yellow taxis are iconic in new york city

Packing Guide: What to Pack for NYC in May

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UPDATED: 9 March 2024

Ahhh, New York, New York! My (sadly very expensive) soul city! New York in May is beautiful. After a long and snowy winter, locals are ready to take back their streets and parks, and life feels even more vibrant in the USA’s largest city with the arrival of nice weather.

Of course, regular readers of this blog already know that I adore visiting New York City every single season of the year. For me personally, New York’s endless energy fills my spirit and excites me, and by the end of my visit, I always feel like I’ve been transformed into a brand new person — who believes I can do anything I put my mind to. 

But, even though I love The Big Apple all the time, you might still be wondering when is the best time to visit New York City? Is it really spring time or should I wait?

outside chelsea market in nyc
Time to Eat, Eat, and Eat at Chelsea Market!

In my honest opinion, if you’re thinking of visiting NYC in May, then I totally recommend it. Is May more expensive than the dead winter months? Sure. but the extra cost is worth it.

A visit to New York is usually a lot more pleasant in warmer weather. Spring is a wonderful season in New York, because you’ll enjoy comfortable temperatures as you walk through vibrant neighborhoods, city parks, and much more. Believe me, New York City is worth visiting when the weather turns.

In this post, I’m going to discuss what to pack for NYC in May. Let’s get planning! 

smiling because forgiveness is for you

New York in May Packing Tips

New York City in May is a wildcard. Odds are in your favor for warmer weather, but you still need to prepare for anything. I mean, sure, some days you’ll experience brilliant sunshine. Strolling in a sleeveless and light-weight summer dress isn’t a problem at all in this case!

However, I want to be honest with you, too. Beautiful weather in May is also the luck of the draw. While April is way rainier on average, May still brings plenty of spring rain in this part of the country.

To make things even more complicated, you might even have hot days in May that feel similar to the height of summer, especially if you plan on visiting later in the month, such as on Memorial Day Weekend. 

With all that said and done, I would personally prepare for a wide range of weather conditions if you decide to visit New York City in May. Is it a pain in the butt? Absolutely. One suggestion would be to use packing cubes to keep all items organized in your luggage. 

a self-guided walking tour of central park leads to many surprises

What to Pack for NYC in May

In order to make this guide easier, I’ve split it into two different sections for you to read.

The first section covers some essentials for what to pack for NYC in May such as guidebooks and electronics. The second section, on the other hand, talks about some of the best pieces of clothing to bring with you. 

Of course, I understand that each and every traveler has different needs. This guide for what to pack for NYC in May is just to get you started. 

However, even if you need more items than what I mention in this post, I still seriously advocate for packing light in New York City. Cabs are expensive. So are rideshares. You may need to walk several blocks to reach your hotel. Being mobile is super important. 

what to pack for new york in may includes camera to take pictures of street art
Seeing Street Art in NYC.

NYC in May Essentials

Like I said, the first part of this packing guide will be dedicated to what essential items you need to bring to NYC in May. We’ll talk about pretty clothing later, haha. 

Comfortable Cross-Body Bag

First and foremost, I love a cute and lightweight cross-body bag for exploring New York City in the warmer months. Over all, New York is pretty safe for a large city, but at the same time, I understand why people would feel protective of their belongings, especially solo female travelers in New York. I personally love the Pacsafe cross-body bag that’s both cute and secure. 

NYC Guidebook

Obviously, I adore travel blogs, but I still love traditional guidebooks, too. And New York City is huge. Absolutely huge. I still get overwhelmed by how much there is to see and do here. You will want to invest in a good guidebook to plan logistics for the duration of your visit. Lonely Planet writes my favorite guides and covers attractions, hotels, transportation, seasonal events, and more. 

solo travel new york promises great views
NYC’s Gorgeous May Views.

Mirrorless Camera

Honestly, if you want to take professional-level photos, you will want to invest in a camera other than your smartphone one. At the same time, though, walking around New York City isn’t a joke. I usually clock at least 12,000 steps when exploring the city, so you don’t want fifty million lens rattling around in your bag.

My personal favorite travel camera is the Sony Mirrorless Alpha brand because you’re able to take incredibly high quality pictures, yet the camera is still relatively lightweight and easy to carry around on long sightseeing days. 

Portable Cell Phone Charger

If you’re constantly using your phone to snap pictures and record videos, then you know well enough that your battery charge doesn’t last nearly as long. And let’s face: our entire lives are on our phones. We have rideshare apps, tickets in our virtual wallets, and so much more. You don’t want your phone dying in the middle of the street without a plug in sight. 

Therefore I highly recommend bringing a portable phone charger to keep the batteries happy! 

fresh flowers in nyc
Buy Yourself Some Spring Flowers in New York.

Reusable Water Bottle

May brings pleasant and warmer weather. However, in later May, you might experience fairly hot days in New York (remember what I said about wildcard weather?), so it’s very important to stay hydrated as your explore the city’s many attractions. A reusable water bottle will quench your thirst, while at the same time, not contributing to plastic pollution. 

Sun Lotion

In addition, you want to take care of your skin in the sun. The concrete jungle makes those rays feel even stronger. SPF is your friend. SPF is your friend. I have been careless about skincare in the past and totally regret it now.

Although on the pricy side, I personally love Sun Bum Sun Lotion products because they work perfectly for my sensitive skin. Sun Bum also sells lotion just for your face. 

Another suggestion is to combine moisturizer, light coverage, and SPF in one simple and easy product: Paula’s Choice Daily Defense Tinted Moisturizer. I literally wear this product every single day, and I think it’s perfect for travel to New York City in the warmer months, too. 

strolling around chelsea in manhattan

Travel Umbrella 

Rain in May is always a distinct possibility. Check the forecast as soon as it’s feasible. If wet weather is predicted, then I would bring along a small and compact travel umbrella to keep you dry in New York City. I would not, however, advise bringing a heavy raincoat in warm weather unless you want to sweat into a puddle. The umbrella is a necessity, though.  

Travel Wallet

Last for our essentials section for what to pack for NYC in May, you want to find a practical travel wallet to organize all your cards. I think a small wallet is especially important if you don’t store all your payment information on your phone. You will need space for your credit cards, NYC Metro card, hotel room key card, identification card, and more. 

solo travel new york means taking all the selfies

What to Wear in NYC in May

Time for the second part of this packing guide! Clothes, shoes, and fun hats! Of course, your need may be different depending on what you have planned for your visit to NYC in May, but this guide is operating under the assumption that you want to enjoy the typical tourist sites such as a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a self-guided walk around Central Park

walking in nyc in may in chelsea

Colorful and Fun Shawls

Regardless of day time temperatures, May still brings relatively chilly nights, so you will want to bring layers to keep warm if you’re headed out to enjoy New York’s restaurants, theaters, and nightlife. I personally recommend packing some fun and fashionable shawls to cover your bare arms after the sun goes down. 

Comfortable Walking Scandals 

In warmer weather, I love to have my toes sticking out, haha. But you want to be careful when it comes to footwear. You will walk miles and miles every single day in New York City. You want your feet to love you. For example, I absolutely adore these walkable Merrell sandals are perfect for a busy day in the city. 

Of course, many people prefer to wear sneakers and that is totally fine too, although I recommend packing a lighter and breathable pair to save room in your luggage. 

new york in may is lovely so walk the public parks

Costume Jewelry 

New York City is the home of unique and fun fashion choices. So why not bring a couple striking pieces of your favorite costume jewelry to add a bit of zest and sparkle to your outfits? Browse a variety of costume jewelry, colorful necklaces and dangling earrings, to add some sophistication and fun to your day. 

Large Fashionable Hats

Another way to protect your skin from the sun is to pack a couple of fun-loving hats to accessorize your outfits. For example, this packable wide brim hat is a perfect option for adding a bit of fun to your outfit while protecting your skin at the same time. 

Spring Dresses

Last but not least, I personally love spring dresses for visiting New York City in May. If the weather’s chillier, you can easy layer your dresses or pack a few pairs of black tights (which I feel go with all colors).

As far as dresses go, I would opt for simple fit and flare dresses that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on what activities you’re planning to do on that day. 

looking happy and excited in nyc

I hope this guide helped you figure out what to pack for NYC in May. As always, if you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to reach out to me to discuss your upcoming adventures in NYC.

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