What to Pack for New York City in Winter
Hearing the term bomb cyclone had me a little nervous about going to New York again this January. As a California girl, I don’t really do winter very well; but, for the past 3 years in a row, I have had to be in New York in January and February. It’s definitely a bit of a gamble in terms of just how cold it will be —one year I was in the middle of a blizzard and the next was a balmy 30 degrees with light snow— but if you manage to go during a period of mild weather, you will luck out with low accommodation rates and minimal tourists at all the famous sights. What does that mean in terms of a winter packing list for New York City? By now, we have all heard that layering is key to keeping warm in the cold. But, what exactly does that entail when you are at home stressed about packing for a trip to NYC in winter? Let me break down exactly what to pack.
Winter Packing List:
1) I am from Los Angeles, California so the cold ain’t really my thing. This might be a little overkill for those more accustomed to cold weather, but I think it is important to bring all of these tops as layering options and then depending on the weather each day, you can choose to wear all, 4 of 5, 3 of 5, etc. I start out with a super comfortable basic tank top underneath because it is comfortable on my skin and usually helps with the overwhelming static that can sometimes arise from the dryness of the weather and the fabrics of the outerwear. Next, I’ll wear a tight, yet comfortable long sleeve shirt, followed by a thin sweater that can easily fit atop of the shirt. I’ll typically bring a basic sweater for daytime and then one that is slightly trendier for the evenings. My secret weapon is my fleece jacket as that really is the warmest, coziest material for winter.
2) When it comes to outerwear, make sure that you buy a jacket that covers your butt! A crucial addition to the winter packing list, I promise! I made the mistake one year of bringing a down coat that only reached to the top of my jean line and I was MISERABLE. That all changed though when I got the North Face Metropolis II which is a puffy, down coat that goes all the way down to the knees. It was a perfect length. It’s also waterproof which is essential for rain and/or snow. For fancier evenings out to a Broadway show, a nice meal, or a performance at Lincoln Center, you may wish to bring a wool jacket (that also goes down to the knees) to wear instead.
I always pack my best pair of blue jeans and my best pair of black jeans to pair with all of my New York winter outfits. I also bring some long thermal underwear and lululemon yoga pants to wear underneath on the coldest days. Plus, I always wear my lululemons on travel days. The double layering on the bottoms actually makes a remarkable difference and the long underwear can also be used as a super cozy pajama bottom! Of course, if this is a business trip, you may want to add a pair of black pants as well or some tights and a work dress or pantsuit to the winter packing list.
Beanie, Gloves, Scarves
All of these items are so necessary! For your beanie and scarves, make sure these are made in a material that doesn’t itch since it will be on your head and neck, respectively, all day. I would go with a great cashmere scarf because who doesn’t love cashmere and my absolute favorite beanie from Amazon because it is extremely affordable and is a very flattering shape for your head. The most important aspect when it comes to gloves is that they have mobile touch responsiveness. You won’t have to constantly pull your hands in and out of your gloves in the freezing cold when you undoubtedly get confused by the subway system and acquiesce and call an uber.
Wool socks are the way to go! Your feet can get cold easily as it is the spot furthest away in your body and therefore more difficult for blood to travel to. That’s why you have to make sure you keep your toes warm with wool socks. You can even double layer them with a thin pair of socks if you have room in your shoes. Speaking of shoes…
Last time I came to New York, I brought a pair of cute combat boots and hot pink running shoes…the problem was that when it started snowing, I was forced to wear my hot pink shoes everywhere with all of my outfits. New York winter fashion at it’s finest 🙂 So let’s just say, I definitely stood out as a tourist. The rumors are true. New Yorkers love their black. And, I looked absurd in all my photos. That is why I recommend packing the following 3 pairs of shoes to best be able to participate in all winter activities:
1) Black Snowboots *only if snow is in the forecast
2) Black Sneakers that can be worn on airplane days and major sightseeing days.
3) Black Flat Ankle Boots for more casual days and dressier evenings. Black Flat Over The Knee Boots are great too!
I am 5’7” so I have no problem wearing flats, but if you are super petite and can’t imagine not wearing heels, then I recommend bringing boots that have the lowest possible heal you are comfortable wearing!
A critical mistake I have made in the past is only bringing a small crossbody bag with me for the trip. Crossbody is great, don’t get me wrong but the problem lies with having a compact bag. When you are layering and constantly going inside and outside between sightseeing pitstops, you need a bigger bag to store your beanie, gloves, and scarves plus all of your other essentials when you go inside. Thus, a lightweight, mid-sized, nylon crossbody is the perfect bag for your trip. I highly recommend crossbody so you can keep an eye on your belongings at all times or if you prefer a backpack so that you don’t have to carry too much weight on one side of your body, check out the Travelon Anti-Theft backpacks.
I wouldn’t say I am a total germaphobe, but I do like to carry around a hand sanitizer when I am traveling all over New York in the winter cold during flu season. My absolute favorite is Zylast and I always have one in my bag when traveling and one in my car while I am at home.
Even in winter, the sun will be shining and the cold winter wind can really affect your eyes. My eyes always start tearing up from the wind tunnels that can occur from many of the New York City streets and sunglasses are a good source of protection from the gusts.
Google Maps, Uber, and Yelp are amazing and essential tools while sightseeing, but they use up a lot of battery! This is why I always recommend bringing a portable charger with you to make sure your phone is always charged. I had an experience where I was at a Broadway show by myself and was meeting friends across town at a bar. They were bar hopping and my phone died so I had no idea where they were in the city. I ended up taking a taxi to the meatpacking district, which was the area they had decided to go out for the evening, but I had to walk until I found a random bar and ask the bartender to charge my phone behind the bar before I could even make contact with them. So please, add the charges to your winter packing list… this is one of the many reasons why a portable charger is super important to carry in your bag!
Protect your lips against chapping from the dryness of winter with lip balms like Aquaphor which is my absolute fav!
If the weather forecast says rain, it probably wouldn’t hurt to add a compact travel umbrella to your winter packing list as long as it can easily fit in your crossbody bag.
While the majority of your makeup will be the same staple products that you use on the reg, I do have a few important tips in regards to managing your makeup in the cold weather.
Use waterproof mascara and eyeliner! Usually I am not a fan of waterproof products because I cannot take them off for the life of me, but walking around sightseeing in NYC, chances are the cold wind will irritate your eyes and they will start to tear up. This happens to me every single time I go. I just came back from a conference and right when I walked into the venue, it looked like I had been crying hysterically so I had to run to the bathroom and clean up around my eyes first thing. From now on, I will be sure to listen to my own advice and only bring waterproof products.
What are your must-haves on your winter packing list? Pleas share in the comments below!
Looking for things to do in NYC in winter? Check out some of my other NYC posts!
Hamilton on Broadway: What to Know Before You Go
New York City Itinerary for Repeat Visitors
What is on your travel packing list?
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