My Desert Weekend Getaway Packing Guide

Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Update: This story was originally published on March 22, 2016.

For some reason, packing for a short weekend getaway seems harder than packing for a multi-week trip. Though the weekend is only two days long, it's often loaded with all kinds of activities, which means multiple outfit changes and dress codes to adhere to. I never want to be the person dragging around a giant suitcase stuffed with more clothing and accessories than I could possibly wear in the 48 hours between late Friday and early Monday. But on more trips than I can count, I was that girl. And though I prefer to live the lie that I’m completely carefree and entirely relaxed when it comes to everything — packing included — my suitcase has always belied that impression.

The moment I booked a recent weekend work trip to Palm Springs, I knew there’d be a packing situation. Palm Springs offers a rich backdrop: bright colors; slightly outdated, borderline-tacky hotel lobbies; vintage cars; drinks with umbrellas and maraschino cherries; desert drives under blue skies and mountains. It also has an all-over-the-place climate that’s boiling hot during the day and bone-chilling at night. Plus, as Refinery29's styling director, I've learned that, regardless of the occasion (or location), having outfits that look good can make you feel good, and that every activity, be it on-set business, lounging, or exploring, can seem like it requires its own look. So how would I prepare for so many adventures — so many photo opps — in so little time?

After the initial exciting prospect of two days of sun and sand (and a quick scan of my overflowing closet), I decided to challenge myself. I would bring just one bag, a carry-on with just enough room for a few cool outfits, and a handful of pieces that could make the transitions from plane to photoshoots to pool. Here’s how I did it, and how you can, too.

Special thanks to The Saguaro Palm Springs.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Bring one special standout piece that packs well. You deserve it.
You’re going to want to look fancy at least once. This Zara dress spoke to me for its modest hemline and boxy cut; the bold, metallic fabric was a bit outside my comfort zone, but gave the silhouette just enough to make it a great special-occasions dress. In Palm Springs, I found it worked for both day and night. One evening, I wore it to a tiki bar, with colorful umbrellas aplenty; the next, it fit in swimmingly as we took a drive out to the national park.

Bonus: The lightweight material made it easy to squish into my tiny suitcase, and was ideal for the balmy climate. Think about the material of your clothing! The pre-wrinkled effect of this dress made it transition from its small spot in my bag to a night out on the town effortlessly.

Zara dress; Soludos shoes
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Missoni Striped Two-Way Dress, $2,010, available at Farfetch.
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Zara Pleated Midi Skirt, $69.90, available at Zara.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Denim, forever and always.
I’ve always been a jeans girl, and wouldn’t feel right without having a pair with me. Sure, jeans are bulky when you're tight on suitcase space. There's an easy solve for this: Wear them on the plane! I stuck with something simple and relaxed in fit for ultimate comfort — a pair of Topshop boyfriend jeans I keep in my closet for the weekends.

Side tip: Stick with a basic, clean wash for optimal mixing and matching. In terms of silhouette, boyfriend jeans offer that roomy comfort for both travel and mid-vacation adventures.

Vogue Eyewear sunglasses; vintage scarf; Wilfred sweater; Topshop jeans.
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Topshop Moto Dark Blue Hayden Jeans, $75, available at Topshop.
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Rag & Bone Slim Boyfriend Jeans, $250 $112.50, available at The Outnet.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Don't forget a jacket. Seriously.
By day, I was out by the pool, soaking it all in. But come night time, the temperatures dropped, and I was beyond thankful I’d brought along this Levi’s denim jacket. A piece like this is classic, and looks great with basically everything, from shorts and tee to a sparkly gold dress. Plus, it's one of those layering saviors you can wear on the plane to keep warm, and free up even more space in your bag, too.

Levi's jacket.
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Levi's Boyfriend Trucker Jacket, $69.50 $55, available at Levi's.
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Stella McCartney Sun Faded Denim Jacket, $985, available at Stella McCartney.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Pack staples that can multi-task.
Versatility is a packer’s best friend. A button-up, for example, can easily transition from daytime shirt to pool cover-up. A tote bag, too, is the ultimate in practicality: This Figue elephant canvas bag (a portion of its sales go to protect real-life elephants) was my tote of choice for toiletries on the plane and then for poolside necessities, like sunscreen and a towel.

As for the bottoms, I loved these Zara shorts the moment I saw them. They weigh nothing, look expensive due to their interesting texture and silhouette, and are super comfortable. I wore them at every chance I could: to breakfast, around town, and out to dinner one evening.

Madewell top; Zara shorts; Deerdana x Figue tote.

Startas The Basic High Shoe, $80, available at Startas.
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Madewell Indigo Courier Shirt, $69.50, available at Madewell.
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& Other Stories Linen Shorts, $65, available at & Other Stories.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Bring the right bag.
There's no reason to bring more than one handbag if you don’t have to. To help you narrow it down, think about what your main activities are going to be, and if there’s a style that can suit both.

For me, I needed a bag for nicer dinners out and work, so I needed an option that felt festive, but was also able hold all of my things. This pom-pom piece fit in with my entire itinerary (and felt just right for a weekend away in Palm Springs). The poms matched the bright colors of my hotel (check out the Saguaro for a major color explosion), and when we took a picnic out to the desert one afternoon, my bag doubled perfectly as a picnic basket.

Eliza Gran basket bag.
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Loeffler Randall Cruise Tote, $350, available at Need Supply Co.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Practical can be cool.
For a desert vacation, sunglasses, sandals, a bathing suit, and a hat are total necessities. But which ones? Limiting myself to a single serving of each wasn't easy, but here’s how I came to terms with it: I’d describe my style as minimal with bursts of flair. I tend to let my freak flag fly when it comes to my accessories, because accessories are small and don’t completely hijack a look.

So, I picked a bold pair of sunglasses, which might seem like a crazy option to bring if you’re only packing one. But, I never regretted it once.

A string bikini, while not an accessory, is also small. This bathing suit, by one of my favorite small designers, Giejo (pronounced gee-jo), spoke to my deep desire to wear color, and lots of it.

Giejo String Tie Red Aztec Top, $60, available at Giejo; Giejo Side Tie Red Aztec Bottom, $50, available at Giejo.
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Krewe Octavia, $335, available at Krewe.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
I’m not usually a hat girl, so this option by Prymal was the perfect mix of utility and subtlety: The brim protected my face, and the shape isn’t overly trendy.

Bonus tip: Stuff your underwear and other small soft items inside your hat to help keep its shape in transit.

Prymal hat.
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Federica Moretti Panama Straw Hat, $171, available at
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Sparkly sandals to match the sparking water!

Soludos shoes.
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Urban Outfitters Woven Slide, $12, available at Urban Outfitters.
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Alumnae Asymmetric Leather Slide Sandals, $425, available at Barneys New York.
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Photographed by Toby Kaufmann.
Make sure you feel good at all times of the day.
A matching set of pajamas makes me feel fancy and luxurious, like the jet-setting lady I aspire to be. This set by Marigot was so cozy, I could have easily lived in it all weekend long. But, of course, I had work to do, which I why I packed all that other stuff!

Lurin Short Pajama Set, $132, available at Marigot.
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Equipment Avery Silk Pajama Set, $418, available at Equipment.
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H&M Cotton Pajamas, $24.99, available at H&M.

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