I’ve been living in San Diego for the past ten years, so I’m pretty confident that I’m speaking with authority when I give you this packing list.
San Diego is an internationally known destination for surf, sun, and fun. We have a world famous zoo and some other truly awesome things to see and do, so I welcome you and hope you enjoy yourself.
One thing I would like to point out right off the bat is that although we are known for having some of the best weather in the United States, contrary to popular belief it DOES get cold here from time to time, and it DOES rain occasionally. Certain times of year (i.e. Spring, Winter) are more likely to display finicky weather, but do check the forecast before you’re coming. You might regret not bringing a jacket, after all.
Time of year does matter when you’re planning on visiting San Diego. Yes, we have beautiful, sunny days year-round, but in the springtime and early summer, we have a lot of overcast days at the coast where the marine layer never burns off. If you’re looking for hot, sunny days to spend at the beach, your best bet would be to come in July through September. Don’t let that dissuade you from coming at other times of year, however. We’re lucky and often get warm sun at all times of year, it’s just that it’s most consistent in those months.
That being said, here is what I recommend you pack for your trip to San Diego:
San Diego is a casual town, and it doesn’t take much to “dress up” here. Don’t worry about bringing suits or fancy dresses unless you have a specific “fancy” occasion in mind for your visit. In most restaurants and night clubs, even the fancy ones, you won’t be out of place in a sun dress and nice sandals (or jeans and a button up shirt with decent shoes for the gentlemen).
Most of the time, casual clothes are the name of the game. Anything goes here, so wear what makes you comfortable. That being said, it’s a really good idea to bring layers to San Diego. Chances are, the weather is going to be nice and warm. However, temperatures can get a bit chilly at night or if the weather is bad, so make sure to bring a couple sweaters or sweatshirts, leggings to put under dresses, pants, etc. You’ll thank yourself when you go out one night to discover that it’s surprisingly chilly.
Of course, bring a swimsuit! You’re going to want to hit the beach and the pool, or rent a stand up paddle board and set out over open water. I would bring two, so one can dry while you wear the other one.
Lastly, bring workout clothes. This is a city of people who love to work out, and opportunities abound. Check out some of our awesome hiking trails or bike paths. Rent a kayak for the afternoon. Go for a run on the beach. You’re going to need workout clothes.
If I were visiting, I would bring one pair of flip flops to wear to the beach, pool, and around town. One nicer pair of shoes (even if those are just nice sandals or ballet flats) will get you into the clubs and out to a nice dinner. Men would be fine with a pair of loafers or even Chuck Taylor’s. Also bring a pair of workout shoes of some sort. This is an active town and there are many places to hike, bike, and go jogging all over the place. These will also come in handy if you’re planning on visiting somewhere like the San Diego Zoo where you’ll be on your feet all day and will want comfortable shoes. Don’t worry- this is a casual town, so these three pairs of shoes will get you through any situation. If you feel like being fashionable and bringing a pair of shoes for every outfit, that’s up to you, but it’s unnecessary.
Aside from the usual (toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, makeup, etc.) you may want to pack some hydrating skin lotion, particularly if you are from an area with higher humidity. It gets a little dry here on the West Coast and I’ve been told from visiting relatives from humid areas that they felt like their skin was dry and dehydrated while they were out here. Personally, I feel like somebody is smothering me under a wet blanket in the humidity, but I suppose it’s all what you’re used to.
Bring a small backpack to take on hikes with you, a camera (a GoPro is even better if you want to take action shots of your surf lesson, paddle board session, or day of snorkeling). Speaking of snorkeling, bring your snorkel gear! La Jolla Cove is a great little spot to jump right in and look at the marine life, but I must warn you: the water is COLD! Bring a wet suit if you have one. If you’re visiting us by car and you have the gear, boogie boards, surfboards, and bicycles are awesome here. If you’re visiting us from farther away or don’t have the space in the car, you can always rent these things in most beach towns so not to worry.
Bring a hat and sunglasses! Also…sunscreen! The sun is strong here and you’ll most likely get a sunburn if you don’t take proper precautions. I live here and I still get sunburns sometimes when I misjudge how long I’m going to be out or how strong the sun is. If you’re from a less sunny destination, you’re going to get fried if you don’t prepare.
Most of all, have fun! Feel free to ask me any questions you have about the area if you’re planning on coming for a visit.