Travel wardrobe recap: a road trip on the California coast

Summer travel outfits from our coastal California road trip in August.

Now that we’re back home and unpacked, I’m recapping and reviewing my travel wardrobe for the trip. I’ve found this is a helpful exercise and reference for future similar trips. Above, summer travel outfits from our coastal California road trip.

What I packed

My travel wardrobe for a road trip up the California coast.

Read what I packed here: How to pack for a coastal California road trip

I always reserve space for a couple of “wild cards,” which I’ll select at the last minute based on weather forecasts and my own whims. 😉 This time, I selected a lightweight merino sweater and a compact down vest.

I’ll be the first to admit these aren’t the most exciting pieces or outfits. 😆 I knew that our venues and activities would fall under the heading of “beach-side casual,” and chose accordingly. But I was always comfortable, and felt put-together and appropriately dressed. Everything coordinated easily.

So let’s recap…

The weather along the Central-to-Northern California coast is often quite cool and foggy during July and August. It was even cooler (and breezier) than I’d anticipated, so was glad to have lots of layer-able options.


  • The orange windbreaker (similar). I wore this just about every day we were on the coast. It was light enough to be comfortable, but did keep me from getting chilled in the wind and damp.
  • The merino sweater. I wore this for several days during the week.
  • The sneakers (similar). Sturdy enough for rock-hopping at the beach, refined enough to wear to dinner.
  • Jeans (here and similar).
  • The bandanas. Wore one of these as a neckerchief or headband most days.

I mostly wore the tee shirts as a base layer underneath sweaters, or in the car on longer drives.

Pinch hitters


  • The tiger-print shirt. Not warm enough.
  • The navy knit pants. Likewise.
  • Swimsuit, and the waterproof Birks. Brrr.
  • The silk shell.
  • The off-white denim trousers.

Wish I’d brought

  • More sweater options.
  • Maybe a second accent color.

My summer road trip travel wardrobe

Out and about in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Out and about in Big Sur

Food & lodging

Many of you have asked me to share where we stayed and any restaurant recommendations.


In Carmel-by-the-Sea, we stayed at the Candlelight Inn on San Carlos St. This motor lodge has a great location, walking distance to the town center and beach. Our upstairs corner room was spacious and well appointed. Nice towels and Gilchrist and Soames toiletries. Very quiet and comfortable.

I’d already mentioned the Carmel Belle for breakfast, and we really enjoyed the fresh pasta at The Tree House Cafe.

Big Sur

It was our first time staying at the Ventana Big Sur Resort, and WOW, it was amazing. This is an all-inclusive resort, so meals are included (alcohol and some drinks are extra) as well as use of the gym, pools, and traditional Japanese bath house. Spa services are available for an extra fee. This would have been WAY outside of our budget, but thanks to some advance planning on le Monsieur’s part, we were able to book it several months ago using Hyatt points.

Before we checked in, we had a fantastic lunch at Nepenthe. Even though it was mostly fogged in along the coast, the scenery from our patio seat was still gorgeous. Get there when they open (11:30am) or be prepared to wait while for a table.

The Big Sur Smokehouse is associated with the Ventana Big Sur Resort, and opened their doors again during our stay. Quality BBQ, sandwiches and salads.

Half Moon Bay

Sun through the clouds at Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay

We stayed at the Cypress Inn, which is right on Miramar Beach (though unless you want to scramble down rocks, you have to walk a few blocks for beach access). Our room was small, though we had a lovely beachfront view. It’s comfortable but not luxurious, and you’ll need to drive to town. A very good breakfast (brought to the room) was included, as well as an afternoon happy hour with wine and cheese.

The wi-fi in our room was barely a blip, ditto the cell service, so I took it as a sign from the universe to just relax and go offline for a couple of days. (We’d booked an additional room for my sister who came over from the Bay side to join us.)

We had lunch at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero one day (we opted for takeout to eat on picnic benches outside). It was quite good, but not inexpensive.

Several people had recommended Pasta Moon, and we had to take an early reservation to get in for dinner. But the food was quite good. Come hungry; the portions are also large!

Dairy goats relaxing in the barn at Harley Farms Goat Dairy.

The next day we took a side trip to the Harley Farm Goat Dairy in Pescadero to pick up some goat cheese and crackers for a picnic lunch. And then stopped at a roadside produce stand for some organic strawberries that were Out. Of. This. World. 🍓

Wear a mask in Half Moon Bay.

We masked up indoors in public spaces, including public areas of our lodgings, and the few times we were in crowds outdoors. (Carmel was pretty busy downtown.)

Have you taken, or are you planning to take any road trips this summer?

On Instagram…

Today at 11am PT / 2pm ET I’ll be joining up with Pam of Over 50 Feeling 40 to talk about how Color and Style analysis has changed how we think about style, and some of the challenges of revamping our wardrobes.

Last week, I chatted with Manina of Red Leopard about our respective travel wardrobes (she from the South of France, me from Big Sur). You can watch the whole thing HERE or below.

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  1. The cool coast of California sounded delightful to this Floridian. I can relate to your packing choices, because we took a two week trip to the five western states surrounding The Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier and Little Big Horn National Parks, so temperatures went from very hot to chilly and sometimes rainy. So packing was a challenge for us too.
    We found one very clear message in our travel as far as protecting against Covid. You cannot take your cue from those around you. We were mostly in the minority about wearing masks and social distancing, period. You must remember that whatever others are doing is not an indication of how much spread of Covid there is. One event we attended was totally maskless, as we sat around large tables indoors to at a mystery dinner theater the night before we flew back from Denver.
    It was unnerving enough that, even thought we wore our masks indoors and also outdoors on crowded streets, and we created distance wherever possible, we came home and all got tested. Negative, thankfully! But my advice would be, go if you can, but protect yourself. Planes, of course, were the most neverwracking, but the airlines did insist on masks. But the views and experiences we had were invigorating and memorable, forever.
    Thank you for your packing list, and I will take your advice in future to allow for a couple of “wild cards.”

  2. Your trip looks and sounds wonderful thank you for sharing! I have been up that stretch of coastline before when the fog comes in and brrr it gets cold very quickly! But wow it is spectacular and we always come back invigorated.Take care 🙂

  3. Your wardrobe is so well coordinated and all your outfits look great. We’re not planning any trips at the moment. I’m in Australia and our borders have been closed for 18 months. Until recently we’ve been able to do a few short local trips so we’ve been to the south coast and had a few days at Perisher but now we’re in lockdown and we can’t go anywhere. When our government first went for zero community transmission I thought it was a great idea but now I think we’re so far behind everywhere else. The rest of the world is opening up but we’re locked up until we can get our vaccination rates up. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, just explaining where we’re at right now. But I’ve enjoyed reading about your trip and your wardrobe. My husband and I usually have long two or three month long trips in Europe each year to catch up with family in the UK and continue our travel obsession with Europe. You and I have a similar packing style in that I go for a small travel wardrobe and limited options but I wear cooler colours so I have a mix of black, navy, brights blues and greens in my bag. Also I’m going for longer so I have make sure I cover all contingencies. But I always take an international sized carryon bag and a small cross-body bag (except on road trips when I always take far more than I need)! I need to be able to move around easily with my bag, and be able to carry it up and down stairs at railway stations and in hotels so I like to travel with as little as possible. I usually end up with 13-14 pieces of clothing and three pairs of shoes, so there are similarities in our packing styles. I’ve enjoyed reading about your trip. Thanks for the pictures. All the bloggers and you tubers I follow are my windows to the world at the moment!

    1. Elaine, I feel for you. We are watching the perpetual never ending lock downs in Australia and scratching our heads in bewilderment too. As a Canadian, our options to travel outside Canada are limited too but for different reasons. Our federal government botched procuring vaccine supplies so we ended up getting AstroZeneca or a mix & match approach to vaccines: first dose either AstroZeneca or Moderna or Pfizer, 2nd dose any of the others (not necessarily 2 doses of the same brand). We were told this would be fine but it has turned out to not be fine to travel outside of Canada. This has resulted in us not being viewed as “double vaccinated” in the USA or in Europe as they only recognize 2 doses of the same vaccine and not AstroZeneca or this crazy mix & match approach. So, we can’t travel either! Please excuse my rant of frustration. Susan, thank you for the beautiful photos of California. We are traveling vicariously through you! Thanks also for summarizing what you packed and wore. I have pinned it for future reference when us Canadians can travel internationally.

  4. Great timing as my packing day is tomorrow! I have my choices sequestered in a corner of the closet and tomorrow will make the final decisions. Like Elaine, I pack in one small bag (22”) due to the need to s help it on-and -off trains throughout Western Europe. I also carry a daypack and a large purse. Hubby packs in a 22” plus day pack and we share a small duffle that leaves us just enough room for extras like our hiking sticks and enough meds for a long trip. We keep that bag lightweight so it doesn’t burden us.

    We are off next Monday for 9 weeks in Switzerland, Italy, and the UK with a probable stop in Paris for just a few nights. The first 5 weeks are in Switzerland but anything free that is subject to change based on restrictions related to COVID. Hiking in the Alps and Dolomites forces the wardrobe to very casual and I hold myself to two pair of shoes: one hiking boot and a very versatile ECCO Gortex slip on that I can walk miles in but looks good enough for a decent restaurant or time in the city. Like you, I re-evaluate after every trip and make notes for next time. In 2019, on out last trip to the area, I noted that I should have brought one more long sleeve tee and fewer short sleeved ones. I rely on layering, bring two blouses and a cardigan for those times I want to feel more smart casual than hiking casual. I find a pair of great fitting black jeans serve well from trail to dinner table and thus time will also pack a pair of trouser jeans as an alternative to my serviceable hiking pants which get almost daily wear.

    I like to wear a lot of color at home, mostly red, so I have a few pieces to spice up those dark bottoms along with a scarf or two and some favorite but small jewelry pieces. There’s always the opportunity to pick up something in a necklace or scarf as a momento!

  5. We just canceled a trip from Colorado to California. The flight felt too risky, and a part of our plan was to attend an outdoor wedding. Strange times again!
    We’re taking pretty good care here in Boulder County, but it’s a mixed bag as to where in the state you see masks, and where not.
    Instead of a coastal trip, walking on the beach, and dinners on the patio in Santa Barbara, we’re going to be hiking, fishing, and eating out in Steamboat Springs! It’s a mountain town, so lows in the upper 40’s, highs in the 80’s.
    Susan, this trip of yours is the closest I’ve seen from you, to our type of dressing on trips! We are usually pretty active during the days, though we enjoy good restaurants in the evenings. Kind of nice to see options for dinner out in more outdoorsy locales!
    I do think adding one sweater or jacket in a different color would have added some nice variety to your week away.
    I am planning to take at least one pair of Vuori joggers, but I will definitely pull out my clothes with this guideline in mind. Thank you!

  6. Susan,

    What a gorgeous travel wardrobe! Have you ever done a post on how to shop by color? I am slowly shedding my almost all black wardrobe, but I’m impatient about looking for “my” colors. I’m wondering if you had some tips to spare me from wading through pages of pastels!


  7. We would like to get away within our own country. Finally some rain fell, so it should put a damper on those wildfires. A very nasty one is blocking the highway where we want to go. Also, things not shut down by the fires have been shut down again by Covid. If it doesn’t calm down on both fronts by fall, looks like another year of going nowhere. We live in unprecedented times.

    1. I love your scarf used as a headband. Will you please do a video of how you folded it and put on? It will be perfect for our convertible rides.

  8. Susan, the photos are lovely and refreshing in these not so good times.

    Off topic: I left a critical review of one of the Biossance products you were trying. The message I received after writing Biossance that the product, Scupt, was not their product. I left a corrected statement on your post which referenced Biossance but want to add that I discovered that I had mixed up the order from Biossance with an order from a different entity so it was not a fault in the Biossance shipping either.

  9. I always pack too many shoes! Usually end up wearing whatever is the most comfortable. I know you said you didn’t wear the shoes you brought for swimsuit, etc. But do you ever think maybe still really need only 2 pairs?

  10. I was delighted to see that you stayed at the Candle Light Inn in Carmel – because the name jolted a happy, happy memory of having stayed there years and years ago as a special getaway! I remembered the breakfast in a basket that we had for the two mornings we spent there, and how easy it was to access everything else in town that interested us, and also the upstairs corner room that was ours and perhaps yours too! Thanks for reminding me . . .

  11. Hi – thank you for this enjoyable post. At least we cab travel vicariously! Please share the maker of those hats. i would like to check them out.

  12. Hi Susan,
    I was going to comment on today’s post about the Talbot jacket but I don’t see a place to do that. In scrolling through, I came across the outfits for your Carmel trip so will comment on both posts!
    I ordered the Talbot jacket expecting it to be more turquoise. That’s not a color I usually wear but I’m trying to embrace some of the colors I’ve been told will be good now that I have gone gray. When the jacket arrived, I was delighted to see that it’s almost more of a periwinkle so I’m very pleased; much more to my liking.
    And…..I’m headed up the coast Monday. I think I mentioned cancelling a trip to Paris. I got cold feet when the state dept. is issuing a Do Not Travel to France warning. I was going by myself, first to Paris, then a TGV trip to see my sister in the countryside. Just don’t want to do this alone under the circumstances.
    My “consolation prize” is to drive up Hwy. 1 from SLO (my home), stay 3 nights in Carmel, 1 in Santa Cruz. Incidentally, 3 nights in Carmel is costing $200 more than 7 nights at a cute studio in the 5th in Paris!
    I know it will be cool in Carmel since it has been in SLO most of the summer. I think I’ll be prepared. Bon vacance to you since I think you are still ON for your trip.