets, and all needed documentation.
  9. You've got all the stuff you need to arrive and thrive until your HHG show up.
  10. Time to kiss your former life goodbye and catch your plane!  Oh--and remind EVERYONE of the time difference...you'll still get random calls in the middle of the night from a confused aunt, but you can lessen the odds :)
Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu...or HOME.

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