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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.
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 unless you’re used to wearing them regularly for hours.
People wear a lot of black. There’s nothing wrong with other colors, but the stereotype is just a little true. That said, feel free to wear whatever you want. Fashion in New York is famous for a reason, so enjoy it.
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).
If you have plans to go out in New York, you’ll want to wear a nice dress or a nice suit as people get dressed up to go out at nicer bars and/or clubs. You may get rejected at the entrance if you’re not dressed sharp enough. (This is the one time where heels can be an asset!)
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 unless you want someone to take them. In general, I usually bring my backpack/purse with me if I go to the bathroom although I’ve definitely asked people to watch my stuff for a moment. I swear we’re good people at heart.
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. In general, if you’re held up, don’t fight back.
However, I want to mention: New York is generally safe, but you need to use common sense. A money-belt won’t do much as I’ve never met anyone who was pickpocketed, so don’t waste your money on one.
What to pack for New York no matter the season
Your camera and its charger. A good DSLR makes a huge difference for taking good photos although phones are catching up steadily! (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. If you’re more into photos, consider purchasing camera with a wide angle lens.
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. Luckily, there are typically many awnings to duck underneath!
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.
I recently bought a new adapter for my travels (as many of my electronics are European at this point) and I love having two USB ports for my phone and other electronics to charge simultaneously with my computer.
Phone charger and a battery bank for your phone. You’re probably planning to be sharing videos/photos and using your phone for google maps. Don’t forget your charger as using data, location data, and finding wifi can burn through your phone battery.
Medicines. Getting replacements for your drugs might be a bit tricky without a doctor’s note, so pack your medicines carefully! Doctors in the United States, especially New York, are significantly more expensive than elsewhere, so make sure you pack what you need.
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!) In general, a pair per day is a good general idea although one spare is good in case your shoes get wet.
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 in New York City during winter.
Quick summary of what to pack for winter in New York City:
- Winter jacket
- 1-2 pairs of pants
- Cute Boots
- One formal outfit for going out
- Long-sleeve shirts
- One sweater
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. Still, you want to dress warmly as the wind chill can make it feel colder than it is!
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.
In general, a good wool peacoat is fine as long as you layer up properly with at least 1-2 layers underneath. I usually swear a sweater and a t-shirt underneath my peacoats, which work well enough for winter!
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.) I’m not that prone to getting cold, however, a lined pair of jeans might be good if you’re not used to the snow.
I recommend bringing a good pair of thermal tights if you’re intent on wearing a dress or skirt. As mentioned before, it’s not that cold and you should be fine wearing a dress if you wear thermal tights.
A good hat. You’ll be outside walking a lot and it’s good to be warm. I find a fleece-lined hat extra toasty. If you forget your hat, there’s plenty of places to buy a new one!
A scarf. The wind-chill can be a bit much, so it feels good to hide your neck/face in a cozy scarf! I really love having a circle scarf as I find that it’s more comfortable to wear it and it’s harder to lose…
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. Recently, over the knee boots have become a trend and I imagine that this is perfect for winter in New York!
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. My opinion is that 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.
One nice formal outfit and nicer pair of shoes for a formal dinner out (or going out to a nicer club/bar). For women, a black cocktail dress is always a safe bet. If you’re not really someone who dresses up much, there are plenty of bars and cafes that don’t have a dress code.
Many of New York’s most exclusive clubs and nightclubs have a stricter dress code where what you wear does make a different on whether you’ll get in. I personally prefer beer bars and I often wear a winter dress with long-sleeves or a sweater on top of one of my thicker dresses with tights.
5 long-sleeve shirts to wear underneath your clothes. I’m a huge fan of layering and I find that a basic cotton long-sleeve shirt is a great basic. You don’t need anything crazy, so I typically buy mine in bulk. I also find that they look great tucked into jeans or a nice skirt.
1 sweater that can be used for layering. I generally prefer sweaters that button as it makes it easier to wear without being so warm, especially if you have a day where you’re going inside and outside.
Gloves that allow you to use your phone. When it’s cold out, there’s something so nice about not needing to take off your phone to check something on your phone.
What to wear in New York City in summer for one week
Quick summary of what to pack for summer in New York City:
- Light jacket
- Comfy airy shoes (sandals/flats)
- For women: 1-2 shorts/skirts
- For women : 2 dresses.
- 3+ shirts. (You don’t realize how sweaty you’ll get!)
- One formal outfit
- Towel if you plan to picnic.
- Refillable water bottle
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.
A light jacket
I recommend packing a zip-up hoodie or a very light zipped jacket for New York City in summer. I usually wear a fake-leather jacket on cooler days myself as I feel cool in it. A light sweater also works!
Comfy shoes are a necessity. Due to the heat and horrible humidity, you’ll want to bring comfy sandals, something open-toed, or flats if you’re not a fan of sandals. If you wear sneakers with socks, you’ll be melting. Break in your shoes first.
Shorts or a skirt
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.
Dresses for feminine ladies
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 blanket
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
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.
A nicer dress for going out
A nice formal outfit for going out. For ladies, a cute outfit or a chic cocktail dress should do the trick. Rooftop bars are the thing in summer and many expect you to dress up properly to go there at night. Maybe some espadrilles to go with it.
Sunglasses since it will be sunny and you want to be able to see!
A strong deodorant. Don’t underestimate the humidity and the heat. Although air conditioning is good inside… you’ll be thankful for it when you’re riding a crowded subway (which is air conditioned).
What to wear in New York City in fall or spring
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 as it might be colder than you expect.
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.
- Peacoat/Light jacket
- Comfy shoes (Boots)
- 1-2 dresses.
- 3+ shirts (mix of long-sleeve and short-sleeve depending on weather).
- One formal outfit
- 1-2 pairs of Jeans
- Hat, scarf, and gloves depending on weather (at minimum a hat).
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. I sometimes find that this can be too warm.
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.
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.
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. Consider packing one light sweater for New York City if you’re bringing only a heavier peacoat with you.
A nice formal outfit for going out in New York. For ladies, a fashionable outfit or a chic cocktail dress should do the trick. Rooftop bars are big year-round. Maybe pair it with heeled booties and tights.
What not to pack for New York City
All your books. New York has some fantastic bookstores with new books for used book prices.
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 because, 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. I’d even recommend on buying a second suitcase if you plan on shopping a lot.
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.
Your drone. Drones are 100% banned in NYC and unless you want to meet New York’s Finest, leave it at home.
All your makeup. MAC as well as Sephora exists, so you can even head there before a night out for sampling some new products (or just picking up a new lipstick). Similarly, many women’s department stores (think Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue) offer a free makeover although there will be sales pressure at the end.
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?
- The Perfect 5 day Itinerary for New York City
- Tips for New York for the Holidays
- New York City on a Budget