Packing for Santa Monica and Palm Desert, California

By Janie Blank

The first week of October is a beautiful time to visit Southern California. Actually any time is nice. They have pretty consistent weather with the exception of some rain in the winter. Right along the ocean it is usually quite a bit cooler and breezier than inland. As a matter of fact most people do not bring appropriate clothing, thinking it will be hot at the beach. Our days were in the low 70s, our evenings in the 60s and our nights in the 50s. There is also a strong breeze, in some places downright windy. For Californians it is Fall. They tend to dress a little more fall like than the tourists. We want to think it is perennially summer and bring white slacks and shorts when natives are wearing some fall colors.

It was made even more difficult for us because we flew into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Sunday and promptly rented a car and drove to Palm Desert to spend time with friends until Wednesday morning. Palm Desert is a two hour trip heading east of LA. Our friends moved there recently from Orange County and this was just our second time in the desert, having visited Indio close to twelve years ago. The area has boomed. Virtually every inch of it is developed with lush golf course communities. As a matter of fact we were told there are 113 golf courses in the vicinity! The community college, College of the Desert, even has a specialty in golf management.

The weather in Palm Desert was more than twenty degrees warmer than LA. Here summer clothing is definitely appropriate, even required. So that made my packing a little more complicated. That and the fact we were totally casual in Palm Desert whereas the rest of the week we were on a company award trip in Santa Monica, with every day and evening scheduled. So we had the need of fancy clothes, business casual, and casual plus hot weather and cooler weather requirements. My husband had to take a sport coat and I had to come up with outfits for everything from a day at the pool in Palm Desert to an evening requiring a fancy dress and shoes on Saturday night. Three other nights required semi dressy dinner outfits. During the day we went to various Los Angeles area attractions such as Warner Brothers and the Getty Villa.

I used to have an aunt who traveled all over the world. She and her husband were one of the first to go to China in the 1970s. She used to amaze her sisters with the small suitcase she always packed. She told them she just wore the same few items over and over and washed them out. Her motto was: I will never see these people again! Good advice if you can get away with it but to be truthful these award trips are usually first class all the way and you definitely will see these people every year. That means you really do not want to take the same things you took last year and you cannot really get away with wearing the same top or shirt more than once. I did repeat some nice black slacks and some shoes and even a black shawl. The trick is to mix it up enough that the outfit as a whole appears different. A different color top and different jewelry usually is my strategy.

I also vary my shoes. This, as with most women, is a weak point for me. I would bring a different pair of shoes for every event if I had the room. As it was, on this trip I limited myself to just four pairs, and one of those was my tennis shoes, however, I ended up buying another pair while I was there! It turned out we had to walk four blocks to a nice dinner on Friday night and I just did not have pretty shoes I could walk in for that distance! Oh, the trials woman must endure. My husband on the other hand wore his favorite Mephisto walking shoes and packed his dressy loafers. That was it for him. How unfair!

As it was, we managed to take just one small and one medium roller bag and just one exercise style bag. A minor achievement if I do say so myself. My husbands pet peeve is too much luggage coupled with not wearing everything you brought. I try to explain you need options to be flexible in case an event turns out to be dressier or more casual than expected. It might rain or be colder than you anticipated. I think it pays to have options. I do not see it as a waste if every item is not worn. We agree to disagree on this and because he is hopeless at packing and so this is my job. I lay everything out for him and make him try it all on in advance. He may have a little too much but he usually has what he needs. He knows he can count on having the right thing to wear for every meeting and dinner and he knows I will be dressed appropriately.

We actually travel pretty extensively and I have a lot of experience at this. I do lay out a lot more than I actually take. The hardest part is anticipating each day and evening and trying to make sure you take things that are of the same or a similar color palette so some mixing and matching can be achieved, requiring fewer shoes and purses. I also have learned to remove the hanging bags that come in the luggage and just hang the clothing in a dry cleaning bag, fold over a couple of times, almost like rolling it, and then snap the straps across. This takes up a lot less space and weighs less now that the airlines have a fifty pound limit. By removing the bulk you can take more hanging clothes in a bag. I also might stuff the sleeves of his sport coat with more dry cleaning plastic, particularly on lightweight summer materials.

As it turned out for this trip, I think my husband wore every item I packed with nothing extra. This is rare but makes him quite satisfied! I cannot say I did not have an extra outfit but overall we got a lot of clothing into a pretty small space and still turned out looking pretty spiffy. Basically this was a piece of cake compared to the real challenge that is our next trip, three weeks in Europe in the Fall, where the weather is cooler and the clothes are much bulkier!

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