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Three-Day Trip to California – What I Packed and Wore

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three days california pack woreIf you follow me on Snapchat (wardrobeoxygen), you know last week I went to California for a couple days. I was invited to be part of a project, and I’ll be sure to share it when it’s finished! But in the meantime… what I packed. While I knew for two days I’d be at the project site, I didn’t know for how long and what if any activities would take place before and after. Unknown itinerary, didn’t want to check luggage, here’s what I took and what I packed it in:

Bags I Took:

  • 15” Dagne Dover tote – I hesitated taking it because it’s a heavy bag, but it’s so smartly designed. With it, I had a padded pouch for my laptop, another for my Kindle, a waterproof place for a cold bottle of water, easy to access pockets for things like my phone, and it’s a bag that easily works as a business tote or a purse. Organization trumps weight or style when cramped in Coach looking for a tissue or lip balm. I took my vermilion bag because the color is so happy and a great contrast with a wardrobe of mostly black and denim.
  • American Tourister iLite 21” Spinner – I’ve had this for a few years and it’s pretty perfect. Not pricey, not heavy, fits in all overhead compartments, smart pockets and compartments, the wheels are spinners so they move in all directions and never get wonky, and the handle is adjustable and a comfortable length for dragging through an airport, pulling as I run to get to my gate, or push in front of or next to me when moving in line or off a plane.  Writing this post, I found the best price online at Target but only in purple; eBags has a bunch of different colors available and the second cheapest price (both sellers have it for less than $70). While black may seem practical and chic, I recommend getting a color so you stand out in a sea of suitcases at baggage claim.


My flight left at 8:30am Tuesday; with the TSA issues I had a car pick me up at 5:30am. What I wore:

I had a car pick me up from LAX and take me straight to my project so I was still in the same outfit. I removed the scarf (mainly worn to have a layer for the plane), refreshed my makeup, brushed my teeth, and sprayed Body Shop Vitamin E Spray all over myself for hydration and to not smell so stale.

What I carried in my Dagne Dover tote for a comfortable 5-hour flight:

  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Body Shop Vitamin E Face Mist (keeps you hydrated but doesn’t make your makeup disappear. It’s a nice TSA-friendly size too. When I was a trainer for The Body Shop flight attendants would come in and buy this by the case.)
  • Body Shop Vitamin E Eyes Cube (I picked this up at the airport and LOVE it. It’s a solid, but a cooling wet feel. I reapplied many times during my flights under my eyes and also my lips)
  • EOS lip balm
  • LARABAR (healthier and more satisfying than the snacks they offer on the plane)
  • Bottle of water (bought at the airport after going through TSA)
  • Fruity gum (good for popping ears and when you feel all dehydrated and gross)
  • Colgate Wisps (can never find at home, so I picked some up at the airport when I got my water; great for a quick touch-up)
  • Kindle Paperwhite fully charged
  • Battery and cord (this had enough juice to take my phone from 30-100 three separate times on this trip)
  • iPhone with various audiobooks, podcasts, and music downloaded
  • UrbanEars Bluetooth headphones
  • Eye mask (though I didn’t use it)
  • Personal wipes (just in case), Advil, contact lens rewetting drops, and a travel pack of Kleenex

What I carried for a post-flight refresh:

  • Travel-size Batiste dry shampoo
  • L’Oreal Lumi Cushion foundation (layers well and isn’t considered a liquid)
  • Lipstick
  • Small comb
  • Travel toothbrush and toothpaste (though I didn’t use because LAX’s bathroom grossed me out)
  • Little clamp barrettes and a hair elastic in case my hair was super awful after the flight
  • Mirrored aviators to hide my tired face

I was at the project for a couple hours and finally got to my hotel around 4:00pm (my body clock knew it was 7:30pm at home). I checked in, got to my room and took a very long and very hot shower. I brought a tiny bottle of Molton Brown Ylang Ylang body wash that smells amazing and so decadent. I then made my room my temporary home. What I do to make a hotel room comfortable:

  • Light a candle. Travel candles don’t take up much space, aren’t in breakable containers, and don’t need to be in your Ziploc of liquids. Choose a familiar scent to get the room feeling homey.
  • Instead of turning on the TV, play some music. Whether it’s bringing your own speaker, using a speaker dock with your room, or turning on the radio, music gives a more relaxing vibe than the Weather Channel or Bravo.
  • Unpack. Even if it’s for one night, unpacking and making use of drawers and the closet relaxes me and I can find everything easily.
  • Set up the bedside table. Water, cell charger, glasses, a journal… it’s nice to have everything ready before you crash at the end of the day.
  • Bring a robe. A lightweight cotton robe doesn’t take a ton of space and is a little luxury that can make your hotel stay more comfortable. Needham Lane recently sent me this robe, which is perfection. It stays closed, has pockets deep enough to hold an iPhone, and the luxe cotton gets better with each wash (I also brought the matching shorty pajamas). It’s nice to slip on post-shower and relax, letting your moisturizer soak in.
  • If you have time, bring some pampering products. I knew there’d be a lot of downtime so I brought bubble bath, a sheet mask, undereye masks, and some random samples from Sephora orders. If I had room in my Ziploc or checked luggage I likely would have brought a deep conditioner for my hair.

I knew I had to stay up until at least 9pm Cali time or I’d be up at 3am so I got dressed and went to a casual restaurant. What I wore:

  • Black off the shoulder knit top
  • The black faux leather-front pants
  • SUPERGA sneakers
  • Silver collar necklace (similar) and cuff
  • Small black crossbody (I used this bag and added a strap from a Rebecca Minkoff bag so I could use it as a regular or hip bag on the trip)

By time I got back to my room, I was wiped out. I changed into my pajamas, had a cup of tea, and was asleep before 9.


Despite my best efforts I was up at 3am. I usually get up between 5-6am at home so my body was used to it. I put on my workout clothes and headed to the hotel’s 24-hour gym. What I wore:

Came back, did some yoga, showered and dried my hair, and then dozed for a bit. Breakfast was available in the hotel lobby at 7am and I was one of the first to show up. What I wore:

I wasn’t being picked up until 10:30 so I went back up to my room and did some work on the blog, scheduled some social media content, and checked email. Grabbed a coconut milk latte from the Starbucks in the lobby and waited for my ride to the project.

I got back to the hotel around 5:45pm that evening. Another woman part of the project was staying at my hotel and texted me to see if I wanted to grab dinner with her. I ran up to my room, brushed my teeth, dropped off my big bag (stuck essentials in my denim jacket pockets) and met her in the lobby.

We both were from the East Coast so after sharing a bottle of Chardonnay we were both ready to crash. I was back in my room by 8pm.

What else I packed in case I had more activities and needs to change clothes:

Was thinking of these possible outfits:

  • Dark jeans, striped top, leopard pumps or SUPERGA sneakers
  • Black tank dress, DVF scarf, clutch, leopard pumps
  • Black dress, silver jewelry, silver Birkenstocks, black little bag, denim jacket if needed
  • Print maxi dress, birkennstocks, denim jacket if needed
  • Dark jeans, black off the shoulder knit top, leopard pumps


Another 8:30am flight, so it wasn’t so bad when my body woke itself up at 5am. Did some yoga in my room, took another long shower, and got ready. What I wore:

  • Black tank-style dress (similar)
  • Denim jacket
  • Cadet blue and black print bamboo oblong scarf/shawl (seen here)
  • Silver Birkenstocks

I had my jewelry in my bag, no point in putting it on until I went through TSA. I also had a pair of Smartwool Hide and Seek socks in my bag to slip on at TSA when I had to remove my shoes and to put on if it's cold on the plane.

In my old life, I traveled quite regularly for business and had plane travel down to a science. My current job doesn't require any business travel and since having Emerson my personal trips are usually ones where the destination can be reached by car. While some may dread so much time in a plane, I always look forward to solo travel flights because it's forced time to be disconnected from work, from social media, from being social.  I read one and a half books, I spent long periods of time looking into space and letting my mind wander, and took care of myself to not get dehydrated or over-tired.  And by packing properly, I was ready for anything and treated it as a pampering experience.  And stay tuned, I should be able to share this project I worked on in a few weeks!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Dear Allie, (a tome about to be written) We share a body silouette and I admire your fashion sensibility so much; please help me with a packing dilemma I find myself stymied by. I am heading to the East Coast with my teenager and husband for 22 days of mixed purpose travel in July. So much travel, so much variety!

    1 day 7 hours flying, 4hours driving

    4 days- very rural “off the grid” relatives- maybe mud and bugs, definitely dogs and hiking. No A/C !

    2 days- Boston -College visits urban

    3 days- elderly relatives, suburban, in-law dinners , no a/c

    3 days- NYC -college visits, fancy dinner

    2 days- more elderly relatives , beach

    5 days- Philadelphia- business conference with business lunches and dinners

    1 day- museum and college visit

    1 day- fly home

    Also: No shorts! Hot flashes! Rain? Fitting 34 gg under wires into suitcase? 58 year old “bingo wings”!

    Am I crazy to think this can fit in a 24″ suitcase? I feel a little crazy just writing it all out.

    Help please?

  2. Totally agree that plane time is some of the best time to read and write and disconnect (plus, i have a bad habit of going to really far destinations so I have to love long flights)! When I traveled more for work, I built a travel makeup and toiletries bag and have kept it full ever since. So easy to grab and go (while sometimes winnowing out a few extras.)

  3. Pampering in the hotel = genius! It’s one of those things that, once said, makes such sense and seems so obvious I’m wondering how I never thought of it. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  4. Did you order the off the shoulder black top from that Etsy seller? Very curious, it looks great on the site – is it sweatshirt-y fabric? Could it “dress up” at all?

    1. Yes I did! It’s thicker than a tee shirt but thinner than a sweatshirt. A Large is very full and longer in the back, so it’s more casual and works with leggings. The sleeves are very narrow, but have stretched out with wear (and with me line drying and stretching out the arms while it dried, though it kept that new shape after going in the dryer after another washing). It’s definitely a casual top, and gives the effect of a sweatshirt, but not as bulky and far more stretchy. More the weight of ponte, but with the soft interior like a sweatshirt. Hope that helps!

  5. Perfect timing! I have a 4 day business trip next week (Oregon to Pennsylvania). It’s never occurred to me to bring pampering products to play with in the hotel. I usually pamper myself with nice meals on my per diem. 🙂 I find the most difficult part of packing is the shoes. Trying to figure out the one shoe to rule them all so my luggage doesn’t weigh 50 pounds is a challenge. I’m thinking I should pick the one shoe first and then build my outfits around that choice. Thankfully, my office is casual. Lots to think about now, thanks again for the post!

    1. That was an issue for me too. I wanted to be down to one pair of shoes, but I couldn’t find a pair in my wardrobe that ticked all the boxes. I’ll admit for the project I had black and nude pumps and a couple tanks/camis and black dress pants in there, so the suitcase was far more full that it seems and I could have had backup options (though the pieces I brought didn’t really go with anything else!). I’d love to be the gal who looks tres chic in a pair of Repetto flats that are supportive, comfortable, chic with jeans and dresses. But nah, I always have a ton of shoes with me!

  6. These are my favorite posts you do, honestly. I pull them up just about every time I go on a trip. I am a horrible packer, throwing much too much stuff into a bag that I never end up wearing. Your posts keep me grounded…for the most part. 🙂

    1. Honestly, thinking about writing this post kept me from overstuffing my bag with all kinds of cray. The unknown itinerary really freaked me out. Would I go clubbing? Attend a fancy dinner? Have to do any manual labor? Attend a group yoga class? Things like black tank dresses are so awesome because they can be worn with sneakers or heels and work for most everything, having them in my bag calmed me a lot 🙂

  7. Enjoyed your post, especially your listing of products you bring on the plane. I travel a lot for work and will give some of those items a try!

  8. Thanks – this is very helpful as I have a solo business trip coming up later this month, which is unusual for me too. I find conferences sort of stressful (being a introvert, networking and business development is very draining) — so the idea of packing along pampering products for all that alone downtime in the hotel room is a great idea. I have about 5 sample masks from Sephora I never have time to use at home!

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