Tag Archives: hawaii

TSA Pre-Check: A Review | BEDA Day 6

I may pretend to be a travel expert on the internet, but in reality I don’t fly all that often. I don’t travel for work and I can only scrape together so many vacation days (and so much cash), so I only average about 6-8 flights per year. Despite this, in a hopeful attempt to manifest some more travel into my life, I decided to register for TSA PreCheck ahead of my trip to Hawaii and California last December. I had watched my family and friends abandon me in the airport security line for their shorter, more streamlined TSA PreCheck screening one too many times. It was my turn to be one of the traveling elite. Registering for PreCheck was..a bit of a process, but one I believe was worth it. Here’s how it all went down.

Registration

The application process for TSA PreCheck comes in two parts: an online application and an in-person interview. The online application mostly consists of personal information and I found it pretty easy to navigate. Once that was complete, I was asked to schedule an appointment at a local ID center. Of course, the center closest to me was booked for a good month, so I went with the next best option: Brooklyn.

I’ll be honest, the ID center in Brooklyn was so nondescript, I was sure the security guy in the lobby had misdirected me. I actually went downstairs again to make sure I was going to the right place. I eventually found some signage and didn’t have to wait too long to be seen. The woman conducting my interview wasn’t particularly cheery, but after several trips to the DMV I wasn’t expecting much. She basically asked me the same questions from the online application (you can actually do both in the office), scanned my license, and took my fingerprints. I was also recovering from getting stitches in my thumb, so this took a few tries. Overall, the process was shorter than my actual trip to Brooklyn and I was approved a few days later.

Flying With PreCheck

I’ll be honest, I was pretty pumped to see the words “TSA PreCheck” on my boarding pass when we checked in for our flight to Kauai. The line at security wasn’t that much longer than the standard one, but it did move a bit faster since we didn’t have to take off our shoes, belts, pants, etc. Of course, I got “randomly selected” for a pat-down my first time out the gate. There wasn’t much I could do there, I guess. At least I still didn’t have to take off my shoes.

PreCheck was extra helpful on our flight from Kauai to Honolulu, as the tiny Lihue airport was packed with post-Christmas travelers. As a major American airline, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Hawaiian Airlines opting in to the PreCheck program. We were able to get through security with a little extra time to grab some last-minute Kauai gifts.

Overall, I’d say that TSA PreCheck is worth the $85 fee. I’m set for the next 5 years, and I plan to get as much travel in as possible in that period of time. Though the program isn’t available everywhere, it does make the whole security process much easier, and the flying experience generally more pleasant.

You can find out more about the TSA PreCheck program here.

Flora, Fauna, and Food Trucks | Oahu, HI

blog selection-2 blog selection-3

A trip to Hawaii – at least for a first-timer – isn’t quite complete without a visit to the Aloha State’s capital, Honolulu. After a week of relaxing in Kauai I was really looking forward to visiting this legendary city and seeing a few more faces. I got all that and more upon arriving in Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki Beach is constantly buzzing with tourists from all over the world exploring the many shops, restaurants, and hotels that line the shore. The vibe is at once laid-back and upscale, with buildings housing both five-star restaurants and flip-flop shops. I had some of the best Japanese and Korean food of my life (so far) over my three days in town. My beefy lite bowl from the Kamitoku Ramen truck was better than some of the fancier meals I had over the trip.

 

blog selection-5 blog selection-6

Speaking of food trucks, if you’re on your way to the North Shore and love shrimp, make a pit stop at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Haleiwa. There’s only a few items on the menu (three styles of shrimp and a garlic hot dog) but it’s all fantastic. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes and fighting off fruit flies, I started to wonder if it was worth it, but that plate of shrimp scampi was a revelation. Go there.

blog selection-7 blog selection-8

After stuffing our faces with shrimp, we stopped by Waimea Valley, an amazingly lush botanical garden and cultural site that brings visitors closer to nature and Native Hawaiian history. Walking down to the waterfall, you can see why its considered such a sacred place. It’s absolutely stunning even in winter, when most of the flowers aren’t in bloom. I can’t even imagine how it will look a few weeks from now.

blog selection-9 blog selection-10

A trip to the North Shore isn’t complete without a stop at Sunset Beach, one of the top spots in the world for big wave surfing. You can’t really tell from the photos, but the surf was out of control that particular afternoon. I’m used to baby waves on the Atlantic. These swells were at least three times the size of the waves I’ve seen before major storms back home. Despite that, plenty of people were paddling out. I salute you, crazies.

Oh, there was also a double rainbow. So intense.

blog selection-12 blog selection-13

Hawaii, you were good to me. I can’t wait to see you again soon.

blog selection-14

In case you missed it, check out the video I made of my Hawaiian adventures. While you’re in the neighborhood, I made 2 other somewhat travel-related videos during my blogging hiatus – one on moving to New York and the other on the people of Amtrak. Join me, won’t you?

The Real Jurassic Park | Kauai, HI

Happy January, my poor, abandoned bloggy friends! I may have taken a good month off from writing, but that month included plenty of travel. I spent my two weeks off from work in Hawaii and California, enjoying the sunshine, taking pictures, and gathering plenty of ideas for new #content. Apparently I can never give myself a real break.

luau 2 luau 7luau 1

My parents and I started out our adventure on Kauai, one of the most lush islands of the Aloha State. After some rest to get over the massive jet lag (8 hours of flying is no joke), we got a real Hawaiian welcome at the Smith Family Garden Luau. The evening featured a tour of their gorgeous gardens, an amazing and authentic Hawaiian meal, and a show featuring the music and dance of the Polynesian islands. If you’re looking for a more classic luau, Smith’s does a fantastic job.

temple 5 temple 1temple 2

We spent our next morning at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, a site in the hills of central Kauai frequented by people of all faiths. The monastery is definitely worth a visit for its lush views and general sense of peace. There’s plenty of people on site who are happy to talk to you about the Hindu faith, show you around the grounds, and answer any questions you may have.

mermaid inn mermaid inn 2 beach lunch palm tree

From there, we drove down to the town of Kapaa for some lunch. Kapaa is home to plenty of great restaurants, but some friends of ours highly recommended Mermaids Cafe. It totally lived up to the hype. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the BEST TACOS OF MY LIFE, but just take my word for it. They were awesome. The hibiscus lemonade wasn’t bad, either.

rainbow na pali 5 na pali 1

You may have seen a little dinosaur movie last summer by the name of Jurassic World. The real Jurassic Park happens to be on Kauai, namely on the Na Pali Coast. A lot of the exterior shots from the Jurassic Park movies were shot in these incredible seaside mountains, and no wonder why. This place is unreal. We took a sunset catamaran cruise with Holo Holo Charters and saw some of the most incredible sites. Plus, they fed us. Shout out to food.

waterfall 1 kayak

Much of the next day was spent kayaking and hiking our way up to Secret Falls in Wailua River State Park. I’m still impressed that I actually made it back to the hotel without dying. Four miles of kayaking and two miles of hiking in ankle-deep mud is much more physical activity than I’ve had in…a while. But it was all worth it for the view. You don’t see that every day in Manhattan. And if you do, you should probably call the fire department.

hotel lobbycockatoo

We spent our week at Marriott’s Kauai Beach Club, right on Kalapaki Bay. The whole property was lush and gorgeous, with lots of open-air spaces. The lobby/courtyard area, with its manmade waterfalls and stocked koi pond was one of my favorite parts of the resort. Plus, occasionally this cockatoo would make an appearance, shouting “Aloha” at the guests passing through. He was the best.

Kauai, you were good to me. Mahalo for your incredible hospitality to those of us just passing through. I know I’ll be back soon enough.

Looking for some more visuals of the Aloha State? Check out the video I put together with some of my favorite moments from my Hawaiian adventure!