California Vacation Packing List
Let’s start with congrats! You’re headed to the wonderful west coast state of California, the hub of all things Hollywood, glamor, and charm. It also has some of the most diverse landscapes.
So, all in one day, you could snowboard and surf… pretty cool. But, this also means packing can be a bit more complicated.
If you’re only staying along the coast, don’t fret – you won’t need to worry about packing tons of warmer gear.
However, if you do plan on getting around the state or you’ll be inland or in the northern area, you’ll want to consider bringing clothes for both warm and cold weather.
It also depends on what time of year you’ll be visiting.
Packing can be a stressful feat, but that is why we are here to help you with your California vacation packing list.
It’s easy to worry about packing too little or packing too much.
You’ll probably also worry about forgetting the essential items, and there are many other worries when it comes to packing.
This California Vacation Packing List will help prepare you so that you can ease your mind and not have these concerns when you’re supposed to be enjoying your upcoming vacation.
Keep reading for the ultimate list of items to pack for California.
The more you stick to a list, the less chance you’ll have of overpacking or forgetting things which will ultimately lead to you feeling less stressed.
The best part is it saves you room for souvenirs and you won’t have to go out buying things because you forgot some items.
- California Weather
- The Ultimate California Vacation Packing List
- Essentials to Pack for California
- Clothing and Accessories to Pack for California
- 1. SwimSuit
- 2. Beach Cover-Up
- 3. Lightweight Packable Water Proof Jacket
- 4. Beanie
- 5. Nice Dress
- 6. Day Backpack
- 7. Reusable Water Bottle
- 8. Portable Charger
- 9. Comfortable Walking Shoes
- 10. Dressy Sandals
- 11. Warm Interchangable Layers
- 12. Polarized Sunglasses
- 13. A Good Sun Hat
- 14. Travel Towel
- 15. Noise Canceling Headphones
- 16. Kindle
- 17. Travel Size Toiletries
- 18. Mini Sized First Aid Kit
- 19. Sarong
- 20. Eye Mask
- 21. Tripod Selfie Stick
- 22. Packing Cubes
- 23. Toiletry Bag
- 24. Facial Wipes
- 25. Lip Balm
- Toiletries and Cosmetic Products
- Items to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag
- Useful Tips and Hacks
The best time to visit California depends on what you’re looking to do. The answer will differ depending on if you’re hoping to swim or snowboard.
In general, California has a Mediterranean-like climate with dry summers and mild winters. The coast averages around 70 degrees Fahrenheit but can get in the 80s in the summer. In the north, you can experience all four seasons and enjoy snow along with the sun.
The most popular time to visit California is in the summer months, from June to August. This is when the weather is warmest, but it’s also the busiest time of year.
But, honestly, California is great all year long. Different landscapes are better at different times of year – summer is best for the coast, and winter is best for northern inland California.
Spring brings luscious grass, wildflowers, and forests throughout the state, even the deserts bloom.
It’s crucial that you do your homework before visiting. Because the state is so large and diverse, it’s hard to say what to expect.
Research what area you’re visiting and when you’ll be there in order to figure out what the weather will look like for you. But essentially, you can visit any time of year and have a great time.
The Ultimate California Vacation Packing List
Below you’ll find a list of all the items you’ll need for your vacation to California broken out by essentials, clothing, accessories and toiletries to help you organize when you pack.
Feel free to use this list as you pack so you can be sure you have everything required for the perfect California vacation.
Some of the items are linked to help you find what you’re looking for and make your packing experience as easy as possible.
At the end of this, you’ll also find nine travel hacks and tips to make your life easier.
Essentials to Pack for California
Starting with the most important items, you’ll find a list of four essentials you’ll need for your trip. If you forget anything, don’t let it be one of these items because they’re not things you could easily replace or purchase if you leave them behind.
You can always go out and buy a pair of sunglasses, shampoo, or even a sweatshirt, but there is no conjuring up a new credit card if you forget your only form of payment at home.
Pack these first, and the rest will follow suit.
- Medication, glasses, contacts, prescriptions
- COVID Vaccine Card and Mask (if needed)
Clothing and Accessories to Pack for California
If you are visiting southern California, where it’s known for being 70 degrees and sunny almost every day of the year, you can focus on packing warm weather clothes.
You may still want pants and a light sweater for at night when it can cool down, but you can stick to short sleeves, shorts, dresses, and other comfortable clothing for 70 to 80-degree weather.
However, if you’re visiting Northern California, you may want light jackets and more pants and sweaters because it can be a little cooler.
It also depends on what time of year you’re visiting. Contrary to popular belief, some parts of California experience all four seasons, so you can even find snow in the state.
Make sure to research the area you’re visiting and the time of year you’ll be there so that you’re prepared in the clothing department.
Once you know the weather, you can expect, to use the list below to help you be sure you’ve got everything you need.
Most likely if you are planning on visiting California, you are going to be spending some time at the beach or at a pool. A swimsuit is a must for your trip. Even if you aren’t planning on spending much time at the beach, I’m sure your hotel or Airbnb is going to have a pool or a spa and you are going to want to use it.
To go along with your swimsuit, you are going to want to have something that is easy to throw on and off on top of it. Having a nice beach cover-up is a MUST. It makes heading to the poolside bar all the easier. Be sure to get something that is loose fitting and easy to throw on top of your swimsuit.
You might not need this if you are only visiting Southern California in the summer months, but I still love to travel with a lightweight packable waterproof jacket. They are easy to throw on top of layers and will keep you dry and warm. Make sure you get a packable one though, so it doesn’t take up too much room in your suitcase.
These are also great additions to add to any packing list. They don’t take up much room and they do wonders for you when you are cold. If you are planning on visiting any of the National Parks in California, it can get pretty cold at night, so you are going to want to have something that doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase, but can keep you warm.
Most likely if you are going on vacation to California, you are going to go out to dinner at least once. Some restaurants won’t have a dress code, but some will. Might as well be prepared and have something for a special occasion. Plus, it is always fun to get dressed up and go out.
Day backpacks are great while traveling. They allow you to plan for the day ahead and bring everything that you are going to need. I love this Osprey Day Backpack, it is lightweight, but still holds a lot. You can fit your packable lightweight jacket in here, water bottle, snacks, and any extra items you might need while you are out exploring.
Reusable water bottles are essential when traveling. Not only are they handy on the plane, they are also great when out on excursions all day. They help keep you hydrated and are good for the environment. If you are an active traveler, like me, then you are going to want to invest in a good reusable water bottle, if you don’t already have one.
I can’t tell you how many times my portable charger has come in handy. Your phone always tends to dies when you need it the most. But if you always carry a lightweight portable charger, you don’t have to be so worried about the battery on your phone, because you know you will always have a backup when needed. Also, no one wants to be tied to the wall while their phone is charging.
Chances are if you are headed to California you are most likely going to either check out some of their great national parks or you are headed to Disney Land. Either way, you are going to want a good pair of comfortable walking shoes, that you can rely on and that aren’t going to give your blisters. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes.
These are to go along with your fancy dinner dress. Dressy sandals are great to travel with, because they don’t take up much room, but they can add so much to an outfit. More places these days will deny you entry if you are wearing flip flops or thong sandals, so make sure you bring a dressy pair that aren’t a thong.
Layering is so important when traveling. It allows you to pack less and still stay warm. Make sure you pack layers of clothing that all match, so you can mix and match your outfits and not have to bring your whole wardrobe. This will also allow you to stay comfortable in no matter what weather might occur.
Protect your eyes and invest in a good pair of polarized sunglasses, if you haven’t already. You will be out and about more exploring California and embracing all of that good healthy sunshine and vitamin D, make sure you protect your eyes while you are out having fun.
Besides protecting your eyes, you are going to want to get a good sun hat that will help keep the sun off of your face. Vacation always means more time spent outdoors, so you want to ensure you are protected while you are playing in the sun. Don’t forget your hat!
This is probably one of my top 5 all-time travel must! Travel towels are so convenient and have multiple uses. I use mine as a towel for my hair, as well as any easy-to-carry towel for any outdoor activities I may be doing. They are great for taking on hikes or anywhere that you don’t want to lag a big bulky towel around.
Noise-canceling headphones are a must while flying. They block out all the noise, including the crying baby that just happens to be sitting right behind you. They make it easy to watch shows on the plane, and if you plan on sleeping they will block all the noise out making it that much easier.
Kindles are great for traveling because you can carry your book without taking up all that space. They are great on the plane, by the pool or even on the beach. If you enjoy reading, vacation is the perfect time to catch up on that book that you haven’t been able to finish. Looking for something to read while on holiday? Here are some inspiring books about travel.
I hate checking luggage when I travel, nothing worse than hanging out in the airport longer than you need to. Plus, now of days it is expensive to check luggage. Why not make your life easier and only do carry-on. These easy-to-use travel-size toiletries, make carry-on easy. Only bring the amount of liquids you are going to use on vacation rather than your whole set.
This one you never need it until you need and then you wish you had it. First aid kits are a great thing to get used to carrying around everywhere you go, not just vacation in California. It is small and eary to throw in most purses, so you will never even notice it’s there until you need it.
This is another one of my top 5 travel items. Sarongs are great for traveling, they are lightweight, don’t take up any space, but can be used for multiple multiple reasons. I always use mine as a blanket on the plane, or a scruff when I’m cold. They can also be used for their main purpose which is a beach cover-up or even something to sit on when you are hiking or at the beach.
Again, if you want to try and sleep on the plane, these are a must as they will block out all the light. They are great for traveling to different time zones, as they can help you sleep when its light out. They are great and hardly cost a thing or take up any space. I always keep mine in my day backpack.
When you are going on vacation, you are most likely going to be taking a lot of pictures and there might not always be someone around to take the picture for you. This tripod selfie stick will help ensure you will always get the shot you want even when someone is not around. Nothing worse than going on vacation and not getting the picture that you wanted.
Being organized on vacation starts with packing organized. These packing cubes will help organize your packing and make traveling easier, knowing where everything is in your suitcase. Start your vacation off right with packing neatly.
Along with your travel-sized toiletry liquids, you are probably going to want nice toiletry to keep all your other belongings like your make-up. This bag will help keep everything together and is easy to hang up on the door.
These are so convenient when you are traveling. They are great to wash up and keep clean when you are traveling and can’t necessarily get to some running water. They will leave you so fresh and so clean clean.
My lips always dry out on airplanes, I don’t know what it is. But having a good lip balm nearby is always handy. Make sure not to
Toiletries and Cosmetic Products
Another important category is the toiletry and cosmetic category because sometimes it’s hard to replace these items if you forget to pack them. For example, if you forget shampoo, it can easily be replaced by something at a drugstore, but makeup or facial products, for example, can be expensive to repurchase if you forget them.
Use the list below to help you remember all of your cosmetic and toiletry needs:
- Travel Size Body wash
- Body spray / perfume
- Travel Size Deodorant
- Travel Size Hairbrush
- Dry shampoo
- Hair products
- Hairstyling tools
- Facial cleanser
- Facial moisturizer
- Body lotion
- Mini first aid kit
- Shaving cream
- Feminine hygiene products
Items to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag
Other items to consider bringing on your trip are those that will make your traveling easier. This includes entertainment items, sanitary products, and chargers that you can put in your travel backpack, tote, or purse to carry with you in the car, on the plane, or any other mode of transportation you may be taking.
- Cell phone
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleaning wipes
- Wallet / Cash
- Travel itinerary
- ID / passport
- Portable charger
- Water bottle
- Lip balm
- Gum / mints
- Travel pillow
- Face mask
- Eye mask
Useful Tips and Hacks
When you travel, you get to know the things that will make your life easier. There are so many tips, tricks, and hacks out there to help you have the smoothest possible vacation.
Here you’ll find some of the best-kept travel secrets that will make your trip all the better.
Don’t forget to download a few movies or your favorite podcast so you have something to listen to and watch on the lane! If you don’t have WIFI, you’ll be out of luck if you don’t do this ahead of time. If you don’t already have your music downloaded, make sure to download that too.
Always bring a water bottle when you’re traveling. Even though you can’t bring water through security at the airport, you can always fill it up while waiting to board your flight. This is a much better choice than paying astronomical prices for water at the airport mini market. It’s always important to have water on hand, especially when you’re going to a warm climate like California. If you have a reusable water bottle with you, you’ll save money and you’ll always have something to hydrate you on hand.
Carry copies of your essential information, including your ID, passport, and card information. Keep this separate from the originals, so if you lose your items you at least have copies that can help you get by.
Always share your itinerary with a friend or family member who isn’t traveling with you so someone will have an idea of your whereabouts.
If you have an iPhone, share your location with someone you’re not traveling with on Find My Friends for your safety.
Always be alert. Even if you feel comfortable, remember you are still in a different location than your hometown.
Try not to overpack and be realistic about what you need. You don’t need five different purses, several pairs shoes, and tons of extra shirts. It will cause you more stress, and you won’t have room for any souvenirs. It could also cost you more money if you go over the pound limit on a checked bag.
Consider leaving behind your luxury items. If something is very expensive or even princess to you, it’s safer at home. It would ruin your trip if an heirloom or valuable item were stolen or lost, so it’s better not to take your chances. If you do decide to bring special items, keep them safe. Carry them in your personal bag or carry-on luggage, not your checked bag. Put them in the hotel safe if you have one or stow them away somewhere out of sight. You don’t want to make yourself a target.
Leave home all of your full-sized products. You can only bring these if you have a checked luggage, and even then, it’s not worth it. These items take space and weigh a lot which could bring you over your checked luggage weight limit. Stick to travel-size liquids and if you don’t want to spend the money, purchase travel-size reusable bottles for your toiletries so you can continue to use all of your current products.
Go and enjoy your holiday, knowing you have everything you need for your California vacation packing list. Enjoy the sunshine, the glamorous houses, the fantastic views, and the glorious landscape.
You’re starting your trip on a better note than most by being prepared and considering what you do and don’t need to pack. Good for you! The less stress, the better. Have fun!