What to pack for New York: 7 essential items

The Big Apple demands preparation, these are essential items for your next holiday

What to pack for New York: 7 essential items

Most cities have a high season, but despite having huge seasonal variations – a hot, humid summer and a freezing winter – New York is a classic year-round destination. Why? There’s just so much to do, but getting the most from the Five Boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island) demands some savvy packing. 

After all, if you’re planning to tour a snowy Central Park then watch the New Year Times Square Ball Drop you’ll have to dress very differently than if you want to experience July’s Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. 

Either way, there are some perennial packing tips for your trip to New York. 

Here’s what to take:

1. Comfortable shoes

New York demands decent footwear. Whether it's a walking tour around Greenwich Village, a stroll over the High Line or endless hours wandering New York's fabulous Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), Guggenheim or American Museum of Natural History (to name but four of its fabulous museums), this is a city that will get your step-counter working overtime. Of course, if you plan to take part in the legendary New York Marathon on 3 November 2019 you're going to need something a bit sportier…

Check out the buying guides below to find the most comfortable walking shoes and the running shoes:

2. Binoculars for observation decks

To see NYC properly you need a serious head for heights. The Empire State Building is the most obvious, but if you're up the top of this art deco skyscraper, you can't see it! The best view of Manhattan – and including the Empire State in the skyline – is from Rockefeller Center's Top of the Rock deck in midtown. 

The new One World Observatory atop the One World Trade Center, New York's highest observation deck, is also worth ascending. 

Whichever you choose, binoculars will come in very handy for picking out buildings and cars, but also the long lines of planes swooping into land from all directions at New York's three airports.

Find the best binoculars below:

3. Water bottle

With all those inflight meals and single-use plastic bottles, travel is a huge contributor to landfill, but if you’re in New York in summer, its average temperatures of 30°C and sweltering humidity make water an essential travel companion. 

Luckily, touring with a refillable water bottle just became a practical travel companion in New York, which is a few years into a plan to install 500 water fountains and water bottle refilling stations across all five boroughs to encourage proper hydration and water bottle refilling.

Find the best water bottles below:

4. Warm layer

Manhattan doesn't really look like you imagined it until you see it from the water. Luckily, there are plenty of boat trips along the Hudson River, and over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as lots of sunsets sailings and party boats. However, it can get chilly, so bring a warm layer, waterproof and/or a windcheater.

With an extra layer in hand, get yourself down to Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan and take a 25-minute ride on the free Staten Island Ferry to St. George. As well as getting a sublime view of Manhattan without being surrounded by tourists, you'll go right past the Statue of Liberty. Just make sure you avoid the rush hour. 

In winter, temperatures regularly dip below freezing and there’s a biting cold wind, so dress with real care.

Find the best warm layers below:

5. Proper camera

New York is a photographer's dream. It's full of incredible sights, but it's not easy to get great images. From the spectacular skyline of Manhattan as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge or the Staten Island Ferry to capturing Times Square lit-up at night and the many characters that live in this frenetic city, relying on just a smartphone is a mistake. 

A manual camera is the way to go, be it a DSLR or a mirrorless model. If you only want to take one lens, make it 24-70mm zoom, but don’t bring a tripod unless you're planning night shots.

Find the best cameras below:

6. Fisheye lens

Manhattan’s skyscrapers are tricky to get into a single shot from street level unless you have a fisheye lens. You'll find one of those on any action camera like the GoPro Hero 7 Black, Sony RX0, SJCAM SJ8 Pro and Yi 4K+

As well as for skyscrapers, a fisheye lens is perfect for capturing the art deco interiors of a couple of sights right next to each other; the foyer of the Chrysler Building and the interior of Grand Central Station on 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan.

7. Portable battery and travel adaptor

UK phone deals increasingly include calls and data in the US (or affordable bolt-ons), while WiFi hotspots in NYC are flourishing. Even if you're not able to get online, the savvy traveller will download NYC's Five Boroughs onto Google Maps for offline navigation. 

Either way, a portable battery is a must as it is for any city break. Go for something that charges-up your phone at least once from empty, though there's no need to anywhere north of 10,000 mAh capacity. 

When you're back in your hotel room, any worldwide travel adaptor will do for the USA, though finding one with USB slots always helps.

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Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance journalist, copywriter and author with 20 years' experience. He's written journalism for over 50 publications and websites and, when he's not writing, spending most of his time travelling – putting the latest travel tech through its paces.