If you're planning a trip to New York City, you might be trying to figure out what to pack for New York City. I'm a native New Yorker, so hopefully I can help you figure out what to wear in New York City. Keep reading for tips on what to bring to new York City, what NOT to pack for New York City, and a New York City packing list for every season.
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Before you figure out what to wear in New York... some insider tips about what to pack for NYC
You’ll be walking a lot more than you would at home, so bring a good pair of sneakers, boots, or flats that you can walk miles in. Heels, as lovely as they are, are a mistake.
There’s a lot of black. There’s nothing wrong with other colors and wearing your craziest/most stylish clothing in New York.
We have some of the best shopping in the United States, so if you conveniently forget to bring something, I promise that you’ll be able to find it here.
New York has real seasons, so it’s NYC is cold in winter, ridiculously humid in summer, and kind of perfect in September/April. As a result, I recommend checking carefully what the weather is in New York City when you’ll be here. (Don't worry, you'll find this out here!)
You don't need a special outfit everyday, so definitely look up the idea of a capsule wardrobe if you want to minimize packing for New York City (e.g. everything can be mixed/matched/reworn).
There’s no single dress code in New York City. You can dress however you like, whether you want to go classic chic, punk, or girly. Street harassment is an issue for women in New York City, but don’t let this deter you from wearing what you want.
Pickpocketing is not really a thing in New York, but don’t leave your valuables unattended and/or for a moment unless you want someone to take them. Similarly, if someone wants to rob you, you will know, so be aware of where you are as New York has violent crime (including muggings), although tourists are not typically the target. However, I want to mention: New York is generally safe, but you need to use common sense. A money-belt won't do much, so don't waste your money on one.
What to pack for New York no matter the season
Your camera and its charger. Let's be honest: You want to show everyone that you're in New York City! Don't forget your camera and its charger. (If you forget it, there's plenty of places to buy a camera or a charger too.)
I use the Nikon D3300, which I've had for some years now. It's one of the better low-end DSLRs and I absolutely love the photo quality.
An umbrella. It's best not to get caught in the rain, so bring your own umbrella with you, so you don't end up buying ugly plastic ponchos like many tourists do.
Plug & Converter. If you're coming from anywhere but North America or Japan, you need the right plug for the US. In America, we use the two pronged American outlet, however if you're bringing heavy-duty hardware (like your laptop or hair straightener), it's good to have a converter to ensure that you don't fry your electronics.
Phone charger and maybe a battery bank for your phone. You're probably planning to be sharing videos/photos, so don't forget your charger.
Medicines. Getting replacements for your drugs might be a bit tricky without a doctor's note, so pack your medicines carefully!
Toiletries. There's a RiteAid or Walgreen's basically everywhere, so don't worry if you forget something, but prices in New York are higher than most cities in the United States.
A guidebook to New York City is a good idea. I always depend on the Lonely Planet guides although for New York, consider getting a book that also shows you the less touristy side to New York. (If you want to save money, you can read my insider tips for New York City for free!)
Your pajamas of course.
Socks and underwear. (I just love these Japanese inspired socks!)
A folding reusable bag. You seriously never know when you'll need to carry a new souvenir, your lunch, or something back to your hotel. Instead of collecting plastic bags, bring your reusable folding bag!
What to wear in New York City in winter for 1 week
I’ll assume here that you’re figuring what to pack for New York in December, which is when New York fills up for the most magical time of the year. (Click for tips for the holiday season in NYC!) This is a packing list for a week.
Quick summary of what to pack for winter in New York City:
December in New York is cold. The temperature in New York in December is around 4 degrees Celsius or 39 degrees Fahrenheit. There can be snow in late November, December, and January, however most days will not be snowing.
You'll need to pack a warm jacket for winter in New York City. It gets cold and you should dress appropriately. Ever since we got back from Iceland, I've been low-key obsessed with my 3-in-1 jacket since it allows you to unzip it into a normal sweatshirt once you're indoors. A good wool peacoat is fine as long as you layer up properly with at least 1-2 layers underneath.
1-2 pairs of Jeans or pants that keep you toasty! You don't need to wear snow pants as the snow is mostly out of the way (besides the dirty snow next to the curb). (New York is good at taking care of the snow most of the time.)
Riding boots or comfy booties for the ladies. Given how much you'll be walking and how one step into a dirty snow pile can leave your sneakers soaking wet, I recommend packing some higher boots (or just knee high boots) as they allow you to layer up with some warm socks if you're prone to getting cold, you can tuck your jeans into them, and you don't need to worry about stepping in the wrong puddle. I think riding boots or booties make so many outfits chic without trying.
For men, an ankle boot works well as it's both comfy and practical.
What to wear in New York City in summer for one week...
Quick summary of what to pack for summer in New York City:
In the summer, most places keep the AC turned up as the humidity in New York is brutal, so if you get cold easily, you’ll want to pack an extra layer to wear in New York City in the summer....indoors. I recommend packing a zip-up hoodie or a very light zipped jacket for New York City in summer.
1-2 pairs of shorts or skirts that match multiple outfits It's going to be very hot in New York City in summer, so if you're wondering what to wear in New York City in summer, be sure to pack at least one pair of shorts. I find a basic black pair of shorts is an easy/chic item for pack for New York City summers although a breezy A-line skirt also looks chic while keeping you cool.
Ladies: 2 cute dresses. There's nothing like the humidity in New York in summer and my favorite remedy is to pack a basic cute comfy dress (or three). The humidity makes you really want to have a breeze, which is why I prefer a loose floral dress that looks good all day/night or a chic vintage inspired dress to wear for summer in New York City. You'd be surprised how colorfully people dress in summer.
A towel or picnic blanket or sheet (or borrow one from your hotel). One of the best things to do in New York City summer is to go picnicking in Central Park. Bring something to sit on, maybe bring a wine opener (put it in your suitcase), and enjoy Central Park in summer.
A refillable water bottle. You'll be drinking a lot of water because New York City in summer is HOT and it's better for the environment to not keep buying plastic bottles. The tap water in New York is fine, so fill it up from the tap before you leave the house. The water foundations are fine.
Sunglasses since it will be sunny and you want to be able to see!
A strong deodorant. Don't underestimate the humidity.
Depending on WHEN in fall you're visiting, I consider spring/fall in New York City to be fairly similar for packing. Check the weather.
What to wear in New York City in fall or spring
Quick summary of what to pack for spring or fall in New York City for one week.
I have jackets for every season. My fall and spring jacket for New York City is a medium weight wool peacoat that I can fit a sweater underneath for winter. Although some people would wear a peacoat year-round, I typically save my peacoat for fall from October onwards or before April. You can always wear an open peacoat in September or April (shoulder season) if you're concerned about packing too many clothes for New York.
When it's less chilly, I often wear a light jacket around New York City (sometimes a light bomber style jacket or a cloth jacket that zippers). I'm not that prone to getting cold, but this works well for March/April shoulder season in New York City.
1-2 pairs of jeans. Luckily, jeans don't get too dirty after one day of wear and they're perfect for when there's a slight chill in the air, but you want a jacket. You don't need to plan to pack a lot for spring in New York City if you're
Sweater or cardigan to put on indoors if you get cold. Although it's not that cold outside, I usually wear sleeveless/short-sleeve things underneath my jackets, so I always try to bring a cardigan or sweater with me. It's also nice for those surprisingly warm days where you don't want to wear your peacoat, but it's not warm enough to only wear your t-shirt. Anyways, consider packing one light sweater for New York City if you're bringing only a heavier peacoat with you.
A mix of short-sleeve and long-sleeve t-shirts. New York City is colder towards the end of fall and early spring than a lot of people realize. I recommend bringing maybe 2 of each depending on how cold you get and the weather then. You can always layer with a sweater underneath your jacket.
A hat, a light scarf, and gloves depending on how chilly it will be. A hat is always a good idea to pack for fall in New York as the wind chill can get to you.
What not to pack for New York City
Your smile. (Just kidding, you're welcome to smile as much as you want.)
All your books. New York has some fantastic bookstores with new books for used book prices. (Click here for a budget guide to NYC including the best bookstore in NYC.)
Your entire wardrobe. A lot of people, including myself, do this thing where they plan one outfit for every single day--and one even for a random occasion (when you get invited to Beyonce's birthday party). 99% of the time you'll never use these random articles of clothing that you brought with you to New York City , so pack light and plan to buy some awesome stuff in New York City. Everything that you don't pack for New York means more clothes that you get to buy on sale.
A backpack. It's a bit annoying getting on the crowded subway with a backpack when you're banging into people with your backpack. Please make sure you're not taking up a seat with it either.
In case you forget to pack something for New York...
Toiletries/Basic Electronics: RiteAid or Walgreen's
Clothing/Shoes: Macy's, Century21, UNIQLO, TJMaxx, Bloomingdale's (high-end)
Camera Gear: B&H Photo.
Have you been to New York City? Anything you wish that you packed?
Want more insider New Yorker tips?
Karen & Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Then, Paris. (Confusing, we know!) Now, we're back living in The Hague, the Netherlands.
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