This post was most recently updated on March 30th, 2016
First of all, let’s just get this out of the way: New York is positively glacial in the winter. Oh my goodness is it cold. I’ve never seen a fountain as large as the one in Bryant Park completely frozen… Yet everything and everyone in New York City freezes in the winter, and millions of people still choose to live there, and thousands more still decide that traveling to New York City in the winter is a glorious idea. Why? Well, because New York City is the greatest city on the planet. And it’s that simple. So if all of those people have decided that facing the numbing wind chill, icy streets, and freezing rain is a sacrifice worth making for the captivating, ever-changing sights, sounds, and smells of New York City, then surely you can (and should) too! Bundle up in layers, then bundle up in some more layers, grab a piping hot Starbucks to go, and prepare yourself to be blown away by New York City’s unforgettable culture, cuisine, architecture, and so much more.
Enjoy lower rates.
If you’ve ever been to New York City before, then you’ll recall that it’s not a cheap place to visit. In the wintertime, however, you’ll be pleased to find that hotel rates will not be as ridiculously high as they’d be at any other time of the year.
Watch the weather.
Another thing to be aware of as you’re planning your trip to New York City in the winter is the weather. This seems like an obvious tip, and you’re probably thinking, “Really?!?!?! Thanks for the brilliant tip.” But what I mean is, be aware that the weather in NYC can change instantly. Today it’s partly cloudy with no wind, tomorrow there could be a huge blizzard with an expected four feet of snowfall. This can be an issue when you’re planning on flying in or out of the City, so avoid the stress and make sure that you’re prepared. Check the weather daily as your travel date gets closer, pack all of your bags early, and make sure that your schedule is more or less cleared; you may need to fly into the City a day or two early if there is a possibility that your original flight could be cancelled. Your airline will most likely allow you to change your flight itinerary free of charge in the event of an oncoming storm. This exact thing has happened to me twice during winter travel to NYC, so please, learn from my experience and don’t let the winter weather stress you out or ruin your trip. Plus, once you actually get there, you won’t really care if a storm interferes with your flight home. You won’t want to go home anyway.
Take advantage of hot drinks.
In your hotel room, you’ll likely have a complimentary coffee/tea machine. Take advantage of this, first of all, because it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than your usual half-caf, double shot of espresso, latte, with skinny milk, piping hot at Starbucks. (I’m not sure if that’s even a drink you could order, but those are just some of the terms I hear you crazy coffee fiends yelling at the baristas at Starbucks. I’ll just have a hot green tea.) But anyway, grab a coffee or tea from your room before you head out because it’s free, it’ll serve as a hand warmer while it’s too hot to drink, and obviously, a hot drink out in the freezing air is just a good idea all around. When you’ve never been so cold in your whole life, it’s all about the little things, guys.
Meet your new best friend.
Embark NYC Subway is a great, free application to have during your visit to NYC in general, whether it’s winter or not. This app will help you navigate the subway with updated schedules, interactive maps, and personalized directions to your destination. And the best part about it, is that it works when you’re offline! No wi-fi or data usage required to plan your trip in between subway stations. This app will also let you know if there is a delay to be aware of (which happens extremely often when weather conditions aren’t optimal). This will be your best navigation tool to keep yourself warm; with Embark NYC, know where you’re going and check the exact minute that your train will arrive before darting from the warmth of your hotel to your nearest subway station!
Dress warmly (and stylishly) from head to toe.
If you live in a warm place like I do (sunny Southern California), then you might not be so prepared for New York’s frigid winter. I have traveled to NYC a few times in the winter, not to mention countless other cold places, so I think I have this one down. First of all, layering is definitely the key to staying warm; I love to wear leggings under my jeans for an extra layer on my legs (which most people don’t do and I don’t know why??!?!); cozy, fuzzy socks over my regular ankle socks, all underneath my leather boots; a long-sleeve shirt, a cardigan or jacket, and then a super-warm coat on top. And then, of course, a scarf and maybe a beanie! So far, my absolute favorite place to score on winter coats is Zara. Everything in this store is super chic, they often have great sales, and when it comes to winter wear, their coats are high-quality and built to combat the coldest of winters. For everything else, my go-tos are definitely Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom.
Pack your bags.
Winter clothes are obviously heavy and bulky, and sometimes, I have no idea how I’m going to fit everything in my suitcase. But that’s every traveler’s issue, I know. When you arrive at the airport in NYC, you’ll want to bundle up before venturing outside, so on your travel day, why not plan to carry on your heaviest coat and wear your boots that take up the most space? This will definitely free up some suitcase space. Then, roll everything. And I mean everything. You will save a crazy amount of room this way, and you’ll be able to fit that extra pair of shoes that you were debating on bringing. Throw ’em in too! Also, throw in a few plastic bags, not only to put your dirty clothes in, but also to put your wet, muddy shoes and boots in before it’s time to fly home so they won’t soil everything else!
Enjoy the colder weather.
Freezing might not be your favorite kind of climate. You might miss the sun’s warmth on your face after days of cloud cover and snow. But during all of this, you might also be lucky enough to be in the greatest city in the world. Remember that! Don’t let the cold stop you from having the time of your life. Endure, adventure, and savor the Big Apple.