Packing Guide for a Vacation to Southern California

What to wear in Southern California

So, you’re planning a vacation to Southern California, huh? CONGRATS! You are going to LOVE it here!

Of course, I’m always talking about Southern California on Facebook and Instagram. I’m always saying how great it is, how perfect the weather is, how gorgeous the beaches are, how much I enjoy hiking here, and how much I want you to visit!

Read more: Why I love living in Orange County, California

And all of this is TRUE! And when you visit, I want you to be prepared for your trip. Summer in Southern California means stronger sun and more heat, and if you are not used to that your trip could end up exhausting. But don’t you worry, summertime also means that there is more time to head to the beach and cool off!

So what is considered Southern California anyways?

Technically speaking, Southern California (SoCal) includes 10 different counties. But for this post, I’m going to assume you are heading here for some fun in the sun in some of the most popular areas:

Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego

What is the weather like in Southern California?

We have gorgeous weather all year round. Seriously. There could even be super-hot days in the winter (like I’m at the beach in my bikini hot).

A typical summer day in SoCal is normally in between the 70’s and 90’s, depending on where you are.

You may be shocked that I gave you such a wide temperature range, right? The reason is that it’s always cooler near the ocean, and if you go inland you will experience hotter temperatures. I only live about 25 minutes from the beach, and the temperature is drastically hotter sometimes.

Winter doesn’t really exist in SoCal, but there could be some cloudy and cool days, so definitely be prepared for that as well. Once in a great while we get rain, but no, not really.

What do I need to prepare myself for?

I have learned that it is just best to be prepared for anything. Even if it’s hot during the day I always have an extra sweater with me because it could get chilly after sunset. I always bring my camera because there are always stunning photo opportunities, and I always bring a battery bank to keep my phone charged. And I ALWAYS have sun protection.

I have a rule to always bring certain things like this with me when I go out exploring for the day, so in this post, I am sharing my tips to prepare you for your trip to sunny Southern California!

The Ultimate Packing Guide for a Vacation to Southern California

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First things first. The sun is super strong here. The days could start out cloudy and cool, but as soon as that sun is out the temperature drastically changes and you can really feel the heat. Even on a cloudy day, you need to be protected from the sun! Be sure to have these 3 things with you at any time of the year and for any activity that you might be doing:

If you are someone who has Acne and/or Rosacea (like me), I highly recommend using this EltaMD UV Clear sunscreen. This stuff has been absolutely amazing for me, and it doesn’t have any of that sunscreen smell we all hate! I use this sunscreen on a daily basis, but when I know I’m going to be under the harsh sun all day, I use this Neutrogena sunscreen.

I also advise bringing some extra layers with like a sweater or a jean jacket. The mornings can be chilly so I usually leave the house wearing some type of light hoodie, sweater, or flannel, but as soon as the sun is out I am removing those extra layers. Once the sun starts going down I usually end up putting those layers right back on.

For the beach

Hopefully, you will be planning a beach day (which is a MUST during a vacation to Southern California!). You need to be prepared for some burning hot sun.

If you need some ideas for your beach day, check out these posts:

8 of the Best Beaches in Laguna Beach, California

12 of the Best Free Things to Do in Laguna Beach

7 Things You Cannot Miss on the Venice Beach Boardwalk

How to Spend a Day in Venice Beach and Santa Monica

Now, I know it’s a little hard to be prepared for a full-on beach day if you are flying in for vacation, but I highly recommend using a beach umbrella if you want to lounge on the beach all day. If you are a sun goddess, forget it, but I personally cannot sit out basking in the sun all day long. Check around because some stores have beach rentals where you can get everything you need for a beach day.

The beach areas are normally cooler than the inland areas, but don’t let the weather-man fool you. In my experience, the sun adds at least five to ten degrees to whatever the forecast says it’s going to be. Once the sun goes down prepared to feel a little chilly, and that’s where your extra layers come in handy.

Here are some options for a day of fun in the sun:

Click each photo to shop the look!

For the hotel

Just in case you plan on spending a day relaxing at your hotel’s pool, here is some outfit inspiration:

Click each photo to shop the look!

For a day in the city

If you are heading out for a long day exploring the city, you should dress light and comfortable. Southern California has a very casual atmosphere, so don’t feel like you need to dress up in anything fancy!

I always bring a backpack with me to carry my camera and accessories, snacks, water, flip flops in case I end up walking the beach (the sand gets too hot for bare feet!), and a light sweater.

Here are some outfit ideas for a day in the city:

Click each photo to shop the look!

For the tourist attractions

If you are going to spend a day at any tourist attraction you should know that you are going to be hot, sweating, and moving around a lot. It is best to wear an outfit that you know you will be comfortable in whether you are sitting, standing, walking, or getting on and off some type of thrill ride.

In this case, I probably wouldn’t recommend carrying around a big backpack or purse and a bunch of camera gear. It might be better to use your phone as a camera and wear a small purse that is only big enough to carry your basic necessities.

Here are some ideas for what to wear to SoCal’s tourist attractions:

Click each photo to shop the look!

For the outdoors

Southern California has tons of outdoor activities, and of course, we are always outside enjoying the perfect weather. Interested in heading out for a hike, kayaking, or biking? Here’s what you should bring:

Hiking/Trail Running:

Water Activities:

Mountain Biking:

Check out these posts to find out what you need to wear and bring with you for a mountain bike ride:

The Women’s Guide to What to Wear Mountain Biking

9 Essentials to Pack for Every Mountain Bike Ride

For the casual photographer

Maybe you are not a professional photographer (me either!), but I don’t think you want to miss capturing all of the awesome moments you are going to have in California. Here are the cameras and accessories that I consider easy to use and convenient enough to carry around.

Click each photo to shop it!

For the men

We can’t forget about the boys! Even though some men are typically laid back and not too worried about what they wear, it’s always a good idea to double-check your packing list!

Here’s some outfit inspiration for the men:

Click each photo to shop the look!

I hope this gives you a better idea of what to pack for Southern California! And don’t worry if you forget something. We have awesome shopping here so you can always pick up something new! Enjoy!


The Ultimate Southern California Bucket List

A 4-Day Vacation to Southern California

The Best Weekend Road Trips in Southern California

Packing Guide for a Vacation to Southern CaliforniaPacking Guide for a Vacation to Southern CaliforniaPacking Guide for a Vacation to Southern CaliforniaPacking Guide for a Vacation to Southern CaliforniaPacking Guide for a Vacation to Southern CaliforniaPacking Guide for a Vacation to Southern CaliforniaPacking Guide for a Vacation to Southern CaliforniaPacking Guide for a Vacation to Southern California

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38 thoughts on “Packing Guide for a Vacation to Southern California”

  • I loved the selection of one pieces you included! Love your blog! This post makes me want to take a trip to SoCal!! Also, loving this giveaway! I mean who wouldn’t want to win this?!!??

    • Hi Katelyn! Thanks so much for your comments. I spent so much time working on this post (and my blog!) so I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed it!

  • Your pictures make me want to hop in a plane right now and go! Never been to the West Coast but it is on my bucket list! Thanks for all the great tips for the trip as well.

  • Great list of things to pack for any vacation really, I really like the black one piece swimsuit, so cute!

    ~xo Sheree

    • I’m so happy to hear this! I was trying to do something a little different from the standard packing guide I always see, so I thought this was a cool idea! Thank you for your comment!

  • This is so helpful! We’re heading to San Diego in October and I’m going to make sure to bring layers with me!

    • Yes you definitely need layers! A lot of people think we have hot weather non-stop but it isn’t always true! Have a fun trip to San Diego! Make sure to stop in La Jolla Cove to see the sea lions and seals up close!!

  • Great tips! I’ve never been to Southern California, but I really hope to get there some day, My brother lives in Northern California and when I do finally get out there I definitely want to plan to head to Southern California as well!

    PS – The Palm Tree Beach Towel is adorable!!

    • That would be so awesome if you had the chance to visit both Northern and Southern California! I have never been north of LA, but I hear that the scenery and weather are very different. Thank you for your comment!

  • Wonderful, helpful post! I live in San Diego, and your list is perfect for here, too. Your detailed lists are great because it’s so easy to forget something light a light beach blanket or towel to sit on.. We sat on a rock recently and wished we had remembered to pack a picnic blanket. The only thing I would add is for amusement parks (Disney!) be sure to wear tennies you can walk in all day — not flip flops that fall off in rides where you are hanging — ha ha!

  • Your suggestions are spot on! We don’t live at the beach, but we often go up the Southern CA coast to San Luis Obispo and the mornings tend to be foggy and windy and same with the evenings. We love Avila Beach. Same thing. We do a lot of wine tasting which makes us feel quite philosophical so we write profound things in the sand…. Layers are key! Sunscreen! and if you want to write in the sand, you will need a stick. Some of those beaches have driftwood and rocks, so tennies are a must too.. I am @desert_dance on Instagram

    • It just amazes me how quickly the temperature can change here! My body became used to warm temperatures after living in Mexico for 3 years, so I get cold very easily now! San Luis Obispo is on my bucket list, it looks like such a cute town!! That’s totally true, some of the northern beaches might require tennies! Thanks for your comment and for entering the giveaway Susan!

  • I actually went to Santa Ana Comm College in 1977! But moved back to Florida after a year. Your article brought back such wonderful memories. I also enjoyed reading about what to wear. I could see you put a lot of effort into your post. Great job! And great giveaway!

  • Southern California is tough to beat for weather! In fact, my girls have been pushing me to move to the California coast- they are rebelling against the Texas heat, which gets unbearable this time of year.

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