A couple of weeks ago, we packed up the car and road-tripped a cool 7-ish hours south to stay-at-home in someone else’s (impeccably sterilized) home for almost a week. It was a critically necessary change of scenery and exactly what my mental health was asking for, despite the fact that we rarely left the house. (Turns out, when you have a pool, hot tub and all the grocery and takeout delivery you could want at your fingertips, you don’t really need to.) Chris and I still worked, as usual, and Lana attended class every day, but somehow between the energizing desert sun, the electric pops of colorful architecture and the general nostalgia in which the area is steeped, we still felt wholly on vacation.
Palm Springs Packing List
Below, an almost exact representation of the basic elements I brought with me (see more of my casual-chic outfit ideas here), plus a couple of items I’m lusting after — leopard bikini, you retro-glam beast, you! — now that I can envision us making a return trip (or two) in the future.
Oh, and because it will inevitably come up, a quick disclaimer: we’ve been extremely cautious throughout the pandemic, in large part because our area is highly impacted by tourist traffic, and we in no way wanted to turn around and add congestion to someone else’s town for the sake of leisure. After doing a fair amount of research, we chose Palm Springs almost solely based on the fact that we could enjoy new-to-us amenities (hi, pool) with almost zero physical contact with the surrounding community. Weekday jaunts to the date farm and Joshua Tree were ideal — zero crowds. And one of the highlights of the trip for all of us was a 25-mile off-road trail out of Joshua Tree that had us all squealing like kiddos while interacting with literally no one but ourselves. (Happy to share details — it requires a genuinely off-road capable vehicle and a driver capable of navigating a few technical sections, but it’s well-mapped and regularly traveled.) We packed groceries for the week from home and supplemented those with contact-free takeout and delivery. And, of course, we masked up all the while.
Ok, let’s get packing!
16 Items To Pack For A Low-Key, Isolated Desert Vacay
Palm Springs is a total vibe — at once nostalgic and modern, casually boho and country club glam. The pieces I packed for our almost weeklong desert respite were stay-at-home reflections of all that: a matching sweatsuit that’s as chic as it is comfy. An effortlessly cool white t-shirt dress, elegant in its simplicity (and not at all sheer). An outfit for home workouts — or the trail. Plenty of pool attire. And big ol’ sunglasses. Everything in a palette that mirrors the desert with punchy pops of color and pattern that sing of Palm Springs’ leisurely appeal.
1. An active tank that doubles as a cute top
I have this tank in the emerald, and it’s so flattering — and much more performance-oriented than I expected. Think thick, stretchy, moisture-wicking fabric — but somehow it’s not overly snug? Just perfect, and it doesn’t ride up. TTS. (Wearing it in the emerald in this post.)
2. Trusty leggings for hiking (or a poolside mat workout)
Full disclosure, I actually brought these jogger-legging hybrids on our trip (still can’t stop wearing them, still delighted by their versatility), but since they’re super low on inventory, these would be my next pick. The navy is a nice departure from black, and pocket placement on all my activewear bottoms is so key — on these, they’re a little higher on the hip, so your phone isn’t awkwardly hanging out mid-thigh.
3 & 4. Chic, matching loungewear (sweatshirt / sweats)
I lived in my desert-hued sweatsuit (top here, bottom here, full post here) the entire week we were in Palm Springs. Perfectly cozy for fire pit hangs, and the sweats were so easy to pull on over a bathing suit when the wind picked up poolside — and on the few occasions we drove into town to pick up takeout, I felt comfortably chic in my monochromatic getup. The color on these two pieces from Everlane is absolutely gorgeous, and the price point is great, too. Dropping a few more options below, too. (I just bought this top/bottom combo, too, and can’t wait to check it out.)
Shop More Matching Sweatsuits
5. A low-maintenance poolside dress (that still feels vacation-worthy)
The color white feels like it just pops so much more under the desert sun. I’m convinced a truly wearable white t-shirt dress is neither too cutesy nor too boho, with an easy shape that tones down the maintenance usually associated with stark white garments. And yet — it has to have enough structure or interest to prevent it from looking like you’re the victim of spring break debauchery. This dress checks all those boxes for me (I waxed fully poetic about it in this post) — not at all sheer, pockets, with plenty of volume and just enough tailoring in the form of the tuxedo stitching to make it feel intentional. Want something with just a little more tailoring? I rounded up few easy, pretty (but still undeniably wearable) options below.
Shop More Easy White Dresses
6. Classic black sunnies
No brainer. The exact pair I’m wearing in the leading image just came back in stock here (!!) and I can’t say enough about their quality — especially for the price. (Also, if they’re good enough for Meghan Markle…) But I can’t get over the deal for this rag & bone pair (available in a few cool colors, too).
7. Something turquoise
You know I have a sweet spot for turquoise jewelry, and it complements the desert scape and the retro pops of teal in Palm Springs so nicely. Plus, these little earrings would be so easy to mix into an everyday look at home, too.
I swear by Aerie undies (these, in particular), so it’s amazing I don’t yet own any of their suits. This one ticks the retro-glam box that Palm Springs demands while also looking like it would stay put for active pool time.
10. Aaaand a sporty swimsuit
I hate slipping into a cold bathing suit, even if I’m going to be getting right into the pool. Which is how I convinced myself that I needed to nab this suit at the last minute. I had every intention of getting a sporty one piece, but this bikini ended up being such a pleasant surprise. The top did ride up a little on the first day until I realized that, the way the straps are rigged, I just wasn’t cinching everything up as snugly as I could. After that, super comfortable, even playing around with the kiddo for hours. Good coverage on the bum, too — not too cheeky. Wearing a small.
11. All-natural sunscreen (with no white cast)
My photographer bought this sunscreen as soon as we did our last shoot with Biossance and said a little goes a long way and it’s super lightweight. Love that it’s pure sunscreen so it can be layered over your favorite facial moisturizer.
12. A playful hands-free pack (for on and off the trail)
I brought my denim Julian on this trip (it’s in and out of stock at Bloomies, but you can also snag it on Poshmark or Tradesey), and it was perfect for our few short hikes in Joshua Tree and for packing around the usual suspects on takeout runs. Love the metallic finish on this one, though — it feels appropriately Palm Springs-y in a retro-futurism kinda way. Or like something Lady Gaga would wear to walk off a cosmic desert video shoot and into the real world. (Of course, this one is now in and out of stock here — but there are a few left in stock on Amazon and pre-owned options here and — ohhhh, here and here in leather with a little different finish.)
13. Gorgeous, comfortable vintage silk scarf masks
Linzi included these in her silk mask post a few months back, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. So I nabbed the full set of four for $45 (you can also buy them individually). Friends — they’re gorgeous, supremely comfortable, and the elegant, retro-chic vibe matched the locale perfectly. I do think they’re on the thinner side, even despite being made with 3 layers, so if I was using them regularly indoors or in a higher density area, I might layer up or add a filter. But for outdoor, distanced usage, they are SO comfy. (Chris even borrowed the blue one a few times and was amazed at the comfort — and the compliments he received.)
14. A pair of tried and true flip flops
In college I had no less than 15 pairs of flip flops (including those chunky Volatile platform babes that seem to be coming back — these Rocket Dogs have me beyond tempted). And even after paring that down considerably, Havaianas always make the cut. They last forever, the slim straps are flattering on the foot and they pack down nice and flat for travel (they’re available in loads of colors, too). These were perfect for navigating the crushed granite landscape at our rental, too.
15. An all-around sneaker for street, trail and home gym
These are so fun. I packed them thinking I might convince myself to do a HIIT workout or two by the pool (that’s a big ol’ nope), but they ended up being perfect for exploring Joshua Tree and neighborhood walks with the little one. Nordstrom says they run TTS but I had to size down half. Also in a few other, more neutral colorways — including blush pink.
16. Or an elevated sneak for low-key effort around town
Two leopard-accented sneakers are probably not required for a weeklong trip to the desert, but I brought both and ended up wearing them equally. If we were participating in outdoor dining, these feel a little more fashion-forward and might have gotten even more wear. As it was, I wore them on our one excursion to the date farm and on the car ride to/from Palm Springs since the zipper makes them so easy to slip off and on (yet they offer plenty of coverage for spur-of-the-moment roadside pit stops featuring the kiddo potty). True to size for me; I could see going up a half if you have wide feet.
Despite the fact that this wasn’t the most conventional vacation, it was exactly what we needed — and I genuinely felt like we got a taste of the area even in hermit mode.
And Joshua Tree, friends. If you haven’t been (and somehow I had never!), it’s…otherworldly. “Special” feels like such a generic and underwhelming word to describe the light, the landscape, the almost physical energy that radiates from the sunwashed sand and rock, but it’s just that. We can’t wait to go back.
Guys! Follow me on Instagram for more peeks into our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!
Oh, hey, pinners!