Having grown up in New York as a kid, cold winters in the Big Apple are no stranger to me. And because half of my extended family still lives there, I tend to fly back quite often — and for some reason, most of the time I visit happens to be in the wintertime!
After surviving my fair share of winter trips there (I was miserably cold during the first few), I have finally mastered my NYC winter packing list and I’m so excited to be sharing my new packing wisdom with you.
If you’re planning a trip to New York during the winter, you’ll need to pack accordingly. First and foremost, you’ll need to pack some essential items to stay warm.
Having said that, it is important to note that the weather can be unpredictable and you may find yourself in warm situations, so it’s important to be prepared for both warm and cold temperatures.
This post contains my top essentials for a winter trip to New York City to ensure you have everything you need to travel functionally while staying warm!
Many of the items in this packing list are considered essentials, which means they can be used on many other future trips, too. So if you find yourself needing to buy a lot of new things for your winter NYC trip, I assure you, you’ll be setting yourself up for success on future cold destination trips!
The goal with this packing guide is to make sure you’re ultra-prepared for your vacation in New York so you can spend your money and time worrying about the things that matter—having fun doing the things you love!
So without further ado, let’s dive into the New York packing list for winter!
*All of the products listed in this post are my personal tried and true recommendations and may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running. Thanks!
Packing For New York In The Winter: At-A-Glance
When packing for a trip to New York in winter, it is important to remember that the weather can be very unpredictable. Depending on when you go, you can experience sun, rain, snow, and even blizzards.
You’re going to want to pack items that can be layered, such as baselayers, light sweaters, down jackets, scarves, and hats. Gloves and a warm coat are also essential.
In terms of fabric, I recommend merino wool everything!
Boots are a good choice of footwear, as they will keep your feet warm and dry in the snow and melting slush. You should pack a pair of comfortable shoes to walk around in and/or that pair of boots in case it snows.
Finally, don’t forget to pack any essential items, such as your passport and travel insurance!
What You Need To Know About New York In Winter
When most people think of New York, they think of the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. However, New York is a lot different in the winter.
The cold weather and snow can be a shock to people who are not used to it. Here are a few things you need to know about New York in winter if you are thinking of visiting during the cooler months.
- In December, you can pack for late fall and early winter weather. You’re going to want warm coats, but some days might actually be warm. In January and February, you should pack with a cold and heavy winter in mind.
- Winters in New York are cold, like much of the Northeast. During January and February, temperature lows can reach below zero with a high of just 36°F (2°C).
- January tends to be the city’s coldest month.
- Visiting during the holidays? While not as cold as January and February, you should still be prepared for the cold! During the day, you can expect average highs of 43°F (6°C), and at night, the average temperatures around 32°F (0°C).
- While the outdoors can be really cold and snowy, the indoors can be quite the opposite. You’ll find that a lot of establishments will have the heater pumping, so clothing items that are too bulky or too warm are a no-no.
- Rain and snow are both common during winter. This means you should prioritize waterproof outerwear and leave your fashionable fall coats and leather jackets at home. Those are great for fall weather in NYC, but not winter!
Fashion / Style: What To Expect In New York City
New York is all about simplicity. If you compare the fashion styles of Los Angeles vs New York, New York is all about functional, minimalist styles as opposed to trendy and loud statement pieces.
New Yorkers dress for comfort first and foremost, with a few nice pieces for an added touch or two. They balance relaxed clothing with more structured pieces, always with the weather and strategic layering in mind.
This makes shopping and choosing outfits for your trip way easier!
Expect to bring winter essentials like long sleeves, sweaters, waterproof (yet comfortable) shoes, and a warm coat or two.
I would also make sure to bring your belongings in an anti-theft bag! Since you’ll be visiting a big city, you can never be too careful in protecting against petty theft.
Now that we’ve set the stage on what to expect in New York City, let’s get on to the packing details.
Packing Gear: How To Carry Your Stuff To New York
Before you pack anything, it’s important to start with the skin and bones of packing. Having the right bags to put your belongings in is extremely important. The last thing you want is to toss everything for your trip into a bag with no method of organization.
Why? Because you’ll find yourself spending a lot of extra time later on packing and repacking once you’re actually on your trip. Trust me, your life will be so much easier when you actually apply a strategy to how you pack.
Plus, with the need to bring heavier clothing pieces, you’re going to want to optimize how you bring your things to NYC.
First, pack in layers, not bulk. Heavy sweaters and sweatshirts can take up a lot of space in your luggage, leaving room for not much else.
You’re going to see this theme multiple times– but you’re going to want to pack thinner, insulating layers. Think base layers, long-sleeve t-shirts, and thin sweaters.
Next, wear your heaviest clothing items on the flight. Let’s say you have a heavy/bulky sweater that you love and absolutely need to bring on your trip. That’s fine, but you should definitely wear it on the plane in order to save room in your luggage for other things.
The same goes for shoes. If you plan on bringing boots, wear them. Don’t pack them. If you need a second pair of shoes, make sure they’re smaller and lighter than your boots and pack those.
If you dress and pack with this technique in mind, you can very well fit a few days’ worth of clothing in a carry-on alone!
So in terms of luggage, you’ve got two options here. Do you want to go with a carry-on or check-in luggage?
Wheeled carry-ons are awesome in that lost luggage will never really be an issue, and you can completely skip the baggage claim process, allowing you to start your trip that much faster.
Once you’ve decided on these things, it’s time to start packing!
New York Winter Packing List
1. Wheeled carry-on / check-in luggage
If I can, I’ll always go with carry-on luggage before opting for a checked bag. Why? You can just get through the airport so much faster without a checked bag!
I use my Monos Carry-On Pro whenever I want something sturdier than a travel backpack. This carry-on is roomy and super sleek-looking. The built-in TSA locks help to deter theft, ensuring that only you or a TSA agent have easy access to your belongings when traveling.
I love the Monos brand and all the bags they offer!
If you’re more into checked luggage, they have awesome options as well — you’ll just want to get a protective outer cover for the suitcase before checking it in.
2. Packing cubes
You need to get these packing cubes, they are amazing at creating space in your luggage that you never thought you had. However you want to organize your clothes— by day, by outfit, by type—these will be the most useful thing you have in your packing artillery.
Gone are the days when you need to dig through your entire suitcase for that one thing you’re looking for because you’ll know exactly where it’s at.
I never go anywhere without packing cubes, they keep everything so clean and compartmentalized!
3. Down jacket
If you’re visiting during the earlier weeks of winter (like in December) and rain/snow is not in the forecast, you can opt for a down jacket as your main outerwear.
You’re going to want something that’ll for sure keep you warm when you’re out walking through Central Park or meandering the streets of New York City.
Here are a few options I recommend:
- Orolay Women’s Thickened Down Jacket – a cult fave and one of Oprah’s favorite things!
- REI Co-op Norseland Insulated Parka – Women’s
- Patagonia Down With It Parka – Women’s
- Columbia South Canyon Down Parka – Men’s
- Fjallraven Skogso Padded Insulated Jacket – Men’s
While these jackets may seem expensive, they’re going to be a solid investment and will last you years to come.
4. Waterproof outerwear
If you’re going to be visiting during the snowier months of winter, you’re going to want to consider bringing something waterproof as your outer layer. If your down jacket is water-resistant, that can be good enough.
But if it’s not, consider getting a jacket that’s both waterproof and warm.
Some recommended options include:
Or any of these:
5. Light breathable sweaters
Like I said earlier, you’re going to want to opt for light, breathable sweaters as opposed to anything too bulky or heavy.
If you bring heavy sweaters, you will literally be sweating indoors at restaurants, bars, and museums. This is why layering is so important in New York City!
When packing sweaters, opt for more high-quality and functional fabrics. Lightweight merino wool, cashmere, or cotton sweaters will pack most easily.
I personally like merino wool for its high warmth-to-weight ratio. Merino wool also has awesome temperature-regulating and anti-odor properties. If you’re looking for a brand that does lightweight sweaters well, I like Everlane and Lululemon.
Not only do I recommend merino wool sweaters and long sleeves, I’d also recommend merino wool for socks and base layers too!
6. Long and Short-Sleeved T-Shirts
Be sure to bring a mix of short sleeved and long sleeved t-shirts that layer well. Depending on the length of your trip, you’ll want to pack two or three tops to serve as your first layer underneath your sweaters.
Bring a mix of long and short sleeves, so you can have both options and choose the one that works best based on 1) the weather of that day and 2) whether you plan to be mostly inside by a heater or outside in the freezing cold!
If it happens to be extra brisk one of the days in NYC, you can make any outfit warmer by throwing on a lightweight pair of leggings under jeans and a long-sleeved baselayer under a sweater.
Any brand that makes good cold-weather merino wool clothing will also make good base layers (you’ll find that they’re sometimes referred to as “underwear”).
8. Scarves and hats
We’ve managed to get warm clothing for the majority of our body, but we absolutely cannot forget about our head, neck and hands!
Again, if you’re going to opt for larger, bulkier scarves, be sure to wear them on the plane so they don’t take up your precious luggage space.
I suggest you get yourself a pair of touchscreen-compatible gloves so you can use your phone without having to dig your hand out of the glove each and every time you need to type something into your phone.
Because trust me, the air is going to be cold and your fingers are going to be stiff. It’ll be way better if you can function with your gloves on!
If you tend to run cold like me, having handwarmers on hand (no pun intended) in cold destinations is a lifesaver.
I always like to pick up a multi-pack before any cold destination trip because I know I’ll go through one or two packets per day.
There are now rechargeable hand warmers, even better for the environment!
11. Comfortable walking shoes / boots
You should also pack a pair of comfortable shoes to walk around in, as well as a pair of waterproof boots in case it snows and you find yourself needing to walk through dirty slush in the streets of NYC.
Wondering what the New Yorkers are wearing? They’re most likely wearing boots in the winter!
The one pair of shoes that kills two birds with one stone for me? For both guys and gals, I’d highly recommend getting a pair of Blundstone boots!
If snow and rain are not in the forecast, you can go with regular walking shoes.
My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true Ecco Soft 7 (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! The best part is that they have them for both men and women.
12. Warm Socks
You’ll need socks to pair with your shoes/boots, but not just any old socks. Again, merino wool really shines in this category!
Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of frozen toes during my visits to NYC, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
Do your feetsies a favor and pick up a couple pairs of merino wool socks before your trip. Not only are they warm, odor-resistant, and sweat-wicking, but you’re also able to rewear them without washing if you’re in a pinch.
They’re so functional — I love ’em for all my winter trips!
13. Everyday bag
A crossbody bag that can fit a water bottle, phone, camera, sunglasses and your warm accessories is a great option.
Backpacks are typically not allowed into museums, so you’re better off with an anti-theft crossbody bag (or zipped up tote bag). You’ll also want to consider that when you’re taking the subway, it’s safer to have your bag in front of you as opposed to behind you on your back.
And if you’re able to find a bag that folds flat so that you’re able to stow it in your carry-on, even better! I like Baggallini’s Securtex Anti-Theft Free Time Crossbody Bag or Travelon’s Anti-Theft Concealed Carry Hobo Bag.
For the guys (and gals too), crossbody shoulder sling bags work really well for traveling if you don’t have a ton of stuff on you! My boyfriend is absolutely obsessed with his Bellroy Sling Bag.
Worried about bag theft? You should be. Check out this post: 10 Best Anti-Theft Travel Bags For Your Next Vacation
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the sun isn’t out! Winters in NYC can still be really bright during the day.
15. Moisturizer with sunscreen
Dry skin can be a problem for most people throughout the winter. Pair it with flying and traveling and you’re definitely going to run into some dry skin problems!
You’ll definitely want to hydrate and protect your skin from the elements as much as possible.
But be sure to get a moisturizer with sunscreen. Like I said, just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the sun ceases to exist.
Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, the UV index can be high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors. coral reef in the Sea of Cortez.
iPhones are typically good enough, but some higher-quality pictures definitely wouldn’t hurt. For longer vacations, I’ve typically gone with my Nikon D5500, which produces great photos that I’ll cherish forever.
But these days I travel exclusively with my newly purchased Sony a7 IV! It takes amazing photos and shoots even more amazing videos.
17. External battery
You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures… the last thing you want is to be on the go with no phone battery!
A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
And if you’re traveling internationally to get to New York, be sure to pack a travel adapter! This one here is tried and trusted. It allows for a normal plug and has two additional USB ports.
18. Insulated Water Bottle
Hydration is obviously important when you travel.
But even more important, opting for an insulated water bottle means you can have warm water/tea throughout the day without it turning ice cold after the first 30 minutes spent outside!
If you’re looking for a new bottle for your trip, go for a Takeya Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle.
19. Packable Umbrella
If it happens to be snowing, you can use a packable travel umbrella to reduce the amount of snow that falls on you!
Make sure you get something that is wind-resistant! I’ve definitely found myself in a windy blizzard in New York before, so it’s best to be well-equipped for anything!
20. Lip balm with SPF
Because your lips need protection from the wind, sun, and cold too! Spending time outdoors in the cold is a surefire way to get chapped lips without the appropriate protection.
I’m all about Sun Bum’s SPF 30 lip balms!
Essential Tips For Winter Packing
Before I wrap up this post, I wanted to provide you with a recap of what you’ll need to do in order to have a successful (and warm) trip to NYC.
- Pack lightweight clothing that’s easy to layer in a carry-on bag.
- Opt for a water-repelling or waterproof jacket. Down is always nice and warm.
- Merino wool is one of the best materials for winter travel clothes.
- Use a set of packing cubes to keep organized and compress bulkier items that may take up too much room without them.
- Wear your bulkiest layers and clunkiest shoes on the plane.
GAME-CHANGING GADGETS FOR SMARTER AIRPORT TRAVEL
These are some of my favorite airport/airplane travel products that free my hands up and make traveling so much more convenient. Say goodbye to the days of fumbling around or not having enough hands for things.
- Add a Bag Hook and Hanger Strap | Have a purse, briefcase, tote bag, or bag of souvenirs that’s causing you inconvenience by needing to be carried? Get this bag hook and attach it to your luggage so you only need one hand to tow everything with you.
- riemot Luggage Travel Cup Holder | This foldable drink caddy holds 2 cups, perfect for your pre-flight coffees and fountain drinks. There’s also room to hold books, iPads, phones, tickets and documents.
- Klipsta Traveling Hat Clip | Have you ever brought a wide-brimmed hat on vacation and found it to be the most annoying thing to travel with? A hat clip for your bag or backpack completely removes the struggle of needing to carry your hat in hand!
- Flight Flap Phone & Tablet Holder | Attaches to airline seat backs so you can watch movies hands-free. Also great for standing your phone up on tables too!
- Clipa2 – The Instant Bag Hanger Collection | Hang your bag or purse literally anywhere (on your luggage, on restaurant tables, hotel rooms, etc).
Things To Do In New York In Winter
When the weather outside cools down, don’t let that stop you from enjoying all that New York City has to offer. Here are some great things to do in New York In Winter:
- Go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. This is a classic winter activity that everyone should experience at least once.
- Visit the Museum of Modern Art. With over 150,000 works of art, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at MoMA.
- Spend a day at The Met. Not only will you stay warm, but you’ll also learn so much about the past 5,000 years of world culture.
- See a Broadway show. There’s no better way to escape the cold than by losing yourself in a live performance of your favorite musical or play.
- Take a walk through Central Park. No matter how cold it is outside, Central Park is always beautiful and worth exploring, especially when blanketed with white snow!
- See the Rockettes at Radio City Musical Hall. It’s an awesome holiday show that everyone needs to see at least once!
- Visit Bryant Park Winter Village for its epic holiday market, ice skating, and food/drink stalls.
- Enjoy the holiday lights on Fifth Avenue. The whole neighborhood is basked in festiveness!
- See the epic holiday lights in Dyker’s Height, Brooklyn.
- Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa from one of NYC’s many cafes and bakeries.
- Head into one of New York’s many pubs and warm up with a couple of pints! We personally love McSorley’s Old Ale House!
Now you’re ready for your New York winter vacation!
Alright, now that we’re at the end of this post, I think you’ll have a good handle on your New York winter packing list. Now go on, you’ve got a lot to look forward to and a lot of trip to pack for!
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