Have you ever stood at the baggage claim of a Southwest flight? It’s a great example of “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
As I waited for my small carry-on and cabin bag, I watched countless people drag suitcases large enough to haul a person in off the belt and struggle to drag them around the airport. Even if you’re checking a bag, I still think the carry-on is the perfect size - don’t forget you still have to drag that thing around the city when you’re off the plane!
All of that to say, here’s what I packed for our recent work trip to San Diego.
Work trips are a bit different than fun ones, because you do have to look somewhat presentable if you’re planning on networking at all. We took a few extra days on this trip for fun though, so I had the challenge of packing a wardrobe that worked for business and leisure.
Day 1 :: Travel & Exploring
Black Leggings + Red Camisole + Black Sweater + Sneakers
We had an early flight and gained two hours, so we had the whole afternoon to explore our new neighborhood in San Diego. I wore leggings, a camisole and sweater for the plane to combat draftiness, but opted to wrap the sweater around my waist once we reached warmer temps. Sneakers also proved to be my best friend since we did most of our exploring by foot.
Day 2 :: Shopping & Balboa Park (kind of)
Black Jeans + Pink Camisole + Black Sweater + Loafers
Mr AJ had a day of workshops for the conference we were attending, so I had a free day to go explore the city and do whatever I pleased. I took the trolley to Fashion Valley and talked myself out of buying Chanel flats, but did pick up this cute red backpack from Zara that proved to be clutch for navigating the conference later.
After that, I tried to walk to Balboa Park to take a leisurely afternoon stroll, but ignored the ominous clouds (it never rains in California, right?) and ended up getting stuck under a tree in a deluge. After that it was back to the hotel to change into dry leggings and grab a snack from a cheese store that ended up being closed. Rough day.
Day 2 :: Evening Networking
Plaid Jacket + Pants + Loafers + Black Top
Unless you’re in a very corporate industry, I wouldn’t recommend packing a full suit. However, both of these pieces worked on their own really well (as you’ll see in future outfits), so I decided to pack the whole thing. That way, I could wear the full set for networking or fancier dinners.
Day 3 :: First Day of Conference
Black Sweater + White Button Up + Plaid Pants + Loafers
We attended the Social Media Marketing World Conference, which means we saw a wide variety of wardrobes! I opted to go business casual, and this was a super comfy + cute outfit for the first day of conferencing. I heard from many people that the rooms could get drafty, so I was glad I wore the sweater.
Day 3 :: Dinner + Gaslamp District
Black Sweater + Plaid Pants + Suede Jacket + Loafers
I ditched the button up to go a bit more untucked for dinner, and grabbed my suede jacket since it was pretty cool in San Diego. I’m glad I brought a layer to protect against the elements, especially since we sought out a rooftop patio to enjoy views of the city this evening.
Day 4 :: Conference Day 2
Plaid Jacket + Black Jeans + Red Camisole + Sneakers
Day 2 of the conference was still action-packed, so I swapped out my loafers for my sneakers. I like to have a couple of options when it comes to flats just because they hit on different points on your foot - I was walking 15k-20k steps // about 10 miles a day every day, so just that slight change made all the difference. We skipped out of the last keynote and walked to Little Italy for $1 oysters (food guide coming your way soon!).
Day 5 :: Train to Tijuana
White Jeans + Pink Sweater + Espadrilles
I didn’t get all iterations of all of my outfits but here’s another variation I wore during my trip.
Day 6 :: San Diego Zoo & Coronado Beach
Bonus Athleisure Wear
Not pictured in my packing graphic is a couple of pieces of athleisure I packed for lounging, working out, and super comfy days. I’ll include them in the official list at the bottom, but since we were doing a long day at the zoo I decided to wear super comfy clothes. Athleisure is great to pack because you can mix and match it into your normal wardrobe, but it doesn’t take up a lot of extra space in your luggage - all of mine fit in one of my skinny packing cube.
Day 7 :: Exploring & Travel
White Jeans + Red Camisole + Sneakers
Our final day we had a late flight, so we decided to grab pizza and visit the Ballast Point brewery before catching a 3:30 plane. It continued to get warm as the week went on, so this was one of the warmest days! I didn’t need a layer for our exploring, but did throw on the black sweater when we headed to the airport since I knew it would be cold when we got back to Little Rock.
Final Packing List + Tips
There are a few things not pictured on the graphic that would be great for a work or conference trip that I did bring, so I’m including a list below. Full disclosure - I did have some other items that were more for my “fun” side of the trip, so I’m not including them in the official list because this is meant to be specifically for a work trip. I also did not take photos of every outfit despite my best efforts, so there were some variations here that you might not have seen, such as leggings + pink sweater that I changed into the day I got soaked, or the white button up + black jeans for a night out, etc.
1 Pair of Black Jeans
1 Pair of White Jeans
1 Pair of neutral leggings
Matching Jacket + Pants
2-3 Camisoles (I packed Black, Pink, and Red)
1-2 Blouses (aka, work blouses)
Optional: 1 dress / skirt for dressier events (I did not use mine)
2-3 Soft Tanks for Lounge + Workout
1 Pair of Fashion Sneakers
1 Pair of Athletic Sneakers (I love the Charleston Shoe Co Lulu - looks great for day sneaks too!)
1 Pair of Black or Nude Flats
1 Pair of Sandals (for mild or tropical climates)
2 Pairs of Leisure Shorts - 1 athletic, 1 lounge
Swimsuit (always pack a swimsuit)
Wear your biggest shoes so you take up less space in your suitcase
Pack a light scarf to add flair to outfits and bags
Buy a backpack at Zara that you can carry around the rest of the week (lol this is a joke but a nice reminder to leave room for stuff you might buy!)
Bring a stainless steel water bottle! This was a life saver all week.
Organize everything in packing cubes for easier packing + unpacking. I put all of my tops in one, all of my athletic / loungewear in one, all of my pants + dresses in one, etc.
Instead of packing bright workout tops in traditional athletic fabrics, consider bringing plain neutral tanks in cotton so you can use them for lounge or backup shirts
If you need more room than a normal carry-on, consider adding a cabin bag instead of a second larger bag! It slides onto the handle for easy toting around.