Every year, I leave the warmth of Southern California for the bitter cold that is December in Chicago, IL. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
While I am fascinated by people who opt to live in warmer climates, and get “in the Christmas spirit” by decorating their desert lawns with a fake plastic snow man or a snow-dusted candy cane next to their palm tree, I don’t ever want to BE one of those people. I’d like to have the real thing.
And holidays just aren’t the same unless I can fully appreciate the coziness and warmth of the indoors after a miserable, snowy day outside.
This does, however, make packing more challenging. As many of you like to point out, my wardrobe is small because I live in a place without much seasonal variation. How exactly can I be a minimalist AND manage to stay warm over the course of a ten-day trip, especially as (my father now regularly refers to me) a “thin blooded” Californian?
Even though it takes some patience, it always works out just fine. For illustrative purposes, here is my complete packing list. My trip will be ten days, and I’m only bringing a carry-on. And since my personal item is my cat in her carrier, I can’t even use a large backpack to hide away more layers. I packed 19 items, including shoes, not including socks and underwear.
- 1 winter coat
- 1 sweater coat
- 1 turtleneck sweater (secondhand)
- 5 long sleeve tops
- 1 long underwear top
- 1 tank top (because I’m a weirdo and can only sleep in sleeveless shirts)
- 1 crop tee (don’t look at me like that – it’s part of my airport outfit, because I insist on having every variation of layers when I’m on a plane)
- 1 jean vest (secondhand; similar made responsibly)
- 1 pair leggings (old, Gap, also double as long underwear bottoms under jeans)
- 1 pair sweatpants (secondhand)
- 1 pair black skinnies (Citizens of Humanity)
- 1 pair 721 High Rise jeans (Levi’s, made in the USA)
- 3 pairs shoes – heeled boots, low booties, walking shoes (Allbirds, made responsibly)
I also packed the following:
- 7 pairs socks
- 2 bras – sports bra (Boody, made responsibly) + bralette
- 7 undies (PACT apparel, made responsibly)
- 1 scarf (secondhand)
- Matching beanie and mittens (Dinadi, made responsibly)
- 1 pair leather gloves (secondhand)
- 1 pair sunglasses (Madewell, made responsibly)
- 1 small backpack (old, secondhand)
- Noise cancelling headphones (secondhand, also – earmuffs!)
I also packed the following toiletries, jewelry, and beauty products, with the intention of being as zero waste as possible. You might not really care to know all of this information, but I am providing it anyway because I love packing lists that are itemized right down to the last useless detail.
- Bamboo hairbrush
- Cocoon Apothecary facial sunscreen
- Soapwalla deodorant
- Contact solution
- Jojoba oil (as moisturizer)
- Facial dry brush
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Bite toothpaste bits
- Dental Lace floss
- Clean Faced Cosmetics black cake mascara/eyeliner
- RMS Un Cover-up
- RMS Lip2Cheek
- W3LL people mascara
- Homemade loose face powder (in salad dressing container)
- Lipliner pencil
- Eyebrow pencil
- Eyelash curler
- 3 pairs earrings
- 4 rings
- 1 watch
- 1 bracelet
So – how exactly do I fit all of this in a carryon? Let me introduce the beauty of the airport outfit. Layers, layers, layers. I try to wear my bulkiest items, as I go back and forth between freezing cold and boiling hot throughout my travel day. Since LA is far too warm to rock the winter coat on top, I usually roll it up and put it in the outer pocket of my suitcase until I arrive in Chicago. I also make a point to keep my hat, mittens, and socks easily accessible in the outside pockets to make for a quick change when I get off the plane.
My tiny backpack is useful for seat essentials like my phone, headphones, a book, chapstick, and a water bottle, and while I’m not actually allowed a second item like this, it fits easily into my carry-on in the event that any flight attendants scold me.
That leaves me with the sweater coat (which becomes a comfortable blanket), a flannel, a tee, and leggings. Oh, and my cat, who holds the record for receiving the most compliments from elderly men at the airport.
And thus I am armed to take on the cold for the next ten days. Any packing questions? Let me know below.