Have you heard about Dopamine Dressing? It’s the trend of leaning into wearing clothing that just makes you smile and choosing joyful shapes and colours over traditional “timeless” and “elegant” fashions.

For a long time, I thought that maximalism and lightweight packing were incompatible. If you look back on most of my Packing Lists, you’ll see pretty neutral colour schemes, sensible clothing, and easy-to-pair options. I still stand by all of that advice. But for this trip to LA, I broke all my own rules.

What Is Dopamine Packing?

Dopamine Packing is my travel version of Dopamine Dressing. This “mood-boosting” style of assembling outfits is silly, fun, bright, and rejects convention. The reason why it’s not always suited to travel is sometimes the pieces can be so loud that they lose their versatility. But I believe there is a happy medium where you can wear the weird, daring, statement pieces, even on a week-long trip in a small carry-on.

The trick is to bring enough separates, pack items in complementary colours, still pack sensibly for the weather and activities, and don’t pack too many items that meet the same need. If you follow my 4-part packing formula of Weather, Activities, Vibe, and Trip Length, you’ll have enough information to make smart packing decisions while leaving room for fun!

When Can I Use Dopamine Packing?

The best time to go nuts with Dopamine Packing is on a chill vacation or when visiting friends and family. These are the low-stakes trips. The ones where you’re visiting a familiar or comfortable destination, with no specific strenuous activities planned, and where the weather is nice. These are also times when you know you’ll be able to solve any issues that arise by improvising with what you brought or borrowing or buying something on location.

I also find that Dopamine Packing is perfect for fashionable destinations where you don’t know anyone. Be bold, turn heads, and wear the things that don’t get enough love in your wardrobe. On this trip to Los Angeles, I had a fairly open schedule and was attending the wedding of one of my boyfriend’s friends. This meant I had a blank slate for packing – which can be too much freedom if you’re indecisive. I found it helpful to see it as an opportunity and asked myself the following questions:

  • What clothing would bring me joy and make me feel good?
  • What do people at my destination wear? I.e. What are the cool kids in LA wearing?
  • Is this a good moment to wear my bolder items? I.e. What items would really sing in this environment that I’ve neglected to wear lately?

What I Packed For Los Angeles

The first outfit I needed to plan was my wedding guest outfit. With proper planning, you can pack an outfit with elements you can re-wear for the rest of the trip. It helped that I was wearing flat sandals since the wedding was at a campground!

And here is how I styled all of these pieces in outfits on my trip.

Dopamine Packing is for you if you feel that minimalist packing hinders your self-expression, doesn’t feel “like you”, or would require you to go out and buy all new things. On the flip side, Dopamine Packing can be a little escape from your typical outfits because you have more freedom and fewer constraints as you do in your daily routine. Whichever it is, go try it out! Choose the unconventional pick on your next vacation and let me know how it goes.

Happy Travels,

You May Enjoy These Posts