Updated on March 5, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
The default capital of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle embodies everything the region stands for, including coffee, music, restaurants, liberal politics, and cloudy weather. This is a city with no shortage of things to do, see, and eat – and there’s even easy access to three national parks.
If you’re planning your first trip there, you’re probably asking, “What do I need to take to Seattle?” I put together this Seattle packing list to help make sure you’re fully prepared for your visit. Below, you’ll also find some tips on what to wear in Seattle and how to pack for each season, as well as a list of things NOT to bring and the answers to some FAQs about visiting the city.
What to Pack for Seattle – 17 Essentials
Although Seattle doesn’t get as much rain as the stereotypes would have you believe, it definitely gets enough to warrant bringing an umbrella. You’ll want something sturdy to protect you from the elements, so we recommend this windproof travel umbrella which is perfect for a trip to Seattle.
Traveling usually means doing tons of walking around and spending lots of time outside, so it’s always a good idea to carry a water bottle. Especially in an eco-friendly city like Seattle, disposable plastic water bottles are frowned upon for their environmental impact, and you’ll also save a bunch of money by skipping them.
3. Neck Wallet
Perfect for hiking and visiting particularly touristy areas, you can’t go wrong packing a neck wallet for your trip to Seattle. Keep your valuables, like your smartphone, keys, and wallet, safely tucked away under your clothes and out of reach for pickpockets. A neck wallet is a great way to keep your belongings organized and secure.
We never travel without a handy lipstick-sized portable charger! With all the stunning landscapes and awesome activities Seattle has to offer, there’s no doubt you’ll be using your phone and camera constantly throughout the day. Avoid having a dead battery at an inconvenient time by bringing along this extra power bank.
Avoid overpacking by using packing cubes to prepare for your trip to Seattle! These will keep you organized by compartmentalizing your belongings into specific, vibrantly colored cubes. This set is amazing because it includes separate cases for your dirty laundry and shoes.
You might not think of a sarong as a top packing list item, but they’re incredibly versatile. In Seattle or the surrounding areas, a sarong will make a great beach towel, picnic blanket, or swimsuit cover-up, and it’ll take up almost no space in your luggage.
An often overlooked but very important thing to bring with you on any trip is a reliable VPN. With the touch of a button, a VPN will keep all your sensitive information secure whenever you connect to WiFi in public places, like in cafes, restaurants, or airports. Don’t risk having your credit card numbers or passwords hacked!
Whether you’re headed for a hike or a dip in a river or lake, a quick dry towel is a top item to bring with you on your trip to Seattle. A travel towel like this can also be used as a bath towel if your accommodation doesn’t provide one or if the one provided is unclean. This one is lightweight and can easily be tossed into your daypack.
For hikes, day trips, or even just long days of sightseeing, you’ll want a daypack to carry necessities like water, snacks, and a jacket. This one is great for traveling because it’s super lightweight and will take up almost no space in your main luggage. It’s a must-bring for Seattle!
10. Rain jacket
Especially if you’re visiting between October and May, you’re almost guaranteed to experience at least one rainy day during your trip. With that in mind, make sure you put a good quality rain jacket on your list of things to take to Seattle, you’ll almost certainly use it!
11. Hiking Boots
A good pair of medium-weight hiking boots that are comfortable for walking are definitely the best shoes to bring to Seattle. With gorgeous natural landscapes surrounding the city, you’ll likely want to do some hiking and exploring, and these shoes will be perfect for every occasion.
If Seattle is more than 100 miles away from home for you, you’ll definitely want to invest in proper travel insurance. Any time you travel, you never know what can happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting yourself and your belongings. World Nomads is awesome because they’ll cover the costs for lost and stolen items, flight cancellations, and medical expenses.
13. Wool socks
Especially if you plan to visit during the colder months, you can’t go wrong with packing wool socks for your trip to Seattle. If your itinerary includes any hiking or exploring, regardless of the season, you’ll want a solid pair of socks to keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout your trip.
15. Hiking pants
There are so many great hiking options in the Seattle area and the nearby national parks. If you’re planning to hit the trail (and hopefully you are!), a pair of hiking pants is one of the essentials to take to Seattle. This pair is comfortable and water repellent which is just what you need when you’re out on the trails!
When you’re out sightseeing in Seattle you’ll be on your feet a lot, so make sure you’ve got a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. Whether you’re exploring the city’s infamous Pike Place Market or doing some light exploring near Mount Rainier, you’ll want to keep your feet happy and comfortable throughout your trip.
Like bringing your own water bottle, packing a reusable cloth bag will help you do your part to keep Seattle’s environment pristine. Whether you’re shopping for souvenirs, browsing the famed Pike Place Market, or just picking up some groceries, bring a cloth bag instead of using a bunch of plastic ones.
Seattle is known for its often rainy weather. This waterproof phone case will make sure your smartphone stays protected from the elements, whether you’re on a hike, stopping for a swim, or strolling through the city. This waterproof phone case is a must-bring for any trip to Washington.
Other Seattle packing list items not to forget
Stain remover wipes
Hiking shoes: Women’s and Men’s
Sandals: Women’s and Men’s
Swimsuit: Women’s and Men’s
Sunglasses: Women’s and Men’s
Gloves: Women’s and Men’s
Winter coat: Women’s and Men’s
Sweater: Women’s and Men’s
Band T-shirt: Women’s and Men’s
Vitamins: Women’s and Men’s
Facial cleansing wipes
Steripod toothbrush cover
TSA-approved plastic bag
What to wear in Seattle?
Seattle is a fairly casual place compared to cities like New York or Washington, D.C., so the standard Seattle wardrobe normallyincludes shorts, jeans, tank tops, T-shirts, and sandals. Seattle is also a creative place, though, and this extends to fashion, so feel free to don whatever helps you express yourself. To stay comfortable no matter what you’re doing during your trip, plan on wearing layers and bringing items like a scarf, tights, and a light jacket or sweater. You’ll also want to pack a rain jacket – and it’s a good idea to stick it in your daypack when you go out for the day, even if the weather is nice in the morning. When it comes to footwear for Seattle, you’ll want shoes that are comfortable for walking around in all day, and make them a pair of medium-weight boots if you visit in the winter.
Pack correctly for Seattle weather
Spring in Seattle – March, April, and May
It typically stays above freezing in the spring, so a light jacket will probably be sufficient, and make sure you bring a rain jacket. You’ll also want clothes that are easy to layer, as well as closed-toed shoes.
Summer in Seattle – June, July, and August
The city’s summers are quite mild, but usually warm enough for clothes like shorts, tank tops, sundresses, and sandals. Just make sure to bring a light jacket or sweater to wear in the evenings. Pack some sunscreen as well – contrary to popular belief, the sun does shine in Seattle!
Autumn in Seattle – September, October, November
Much like in the spring months, you’ll want a light jacket and closed-toed shoes for Seattle in autumn. Plan on mostly wearing sweaters or other long-sleeved shirts as well, especially if you’re visiting later in the season.
Winter in Seattle – December, January, February
Winters in Seattle are relatively mild, and wearing layers will help you stay warm. Pack a warm (but not too heavy) coat, as well as a hat, a scarf, gloves, and some medium-weight boots.
What NOT to take to Seattle
2) DON’T PACK too many clothes – Most people have a tendency to over pack, especially when it comes to clothes. Try to pare it down to the things you’ll actually wear on the trip – your luggage will be more manageable as a result.
3) DON’T TAKE a bath towel – You may want to bring a towel on your trip if you have many outdoor activities planned, but choose a quick-dry model that’s made for travel or camping to save space in your bag.
5) DON’T TAKE lots of cash – If you need cash, you can withdraw it from an ATM once you arrive, and you’ll be able to use a credit card nearly anywhere in Seattle anyway. There’s no reason to carry a ton of cash around and risk losing it or getting pickpocketed.
6) DON’T BRING overly dressy clothes – Seattle is a relatively casual place, and while you may want one or two nicer outfits for evenings out, you can leave the really fancy clothes at home.
FAQs about travel to Seattle
1) What is the best time of year to visit Seattle?
Early-autumnis generally the best time of year to visit Seattle. The weather is warm with relatively little rain, and it’s less crowded than during the summer.Late-spring sees slightly more rain, but it’s otherwise a good time to visit as well.
2) How can I stay on a budget in Seattle?
Seattle isn’t exactly a cheap city to visit, but there are plenty of ways to save money while you’re there. Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses of any trip, so take some time to decide where to stay. Seattle has lots of Airbnb rentals and a few hostels, which will probably be the cheapest options. For a traditional hotel that’s budget-friendly, consider staying a bit outside the city. Food and drinks are another big expense, and there’s no shortage of delicious things to try in Seattle. To save money, consider picking up groceries for some of your meals, or put together a low-cost picnic at Pike Place Market.
When it comes to things to do, be on the lookout for discounts and deals. For example, many museums in Seattle offer free admission on the first Thursday of the month, and you can sometimes borrow museum passes from the city’s public libraries. There are also often free things to do, especially during the warmer months, so check for upcoming events. And of course, exploring Seattle’s many parks and markets, including the famed Pike Place, is also free of charge.
3) What’s the easiest way to get around?
If you’re going to be spending much time in the downtown area, scarce and expensive parking negates the convenience of having a car. However, the city has extensive public transportation, including a light rail that runs from the airport to the University of Washington, bus service throughout King County, two streetcars, and the Seattle Center Monorail, which connects downtown with the popular Seattle Center. With all these options, you’ll likely be able to find public transpiration to get where you need to go, but Uber and Lyft are also available.
4) What are the top things to do in Seattle?
You’d have to be in Seattle for a long time before you’d run out of things to do. Among the biggest tourist attractions are the Space Needle (of course) and Pike Place Market. Other top sites include the unique Seattle Public Library and Smith Tower (with its 35th-floor observatory), and you can visit both the Boeing factory and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.
The city also has several interesting museums, like the Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Flight, the Museum of History and Industry, and the Seattle Children’s Museum. Lastly, the Washington State Ferries are more than just a form of transportation; a ride on one of these boats is an experience in itself and a great way to enjoy stunning views of the city.
5) What are the best coffee shops in Seattle?
The competition for best coffee shop in Seattle is fierce, and every Seattleite has their favorite spot. But you can’t go wrong by visiting one of these: Bedlam Coffee, Milstead and Co., Bulletproof Coffee, Ghost Note Coffee, Caffe d’Arte, Espresso Vivace, Caffe Vita, Victrola Coffee, or Little Oddfellows (located inside Elliott Bay Book Company).
6) Where are the best venues for live music?
The grunge scene Seattle was famous for may have peaked in the 90s, but it’s still a city with a serious music culture. You should definitely plan on seeing some live music during your time in Seattle, but it might be hard to choose where to go.
Located in Belltown, Crocodile has long been one of Seattle’s favorite venues, which serveshighly-ratedwood-fired fire in addition to hosting musical performances. In the Fremont District, Nectar Lounge is the city’s largest indoor/outdoor venue and hosts a wide variety of acts. There are shows nearly every night of the week at Chop Suey in Capitol Hill, where you never know what you might get. If you visit the nearby Highline, you’ll be treated to the unlikely combination of vegan food and death-metal bands. Also in Capitol Hill, Neumos is another of the city’s top venues, with visiting acts playing most days of the week.
7) How can I visit a national park from Seattle?
There are three national parks within about two hours of Seattle: Mt. Rainer National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park. Any of the three can be visited as a day trip or overnight trip from Seattle, and you can drive, take the bus, or go on an organized tour. To reach Olympic National Park, another option is to take the ferry from Seattle. All three parks are open year-round, but have limited amenities available in the winter.
8) How can I get to Vancouver from Seattle?
There are many different options for traveling from Seattle to Vancouver, a trip that won’t take more than a few hours no matter which mode of transportation you choose. The flight is less than an hour, but once you factor in how much time you’ll spend at the airport, flying looks less appealing. It’s also by far the most expensive option.
The train is probably the most comfortable way to go, and the 4.5-hour ride offers beautiful scenery. Boltbus and Greyhound both service the route as well; the bus ride with either company takes 4-4.5 hours, and most tickets are under $20. Lastly, if you have a car, the 140-mile drive normally takes 2.5-3 hours, depending on traffic.
9) What are the top hikes near Seattle?
Hikers visiting Seattle will have plenty of trails to choose from. All three nearby national parks – Olympic, Mt. Rainer, and North Cascades – have dozens of trails, including day hikes and multi-day trips. If you don’t want to drive that far, though, there are closer trails as well.
An hour from Seattle, Mt. Pilchuck is probably the easiest to summit during a day trip; the hike is only 5.4 miles, but it’s relatively steep. Snoqualmie Pass is another good option at just forty minutes from Seattle, and it has multiple trails of various lengths and difficulty levels. Located near Duvall, the hike to Cherry Creek Falls is an easy and mostly flat one that still rewards you with a 25-foot waterfall at the end. Another good option is Tiger Mountain, which is just about an hour from Seattle and offers over 15 miles of meandering trails.
10) What are the best day trips from Seattle?
Any of the three national parks near Seattle make for a great trip, whether you drive there on your own or visit as part of a tour. There are also a host of other protected areas near Seattle, including the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Flaming Geyser State Park, Fort Ward State Park,and Blake Island State Park. The many islands of Puget Sound also make wonderful day trips from Seattle, with Bainbridge Island, San Juan Island, and Whidbey Island being some of the most popular. Other nearby towns worth a visit include North Bend, Darrington, Leavenworth,and Victoria, BC (just don’t forget your passport!).