Traveling to the Hawaii Ironman for the first time? These packing tips will help.

Are you visiting The Big Island of Hawaii for the Ironman World Championship this October?

We know how much prep is needed for any overseas holiday but traveling with a bike, related triathlon gear, family in tow and heading off to a once in a lifetime experience like the Hawaii Ironman may add a little more stress!

Here is a list of some important (and not so important but nice to consider) things that are good to know before you go.

1. Your bike bag will be opened by US customs. 

Twice we have had bike damage traveling from Australia to Kona due to the bike bag being opened and checked by customs. They have been known to cut locks also. 

Do what you can to pack the bike in a way it is less likely to be affected by being opened and don’t lock it. If anything should happen in transit there are plenty of bike mechanics at the other end that can help. 

REMINDER: Make sure you are not carrying C02 canisters as you can be fined. They can be bought in Kona town and given back before you leave if you haven’t used them.

Bags packed to travel to Hawaii Ironman

2. No need to pack for all seasons – it’s hot and casual!

We have made this mistake. Heading from Australian Spring weather, it’s hard to imagine the heat you are traveling into.

The Big Island is covered in lava which radiates the tropical heat. Kona town can get particularly hot and is protected from the winds. It is super hot and sticky and can take a few days to get adjusted to the climate. Pack casual summer holiday attire and lycra – that’s it. And a few pairs of swimmers of course!

Ladies, if you are thinking heels and jewels to dress up for dinner you may want to reconsider – unless you are being taken to some flash resort post-race!

Dining by the sea with a cocktail requires a Hawaiian style beach dress, slip-on sparkly thongs and a shell necklace – all bought from one of the local Kona stores. Leave everything else at home!

3. Don’t overpack. Leave room in your bag or take an extra empty one.

Between the freebie t-shirts and hats thrown your way, all the triathlon gear and Ironman branded clothes on offer you almost don’t need to pack  – you will buy it all there. I promise!!

If you leave out the heavy clothes then you might have some space in your bag or take an extra one. I remember making a quick last-minute purchase of a Hawaiian printed roll-on bag in Honolulu before heading to the airport to take home all my purchases!

PS: Triathletes – make sure you have some savings in store ready for Triathlon heaven – the Hawaii Ironman Expo!

Australian triathletes take part in the Parade of Nations. Hawaii Ironman
Bring some Aussie gear from home! The Parade of Nations is fun for all the family.

4. Pack some Aussie gear and gifts from the $2 store

You are heading to a World Championship so get patriotic! 

The Parade of Nations is an exciting event in Kona on race week and you need to be prepared. Trying to find green and gold clothes (or an Australian flag) last minute in Walmart will be an impossible task. 

An Australian tradition is handing out clip-on koalas or similar cheap Australian souvenirs during the parade, so stock up on these and pack the Aussie gear.

If you are traveling with kids getting patriotic is a fun activity for them and gets them involved in race week.

5. Traveling with kids? Consider the best way to walk with them around Kona.

Think about how you will get around Kona town. If you are staying near Al’li drive you will be walking a lot. There is no need for a car and there are closed roads and not a lot of car parks in the town centre. There is so much going on all week and you will need to head to the Pier end of town quite a few times.  Kids can find this tiresome. 

If you have kids under 5 consider a small travel pram. A big pram won’t work on the skinny (sometimes almost non-existing) pavements in town and with the crowds. Baby backpacks/slings are also a great idea!

If you have older kids who can ride a scooter, this is a great option. Bring it with you or, like us, buy them at Walmart and then bring back home – they are pretty cheap! 

Another popular option with visitors during race week is buying bikes from Walmart and then giving them away to people in need before you leave. They are also well priced and it’s a great way to get around for kids and adults!

kids getting around Kona, Hawaii on scooters
Scooters are a great way to get around Kona town for kids (or even adults!)

6. Pack flippers and goggles for the supporters

It’s not just the triathletes who need goggles and flippers. Not only because everyone wants to jump into the warms waters to cool off and see the incredible sea life but also to head out onto the Ironman swim course. 

If you are not an experienced swimmer but want to get out amongst the competitors and enjoy a free coffee from the Kona coffee boat moored out on the swim course (a fun tradition) you may need flippers to get there.

Triathletes on the Hawaii Ironman Swim Course
Enjoying a swim in the beautiful waters off Dig Me beach is for everyone but you may need flippers if you want to get out to the coffee boat and you aren’t a swimmer.

Final note if you are reading this and still in preparation mode – and you haven’t visited the US before. You need to apply online for an ESTA (US Electronic System for Travel Application) or they won’t let you on the place.

Want some more tips? I shared some when we last traveled to the Hawaii Ironman HERE.

Have you got any insider travel and packing tips for the Hawaii Ironman?

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