I've spent more Friday-through-Sunday getaways in Northern California and other locales (we actually just got back from one) than I can count. And while I was a notoriously bad packer for many years, I've thankfully learned a few tricks along the way for weekend trips. The key is to stick to a formula that allows you to pack as few items as possible, without feeling limited by your choices. With that in mind, I'll be sharing my "formulas" for some of my most frequent trips—starting with a wine tasting weekend.
When it comes to wine tasting, there are a few rules to follow: Pack casual, comfortable footwear (nothing is more out of place in wine country than a heel), especially since you'll be doing plenty of walking after a glass or two; embrace the low-key ease and sophistication of off-the-shoulder silhouettes; and leave enough room in your suitcase for a few bottles of wine on the way back. Here's what I pack for wine tasting weekends to Napa-Sonoma, which I've found works just as well for other wine weekend destinations:
Off-the-Shoulder Blouse (1): When it comes to wine tasting, breezy, off-the-shoulder tops are your best friend. They're comfortable enough for a long car ride (or flight) to wine country, and cute enough to swing by the bar for a cocktail upon arrival.
White Distressed Jeans (4): Denim is a wine tasting mainstay—jeans capture the casual vibe of vineyards and can easily be dressed up or down. White denim is fresh, crisp, and summery—just don't get too aggressive with your red wine swirls (and always pack a Tide stick, per below).
Denim Jacket (2): Both G and airplanes have a tendency to blast the A/C, so I always make sure to have a casual denim jacket that I can drape over my shoulders when traveling. It's the perfect layering piece for day or night.
Comfortable Walking Shoes (3): Whether you're braving the TSA or roadside stops, you're going to want to have shoes that are easy to slip on and off as well as walk around in. These espadrille-sneakers are comfortable without compromising aesthetic, and a stylish spin on actual sneakers.
Neutral Tote (9): Hands-free ease is a must with travel—and so is something large enough to fit a few magazines, snacks, and bottles of wine for the trip back.
White Maxi Dress (8): Wearing breezy white at night feels unexpectedly sexy—the low cut of this option is especially alluring, and can be worn over a tank for more coverage. As an added bonus, an easy maxi is just about the most comfortable thing to slip into after a day of travel and imbibing (no one will know you're essentially wearing a nightgown). If you're low on suitcase space, skip the maxi and wear Sunday's white dress instead.
Straw Sun Hat (6): During the summer, the nights are long, and most wine country dining options are outside, so come prepared for sun glares, which are at their worst when the sun is setting at eye-level.
Lace-Up Sandals (15): The low heel on these chic lace-up sandals offers just a touch of metallic glam for a night out, and subtly dresses up a laid-back linen or cotdress.
Leather Clutch (12): Leave the large tote at home for dinner and bring just a simple clutch with your wallet, phone, and keys.
Striped Tank (10): The perfect wine tasting outfit is cute, but casual. This tank, with its cross-back detailing hits the perfect happy medium.
White Distressed Jeans (4): The key to effortless packing is sourcing cute, basic pieces that easily adapt to multiple outfits. Comfortable enough to travel in, these jeans are also cute enough for a day of wine tasting. Plus, their relaxed, next-day fit will feel right at home in the California vines.
Comfortable Walking Shoes (3): The second time I ever went wine tasting, during a weekend getaway with G, I wore heels. It was the weekend after Valentine's Day, and I felt like wearing something a little more romantic. Instead, I spent the entire weekend carefully toeing around muddy vines and ended up running back to the hotel to change into rain boots after a blister from a long walk got the best of me. Lesson learned: Heels are cute, but in this case, flat kicks are the way to go.
Straw Sun Hat (6): You'll already be dehydrated after spending the entire afternoon in the sun drinking alcohol, but a hat will work wonders in keeping you cool and protected.
Neutral Tote (9): For wine tasting, just drop your leather clutch into your large tote so you have all your essentials in one place (that can be plucked out easily for dinnertime), but also have enough room to fit a few bottles and extra necessities (more on those below).
Off-the-Shoulder Dress (7): When I saw this dress online, I purchased it immediately. It has everything you could want in a wine country dress—it's made from a light, moveable fabric, has a cute print, and its off-the-shoulder silhouette is the perfect amount of flirty for dinner out.
Lace-Up Sandals (15): I often bring just one pair of shoes for evening so that I don't have to fuss with an extra set in my bag. These will look just as cute the second night as they did the first.
Leather Clutch (12): Pluck it out of your large tote and you're ready for dinner (since the last way you'll want to spend your time on vacation is setting up a purse).
White Mini Dress (11): There's nothing easier than pulling a floaty dress on over-head. They serve as instant-outfits, which is why they're perfect for wine tasting. It's something light but elevated you can wear to a few cellars before heading home.
Denim Jacket (2): In case there's a cool breeze, bring the denim jacket to take the dress to the next level. I like draping it over my shoulders for a casual look.
Relaxed Slides (13): These slides are one of my favorite things to have on hand for summer. They're cute, but so comfortable and slip off easily so I can put my feet up for the long car ride home (it helps that G always drives).
Neutral Tote (9): Large enough to hold all of your souvenirs (wine and more wine) plus a few snacks for the road home.
Wine Bottle Protector: Wine-shaped bubble wrap to protect your bottles, even when they're in your suitcase.
Compact Phone Charger: So you're free to Instagram and Snap all day without needing to recharge.
An App Guide to Napa Sonoma: Easier than an unwieldy map or guidebook.
Fuji Film Polaroid Camera: The original "insta"-gram, to record your trip.
Small Heat-Proof Water Bottle: Stay hydrated and keep your water ice-cold all day.
Hand Sanitizer: Spritz before diving into your cheese platter.
Tide To-Go Stick: For stains and spills.
Lip Stain: The good kind of stain, and one that will last hours—without leaving residue on the edge of your glass.
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