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Packing List for a California Road Trip in the Summer

Packing for a California road trip can be a bit difficult especially if you’re planning on road tripping across the entire state. While most people think of California as the sunny state, Northern California is a different ballgame and sees quite a bit of wind, rain and chill. You’ll want to make sure your packing list for California includes all the essentials as it can be pretty miserable if you under pack, something that’s entirely possible in the summer months.

packing list for california road trip in the summer
packing list for a California road trip in the summer

Road trip essentials

As with any road trip, you’ll want to make sure you first pack the basics. Some road trippers travel pretty lightly but others like to have every convenience at hand so while their list may include things like a travel pillow and blanket, we would recommend more basic things like hand sanitizer, sunglasses, a reusable water bottle, a USB charger for your phone, a small first-aid kit (pain killers, bandages, etc), and sunscreen. But don’t panic if you forget any of the above, the beauty of a road trip is that you’ll pass plenty of retail stores where you can pick up these essentials.

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*This post is sponsored by Samsonite. All thoughts and opinions expressed are our own*

Samsonite Voltage Spinner Suitcase

This 25″ suitcase is one of our favorites which should come as no surprise seeing as we are big fans of anything Samsonite comes out with. In fact, the Samsonite Glyder made it to our top 5 suitcases for overseas travel in 2018. This suitcase comes in three different colors: white, dark grey and teal. We love the white but as with any white luggage, you’ll want to grab a cover to protect it while it’s flying.

On the other hand, the teal is a fantastic pop of color and holds up against dirt and wear and tear very well. Those who prefer classic colors will appreciate the sleek tone of the dark graphite/grey.

The 25″ Voltage spinner is roomy without feeling overly large and sports a hardcase that’s great for protecting your belongings while they’re being tossed about on your flight. The exterior is expandable which gives you packing flexibility depending on the trip you’re taking. It also comes embedded with a TSA approved lock for security. The inside has a zipper with convenient compartments (perfect for liquids) on one side and a strapped section on the other side.

As with all Samsonite spinners we own, the Voltage rolls smoothly. As a note, Samsonite has included a slide-out privacy ID compartment at the base of the pull handle, an awesome addition.

Samsonite Voltage Luggage

Light coat

If you’re visiting Northern California or anywhere north of Monterey, we would highly recommend bringing a coat. A light jacket should suffice but if you tend to get cold on your travels, then a medium weight jacket might be a good idea or you can opt for a light jacket and scarf. San Francisco gets quite cold and windy during summer and it’ll take you by surprise if you’re expecting hot weather.

Light sweater

Even if you’re not visiting San Francisco, we would still recommend a light sweater for chilly evenings all across California. While daytime hours can get hot in Southern California, evenings always see a drop in temperature. And if you’re planning on heading to the beach late, you’ll be especially glad you packed that sweater.

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While you might not use your dresses in Northern California, especially San Francisco, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to bring out those dresses in cities like LA, San Diego or Santa Barbara. Those areas see plenty of hot sunshine and typical California sun.

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Whether you pack pants or shorts, you’ll definitely want to include denim in your California packing list. You’ll use your denim pants in the north and your shorts at the beach in the south.


California, in general, is pretty laidback in fashion and everyday dress. San Francisco has crazy hills and if you’re doing any walking, you’ll be grateful you brought a pair of comfortable sneakers. And if you’re doing any hiking, those sneakers will save your ankles from any injuries.

LA and Santa Monica tend to dress in much higher fashion so you can sport your favorite pair of heels here. This is where you’ll also see a lot of trendy fashion.

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Since you’ll probably be driving the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) quite a bit on your California road trip, make sure you bring along your camera. You’ll pass beautiful beaches, coves with crystal clear water, iconic bridges and many other scenic spots.

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Denim jacket

A denim jacket comes in handy when you’re road tripping and you find yourself hopping out frequently for photos. It’s easier than putting on your jacket at each stop and saves you time if you’re just quickly hopping out for a photo shoot.

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Samsonite has some great options for backpacks; some are laptop backpacks while others are a combo. This Samsonite leather city backpack does a great job for carrying your laptop on travel days and also serving as a camera and accessory backpack on days when you’re out exploring.

Samsonite Voltage backpack


Depending on the destinations you’re visiting in California, you may want to pack an umbrella. The weather is unpredictable if you’re traveling north to south and you’ll encounter several different climates which may have you reaching for an umbrella a handful of times.

This California packing list is a great start to your summer road trip. We think one of the most important things to remember is to pack layers. The weather changes constantly so you’ll be glad for them while you’re out adventuring about.


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