It was so long ago that we booked our trip to Hawaii and I felt like I looked forward to it forever then it was suddenly upon us and I got all yikes about about packing and then we were there in a whoosh and now we’re home (what, already?) and our vacation is officially a pleasant sight in the rearview and ugh, time, right?

But I’ll say this, I was content to say goodbye to the island because it could not have been a better week. Even the rainiest day was joyous and relaxing and picture-perfect in every way.

Things we did right:

• We stayed at Poipu Shores on Kauai and I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Our ground floor condo wasn’t remotely luxurious but it had everything we needed (being able to do laundry was particularly nice), and the oceanfront location was a dream. We could spot whales and dolphins from our lanai and the pool overlooked a rocky shore where turtles swam all day. Booking through seemed to result in much better pricing than the resort company that manages the condos, btw.

• Renting a Jeep was smart because we took several bumpy, splashy dirt road trips to an undeveloped stretch of beach area and we kept seeing rental Mustangs creeping along, drivers clearly wondering what they’d gotten themselves into.

• We booked an ATV tour with Kipu Ranch Adventures and it was just fantastic — great fun, glorious views, and super friendly guides. I’d recommend them to anyone.

• On our last night, we had dinner at Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt, what an absolute treat. All the tables are near these giant koi lagoons so the kids can stay occupied surreptitiously throwing bits of bread to the fish, while the adults can enjoy a romantic meal.

• For most of our dinners, I bought microwaveable sushi rice and fresh poke seafood mixes and that’s what John and I ate. Delicious, healthy, and required no cooking. The kids ate their normal kid food for the most part, and there’s no way around the astronomical grocery costs, but we expected that. (There is a Costco in Lihue, but we went to a Big Save market instead because I didn’t want Costco-sized food.)

• We brought binoculars! Definitely a must-do if you plan on staring at the ocean. I’ve never seen whales before, and I saw several every day on this trip. One even dramatically hurled itself out of the water Nat-Geo-style. Thank you, whale!

• Through a magical turn of miles-related events, we got first class tickets for the flights. Perhaps you, like me, have shuffled by that area on your way to the back and wondered if it’s really worth it, and I think the answer is yes. Well, probably not if you have to pay the actual human kidney it normally costs, but my GOD is it nice. Giant cushy seats, forever legroom, tons of food, convenient bathroom, fancy little devices for watching movies and TV, hot towels (why are those tiny microwaved towels so great?), and non-harried flight attendants who are always offering you something. Practically a spa getaway, especially compared to how uncomfortable flying normally is.

• We kept our schedule relaxed, aside from the planned ATV tour. I didn’t try to see and do everything and I think that’s the way to go, at least with kids. We felt relaxed and unhurried and only slightly batshit from being exposed to 24/7 boy-shenanigans.

• I bought this cheap phone case and it was brilliant. I could take photos through the clear plastic and I didn’t have to worry about water, sand, or dirt.

Things I’d do differently:

• BOY did I overpack. It wasn’t a big deal because we checked our bags, but I just brought way too many clothes. Next time I’d bring my swimsuit, a couple of comfy shorts and tank tops, and maybe one sundress.

• I picked the rainiest day to drive up to Waimea Canyon and as a result the sweeping views were socked in with a thick layer of clouds and we were assaulted with gale-force tropical winds at the lookout. Eh, it’ll be there next time.

• I never got a puka dog. I did, however, eat my own weight in shave ice, fresh pineapple, and macadamia nut ice cream. Mmmmm.

Really, it was just the best trip ever. Mahalo for everything, Hawaii.

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