What to Pack for Your First Trip to New York City

Summer is here, and travel is back in the USA! We are toasting that this week, for sure! Some of you might be traveling to New York City for the first time this year.

I remember that feeling…

It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Would I be run over by the crowds? Would I stick out? Would it be safe? Would I get lost in the wrong neighborhood? It can be overwhelming.

The good news is that New York City, per capita, is very safe. Every major city has its moments, but you should be absolutely fine.

Also, New Yorkers have a terrible reputation for being rude, and even mean. It’s a vicious rumor! Sure, they’re all in a hurry. And, no, they won’t stop you to say, “hi, how’s it going?” There are simply too many people – ain’t nobody got time to talk to everybody. But, if you stop someone to ask for help or directions, they’ll be there for you.

Now, let’s take a brief moment to talk about how to “fit in.”

One of the coolest things about New York City is that everyone has the option to live out loud. You will see a wide variety of life – from hair colors to tattoos to piercings to bright colored clothes to monochromatic – everyone has their own unique style, and New Yorkers don’t judge.

Through my experiences, the city has become less and less formal as time has passed. In the early 2000s, you’d never see somebody on Madison Avenue in a track suit. But, times have changed, formalities have loosened, and COVID has created a whole new world of “normal.” People here are far more comfortable now than I’ve ever seen before.

That said, you can also wear your finest out to dinner anywhere in Manhattan, to grab brunch in Soho, or to get cocktails in Flatiron, and you’ll fit right in.

So, What to Pack for New York?

You Should Always Have These:

  • A Day Pack – Small backpacks and crossbody handbags work great for this. You’ll be without your car most days, so having your necessary items in a bag with you is the best way to enjoy your time in the city.
  • All Black – The city wears a lot of black. If you really want to fit-in, it’s a classic choice.
  • Comfortable Shoes – you’re going to walk a lot. Bring a couple pairs of good shoes. You’ll want to switch back and forth, because you’ll likely get blisters or rubs… Sneakers (Vans, Converse, Jordans), Dr. Martens and Timberlands are some of the local favorites.
  • Two nice outfits – going out is still an affair to remember in the city. Why not enjoy getting all decked out for the city that never sleeps? Plus, there’s nothing worse than being denied access to the hottest rooftops and clubs because of dingy clothes. Come prepared to impress.
  • A rain-jacket/umbrella – one that folds easily and can be tucked in a bag is idyllic! You never know when rain will pop into the forecast. This is often forgotten – even by me. In fact, there are street vendors who literally make their living selling overpriced ponchos to unprepared tourists. Don’t be their prey!
  • A pair of jeans – this is a staple for everywhere, right?
  • A Few Masks – We are still coming out of COVID, and there are still mask laws in a lot of places. Come prepared to wear your mask and fit in.
  • Headphones – AirPods or easily packed headphones make solo travel much more enjoyable. They also make you look like an instant local!
  • A Battery Pack – You may need to charge devices on the go. Carrying a small battery pack is a lifesaver for New Yorkers.
  • This is a great check-list for other items that you should always have when traveling!

What about cosmetics and hair?

There’s a comedian who jokes about always being wet in New York City. It’s either raining, or it’s hot and humid, or it’s cold and you’re bundled, but you walk into the subway and start melting with sweat, or the air conditioning units are dripping on you on the streets, or it’s snowing… It can be damp…

It’s like a water-ride at the theme park, “You will get wet!”

Coming from California, this was all new to me! I was very used to being incredibly dry. My cosmetics and hair care products aimed to keep me looking fresh and “dewy.” The city does that for me now – ha! The hard part is to look “matte.”

Leave your heavy day time moisturizers and sparkling bronzers at home. You won’t need them here. What you will want is matte make-up, waterproof everything, sunscreen, and anti-frizz haircare regimens. Think about going to Aspen in the winter and Bali in the summer. We have a sub-tropical climate now… We were just reclassified last year (thanks climate change!), and with that, just prepare for the wetness with your skincare and haircare routines.

In the Spring/Summer You Should Bring:

  • Swimwear – Rooftop pools and beaches are a New York staple. Don’t miss out on the best of summer – get out of the city!
  • Other types of pants/skirts/shorts – Because of the humidity, looser fit and looser knit materials have better breathability than jeans. You’ll see a lot of people in linen, cotton, and and other beachy-type fabrics.
  • Loose-fitting shirts – again – humidity. You’ll want breathability.
  • A Hoodie, Jacket, or Sweater – The spring can be rather chilly – so pack some warmer clothes in case the temperature plummets.
  • Sunglasses/Cover-Ups/Hats – The sun can get real! You’ll want to be able to shade yourself.

In the Winter You Should Bring:

  • Packable Multi-Purpose Coat – You should have a warm coat that’s ready for snow, rain, sleet, or just frigid temperatures.
  • Comfortable Boots and Thick Socks – The snow piles up and the air is cold! Make sure your feet stay dry and warm.
  • Leggings and Undershirts – Warm leggings and shirts can fit under your jeans and sweaters to keep you warm on those cold walks.
  • Gloves/Scarves/Hats – Trust me, you’ll want them.
  • Sweaters – Cozy sweaters and turtlenecks are perfect for fall and winter days in New York.

Don’t Bother – Leave These At Home!

  • Flip Flops – The streets are gross…You really don’t want that on your feet. Closed-toes are best, but at least full sandals if you’re spending the day out in the city. If you’re going to the beach – ignore this statement. 😉
  • Security Bags – You will be targeted as a tourist instantly if you’re using one of those “under-clothes” security bags. Just don’t…
  • A Car – You won’t want your car in the city. If you can come here another way, it’s truly best. Cars are expensive to park, difficult to navigate within Manhattan, and simply a pain here. Don’t be the tourist trying to drive through Midtown. Chances are you won’t know the unspoken rules that drivers seem to abide by in this city. Take a train, take a bus, take a subway, take a ferry, take a taxi, take a black car, take an Uber or Lyft. There are plenty of options to get into New York City without your car.
  • Rigid Expectations and Normal Schedules – Part of the point of traveling is to explore, right? I challenge you to leave behind your customs and come to experience a new way of living. New York City is unlike any other place in the United States. They walk and talk fast, eat and drink well, experience and do more, and are happy to share their way of life with you! Leave behind your normal schedules and go explore – it might surprise you…

More Posts About New York

Should I Come to New York in 2021?

YESSSS!!!! If you live in the U.S.A., then go get your vaccine and come visit! As of April 1, quarantine and testing will no longer be mandated. Quarantining for a few days is still recommended, but we are reaching the end of the formal testing, paperwork, and quarantines for domestic travelers! Huzzah!

***UPDATE*** On April 1, 2021  New York will no longer be requiring quarantines for domestic travel. International travelers will still be required to quarantine. All travelers will need to fill out a NYS traveler form upon arrival. 

***UPDATE*** On May 17th the MTA Subway System will resume 24/7 service!

***UPDATE*** On May 19th NYC restaurants will resume indoor service at 100% capacity

***UPDATE*** On September 14th Broadway will re-open at 100% capacity

You’ve waited patiently, and New York is still here! Start planning your trips!

As always, don’t forget to Toast The Moon to all of your international travels by visiting our store, and make sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and the ‘gram to catch all of our latest posts and adventures!


Noah and Majhon

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