Having now experienced the Big Apple’s rollercoaster of climatic conditions in spring and autumn, I have put together a tried and true guide to carry-on only packing for NYC during these transitional seasons. On our April excursion I was unprepared for the amount of rain we would encounter. After seeing reports of sunny, 25 degree Celsius days the week before our arrival, we barely surpassed 12 degrees maximums during our stay and it drizzled rain three-quarters of the time.
This last trip I was more prepared for the potential variances in temperature. Just as well because we saw everything from fine and 17 degrees celsius, to snow and gale forced winds in the space of six days. I also had the added challenge of piecing together a carry-on only wardrobe that would suit both discovering the city on foot and fulfil the dress code of some of New York’s finest dining establishments for some fancy lunches we had planned. One hundred and fifty thousand steps and 12 Michelin stars later, I truly put this packing list to the test.
- Patagonia Women’s Straight Jeans, 2. Muji Women’s Organic Cotton Long Sleeve, 3. Everlane Slouch Wide Leg Pant, 4. Everlane Lightweight Scarf, 5. Kangol Modelaine Beret, 6. Sole Society Cammila Smoking Slipper, 7. Patagonia Women’s Tres 3 in 1, 8. Grana Silk Classic Shirt,9. Everlane Cashmere Crew, 10. Nike Juvenate
Thermals/Long Johns – Whatever you want to call them. It is tough to layer your bottom half so start with full-length wool or silk bottoms and singlet/short sleeved tops.
Jeans – One pair in a dark colour to wear day through to night. Choose straight or wider leg jeans/pants to fit your thermals comfortably underneath.
Long pants – One pair of tailored pants that will look dressier than jeans. I wore these Everlane wool pants on the days we dined at the most upscale (2-3 Michelin star) restaurants for lunch.
Light layers – Four long sleeve tops that can be layered in combination or worn on their own. I wore a thick cotton top on warmest days and on the coldest layered cotton or silk tops with a cashmere sweater that doubled as a standalone garment.
Coat – Two coats. One heavy coat that will provide maximum warmth. I recommend one that is long enough to reach down to your knees and has a hood or high collar. A second lighter coat for the warmer days. Wear or carry your biggest coat separately on the plane to save space.
Gloves – One light pair of gloves. I wore a pair of faux leather gloves which aren’t enough in winter but ok for these conditions.
Hat – A hat of wool or other warm material, in a style that will cover your ears. I chose a beret for a more upscale look that I felt comfortable wearing indoors and out.
Scarf – One or two lightweight scarves. I found cotton scarves were sufficient, you don’t need to reach for the pashmina just yet. I took two in different colours, so I could change up my outfit a little.
Shoes – Two pairs of flat shoes. One that is a solid, supportive pair for walking and another lighter, prettier pair for evenings. I wore a pair of clean, leather-look Nike fashion sneakers that struck the balance between providing support and comfort for walking, but were still given a pass by 5-star maître d’s. I had a pair of sparkly loafers tucked in my purse in case I needed to change, but if you are going for lunch you can get away with a lot more.
Jewellery – When you step inside, it is nice to peel off the layers and still have something left to show. I packed three chunky necklaces so that I felt “dressed” when I was inside. Only take rings you can wear inside your gloves.
Bag – Depending on the size of your camera, you can get away with a medium size handbag. Choose one with a cross body strap for extra security and the convenience of being hands-free.
Moisturiser – For face, body and lips. The harsh winds and cool temperatures caused my skin to dry up over the first 48hrs. My face suffered the most as my only exposed body part on the worst days.
Rain gear – In spring we used our umbrellas, while in autumn the rain was light and we weren’t getting wet enough to bother. However, it doesn’t hurt to have your preferred wet weather gear on hand.
Ear plugs – If you are staying in the Midtown area, there is a chance your hotel will be unavoidably noisy at night.
Tissues – It is inevitable when you are constantly moving to and fro, from warm buildings to the cold outdoors, that you will get the sniffles. Keep a good supply of tissues accessible in your coat pockets and day bag.
Gadgets – Headphones, chargers, adapters, camera, batteries, SD card and phone. A portable charger/power pack may be necessary if you are using your phone as a camera, which drains the battery.
Waterless hand wash – Stay healthy while on holiday and always carry this in your day bag for when handwashing facilities aren’t available.
- Check the weather right up to the day before you leave and adapt your packing accordingly.
- Stick to a colour scheme so all items mix and match.
NYC or anywhere
Of course, this guide isn’t necessarily NYC specific, it will also do for Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and other urban environments in the Mid-Atlantic and North East U.S.A during these times of year. If you are heading to NYC, make sure you check out 10 Things I Learnt the Hard Way in NYC.
Hope you get caught between the moon and New York City!!