The beauty of Southern California? It’s summer (basically) all year long. It’s no wonder people from all over the world choose the likes of San Diego, LA, Orange County and Santa Barbara for the ultimate sunny getaway. You may already have your sunglasses and swimsuit in hand, but there’s a few other items you shouldn’t forget to pack!
Women’s Packing Guide For Southern California
The breezy boho styles practically originated in Southern California’s bigger cities, so you won’t feel out of place sporting cute cutoffs or a simple T-shirt dress. Light, comfortable clothing is key.
I find packing dresses is easiest as it keeps planning your outfits easy and saves room in your luggage, though versatile skirts and shorts paired with casual tops will do for any venue in Southern California.
Sweater and Pants
There’s typically no need to pack a rain jacket — after all, more than 9 out of 10 Southern California days are dry — though it can get a bit chilly at night and near the beach. In your excitement for sun, do not forget to bring a warm sweater like a hoodie or thick cardigan, and a pair of long jeans (or LuLulemon leggings, if you really feel like blending in).
There is a reason Rainbows are the chosen footwear of nearly every Southern California native — they’re the ultimate durable leather sandal, and one pair will last a lifetime! Fair warning — you will need to take a few days to break them in before your trip (they are real leather, after all). The short break-in period is definitely worth it though, and you’ll look and feel like a true local.
Great weather warrants multiple visits to the ocean, pool, and hot tub — often more than once a day. Swimsuits never seem to dry completely before my next water-oriented activity, so be sure to pack at least two swimsuits (though three or four couldn’t hurt). They take up such a minimal amount of space in your luggage that there’s no reason to skimp here!
While you may want to bring some nicer clothes for a night out, Southern California is no Vegas — you can leave the glitz and glam at home (if you want). An appropriate outfit for evening plans might consist of a cute blouse, dark jeans or pants/capris, and a pair of booties or slightly heeled sandals; accessories are optional, though if you do opt for earrings or a necklace, dainty and simple is always a safe bet.
I’m sure no one needs convincing that SoCal’s landscapes are deserving of high-quality photography — affirmed by the massive amount of professional photographers in the region. But why gawk over Instagram photos when you can take them yourself?! Break out your DSLR and your best lenses, because you’ll want to capture your best moments and new favorite spots on camera.
If you worry about your equipment taking up too much space in luggage (as I often did), consider getting a backpack or messenger bag that doubles as a padded camera case. Your new convenient personal item will leave you free to fill your carry-on with clothes and souvenirs.
*Need help choosing the perfect camera? Check out our most up-to-date guide to the best travel cameras!
Hiking is a regular pastime for LA fitness fanatics, and not just for the health benefits! Every corner of Southern California — from the hills of Orange County and mountains above Los Angeles to the seaside cliffs of San Diego — offers limitless opportunities to completely surround yourself in the devastatingly gorgeous scenery.
Even some of the most unique beaches can’t be reached without a bit of effort (e.g. the nude Blacks Beach)! If you don’t bring a pair of athletic shoes (and maybe a decent sports bra), you’ll seriously regret it.
CC Cream with SPF
A full-face makeup look isn’t very versatile or even practical — what with the hot weather and likely outdoor treks — but a good cc cream with SPF can do wonders. Not only will it protect your face from harmful rays, but it can also replace your standard foundation as a more lightweight, moisturizing alternative. Trust me, after a single day out in the sun, your skin will thank you!
Additional Packing Tips for California
If you haven’t yet hopped on the Waze bandwagon, there’s no time like the present. Public transportation — aside from the regional Amtrak — is essentially nonexistent in Southern California and is DEFINITELY not something you want to rely on to get you around.
If you’re in the packing stages of your trip planning, you likely know you need to rent a car. The notorious traffic down here is no joke, so having Waze navigate your every move around accidents and known gridlocks can save you up to HOURS of driving.
I’ve personally never had a problem with pickpockets (knock on wood), though touristy areas like Hollywood Boulevard and Venice Beach are not void of “friendly” locals with sticky fingers. Be sure to keep any valuables on you secure when you’re in these regions.
At the beach, you can slightly bury a dry bag with your keys and phone under your towel. Keep all nonessentials in your car, either in the truck of your car or hidden under the seat; car break-ins are unfortunately becoming more common, but you won’t have to worry about it if there’s nothing tempting visible!
This may not apply to those of you with naturally beautiful hair, but my own tangle-prone and frizzy/wavy hair is virtually unmanageable in the beach winds and ocean waters.
A good leave-in conditioner can help you brush through salt-water hair and prevent it from feeling dry after a dip in the sea, though — for the sake of time and convenience — I frequently will just put my hair in French braids before even heading to the beach. Not only do they stay put in and out of the water, but they still look good for the rest of the day and evening.