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Being one of the world's largest cities and leading metropolises for art, food, fashion and entertainment, New York should be on everyone's travel bucket list. Whether you come to spend a weekend or a lifetime in NYC, with so many options, you can never run out of things to see and do.

In addition to the world-famous NYC landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge, there are many hidden gems around every corner. Basically, there is something amazing for every age (and budget), which makes the Big Apple one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations.

A common mistake visitors make when coming to NYC is staying in Manhattan the whole time. Although Manhattan is the heart of NYC, the other four boroughs offer incredible sights and activities you should not miss out on.

Apart from the iconic attractions we mentioned earlier, tourists love the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo in the Bronx, the amazing ethnic restaurants in Queens, the burgeoning Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Red Hook, and the Staten Island Museum in Snug Harbor, just to name a few. I believe I've given you enough reasons to start packing your bags. Now, lets see how to do it right.

Packing for NYC requires a good strategy. There is a reason why people hire professional packers. It is so easy to make mistakes while packing, and the reality is you won't even know you made them until it's too late. Whether you are relocating or going away on a trip, packing your possessions requires devotion and patience. The best way to help you learn how to pack is to analyze common packing mistakes.

I know that some of you might think that packing is always simple and easy. However, for some, it is their own version of hell. With that in mind, I will cover the essentials of packing, and also talk about different types of common packing mistakes you can expect when traveling to New York City. Going online and looking for perfect travel destinations is one thing. However, don't let sloppy packing ruin everything for you.

new york city packing list

Let's see what kinds of common mistakes you can expect when preparing for a trip to the Big Apple.

1. Do NOT buy a New York Pass

Do not buy a New York City Explorer Pass or a City Pass of New York simply because they offer all kinds of discounts or because everyone tells you you should do so. It makes much more sense to look at what you want to do in New York first and see if one of these passes will be profitable for you. The risk of looking at the passes first is that you get greedy.

You see so many cool activities, museums and sightseeing options that you feel you have to it all. Well, you haven’t. It is also really great to be in a city and to feel the vibes of it and not just tick off boxes on a list. Not everyone thinks alike though, so you may want to compare the three and see which one works best for you!

2. Do NOT go to Ellis Island

Do you have a tight schedule for your visit? Ellis Island offers a beautiful and very large museum on immigration. This attracts many visitors from both Europe (many immigrants came from the old world) and America (many American families have got European roots). This means that the museum is not just very large, but also very busy. We spent half a day on Ellis Island and have seen a lot, but by no means everything.

By the way, when you take the Staten Island Ferry to Liberty Island, you will pass Ellis Island and this will at least give you a good view on the outside of the museum.

3. Do NOT skip church on Sunday

Even if you’d hardly ever or never go to church, going to church will give you the opportunity to listen to a gospel choir performing for real (and not just performing for the tourists paying for some kind of tour). A great place to do so is the Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn. They offer 3 services each Sunday, so you can always find one that suits your time schedule.

4. Do NOT go to Central

Plan what you want to see. The park is huge and there is so much to do that it is easy to feel lost (literally and figuratively). You may want to see the famous boats and the boats house at The Lake or enjoy the beauty of the conservatory or get on top of Belvedere Castle to have a fabulous view over the park.

Maybe you are a Beatles fan and you want to go to the strawberry fields or you are a Shakespeare lover and you want to visit his statue and the garden full of beautiful plants and flowers mentioned in his works and those who he had in his own private garden in Stratford-upon-Avon. The choice is enormous, so plan ahead!

5. Do NOT order a whole pastrami sandwich at Katz’s

Unless you are very hungry, an enormous meat-fan (or both) or someone who simply eats more than average, the portions are huge, not so much the sandwich, but the pastrami filling certainly is! Please, do NOT try to imitate Meg Ryan when you are having lunch there. That would be very embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

6. Do NOT forget to dress in layers

Even with Summer temperatures you will be happy with a cardigan or jacket on the boat to Liberty Island and you may want to put them on later in the day and sometimes even in the underground, since temperatures vary extremely in the underground stations and trains. Americans like being comfortable, or in cases of skinny jeans, comfortable.

Many Americans will choose something more relaxed on days they do not work. Also dress shoes are a dead giveaway. Dress shoes are more for special events, work, and dates. Most men outside of work wear tennis shoes or sandals. Most women will wear boots, flats, heels, wedges, and tennis shoes.

7. Do NOT go to the Tenement Museum

Do you prefer exploring a museum on your own or are you someone who finds it hard to make choices? This museum, which aims at bringing immigrant and migrant experiences alive by tours through original apartments, can only be visited with a guided tour and the choice of interesting tours is quite a large one. FYI: the Tenement Museum is NOT included in any of the city passes.

8. Do NOT hesitate to ask for help

The New Yorkers are very friendly and helpful. Mind you, sometimes overly so for European standards, which can be charming or irritating. That’s up to you! If somebody says ‘how do you do’ just smile back and say good or whatever you want to reply. It’s rude to ignore a person.

9. Do NOT despair on how the underground works

In order to buy a 7-day metro card at the machine, you have to type in your postal code. Not your real one of course, but it took a while till we got the information that you should type in 00000. Well, now you know. You should also know that several trains follow the same line, but do not all stop at the same stations. That can be confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty soon.

10. Do NOT forget to bring your walking shoes

You will walk a lot in NYC (it is called the BIG Apple for a reason). Walking offers you the possibility to explore and feel the vibes of a city. Walking 5th avenue is great for a lot of (window) shopping, the Trump tower with its famous waterfall, St Patrick’s (a Neo-Gothic cathedral amidst skyscrapers) and the central library, full of beautiful rooms, cards, globes and books.

Little Italy is an excellent choice for a walk when you are into good coffee, Italian delicatessen and Italian Gelato. Chinatown, especially when you walk far enough to leave the touristic part of it behind you, will give you a very Asian feeling. Brooklyn and the famous Brooklyn Bridge are fabulous too (good to do on Sunday and combine it with your gospel choir experience).

And don’t forget the financial district with Wall Street, the Bull (do NOT try to get a photo with just you on it, unless you are into long waiting for that rare opportunity) and the 911 memorial and museum. Another not to be missed walk is the High Line plus the Vessel. The High Line was once a rail track but went out of use in 1980. In 2009, they transformed a 1.45-mile-long strip into a unique park.

You find wildflowers, greens and art while enjoying superb views of New York’s skyline on the way. When you decide to walk in Central Park (cycling there is a cool option too), you will understand that this is a lot of walking, knowing how huge Central Park is. As you can read, lot of fabulous walks to do in NYC and as you will understand it also great to bring your walking shoes with you!

Almost no greater sin in the city that never sleeps than walking slowly on the sidewalk. Be courteous and quick. New York is a mixture of old, and new architecture. During the 1900s it showed the whole world what the human being can build. New York is thundering. Those buildings make you feel like a little ant. It is what people in the past dreamed about what a city in the future would look like.

New York is a place where nobody belongs to, but at the same time everyone does. It’s hard to explain. The Statue of Liberty, Little Italy and Chinatown are proof that New York is a city. You can walk in Manhattan around 3:00 am on a Monday, and you would think is 8:00 pm. This city is 24 hours. New York offers SO MUCH.

There are restaurants from all over the world, many parks, events all the time in Central Park, Bryant Park not even to mention Broadway. New York is totally more vivid. Walking the streets of New York, who wouldn’t recognize those streets where Spiderman, Batman, the Avengers, and all these superheroes used to show us?

11. Being late

The first on our list of common mistakes to avoid doesn't have much to do with actual planning. However, it is one of the most common mistakes people make. They don't start planning on time! Being behind schedule is never good, and it creates a lot of stress. You start asking yourself if you will finish everything on time, and then you make a mess by planning in a hurry. Next thing you know, you forgot to plan something.

The best way to tackle this issue is to determine how many things you want to do in NYC. This information will help you determine the approximate time you'll need to plan. Furthermore, think about everything you have to do after planning. If you have a detailed plan, you can allocate enough time to finish everything. Always plan in advance, and you will save time instead of losing it!

12. Not having enough luggage

Ah, the wonderful feeling of finding out you don't have enough bags (in case you are planning a longer stay). Now you have to run to the store and buy more. But since you are trying to pack in a hurry, you won't stop to think about what to buy. You will buy anything as long as it serves the purpose.

That is the perfect recipe for spending money on purchasing overpriced luggage. Furthermore, you want to make sure you don't run out of bags, suitcases or boxes again. So, now you buy more than you need. If that isn't a foolproof plan for spending your hard-earned money, I don't know what is!

This is a packing pitfall you don't need. Carefully think about your belongings. Again, time plays an important part in this process. If you don't buy enough packing material on time, you will start rushing things, and that's not good.

13. Packing what you don't need

Here is where you lose the most money and time on packing for a trip. If you are staying in NYC for just one week, you won't need ten pairs of shoes, right? Besides, someone has to carry all that luggage. The more stuff you bring, the harder it will be to maneuver the suitcases through the busy streets of NYC.

When it comes to visiting New York, you should be even more careful with packing. We all have plenty of things we don't use any longer. However, we still keep them because of sentimental reasons. Sometimes, not even because of that, but we simply want to have something. That's called hoarding, the biggest enemy of all packers.

Get rid of things you don't need when packing and the entire process will be much simpler and quicker. Once you eliminate everything you don't need, you'll see how easy packing actually is.

First, you have fewer things to pack, which means you need less luggage. Second, fewer things to pack mean you will finish packing sooner than planned. Third, unpacking will be so easy once you keep only what you need. Voilà! By making the decision not to bring the stuff you don't need, you have saved space, time and money. Now that's a packing continuum I'd like to be a part of!

14. Not reading the Weather in New York

New York is continental and offers all types of seasons. You can even get to experience blizzards, and a beautiful Fall. Summers are normally humid, and Winters can be extremely cold. Those humid summers, those bitter cold winters, and the beautiful fall and spring are all you get to see in New York.

When packing, it is crucial you understand in which order to pack things. For example, if you are moving to Perth in Australia, you know that the weather is hot. While you don't have to throw away your sweaters and winter clothes, you can place them on the bottom. The same goes for NYC. Take the time of the year into consideration when deciding in which order to pack.

Also, your essentials box will have different content depending on the weather. Remember that NYC has hot summers and snowy winters. And the rain is also quite common. If you're expecting to sweat a lot, have a change of clothes within arm's reach at all times. In the same manner, if you are traveling or moving during the winter season, pack warmer clothes last so they are on top, and always have a warm jacket near you.

Of course, your passport, drivers' license, medications and other important items should always be easy to reach. When crossing borders, you might be asked to show a specific item to the border officers. If that happens, you have to find it and take it out of the bag. Imagine having to take everything out until you locate that item. Just no!

Packing electronics and other sensitive items requires the most concentration and planning. Be sure to wrap everything tightly, and use packing foam for added protection. Also, do not forget to label fragile when visiting NYC. If you packed yourself, but you hired a shipping service, they won't know what is inside the luggage unless you specify it.

One of the most common packing mistakes is that people forget to make a list of all the packed items. You have to know the location of everything you packed. This makes unpacking a lot easier and faster. Furthermore, if you need a specific item, you can locate it in no time.

15. Canada Goose In Winter

Almost the official uniform of NYC, Canada Goose is the go to parka for all winter walking. In most places spending $1,000 on a jacket would be a bit outrageous, but in NYC that is how you keep warm on your commute. Just like you might spend $1,000 to fix a broken heater in your car, we spend that much on a jacket to make sure we are comfortable walking in the snow.

16. Wearing cameras around their neck

Most Americans just carry cellphones, unless you are a vlogger or an old person.

16. Asking where to eat the best American food

Then they get confused when you ask what kind of food they are interested in. Describe what American food means to you because they can either point you to a burger place, Mexican, Chinese, Greek, chain restaurants. Many don't know what American food is except for apple pie, root beer, recess cany, butterfinger, hot dogs, and burgers.

It can be overwhelming but it also can be the time to experiment with new food. Spicy jalapeño red refried beans sound gross but don't knock it until you try it. Chicken tenders only go with ranch. Root beer is a delicious soft drink. Root beer floats are lovely. Also don't forget to have apple pies and pecan pies.

16. Using only cash

Cash is still OK but most Americans use debit cards/credit card. The reason? If you get your card stolen, it's easy to report, cancel your card, and get refunded if somebody used your cards. If you get cash stolen, you are out of luck. Also, going to banks to pull out cash takes time and it just makes sense to use your debit card than go to the bank.

16. Not knowing laws

No American unless a cheapskate or someone brand new to buying things (usually kids) complain because they are used to it. So if you hear a complaint, it's usually a foreigner. Even jaywalking can have consequences. Yes, in your country, the legal age is 16. Here it is 18. If you get arrested for sleeping or courting a underage, you will face criminal charges. If you are under 21, drinking is illegal.

If caught, you will face our criminal system even if it is legal to drink at 16 in your country. Playing naive will not prevent you from getting arrested or tickets. Always look up laws for USA and for the state you are visiting. FYI: in some states marijuana is legal and other states it's still illegal.

16. Don’t litter or spit

There are trash cans for public use and a fine for littering. Americans may also separate recyclables from refuse, so it’s important to read which trash can you’re using. Some places have no trash cans, and it means you have to carry the trash with you.

16. Don’t push through people

Americans like a good few feet or almost meter from someone, and always say, I’m sorry if you accidentally bump into someone or Excuse me to ask for walking space. You can learn about American etiquette by observing. For example, if everyone is quiet at a library, there’s a reason why. Also, when traveling in general, you want to blend into your surroundings so you don’t become an easy target.

16. Commenting on clothing style

Yes, if you come from a modest country, sorry. Women walk around with low cut shirts and their legs and arms showing. Men walk around in shorts and can have tattoos and long hair. They really don't care what people dress like as long as privates are covered. You aren’t really concerned with what others are doing as long as it doesn’t directly impact you.

Someone on the subway is dressed funny, not dressed at all, or reading a crazy book. Its fine, you probably hardly notice or care.

Do not think you can pack everything on your own. While in most cases that can be true, having a helping hand is always useful. It can save you a lot of time. Just make sure to make a plan and divide belongings for easier packing. If you follow these simple suggestions, you will avoid common packing mistakes, and the entire process will be a piece of cake!
Kalyan Panja Kalyan Panja Author
MsKathyKenny said...

I never thought of number 6. I just pack but don't make a note of whats inside. You make a good point though.

Nelly|explorewithnelly said...

I am probably guilty of a few of these, I will def be asking for help and following a list next time. Packing is so stressful though aargh

Norma said...

Great advise! Starting early and asking for help are very important considerations. It's very time consuming to make sure everything is properly packed.

Megan Kerry said...

I'd love to visit New York one day. I bet it has a very unique energy to it with all the people! Thanks for sharing these tips for when I go!

Wren LaPorte said...

I love all of these useful tips. My favorite is the not being late. I think that is a real important one.

Michael said...

I miss the place! I will be publishing my NYC post after a few days. anyways, hopefully many can read this post to help them esp. when going to NYC. Though when I went there it was for business so we have to be ready with everything lol

Fae Celine Ong said...

I plan to visit NYC and this packing list is definitely helpful. thanks for sharing

Patricia Martin said...

These are some great tips not only for New York but for every trip or long stay you are going to. Great post.

Laura said...

I'm the worse when it comes to packing. I aways end up packing things I don't need. Thank you for these good tips x


Steph said...

I always pack way too much because I like to be super prepared! This is a great list of necessities for NYC

Chava Mazal Stark said...

These are great tips for packing to anywhere, not just NYC. It's funny how difficult people make it on themselves by not using common sense when packing.

Chad said...

This is soooo awesome!!! I love all the tips and you're right, you need to be well prepared for NYC!!!

Mikhaela said...

This post hits me so hard. I can relate cause I'm not an organize person when it cmes to packaging I guess I need to try your trip for my second visit in NYC!

David Elliott said...

You do have to prepare for all kinds of weather when you are going to New York. But much will depend on the length of stay when you get there. These are great tips for packing when going.

Amy said...

Such a great and very detailed post. This could be very useful guide when traveling to New York.

Bindu Thomas said...

I must confess I don't enjoy packing, so this is a great list and reminder

Amy-Lynn Denham said...

Very good points. Most people focus on what you SHOULD do instead of what you SHOULD NOT do. But it's always good to have these reminders so that you double check!

Corisa said...

These are all great tips! I lived in New York state for 6 years and never once visited NYC. I would love to go one day.


Arun said...

Such a great post. I always find packing difficult and end up messing . I am going to bookmark this. Thank you .

Sue-Tanya said...

These tips are really helpful and I think can be used for anyone who is about to travel.

The Virginia Nymph said...

All of these were really good especially the tips about allowing time to pack and the advice for not over packing. I know I have failed at both in the past.

Aalexus L said...

List's are my thing! I will definitely start making one before I travel next time

Dalene Ekirapa said...

Packing late is such a big mistake that so many make! That's why I start my prep a week in advance. And since I over-pack,I've been packing then have all in a half. That has really come in handy.

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