Let’s go back seven years ago the first time visited Times Square as a tourist. I was carrying a suitcase full of Russian books and summer dresses, and my British English acquired in Belarus proved to being insufficient in America. I remember writing an essay for language school where I stated “I know English like a dog” (exact quote!), meaning that I understood everything, but couldn’t say a word… and look at me now, writing a blog in English!
Without a doubt, I owe New York for giving me so much. I owe it for its energy constantly fueling me, I owe it for its incredibly creative and diverse dwellers inspiring me in so many ways, I owe it for the right to proudly call myself a New Yorker. In this post dedicated to the best city on the planet, I would like to pay tribute to the Big Apple and provide you with some tips on what to take with you if you are planning to visit New York for the first time.
#1: Large Satchel
I love big handbags with a single compartment because it can fit so many items. Well, I am not only talking about my must-have travel essentials that I will mention below, but also all those “awww I love that thing!” unplanned purchases that you probably end up indulging while traveling. There are a lot of shopping temptation in the Big Apple so make sure to pick a large and convenient tote. In these photos, I carry a beautiful and very colorful Fricaine Princess Demi Satchel Bag (c/o) that perfectly fits my expectations of an ideal travel satchel.
It is large enough to fit all of my belongings and purchases and small enough not to look too bulky. Also, in addition to the main compartment the bag contains a couple of smaller ones that allows organizing items effectively inside the bag. I also love the fact that the bag is colorful as opposed to be simply monochrome; it adds a pop of color to my overall single-toned travel outfit.
I always carry a large warm scarf with me while traveling because you never know how the weather can change during the day. Also, New York can get quite windy and a scarf can be invaluable. The Tenderness Triangular Orenburg-Pavlovo Posad Shawl (c/o) that you see in these photos is especially special to me because it is Russian! In fact, this beautiful scarf combines two classic symbols of Russian handicraft in one, the Orenburg shawl and the Pavlovo-Posad shawl.
The bottom part of the shawl is knitted out of the finest wool of the Orgenburg goats. This unique kind of Russian folk scarf is very warm and soft, at the same time it is very light and fine. I’ve heard that Orenburg scarves are often called ‘wedding ring shawls’ because you can easily pull such a scarf through a ring (while the scarf itself is quite sizable). Usually Orenburg scarves are knitted in traditional colors such as light and dark gray, but mine comes in a soft pink shade. I can’t express enough how much I love that beautiful pastel color!
The top of the shawl represents another famous Russian tradition, Pavlovo-Posad scarves that have been around for 220 years. Those shawls are recognized by their large floral and ornament prints and delicate execution. I really like the contrast that this 100% natural silk scarf creates with the wool one underneath. For me, such a combination of materials is not only a reflection of good taste in fashion, but also a reference to the best traditions of Russian craftsmanship. Even though the silk ‘top layer’ that I am wearing in these photos is a rather modern version of the Pavlovo-Posad scarf, it really reminds me about my motherland (that I sometimes still miss, while living in America).
#3: Selfie Stick
When I first came to New York, I was not even aware that selfie sticks existed. In my humble opinion, this might be one of the greatest invention of our times for travelers. Those devices are light and easy to use and very handy if you travel alone or with a large group. First, you don’t have to ask strangers to take pictures of you. Second, you can take as many selfies as you can without feeling ashamed that you are taking too much time out of a person that agreed to photograph you. Lastly, the images taken from top angles tend to look better than regular ones.
During the recent nostalgic trip to Times Square, I tried taking photos with The Pole Selfie Stick (c/o) by 2 Kamp Products, and I was surprised how easy and fun it could be. All you have to do is to activate Bluetooth on your phone, synchronize it with your selfie stick, and you are ready to go! There are buttons on the handle of the device that you can press to zoom in/out and take photos. I love to collect memories and go back to those images that remind me about the happy moments of my life. I know that with this new, fun device I will be able to preserve even more great memories.
I prefer reading real books, but there is nothing better than Kindle Paperwhite for those days when I am traveling. This device saves me a lot of suitcase space because I am usually able to finish a couple of books while on vacation. Also, you don’t need to charge it as often as an iPad. In fact, I never even take my Kindle Paperwhite charger with me because this super battery-saver device can run on one change for about a month! Finally, many books and magazines are much cheaper on Kindle than in the print version (and even recycled). Win-win-win for travel indeed!
#5: Hand Lotion and Antibacterial Wipes
I am a little OCD about hand lotions and use them every time after I wash my hands. As I have mentioned in a previous post, “Top 5 Budget-Friendly Hand Creams,” I always carry a hand lotion with me, especially while traveling. This time I decided to substitute my regular EOS Travel Size Everyday Hand Lotion for this shea butter based cream by Trader Joe’s. The hand lotion comes in a small tube and has a rich consistency. It will definitely help you with any occurrence of dry hands.
Also, in a city of 8+ million people, hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes is a necessity. I personally prefer the latter because liquid hand sanitizer makes my skin dry. In these photos, I carry Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes that are designed for cleaning the face, but those also work for hands, thanks to the antibacterial qualities of aloe leaf juice and white tea extract. Needless to say, I also love the fact that Burt’s Bees products are dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested and 91.1% natural.
For a long period of time I’ve been wearing my bright yellow Kate Spade wallet that I have attached to my key chain, but suddenly I realized that it was not my brightest idea ever. My New York State ID clearly states my home address and the key attached to my wallet obviously would help a random robber to have easy access to my house (not good!). Recently, I changed my wallet to this miniature wallet by Blu + Baker that I received at one of the Hampton’s events last summer. The wallet, made out of python skin, is perfect for traveling because it is small but fits all of the cards and change needed for the day.
It’s much more comfortable to look around if you don’t have to squint from the sun. Also, nobody needs such ‘souvenirs’ from the Big Apple as dark spots and premature wrinkles around the eyes. Please keep in mind that I don’t even mention a moisturizer with SPF 30 because, in my opinion, it just goes without saying. I wear SPF 30 every day and highly recommend you to do the same, especially while traveling. When it comes to sunglasses, I prefer classic shapes and a black color because those work with pretty much every outfit, i.e., I can take just one pair of sunglasses on a trip and save some suitcase space. Also, I always take with me a durable case that can survive through any travel adventures and protect my Coach sunglasses from damage and scratches.
#8: Healthy Snack and Chargers
There are so many unhealthy snack choices in New York that an organic apple (my favorite ones are Macintosh and Gala apples) would be actually hard to find, especially in the Times Square area. I love fruits and always try to include them in my diet, especially while traveling. Also, I love snacking and this healthy bite (perhaps, combined with a handful of raw almonds) will keep your blood sugar up until the next meal.
While enjoying your snack, don’t forget to feed your electronic devices too. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I love taking photos on my phone. No wonder my phone needs to be charged all the time! If I travel alone, I also like to have a set of headphones with me so I can listen to my favorite songs and podcasts and relax a little bit away from the noisy touristic attractions while sipping my latte or having lunch.
#9: Comfortable Shoes
Even though I wear high heels daily, I always make an exception for those days when I am traveling. There is nothing worse than being in pain from uncomfortable shoes, especially when you plan to see so many exciting things. While traveling I love wearing light keds or sneakers, but this time I picked these super comfortable Forever Dottie Rainboots that I purchased somewhere in New York when my shoes accidentally got wet in the middle of the day and I was forced to find a new pair of shoes to wear. I paid less than $50 for those cuties and it was one of the best impulsive shopping decisions of this year. Not only are those ankle boots very stylish, they are also very comfortable. In fact, sometimes I wear them the whole day and don’t feel that my feet are tired. Fashion steal indeed!
I might sound like your granny, but you should always wear a sweater while traveling. Observing New York City from the top of a Double-Decker bus or taking photos at the Empire State Building Observation Deck are not the warmest activities, so it’s better to be prepared. Personally, I love cashmere and I really recommend grabbing a cashmere sweater on your upcoming trip (maybe, not in summer though). This light pink cashmere sweater by Cynthia Rowley is my must-have item for traveling because it is versatile and soft so it can easily transform into a mini blanket or a scarf. Here is a little trick for you that I use all the time while traveling: You can keep your sweater in one place by securing it with a nice headband. In this photo, I used metallic headbands by Twist that I purchased at Birchbox Soho, but I am also in love with those by Kitsch and Ban.Do (check them out!).