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I say “funny” because I just have to laugh at myself when something as relatively easy as packing for a long weekend out-of-town becomes overwhelming.  THAT’S a sign that you really DO need a vacation!

This year was a little weird, as the 4th of July holiday itself was on a Wednesday.  Lots of people took the entire week off from work.  I opted to work Monday and Tuesday as I did have some catching up to do, plus I knew I had more time away coming up later in July.  The plan was to work Tuesday and then immediately hit the road out to the Washington coast, where a bunch of relatives were gathering to celebrate the 4th of July, plus the 100th birthday of one of the family cabins out on the peninsula!  You can read all about it in yesterday’s post here.

On Sunday I was mentally making a list of what I should bring to the beach.  I found the small suitcase I wanted to use…and for some reason I just got overwhelmed.  What’s the big deal about packing a bag for a super casual 5-day getaway?

Then I went through said empty travel bag.  In one of the side pockets I found a crumpled magazine from July 2011.  And yep, I gulped.  Oh. My. God.  I have not gone anywhere out-of-town since 4th of July LAST year!!  How is this possible?  How sad is this?  What the hell have I been doing this past year…I haven’t just been sitting around, have I?  No, no…I’ve been head down in this job which I started in mid July last year.  Wow, it’s time for a break alright!  Damn.

On Monday night I started playing around with various piles of clothes to pack.  Why was I getting all freaked out about what to bring?  The coast is super casual…nothing like those episodes of Real Housewives where you see everyone in designer clothes in the Hamptons (The New York cast) or with tons of makeup and sequin bikinis (that would be New Jersey, hands down).  Cracks me up, by the way…and I’m a sucker for all episodes, all franchises.  I have a near-full DVR to prove it!

Thankfully I had a hockey game Monday night.  The perfect distraction plus some great exercise to blow off this silly packing anxiety and skate.  Hockey always tends to come up exactly when I need it!  And luckily this game was at the rink just a few minutes from my house.  I got back home, finished packing and then packed the last-minute stuff the next morning.

I am certainly no travel or packing expert any longer.  This post is more to document what worked for me, traveling to a beautiful area of the country with unpredictable weather, even in the summer. 

Shoes: 1 pair running shoes and 3 pairs sandals or flip-flops.  I brought a pair with a low wedge heel for driving (they’re also good for short walks…this is important as I have high arches), a pair that I didn’t mind getting all sandy after walking around on the beach, and a ‘clean’ pair for just hanging around the house which can also serve the purpose of slippers in the morning.  I LOVE walking in the sand on the beach, but when I’m done I want to rinse off my feet and have zero sand residue anywhere.

Underwear:  I always pack one pair for each day I’m away, plus one extra pair just in case.  If you plan on working out on your vacation, be sure to bring extra undergarments for that, a good sports bra, etc.  Socks…not really needed at the beach except for working out, so bring your favorite sport socks.

Sleepwear:  I sleep nude at home year ’round (TMI, sorry), so I do have to make a conscious effort to pack something to sleep in – it just feels weird sleeping nude in a house full of family members.  And I need to pack something to wear to breakfast that is decent and covered up.  Old tank tops with no bra is just not a good idea.  So I packed some old knit cropped pj pants and a snug t-shirt to sleep in.  For breakfast I changed into a bra, a different not-so-snug t-shirt and threw on my clean flip flops.

Tops:  t-shirts and more t-shirts!  In a super casual beach town that’s all you need…and a couple of tank tops.  I usually pack one for each day and will wear the one I wore first on my last day for the drive home.

Pants/shorts:  jeans, shorts…anything goes.  I typically pack one pair of shorts when I know the weather isn’t going to be so great (which is most of the year).  I’m a little self-conscious of my neon-white legs, so when it’s time to run around in the tide pools or in the surf I wear old cargo pants and just roll up the legs.  Be sure to bring stuff that you don’t mind getting wet or sandy!  You might also want a pair of lounging type sweats, yoga pants or leggings, different from the ones you bring for exercise.  They are great for relaxing, reading and napping.

Outerwear:  I bring a half-zip polar fleece and a windbreaker.  Even if it’s warm and sunny out, it can be very windy and cool on the beach.  And it cools off dramatically after sunset.  I also bring a baseball hat; be sure to pack a visor or other cap as it helps with sun protection and keeping your hair somewhat in place.

Sunglasses:  If you’re like me and are super sensitive to glare, you will wear these on cloudy days as much as sunny days.  A definite must!  For a short trip, one pair is fine.  Bring a pair for working out if you need to…either way be sure you’re OK with whatever you’re bringing getting a little salty air and mist on it.

Bathing suit:  long gone are the days I used to run out into the freezing waves as a teen and body surfed.  Brrr!  So I skipped bringing a bathing suit as I’m fine wading in the ocean with rolled up jeans.  And I don’t sunbathe.

Cosmetics and Toiletries:  I am a sucker for makeup and for trying all sorts of shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products.  So while I could likely go overboard in this department, I try to keep it simple for packing and find travel sizes wherever I can.  And I use the two adorable cases in this post’s picture!  (by Tory Burch and Burberry).  Here’s what I packed:

  • Sunscreen (ESSENTIAL!!).  I have neon-white skin (OK maybe porcelain or alabaster is a nicer way to put it) that does not tan, so I have a few things to say about sunscreen.  WEAR IT.  Wear it on cloudy days too.  I am simply in love with Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer sunscreen.  I can wear it on my face as well as on my body and I don’t break out.  And once it’s on I don’t feel covered in goo. 
  • Bug repellent:  you might wonder why this is necessary at the ocean…mosquitoes like fresh water, not salt water!  Well, our home and property is about a quarter-mile from the ocean, and there is a creek running through the property in a woodsy area.  So, perfect for mosquitoes.  Bug repellant is just as important to me as sunscreen, as when I get bit the bites turn into welts.  Not pretty.  I choose a clear spray by Off that doesn’t stink TOO much.  But I joke that my signature fragrance at the coast is DEET.  I apply sunscreen and then spray the bug repellant on top.  Make sure to do the back of your neck and a light misting around your head too.  Amazingly, I only got ONE mosquito bite on my left hip in 5 days…they bit me right through my pants!
  • Hair care:  Another sensitive topic for me as my hair is wavy and heavily highlighted.  I usually smooth it out with a flat iron every morning, but I don’t like being a slave to that when I’m at the coast.  But I don’t want wild, frizzy hair either.  I recently discovered Renpure’s Brazilian Keratin flat iron spray and it’s a BIG thumbs up!  Woo hoo for great drugstore products…you don’t always need to spend a lot to get great stuff!  On days I wanted to skip the blow dryer (which was most days) I towel-dried my hair, sprayed on the flat iron spray, combed it through and let my hair dry naturally.  It was wavy, but in a controlled way with no frizz!  I usually like to use a finishing product to keep my ends weighed down, but I don’t like packing things that are too messy or gooey.  So I found a trial size of Jonathan’s Dirt deep in a bathroom drawer and threw it in my bag.  But I found it wasn’t that necessary after combing the straightening spray through first.
  • Skin care:  For efficiency’s sake I just use the same cleanser that I use on my body as a facial cleanser when I travel.  I swear by St. Ives apricot scrub – I use it very lightly in my t-zone as I am still prone to breakouts even at age 45 (ugh).  Then, Neutrogena rainbath shower gel, original formula.  I do spend a lot on cosmetics and hair care, but it’s nice having some drugstore staples that have worked great nearly half my life.  At night after cleansing my face I use a little eye cream on my crows feet and on the crinkles in my forehead.  Right now I’m really enjoying Ole Henriksen’s African red tea serum.
  • Makeup:  I truly wish I was one of those types with natural beauty, where you just throw your hair in a pony tail or loose bun, dab on a little lip balm and look stunning.  I’m a little sensitive to my ruddy cheeks and tendency for under eye circles, so given that I usually pack a light foundation, loose powder and kabuki brush, concealer, mascara and lip balm.  I dab the foundation on the reddest part of my cheeks and blend thoroughly.  Then I dab foundation on my eyelids and dust with the kabuki brush and put on a little mascara, upper lashes only.  It seems to work and doesn’t have a heavy made-up look.

Other essentials:  Deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, nail clipper, tweezers, prescription meds and/or vitamins, pain reliever…and ladies, feminine products.

Relaxing:  bring a couple of books (or your portable reading device if you have one) and some magazines.

Portable electronics:  your music player of choice (LOVE my iPod!), cell phone, Bluetooth headset for driving…and don’t forget your chargers! 

What I left at home?  Sounds like I brought the whole world with me but there were quite a few things I chose to leave at home:

  • Jewelry (other than the watch and what I wore to work before driving out)
  • Eyeshadow
  • Blush
  • Laptop (stayed in my trunk)
  • Hiking boots
  • Camera (I am an amateur/sporadic photog at best, so I just used my phone to take pictures)
  • Perfume