17 Top NYC Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2018 Update)

What should I bring on my New York City trip?

One of the most famous cities in the U.S. – and in the world – New York City receives over 60 million tourists every year. And unless you’re from one of a handful of comparable cities around the world, the Big Apple can be an overwhelming experience. To make their trip go as smoothly as possible, most first-time visitors will be asking, “What do I need to pack for New York?”

The essential things to take to New York will depend on what season you’re visiting and what you plan to do during your trip. But this New York packing list includes all the top things to consider, including the must-have items for any time of year. Scroll down to the bottom for some tips on the best clothes to wear in New York and how to pack for each season, as well as a list of things NOT to bring and some general FAQs.

And don’t forget that being in New York is a full sensory experience. It can mean having to deal with crowds and lines, getting stuck in traffic, and encountering unexpected sights, sounds, and smells. But it’s all worth it to experience the Big Apple – just make sure you bring a healthy dose of patience with you.

1) Umbrella – It can rain almost any time of year in New York, so make sure you pack an umbrella no matter when you visit. This one weighs less than a pound and folds down to eleven inches long, so it won’t take up too much space in your bag.
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2) Sunscreen – New Yorkers are famed for their walking, and unless you want to spend half your trip sitting in traffic, you should follow suit. But all that time outside makes sunscreen one of the most important things to bring to New York –and that goes double if you’re visiting in the summer.
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3) Hand sanitizer – It’s no secret that New York isn’t the cleanest city in the U.S. When your hands feel grimy from being out in the city all day, a bottle of hand sanitizer will be a lifesaver.
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4) Solid shampoo – When you’re flying, liquid products are some of the most annoying things to pack, since you’re super limited in how much you can bring. Even when traveling by land, there’s always a risk that liquids will end up leaking in your bag and creating a huge mess to deal with when you get to your destination. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of liquids you need to pack will be worth it, and solid shampoo is a good place to start.
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5) TSA-approved travel-sized bottles – For the rest of your liquids, though, you’ll need some travel-sized bottles, especially if you’re planning to fly. To reduce the risk of leaks, it’s worth it to invest in some high-quality bottles. This set comes with a money-back guarantee!
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6) Water bottle – If you’re walking around a lot or spending a lot of time outside – and in New York, you will be – make sure you stay hydrated. You can buy bottled water anywhere, but carrying a bottle you can refill will save you money and reduce your environmental footprint. Win-win!
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7) Camera – If there’s one thing you’re going to want after your trip, it’s photos of all the amazing sights you’ve seen. A camera that will capture high-quality shots of your trip is one of the top things to bring to New York, and the Canon PowerShot is a good camera that’s not too bulky or expensive.
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8) Memory card – Of course, even the best camera is no good without a memory card, an item that can be easily overlooked. When you’re packing for New York, make sure you’ve got one that’s large enough to hold the dozens (or hundreds) of photos you’ll want to take.
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9) Headphones – Unless you’re coming from elsewhere in the Northeast, it’ll be a long flight to New York. A pair of headphones is essential for the plane –not to mention for the subway, once you’re in the city.
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10) Reusable cloth bag – You’ll probably be doing some shopping on your trip, so make sure to put a reusable cloth bag on your New York packing list. By avoiding a new plastic bag every time you pick up a gift or souvenir, you’ll be doing your part for New York’s environment while you’re there.
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11) Sweater: Women’s and Men’s – If you plan to visit outside of the summer months, a sweater should be part of your New York wardrobe. These options are warm enough to protect you against cooler weather, but lightweight enough that they won’t take up too much space in your luggage.
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12) Dark jeans: Women’s and Men’s – Dark jeans are a staple of the New York wardrobe. They always look nice and can easily be dressed up or down, making them the perfect thing to wear when vacationing in the city.
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13) Peacoat: Women’s and Men’s – Visiting New York in the fall or winter means a warm coat is essential. Peacoats go equally well with jeans or dress clothes and are the go-to outerwear for many New Yorkers, both men and women. They aren’t waterproof, though, so it’s a good idea to bring a rain jacket as well.
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14) Sunglasses: Women’s and Men’s – Make sure to check the temperatures for when you are heading to Machu Picchu.
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15) Rolling suitcase – You’re going to need something to put all your New York packing essentials in, and unless you just prefer to travel with a backpack, a small rolling suitcase is probably the best choice. This one is small enough to use as a carry-on, and the hardshell design makes it super durable.
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16) Shoulder bag – If you’ll need to carry much stuff around with you as you explore the city, a shoulder bag should definitely be on your list of things to take to New York. This bag comes in a variety of colors and sizes, so you can get the version that best suits you.
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17) Packing cubes – When it comes to staying organized on the road, packing cubes are a lifesaver. It’s so much easier to find things in your bag when everything is organized into packing cubes. This set includes three cubes of three different sizes, and the smallest one is great for items like socks, scarves, and other accessories.
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Other packing list items to consider bringing to New York

What should I wear in New York?

New York is a progressive and diverse place where you never know what you’ll see – so in that sense, you can wear almost anything. But if you don’t want to stick out as a tourist, opt for dark jeans and black staples, and dress a bit nicer than you might at home. Blouses, sweaters, and dresses are all good choices for women, and guys might choose polo shirts or button-downs and a sport coat. You’ll want lightweight, breathable clothes during the humid summer months, and a warm coat and gloves in the winter. No matter when you visit, an umbrella and some comfortable walking shoes are New York packing essentials.

Pack correctly for New York weather

Winter in New York includes December, January, and February. Be sure to bring a warm coat, winter boots, gloves, and a hat because the temperatures frequently drop below freezing and you’ll most likely encounter snow. If you’re planning to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, make sure you have appropriate clothes to keep you warm outside for several hours. The winter averages range from a low of 26°F to a high of 44°F.

Spring in New York includes March, April, and May. Be sure to bring a rain jacket and umbrella because rain is frequent – but you’ll still need sunscreen and sunglasses for the many sunny days. The spring averages range from a low of 35°F to a high of 71°F.

Summer in New York includes in June, July, and August. Choose clothes made from breathable, lightweight fabrics to stay comfortable in the hot, humid weather, and bring a water bottle to help you stay hydrated. New York hosts frequent parades, concerts, and festivals this time of year, so you’ll want to be comfortable spending lots of time outside in the heat. The summer averages range from a low of 64°F to a high of 85°F.

Autumn in New York includes September, October, and November. Pack your sweaters and a light jacket, and be prepared to dress in layers because the temperatures will be starting to drop, though snow is unlikely. The autumn averages range from a low of 41°F to a high of 76°F.

What NOT to take to New York

1) 🚫 DON’T PACK heavy books – You may want to get some reading done on your flight to New York, but physical books will really start to weigh you down. Fortunately, a Kindle takes up less space (and weighs less) than a single book.
2) 🚫 DON’T BRING too many clothes – Most people tend to bring too many clothes when they travel and then only end up wearing half of them. Be choosy about what to bring, and you’ll end up with a much lighter bag.
3) 🚫 DON’T TAKE a bath towel – Any hotel you stay at in New York will most likely have a towel, but if you do want to bring your own, opt for a quick-drying travel towel instead of the regular kind. They’re much lighter weight and take up almost no space.
4) 🚫 DON’T PACK unnecessary valuables – You’ll probably want to bring some electronics to use during your trip and some nicer jewelry to wear on nights out, but leave anything you won’t actually use at home. There’s always a chance that things could get lost or stolen while traveling, and there’s no reason to risk it.
5) 🚫 DON’T TAKE overly casual clothes – Compared to the rest of the U.S., New York is a relatively formal place. If you want to blend in with the locals, dress up a bit.
6) 🚫 DON’T BRING uncomfortable shoes – You’ll probably be doing a lot of walking during your trip, so make sure you bring comfortable shoes. Otherwise, your feet will be killing you the whole time, and it could end up ruining your trip.

10 frequently asked questions about travel to New York

1) What is the best time of year to visit New York?

Due to the frigid, snowy winters and the hot, humid summers, the best months for visiting New York, weather-wise, are April, May, September, and October. But if you can brave the cold, prices for everything from hotels to Broadway tickets drop in January and February, and the city is much less crowded. And while prices are still high in December, there’s nothing quite like Christmas in New York. At the other end of the spectrum, the city comes alive in the summer, despite the heat and humidity. Prices are high then, but it’s also a season of free concerts, movie screenings, outdoor activities, and more.

2) What is the best neighborhood to stay in?

The best area to stay in during your trip to New York depends on your interests – and your budget. There are far too many interesting neighborhoods in New York to list, but these are a few to get you started. In Manhattan, art lovers will be delighted by all the galleries in Chelsea, while Chinatown is the best bet if cheap, tasty food is your top priority. The bohemian past of Greenwich Village is still evident today, and Harlem is more vibrant than ever. And of course, Midtown is home to most of the things that make you think of New York. Or, if you prefer to stay in one of the other boroughs, you’ll have plenty more amazing neighborhoods to choose from.

3) How can I take public transportation?

Public transportation is easily the cheapest and most convenient way to get around New York, but the system is so extensive, it can be confusing for visitors. The city’s subways are color-coded by line and identified by number or letter, while buses are identified by a route number following a letter that denotes the borough. Apps like MyTransit NYC will make using the buses and subways much easier.

4) Where can I go to avoid the crowds in New York?

New York has some of the country’s most famous tourist attractions – and they draw some of the biggest crowds. If you want to avoid the crowds, skip the city’s biggest sites, namely Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the Met. If you can, visit during the off-season (like in January or February), and plan to spend time outside Manhattan.

5) How can I save money in New York?

New York is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., making it hard to travel there on a shoestring. Still, there are plenty of ways to cut costs while you’re visiting. If you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers, New York is one of the few cities in the country with hostels, which is probably the cheapest option if you’re traveling alone. Otherwise, consider using Airbnb, which can be significantly cheaper than hotels.

For saving money on food, skip the five-star restaurants and any place that caters to tourists, and eat instead where the locals eat. New York’s abundance of hole-in-the-wall spots have some of the best food and at reasonable prices. Don’t forget you can always pick up groceries at a supermarket for some of your meals, which will save you a bundle.

When it comes to seeing the sights, check to see if any of the attractions you want to visit have reduced-admission hours, or if it makes sense to get a city pass. Don’t forget about things like Groupon and LivingSocial either, which have literally thousands of deals in the area. There are also lots of free walking toursand free events you can attend in New York, especially during summer. And simply strolling through the city, which might be the best way to experience it, costs nothing.

6) What should I know about seeing a Broadway show?

Tickets to Broadway shows can be incredibly expensive and often sell out far in advance – but there are many ways to find discounted and last-minute seats, so don’t give up. Traditionally, people seeking cheaper tickets have gone in-person to a TKTS Booth, which usually has most tickets available at 50 percent off. Of course, now you can buy tickets online, and TodayTix and NY Tix both sell them at a discount. You can also find discount codes online at BroadwayBox or Broadway Insider. Some shows sell a limited number of day-of tickets at steep discounts as well – but the only way to get them is to be at the box office when it opens.

Once you’ve got your tickets secured, double-check the time of the show (curtain times can be all over the place on Broadway), and plan to arrive at least 20 minutes early. Make sure you know how to get to the theater, and allow enough time after dinner or other pre-show plans. After the show, you might be able to meet some of the performers in person and have them sign your Playbill – just ask an usher where to go.

7) What are the best museums in New York?

New York has over 100 museums, so you’ll have to be choosy when deciding which ones to visit. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, better known as The Met, is one of the largest and most-visited art museums in the world, housing nearly two million works. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is as well known for its iconic architecture and unique layout as it is for the artwork, mostly Impressionist and modern, on display there. The Museum of Modern Art is one of the world’s leading modern art museums, even if many visitors question whether some of its works really constitute “art.”

If art isn’t really your thing, the American Museum of Natural History has exhibits covering virtually all periods of known human and animal history, as well as a planetarium and an IMAX theater. The Museum of the City of New York aims to celebrate the city and preserve its heritage, housing objects representing the city’s culture and illustrating its history. The New-York Historical Society also contains artifacts from throughout New York’s history, and it’s home to the Center for Women’s History, the country’s first initiative of its kind. Finally, the Tenement Museum is located in a former apartment building in the Lower East Side and tells the stories of the immigrants who once lived there.

8) What are the top foods to try in New York?

New York is so diverse and such a cultural hotspot, it’s a food lover’s paradise. Some of the foods the city is most known for come from its Jewish community, including pastrami sandwiches on rye and the go-to breakfast of bagels with lox.Of course, since New York was home to the country’s first pizzeria, New York-style pizza is another must-eat, distinguished by its thin, hand-tossed crust. For a sweeter choice, the iconic options are New York cheesecake or a cronut.

9) What are the best walking tours?

There are dozens of walking tours available in New York, covering all five boroughs. Both Free Tours By Foot and New Europe Tours run several tours per day in Manhattan and elsewhere, all offered on a pay-what-you-wish basis. The Grand Central Partnership’s tours of the Grand Central neighborhood (including the train station) are free and led by historians, and the Central Park Conservancy runs several different tours in and around Central Park, some of which are free. Big Onion Walking Tours is another popular company; their tours cost $25, and each one is themed around architecture, culture, food, or history. Lastly, Foods of NY runs food tours in Chinatown, Greenwich Village, and elsewhere, most of which are $54.

10) Which New York city pass is the most useful?

There are numerous city passes available in New York, and each one works slightly differently and offers its own list of attractions. To choose the best one for your trip, decide which attractions you want to visit first, so you can be sure to get a pass that includes them. Some also include line-skipping privileges, use of a hop-on/hop-off bus, and other perks. Before you choose your pass, consider which extras you’ll actually use and what they’re worth to you.

The FreeStyle Pass from CitySights NY starts at $129 and includes admission to anythree of the attractions on their list. For $122, CityPASS gets you entrance to six attractions, but there are some restrictions – for example, if you choose to visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, you cannot also use your CityPASS at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The New York Explorer Pass starts at $84 for three attractions, and can be used at any of the 74 spots on their list. Unlike most passes, it’s valid for 30 days after the first visit.

There are also two unlimited passes– the New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass – both of which are available as 1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, or 7-day passes. The prices are almost the same, but the list of attractions differs slightly, so check what’s included on each one.