All posts by Genevive Bjorn

Maui Wildfires: A Local’s List of How to Help

🔥 The 2023 Maui wildfires have laid waste to the paradisiacal memories many hold dear. Lahaina is leveled, homes lost, businesses shattered, and the toll keeps rising. Remember that blissful Hawaiian sunset, the melody of island tunes, and the scent of blooming plumeria? Now, it’s our time to return the favor.

🌺 How Can You Give Back?

Donate Financially to Maui Wildfires Disaster Efforts

Many organizations are doing great work on the ground to provide relief from the Maui wildfires. They need cash, lots, and fast, including:

  1. Hawaii Community Foundation: Donate to the Maui Strong Fund.
  2. Hawaii Red Cross: Donate for the Maui Wildfires disaster relief.
  3. Maui Food Bank: Donate to provide food and turn $1 into 4 meals.
  4. Maui Humane Society: Donate here to help pets lost and abandoned due to the Maui wildfires. UPDATE: MHS is currently inundated with many burn victims and animals with broken limbs after jumping from heights or being hit by fleeing cars. Cash donations support emergency medical care.
  5. Salvation Army Hawaii Division: Donate here to provide boxed meals to people displaced by the Maui wildfires.
  6. Maui United Way: Donate to the Fire Disaster Relief Fund.

Donate Items for Maui Wildfires Relief

  1. Hawaii Red Cross: Donate a vehicle (to be sold for cash, not shipped).
  2. Maui Goodwill: Donate diapers, menstrual products, new bedding, and clothing
  3. Maui Humane Society: Donate pet food, beds, towels, and blankets –
  4. On-Island Donations: Items are accepted at the War Memorial Complex from 8 am to 6 pm HST. Enter the complex through Kanaloa Ave and drop off donations at the field on the left. What is needed most:
    • Menstrual pads (heavy with wings)
    • Urinary incontinence pads
    • Diapers size 5/6 (large) and pulls-ups in 2/3T and 3/4T
    • Ensure and other meal replacement drinks.
Lahaina Front Street after the 2023 fire

Volunteer Your Time from Afar to Help People Impacted by the Maui Wildfires

Local volunteers: If you are already on the island, volunteers are needed at the Maui Mayor’s distribution sites and all of the above organizations to help prepare meals and distribute relief. If you are local on Maui, please kokua your time and mahalo!

Mainland volunteers: If you are on the Mainland or in another country, the best way to donate your time is to help fundraise for these organizations doing great work on the ground. Here are some of the ways you can help:

  1. Initiate a social media awareness campaign: Share, post, tweet. Let everyone know Maui needs our help. Start a conversation by sharing this post.
  2. Organize collections of new items in your vicinity, such as diapers, blankets, and pillows, and ship them to Maui’s aid organizations listed above.

⚠️ A Gentle Reminder: As much as your heart might yearn to be physically present, please refrain from flying to Maui. Let’s assist without adding to the strain.

The spirit of Aloha is about community, about togetherness. The island culture has always cherished humanity over material. As wildfires ravage through, it is our collective strength and generosity that will pave the path to healing.

One of the things I love so much about island culture is that people are more important than things. In shocking times like these, after devastating wildfires, people helping people is what allows us to survive and rebuild.

🌈 Let’s embody the Aloha spirit. Stand with Maui. Donate, spread the word, and give generously.

Mosquitoes in Hawaii?

Mosquitoes in Hawaii? Yes, all of the Hawaiian islands have mosquitoes. They were most likely introduced from bilge water carried in whaling ships in the early 19th century. Aedes aegypti is one of the most common species noted by black and white spots. It is very invasive and found on all the islands. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, even in small puddles in parking lots. They are more abundant in rainy areas, especially in windward and mauka areas. However, do not be surprised to get bitten in drier areas like Waikiki or Ka’anapali.

Mosquitoes in Hawaii are most active in the morning and evening hours.  The are several species of mosquitoes in Hawaii, two of which bite humans. A third species is limited to birds, and it is not going to impact your vacation. Aedes aegypti bite two hours before and after sunrise and sunset. The other species bite during the day.

Aedes aegytpi is the most common mosquito in Hawaii

Avoid bites from mosquitoes in Hawaii with DEET

DEET prevents bites because it hides your CO2 signal. Mosquitoes use CO2 as the chemical signal to locate blood. Therefore, you become invisible to mosquitoes when you spray your clothing or skin with DEET.

Personally, I use Cutter All Family 15 Count Insect Repellent Mosquito Wipes 7.15% DEET. The wipes tuck into my day pack or purse and never leak. I easily pass TSA screening with them in carry-on toiletry bag. Also, wipes work wonders on squirmy kids, and the DEET doesn’t accidentally get into the nose or mouth when applying it. If you are traveling with children or a group, consider getting a 3-pack of Cutter All Family 15 Count Insect Repellent Mosquito Wipes 7.15% DEET (3 Pack) because the wipes are hard to find in Hawaii. However, many people like the convenience of a spray and use  Cutter 54010 Skinsations 6-Ounce Insect Repellent Pump Spray 7-Percent DEET, Case Pack of 1

If you have sensitive skin or feel concerned about a strong reaction to bites, consider using a stronger 20% DEET spray, such as Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent 25-Percent DEET Pump Spray, 6-Ounce. Apply it in the mornings and evenings when mosquitoes are most active or when you notice you’re being bitten. You may want to shower it off before bed.

If you are allergic to DEET, try a natural mosquito repellant. These are more gentle to sensitive skin because they are not as harsh. The recipe is simple. Mix into a base of vodka equal parts of the essential oils cinnamon, tea tree, and lemon. I fill a small spray bottle and carry it in my purse.

Avoid bites with clothing

Most people with bites are wearing shorts and t-shirts. Instead, I wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt and loose-fitting pants. I avoid bites by wearing permethrin clothing, such as ExOfficio Men’s BugsAway Tarka Lightweight Long-Sleeve Shirt . Likewise, mosquitoes in Hawaii can usually bite through tight-fitting clothing, including jeans. Therefore, wear loose clothing when possible.

Treat red, itchy mosquito bites

Mosquito bites cause red, itchy welts. Some people experience itching for 10 minutes while other people itch for 10 days. The immune system is to blame because mosquitoes inject a chemical as they bite. This chemical is an anti-coagulant, which prevents blood from clotting. The immune system reacts, causing welts. 

How sensitive you are to mosquito bites is a realistic concern. If you live in an area with lots of seasonal mosquitoes (think Minnesota or Maine), chances are your immune system is not going to freak out over a few bites. However, if you do not get bitten regular by mosquitoes, the immune system can react with raised, red welts that itch like crazy. Here are a few first-aid tips:

If you are sensitive to bites, keep hand to relieve the itching some calamine lotion, such as Caladryl Clear Lotion, 6 Ounce, or sting ease, such as StingEze Max2 Insect Bite Itch Relief Dauber, 0.5-Ounce. You will definitely want to have some in your bag because these items are hard to find in remote and resort areas.

Use DEET or protective clothing to prevent bites from mosquitoes in Hawaii. Apply sting relief to red bites.

Sting relief products reduce pain and discomfort. Most grocery stores sell sting ease products that reduce itching from insect bites. Still, I carry individually wrapped sting relief wipes in my day pack and purse. Apply liberally as soon you notice the bite.

Where are the mosquitoes in Hawaii?

Leeward areas have fewer bugs because there is less rain. Less rain means less standing water, where mosquitoes breed. These areas include: Honolulu on O’ahu, Poipu on Kaua’i and Kihei on Maui.

Windward areas have more mosquitoes because there is more rain. This means more standing water, where the bugs breed. These areas include: Hilo on Hawaii island, Hana on Maui, and Hanalei on Kauai. However, windward areas are also more windy. Asa result, strong trade winds prevent mosquitoes in Hawaii from landing on skin because wind blows away carbon dioxide (or CO2).  Mosquitoes cannot hone in on the carbon dioxide coming out of the body with breathing.

What diseases do mosquitoes in Hawaii carry?

Visiting Hawaii is not like going to the Amazon. There is no malaria in Hawaii. Dengue is limited to occasional outbreaks in the deep jungle areas, like the road to Hana on Maui. Catching a disease spread through mosquito bites is not a real worry in Hawaii.

Mosquitoes in Hawaii do not carry malaria, thank goodness. Malaria is a debilitating fever disease found in most tropical zones in the world. However, mosquitoes in Hawaii carry dengue fever. Outbreaks occur in wet zones on Maui and the Big Island. The most recent outbreak of dengue happened in 2015. Read more about dengue and zika in Hawaii.  If you are concerned about dengue fever, stay in leeward areas.

Finally, if you are allergic to mosquitoes, plan your travel to avoid wet areas. Waterfall hikes are located in windward areas. Bring plenty of repellent to reapply after swimming. Also, wear protective clothing and apply sting relief as needed.

Carry-On Toiletry Bag for Airplane that Passes TSA

Breeze through TSA airport security with these tips from an elite frequent flier on how to effectively pack your carry-on toiletry bag. I always have a carry-on toiletry bag and never get stopped or lose my toiletries. Please use the tips in this article to pack a better carry-on toiletry bag.

Example of a carry-on toiletry bag that passes TSA every time
This toiletry bag passes TSA every time.

Choose Essentials for Your Carry-On Toiletry Bag

5Let’s face it, you’re probably wondering what to put into a carry-on toiletry bag. Space is limited so you’ll need to eliminate some items. I’ll offer some strategies on how to make decisions about what stays and what goes into your carry-on toiletry bag. I’ll also tell you what’s in my carry-on toiletry bag.

Pro Tip: Always carry backup quart bags in your luggage. Read about how to choose the best toiletry bag.

Meet TSA Rules for Liquids in a Carry-On Toiletry Bag

TSA specifies, “liquids, creams and gels” in a quantity no larger than 3 ounces or 100 mL. They must all fit into a quart size plastic bag, and the bag must close.

For example, you could pack your zip top bag with four 3-ounce bottles of your favorite shampoo, if that’s all you need. You just can’t bring the 12 ounce bottle, even if it fits into the quart bag. I can’t tell you how many sad faces I’ve seen when TSA takes away a beloved full-size bottle of perfume or lotion because it’s larger than 3 ounces.

Also, liquid or gel toiletries must go in the carry-on toiletry bag, including mascara and powdered cosmetics. Read more about how to avoid common toiletry bag problems. 

Pro Tip: Limit the bottle sizes to 100 mL or 3.4 ounces.

Solids Stay Out of Your Carry-On Toiletry Bag

TSA allows solids of any size (as long as they meet the other security rules). So it’s important to make a distinction between toiletries that are NOT solid, such as gel deodorants; and toiletries that ARE solid, such as solid deodorant sticks like Tom’s Deodorant Stick Sensitive Care Fragrance Free 2.25 Ounces and Dove Anti-Perspirant Deodorant, Sensitive Skin 2.60 oz. Solid toiletries do NOT have to go in the bag. Consider traveling with a deodorant that says “solid” on the package to save space in your plastic bag.

Another way to save space is to remove toiletry accessories–like floss, nail scissors and your toothbrush– from your carry-on toiletry bag, even though you may use these items with the liquids. TSA does not require that these go in the bag, and they take up a lot of space.

If you need to bring special food, freeze it beforehand so that it is a solid when you pass through TSA. 

Pro Tip: Don’t waste precious space in your carry-on toiletry bag with solids, including solid deodorants, and accessories. Instead, pack these into your suitcase or personal item.

Pack Hard-to-Find Items in Your Carry-On Toiletry Bag

Look at all the liquids, creams and gels that you want to bring. Now ask yourself which of those items are the most difficult to replace on the road. Pack only the items that are impossible or difficult to find later, or that you’re going to need immediately in flight.

Example of a carry-on toiletry bag with only items that are needed in flight or hard to find later
Two prescription creams, eye gel, and a travel-size toothpaste are hard to find later.

For instance, if you’re staying a hotel, it will offer shampoo, conditioner and lotion. If you’re staying with friends, they will have toothpaste and contact solution. If you’re bouncing between hotels and friends, you might be able to score extra travel shampoo and conditioner first, but not toothpaste. Neither is likely to have that special eye cream that you can’t live without.

In my bag, I pack these toiletries: face cleanser to wash off road grime; hand and eye cream for in-flight dry skin relief; a tiny toothpaste for in-flight brushing; and a tube of eye gel for those red eye flights. These are my must-haves that I don’t leave home without. Everything else is optional, depending on where I’m going and for how long.

The bottom line is that instead of carrying on all of your toiletries, I encourage you to think strategically about what will be available where you are going: What items are a must-have and which items are easily replaced?

Pro Tip: Eliminate all the items from your carry-on toiletry bag that you don’t need in flight and will find easily later.

Pack Items Tightly in Your Carry-On Toiletry Bag

If you’ve ever played the game Candy Crush or Tetris, you’re in luck. The skills you acquired playing will serve you well in packing your toiletry bag. Be sure to choose 3-ounce containers that pack tightly together in your carry-on toiletry bag. From the photo above, you can see that I use round, thin containers. The benefit of these is that they pack flat, and I can stack them two deep when needed.

Many containers that you can buy for travel are cylinder shapes. Drug stores typically sell these in the travel size toiletry section of the store. These generally work fine. However, I have moved away from using them because they’re slightly bulky, often leak, don’t pack tightly.

Refillable Containers for Your Carry-On Toiletry Bag

I opt for refillable containers that are either long, skinny cylinders or rectangular shapes. These pack tighter, and it’s easier to get the zipper around them on the fly. Dot & Dot makes a very durable set that is BPA-free. Each is exactly 3 ounces and can safely be filled with toiletries or food.

My personal favorite shape is the flat cylinder, such as the Aveda Rosemary Mint Shampoo – 1 oz Small Travel Size Bottle [30 mL]. These pack flat and tight. I recently scored these at a hotel and have reused them for months. It’s easy to refill them with your own supplies. Then pack tightly into one bag everything you might need, such as: shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, face lotion, hand lotion, cleanser and body wash.

Example of how to reuse hotel toiletries in a carry-on toiletry bag
These bottles are ideal for a carry-on toiletry kit because they are the right size, very compact, reusable, and don’t leak.

Pro Tip: Choose 3-ounce containers that pack together flat, tight and don’t leak.

Plastic Wrap Single-Use Liquids in Your Carry-On Toiletry Bag

Plastic wrap is my latest discovery for how to pack carry-on toiletries that don’t fit into bottles: Glad Press’n Seal Plastic Wrap, 70 sq ft . It seals really well, and most other brands will, too. For short trips, squirt 2 to 3 ounces of thicker liquids, such as sunscreen or hair gel, onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Fold and seal. These pack very small. You can toss what you don’t use at the end of your trip. 

Pro Tip: Use plastic wrap instead of travel sized containers to bring single-use items in your carry-on toiletry bag. Dispose of unused liquids at the end of your trip.