Items to bring in a carry-on bag for a trip to Los Angeles
April 7, 2013 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting L.A. for a week this month. What should I bring in my carry-on bag?

This is my first trip to Los Angeles and I'll be staying in the Hollywood and North Hollywood areas and renting a car.

What items should I bring in my carry-on on bag that I might not otherwise think to bring? I'm from Montana, so southern California is a completely new experience for me. I'm a guy, if that makes any difference in the item recommendations.

So far, I'm planning to bring these items:
swim suit
a GPS for the rental car
android media device (not a phone)
two pairs of shorts and 2-3 pairs of pants
softshell jacket

maybe bring these items:
Frommer's guide to Los Angeles (for any last minute ideas)
posted by mtphoto to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The classic LA trope is that tourists get sunburned. You've got the sunscreen, but add a hat and sunglasses. If you'll be wearing sandals, put sunscreen on the tops of your feet, which I'm just going to assume are pasty white after a Montana winter.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:22 AM on April 7, 2013

Your sunscreen must be under 3oz to be in your carryon. You can buy that out here in a larger size and probably cheaper from any drug store on practically every corner. SoCal lately is getting its 'May gray' early this year and even though there's a marine layer you can still get burned easily.

A sweatshirt/hoodie is nice to have close to the beach especially in the morning and evenings this time of year. It isn't Montana cold but still sort of chilly.
posted by birdherder at 10:27 AM on April 7, 2013

Along the same lines, a hat of some kind-- baseball if you do any running outside, a more dapper hat if you're into that kind of thing. You can still get burned during the gray periods in Los Angeles, and your scalp and ears are pretty vulnerable. If not, or in addition to, get a cool pair of sunglasses. Actually get two. I would also suggest comfortable sandals or leather flip flops (I am not totally up on dude shoes, sorry) because walking along the beach is very fun but getting the resulting 1938499 sand grains out of dress shoes is not.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:41 AM on April 7, 2013

What do you plan on doing while you're here?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:14 AM on April 7, 2013

April in Los Angeles is warm but not necessarily hot (highs average in the 70s). The city is filled with microclimates, so during the day it will generally be a little warmer in North Hollywood (which is just over the hill from Hollywood itself, in the San Fernando Valley) and a little cooler at the beaches. Evenings dip into the 50s and will also feel a little chillier if you're by the beach or in the hills/canyons once the sun goes down. So take along a layer or two that you can easily take on/off through the day.

If you're planning on going swimming at the beach (as opposed to using hotel pools), be prepared for the fact that the Pacific Ocean is cold -- water temps are usually in the upper 50s this time of year at Santa Monica.
posted by scody at 11:20 AM on April 7, 2013

The trip is half networking, half vacation. I'm getting a feel for different cities that I may move to if I pursue a career in the film/tv industry.

I'll mostly be exploring Burbank, Studio City, and Glendale. I have a whole list of things I want to do, including the Pacific Coast Highway, the Getty Museum, a studio tour, a day or two at the beach, the Santa Monica Pier, and try to be on a few sets with my friends.
posted by mtphoto at 11:27 AM on April 7, 2013

If you're staying in Hollywood, and you need anything from toothpaste to earbuds to flip-flops to lube, check out the Walgreens at Sunset and Vine, which was designed to give Apple stores an inferiority complex. Pro-tip: their sushi is surprisingly good.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:28 AM on April 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

staying in the Hollywood and North Hollywood areas

I kid, but, ummmmmm, something to make the interminable traffic jam between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley easier to put up with.

Seriously, North Hollywood isn't really that close to Hollywood, and there is often a lot of traffic covering the limited routes between the two. Plan accordingly, especially if you're coming here for business and have places to be at specific times and need to be professional.


Good call.

swim suit

You're not staying anywhere near the beach, but if your hotel has a pool or you plan to visit the beach as part of your trip, for sure. That said, in my opinion it's not quite swimming weather yet.

a GPS for the rental car

You can usually rent these, but they probably charge a fee, and if you already own one, why not? Very useful for getting around.

two pairs of shorts and 2-3 pairs of pants

Unless you are very hot-natured I'd probably just bring pants. It hasn't been that hot here except for a day or two. Highs have been in the 70's lately. I'm still seeing Angelenos in coats (lol), and even as someone who is used to colder temperatures, I'm mostly wearing jeans and sometimes a hoody or sweater.

softshell jacket

Good for the evenings, for sure. It gets pretty chilly after dark.

I think a guidebook is a great idea. Or kill two birds with one stone and download one in ebook form onto the Kindle you say you might bring.

I don't think you'll need a hat. I don't wear one (note, I am female and not bald), and so far have not noticed sunburns on my ears or scalp. I don't see an unusual number of people walking around in hats, either, so I assume that by and large people don't require them.

Sunglasses, though, yes. Sunglasses. A necessity, probably even more than sunscreen.
posted by Sara C. at 11:31 AM on April 7, 2013

I live in Studio City, so you're talking about my hood. In terms of getting back and forth to the beach, be very aware that "rush hour" is a multi-hour thing in mornings and afternoons. Budget 1 hour minimum to get to the beach, and 90 minutes isn't out of the question at all. Also, you can get a ticket for holding a cell phone up to your ear while driving, so be sure to bring a headset or earpiece.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:31 AM on April 7, 2013

On your update: yeah, seriously, bring media to entertain you in the car. Hollywood, the Valley, Burbank, Glendale, etc. can all be pretty trafficky.
posted by Sara C. at 11:34 AM on April 7, 2013

Bring a holder for the GPS.
posted by brujita at 11:36 AM on April 7, 2013

If you are planning to visit film sets, especially bona fide union productions where people actually care about things, wear closed-toe shoes that day despite any desire to enjoy the (comparatively) warm weather in sandals. I certainly would not ONLY pack sandals for this particular trip, both because of the set thing and also because, seriously, it isn't that hot here, especially at night.
posted by Sara C. at 11:37 AM on April 7, 2013

I've been swimming in an outdoor pool in LA in January, so its definitely not too cold to swim!
posted by vespabelle at 11:37 AM on April 7, 2013

(I live in Los Angeles and would not swim in a pool right now unless it was on a dare or something. And in terms of the ocean? Maybe if we made a pact to jump in and then do shots or drink hot toddies right after.)

For the record, it is 66 degrees right now at my place near downtown, with a high of 73 and an overnight low in the 50's. It's probably colder at the beach. It might be a skosh warmer in the Valley.
posted by Sara C. at 11:47 AM on April 7, 2013

Another thought (urgh I am going to totally monopolize this whole question, sorry) -

Instead of bringing a Fodor's or Frommer's style guide to Los Angeles, considering that you're a young person scouting out LA as a place to live, I would suggest something like Not For Tourists: Los Angeles. I'm not sure they've fully ebooked themselves yet, though.

You also might enjoy a traditional tourist guide that is more geared to young people, like Moon or Lonely Planet. I have a copy of the latest Lonely Planet LA/SoCal, and it's pretty useful, especially for free stuff and things that are a little less touristy like farmers' markets, nightlife, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on April 7, 2013

You don't actually need a swimsuit or shorts. Sunglasses, yes, if only to be cool. Suncreen, maybe, but as others have said, pick it up on landing, only if you are planning on spending hours baking outdoors. I lived an urban life in LA for ten years with the palest of the pale skins, never once burned. LA has some of the craziest weather changes you can imagine, from hour to hour, neighborhood to neighborhood. Plan on layers.
posted by nanook at 12:02 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If by swimsuit you mean boardshorts that you can also wear walking around, bring them. (You can substitute them for one of your other pairs of shorts.)

A pair of comfortable lightweight track pants might be useful.

Earplugs (purchase here if you want) in case your lodgings are noisy.
posted by nacho fries at 12:05 PM on April 7, 2013

In terms of swimming, the ocean will be cold. Pools will be heated and fine.

Rather than guidebooks, I find I like literature & history to give me a sense of the place I'm visiting. If you like to read, I'd recommend either Writing Los Angeles or The Long Embrace. The former is a collection of writings about LA, from the early days through to today, both fiction and nonfiction. The selections are usually short so it is great to dip in & out of. The latter is about Raymond Chandler, who though he is mostly regarded as being a great mystery novelist was simultaneously a great chronicler of the city. Though it is partly about his relationship with his wife, it is also about all the homes they lived in around the area and a pretty fascinating way to look at a city, in my opinion. Joan Didion's White Album collection would be a shorter idea that also works.
posted by dame at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

mostly be exploring Burbank, Studio City, and Glendale

Be sure to check out Magnolia Boulevard in North Hollywood and Burbank -- it has some good stretches of theaters, galleries, cafes, vintage shops, record stores, etc. In Studio City, you'll want to check out Ventura Boulevard and environs.

And yeah, BlahLaLa isn't kidding regarding the amount of time you'll want to budget to get from this side of town (I live near Studio City/Burbank myself) to places like the Getty or the beach. It's only a semi-joke that distances in L.A. are measured by drive time, not mileage (for example, I had to look it up to see that it's 20 miles from here to the Getty -- I only ever think of it as "45 minutes" or "an hour and 15 minutes" or "no fucking way," depending on time of day).

Speaking very generally, rush hour tends last at least until 10:00 or 10:30 on weekday mornings, and tends to start up again around 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoons. This will vary quite a bit by route, construction conditions, etc., though, so I would suggest asking your friends for their advice, preferred routes, etc. when it comes to making day-to-day plans. (Also, a pro-tip: people in L.A. will refer to this mysterious thing called "surface streets" when discussing routes; a surface street is basically any street, whether major thoroughfare or tiny side street, that's not a highway or freeway.) Also, can be helpful to get an idea of current conditions on the major highways at any moment.
posted by scody at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Predicted high of 88 in NoHo this week. Keep in mind, temps can vary greatly from the Valley to DTLA to the beach, and swing wildly from day to day. Bring the damn swimsuit.
posted by nacho fries at 12:08 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

whoops, sorry, I meant that it's 20 miles from here to Santa Monica; it's a little under 15 to the Getty. But either way, the time it will take to get there has less to do with distance and more to do with other factors.
posted by scody at 12:16 PM on April 7, 2013

You might want to print out some Google maps, at different zoom-in levels, for the areas you'll be exploring. This will help orient you to the big picture as well as give you options for alternate routes if (not when) you get sucked into a road-construction traffic vortex, SigAlert on the freeway, or some ill-advised GPS-nav-recommended route.
posted by nacho fries at 12:25 PM on April 7, 2013

FWIW I navigate Los Angeles pretty much purely via GPS and Siri, and I do fine. I'm sure there are shortcuts -- and as I start to have established places I go frequently, I start to discover them -- but if you're here for the week from Montana, don't worry so much about this sort of thing.

Quick vehicular notes that might be relevant to the places you're going to be:

The 101 at rush hour fucking BLOWS. In any direction. From anywhere to anywhere. Don't bother to look at sigalert and analyze what the specific issue is and how bad it really is and whether it will soon clear up. Just, ugh. If you can avoid it, do so. If you can't avoid it, just try to be zen about it.

Some counterintuitive combo of the 5, the 134, and the 2 is often preferable to the 101 for navigating those parts. If your GPS gives you a choice of the 5 vs. the 101, pick the 5.

Laurel Canyon from the Valley to West Hollywood is a really fun drive, and even if there's traffic, it's pretty. That said if you're spending more time towards Burbank and Glendale it's largely irrelevant. Maybe do it once, not at rush hour, because it's so fun/scenic.

Wilshire Blvd runs on an East/West axis from Downtown all the way to Santa Monica and is crossed by most of the major North/South streets. This doesn't specifically pertain to Hollywood, and is irrelevant to the Valley, but if you get lost and you can find Wilshire Blvd, you can probably orient yourself.

There's a bunch of construction and detour drama around Coldwater Canyon in the Valley. On the off chance that your GPS suggests getting off the 101 at Coldwater, or taking Coldwater to Sunset to get to the Getty, or anything like that, ITS A TRAP.
posted by Sara C. at 1:58 PM on April 7, 2013

don't forget your flip flops, and a beach towel if you're going to go swimming or to the beach. a book on your ereader/phone is good too. shoes/sox you can hike in if you go hiking.

as for traffic if you plan on visiting los feliz (cute hipsterish area south of burbank/griffith park--oh, you can go hiking in griffith park it's close to where you'll be staying) know that right now los feliz blvd. is having major construction and will be for the next few months. avoid it like the plague if you can as it is normally a nightmare in rush hour so it will be truly horrific! if you do come to los feliz grab a coffee/food at 'the alcove' on hillhurst. cutest casual outdoor garden cafe in probably all of LA.
posted by wildflower at 2:01 PM on April 7, 2013

If you haven't yet checked out reddit's los angeles subforum, you might find some useful info there from lads and lasses who have come to L.A. for reasons similar to yours. Also good on-the-fly intel about events that might be of interest to you.

/this post was brought to you while wearing boardshorts. I see lots of shorts out there today!
posted by nacho fries at 5:27 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're going from Hollywood to Universal Studios or the Warner lots, take Cahuenga. Stay off the 101. Avoid Highland too.
posted by carsonb at 5:27 PM on April 7, 2013

just so you know, glendale is not too exciting a tourist destination, but if you go a little east over to old town pasadena (colorado blvd.) that is a fun part of town: lots of restaurants, outdoor shopping, movies, norton-simon museum, etc. pasadena is great but i'm biased as i grew up there.
posted by wildflower at 6:17 PM on April 7, 2013

One thing I always regret not having in a rental car is a cheap line in cable to hook up my media player to the stereo. I don't know the proper name for it but both tips look like the tip of a pair of headphones. Also, bring a car charger for your device.

Take some time a look up places you want to visit (Yelp is a good start) and pre-program them into your GPS. That way, you know if you're close to something you want to see and can bundle stops in one trip.

I would pack at least one outfit you would feel comfortable wearing to a dressy dinner place.

Do not trust Google Maps as far as estimate time for arrivals go. You'll notice Angelenos don't say distances in miles but minutes. It doesn't matter how far away something is, ask how long it will take to drive there instead.

Always add at least 20 minutes to your travel time for finding parking if you aren't sure what is around. Our visiting out of town staff at my job always come in super late for meetings because they aren't used to our traffic and parking, so if you have any important meetings, just leave a big cushion and at worst you'll have to kill time near your meeting site.

You may want to bring one re-useable tote bag because many stores here have phased out free plastic bags and charge for paper ones.

The Getty requires advance reservations, I think, so check ahead. It is a lovely place. They also have a villa up in Malibu, off of the PCH. PCH is a time commitment by the way, but I love driving up it to go to Zuma Beach. There are some really crowded beaches close to Santa Monica but I always drive up a bit more to Surfrider or Zuma for a more pristine beach experience. Gorgeous! If you aren't a strong swimmer, ask the lifeguard about conditions. I once lost my bikini bottoms there! :) Strong waves.
posted by dottiechang at 7:07 PM on April 7, 2013

It's not going to be that warm. Tourists get sunburned, and they also freeze their asses off at night. The air is so dry here that there's a much more drastic temperature change over the course of the day - bring layers.

It's going to be way too cold to swim for a while. Bring your swimsuit, if you must, but you probably won't get to use it.

Also: There is a ton of construction going on on Coldwater Canyon Blvd (and sometimes Laurel Canyon). Look up your route before you go. Coldwater has been closed on and off recently.

Beverly Glen is also a pretty drive and a slightly less busy way to get over the hill from the valley to the westside.

I cannot imagine driving here with sunglasses. Maybe I'm a wuss with sensitive eyes, but bring sunglasses!
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:56 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Getty Villa is in Palisades, and requires booking. The Getty Centre, in the Sepulveda pass, does not. You can get any day tickets for the Villa from the Centre. The Centre is well worth the visit, even if just for the garden and views.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:15 AM on April 8, 2013

Warm clothes and cool clothes. The weather has been fluctuating like crazy the last few months... 80 degrees one day, 60 degrees the next. I'd say bring short sleeves and thick coat. It tends to get a lot hotter up in North Hollywood, but this time of year that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Definitely bring sunglasses. Everything is so flat here that the sun hits you right in the eye... And what isn't flat is tall and made of highly reflective glass.

And in the mornings and evenings, the freeway traffic will be worse than you can imagine. You will be wondering how people can live like this. So will everybody on the road with you. If you're going to drive, try to do it between 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM, or after 8:30 PM or so.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:24 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

A note about Santa Monica: This comment is one of the few things not under construction.

If you're coming during the week, just prepare yourself mentally that traffic and parking are going to be frustrating and if you're coming during the weekend they're going to be really frustrating.

"It's going to be way too cold to swim for a while."

That's my feeling, too. If you end up not swimming you can rent a bike from the bike center up the block from the pier and take a ride into Venice along the bike path. (In the off-chance it rains do not go in the water for 72 hours.)

I really hate that every thread about visiting L.A. needs to include all these fucking traffic caveats.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:20 PM on April 8, 2013

Room 641-A is quite correct about SaMo traffic. It's best to hop off the freeway well ahead of the beach exits (esp. on nice weekends), surface street it closer to the beach (Pico is good), park well inland (Lincoln Blvd is about the cut-off) and hoof it. And beware the parking meters...

A really great place to park in SaMo though is the downtown library. Cheap (for the area), covered, and you won't risk having the meter run out on you.

(Don't let all the traffic-kvetching get you down, though...we talk about it like sport here in SoCal. It's always a go-to icebreaker: "So, what route did you take to get here today?")
posted by nacho fries at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2013

« Older Why am I dehydrated?   |   Do you like me or what? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.