The Ultimate Seattle Packing List
We say “sleepless,” you say… “Seattle.” And if that wasn’t your first thought, then clearly you aren’t as '90s romcom obsessed as we are. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks aside, the city of Seattle is the culture capital of the Pacific Northwest. It lays claim to re-inventing to-go coffee (thank you, original Starbucks) and is home to over 100 museums, galleries, and theater companies. And let’s not forget music. Check out one of the city’s numerous live music venues and you could end up listening to the next big thing—after all, Seattle is the birthplace of such legends as Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and Pearl Jam. The Emerald City, named for its beautiful year-round greenery, has more than 400 parks and natural areas to explore. So pour a cup of your favorite java, scroll down, and read on for our foolproof list of what to pack for Seattle.
When it comes to packing, it’s all about the right bag for the right job. If you’ve been making due with a beat up old duffle or an ancient carry-on with a sticky wheel, you’ll be amazed at how a new bag makes travel so effortless. Every smart traveler should have three key pieces of luggage: a weekender bag for quickie getaways, a carry-on suitcase for week-long trips, and a larger suitcase for longer stays or travelers that overdo it on souvenirs. (Guilty!) For a weekender, we’re fans of the Away Everywhere bag. This little dynamo has separate pockets for your laptop, pens, reading materials, and phone, plus a waterproof umbrella compartment—genius when you visit a rainy destination. For a one-week trip, it’s hard to beat Away’s Carry-On—it changed the suitcase game with an ejectable battery for phone charging, smooth spinner wheels, and a lifetime warranty. And for any trips lasting two weeks or longer, go for the Travelpro Platinum Elite. There’s a reason flight crews swear by this luggage brand. This checked bag has gliding spinner wheels, a telescoped handle, and two-inches of zippered expansion. Consider yourself packed.
THE PACKING GEAR
Every packing hurdle is made easier with this trio of travel gear. Got a hotel room or cruise ship cabin with little counter space? This hanging toiletry bag will give you elbow room at the sink plus provide dedicated pockets for all your creams, gels, and sprays. Hang it on the bathroom door or over the towel rack to keep everything upright, protected, and in place. If you have an issue with overpacking—who doesn’t?—then packing cubes are a game-changer. This four-piece set will keep all your things, from underpants to electronics, organized and condensed, saving you precious suitcase space. And rather than depend on the freebie toiletries at the hotel (that harsh hotel soap will zap all the moisture from your skin), bring your own tried-and-true toiletries in these TSA-approved squeeze bottles.
THE IN-FLIGHT ESSENTIALS
Only travel amateurs get on a flight without bringing the essentials. A sleep mask not only blocks out cabin lights—it provides the privacy you need to get some Zs. The Trtl travel pillow is a travel editors’ favorite for keeping your neck and head comfortable as you nod off. And Comrad compression socks’ moisture-wicking technology keeps feet comfy and protects you from deep vein thrombosis. (Yikes!) Fly like a pro with these packing essentials.
SEATTLE OUTFIT INSPIRATION
Here’s the thing, in Seattle, clothing tends to heavily skew toward function and comfort. This is one city where the great outdoors is a way of life. What does that mean, exactly? Allow us to break it down: layers to ward off the cold, hooded jackets to brave random rain showers, and water-resistant boots to battle deeper-than-they-seem puddles. That isn’t to say that the locals don’t also play around with their looks. Bold colors and yes, flannels and plaid, are enjoyed and encouraged in Seattle. The good news is that you can pack all of your favorite comfy clothes without fear of ever looking out of place. Feel free to do you—especially if “you” includes a lightweight rain jacket. Don’t believe us? Check out the Museum of History and Industry’s exhibition, Seattle Style: Fashion/Function for the official take on local style.
Seattle Younger Women’s Day Look
Seattle Older Women’s Day Outfit
Seattle Younger Women’s Night Outfit
Seattle Younger Mens Day Outfit
Seattle Older Mens Day Outfit
Seattle Younger Mens Night Outfit
Seattle Older Men’s Night Outfit
THE 3 PAIRS OF SHOES YOU’LL NEED FOR EXPLORING SEATTLE
When it comes to packing shoes for a trip to Seattle, less is more. You might think you want those super cute combat boots to tap into Seattle’s grunge roots, but that will change when you realize they’re the reason you can’t fit your spoils from Pike Place Market in your suitcase. When vacationing you rarely ever need more than three pairs of shoes. For Seattle, the shoe list includes something fun (and functional) for days spent pounding the pavement and taking in the sights, a fancy option for nights on the town, and then a good pair of hiking boots. Not only are you in the center of the Puget Sound region, but there are six different mountains you can climb. Access to that kind of natural beauty demands its own type of footwear.
What to Pack for Seattle
Click items to view travel editor-approved options
WHAT NOT TO PACK FOR SEATTLE
Even in July and August the average temperature doesn’t get much above 75° in Seattle. This is one trip when you can leave your sarongs and barely-there summer gear at home. We still suggest bringing a swimsuit if you have access to a pool or hot tub at your hotel. While it doesn’t rain as much as rumor would have you believe, it does still rain a fair amount. It’s a good idea to skip any footwear made from suede or other water-intolerant materials. It’s true a little dry brush can revive these fabrics, but why bother if you don’t have to, right? Seattle is also a casual city, and locals prefer comfy workout and performance gear over three-piece suits and high heels. Skip the formal wear, unless you’re in Seattle for something with a specific dress code.
THE *ONE THING* WTP EDITORS ALWAYS PACK FOR SEATTLE
In Seattle, it’s okay to tone down the glam. This is one vacation spot where it’s acceptable, and even encouraged, to step away from the full face of makeup, elaborate hairstyles, and fussy outfits. And on vacation, that less-is-more attitude can be very liberating and relaxing. A messy ponytail, swipe of lip gloss (cruelty-free, of course), and your favorite athleisure or performance gear can take you from the coffee shop to a hike around the Chain Lakes Loop to a global infusion dinner at Nue. We lean into that carefree and outdoorsy fashion vibe with a well-made plaid shirt from Rails. The black-and-white plaid top is tailored to women’s proportions, and offers just a touch of Seattle’s famous grunge vibe, while still looking polished. We pair it with jeans or leggings, and it’s an excellent layering piece if you want to throw a sweater over it, or wear it open to show off your favorite Nirvana T-shirt.
SEATTLE’S WEATHER AND SEASONS
Weather in Seattle is pretty temperate all year round. You won’t have to deal with below freezing temperatures or heavy snowfall in the winter months, or extreme heat and humidity in the summer. You will, however, have to plan for rain. November through January are the rainiest months of the year in Seattle, so if you’re visiting over one of those months then we strongly recommend packing some rain boots in addition to your travel umbrella and raincoat. Don’t believe the hype though—while there are months of heavy rain, there are also plenty of seasons when the chance of precipitation is low. During June through September the city averages more than 230 hours of sunshine a month, which means you’ll have plenty of nice weather to enjoy Seattle’s outdoor activity options.
Note: This data comes from our friends at Weather.com. We recommend using this together with a traditional forecast as you get closer to your departure date.
- Plan for day temps between 36 and 47
- Expect 5.24 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in January: On average, January is the coolest month of the year. Layer up with a warm sweater and hooded coat.
- Plan for day temps between 37 and 51
- Expect 4.23 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in February: Temperatures rise—if only slightly—this month. Continue to stay warm with a woolly hat and boots.
- Plan for day temps between 39 and 55
- Expect 3.92 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in March: In recent years, Seattle has seen record highs in March. Prepare for both possibilities with long-sleeve tops and a cozy cardigan.
- Plan for day temps between 43 and 59
- Expect 2.73 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in April: Surprisingly, the chance of rain drops this month. However we’d still grab a travel umbrella—just in case the season brings April showers after all.
- Plan for day temps between 48 and 65
- Expect 2.03 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in May: May offers the best sightseeing weather outside of peak travel season. Don your comfiest shoes to take advantage of fewer crowds around the city.
- Plan for day temps between 53 and 70
- Expect 1.55 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in June: Summer has officially begun! As the chance of rain dies down, break out your brush on sunscreen to stay covered on the go.
- Plan for day temps between 56 and 75
- Expect 0.93 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in July: July brings the hottest month of the year: It’s time to wear all the shorts and sunglasses.
- Plan for day temps between 57 and 75
- Expect 1.16 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in August: Grab your hiking boots and a good water bottle—hiking and biking season has arrived.
- Plan for day temps between 53 and 70
- Expect 1.61 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in September: Dry and sunny weather means September is still peak travel season for Seattle. Get ready to see the sights with comfortable shoes and bold sunnies.
- Plan for day temps between 46 and 60
- Expect 3.24 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in October: Temperatures start to cool this month so grab some layer-friendly sweaters and tops to stay warm and comfy.
- Plan for day temps between 40 and 52
- Expect 5.67 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in November: The chance of rain increases significantly this month. Be sure to have a raincoat on hand, and consider a pair of waterproof shoes.
- Plan for day temps between 36 and 47
- Expect 6.06 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in Seattle in December: Rain is at an all time high in December, and there’s a chill in the air. Don’t forget to keep your head warm with a cute and stylish beanie.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SEATTLE
Does it really rain a lot in Seattle? How can I prepare?
Popular myth would have you believe that it rains every day in Seattle. That isn’t the case. Typically, the city experiences some sort of rainfall about 150 days of each year—and January, November, and December are the months that see the heaviest amount of that rain. The easiest way to be prepared is to make sure you pack a travel umbrella and/or some sort of raincoat whatever month you decide to visit. There are some rumors that locals never use umbrellas, opting for hooded raincoats instead. We say, go with whichever option makes you comfortable.
How does Seattle compare to Portland? And can I visit Portland as a day trip?
While Portland and Seattle do have a lot in common (growing craft brewing scene, appreciation of hiking and other outdoor activities, popular live music venues), Seattle definitely pulls ahead in the sheer number and variety of things to see and do. One area that Portland takes the lead, however, might be food. Don’t get us wrong, Seattle has some amazing restaurants, but Portland is home to a number of culinary institutes and also has a strong food cart culture. While we’d suggest a weekend trip if you can swing it (about a three-hour drive), a day trip to Portland is very easy: There’s an Amtrak that frequently runs between the two cities, or if you’d rather fly you can hop on a quick 20-minute Alaska Airlines flight.
What is the best coffee shop/cafe in Seattle?
Trying to choose the best coffee shop in Seattle is like picking the best bakery in France—nearly impossible! (Though personally we’re partial to Boulangerie Utopie in the 11th). The birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle has as many coffee shops as New York does Duane Reades. While we can’t say which of these is truly the best, some especially popular spots include Victrola Coffee Roasters, Herkimer Coffee, and Slate Coffee Bar. You’ll have to try them all and decide for yourself. Don’t forget that coffee beans make excellent souvenirs.
Where can I check out the music scene in Seattle?
After coffee and well, rain, music is probably the thing Seattle is most known for. Luckily, the city has a number of live music venues to check out well-known and homegrown talent. Neumos is your go-to to catch a wide variety of musical genres. While Tula’s and The Crocodile have the local jazz and rock ‘n roll scenes covered, respectively.
How should I dress for a hike around Mount Rainier?
A day of hiking calls for comfy leggings, good shoes (read: offers strong traction and support), and a lightweight backpack. Oh, and don’t forget your water bottle. For men, convertible pants have got you covered for cold or hot weather—they quickly transform into a pair of shorts with two easy zips.
What do I need to know about buying marijuana in Seattle?
Washington state’s recreational marijuana industry is ever-growing, includes more than 500 bustling retailers, and is 100% legal. Seattle’s slice of the marijuana market covers the ultra high-end, the all-green-everything, and the community-oriented, to name a few. Honestly, the entire process is easy—you just need to be over the age of 21 to participate. One word of caution: just because you bought marijuana in a state where it was legal, doesn’t mean you can fly with it. TSA will not take your originating or destination cities into account and if found with marijuana, you could find yourself in trouble. Play it safe and stick to enjoying cannabis in the state where you bought it.
What should I wear to tour the Space Needle and Pike Place Market?
Pike Place Market’s nine acres include farm shops, crafts markets, more than 200 stores, and over 80 restaurants. Wear something that’ll take you from day-to-night, so you can go from sightseeing to fine dining without taking a break to change.
If your day includes a visit to the Space Needle, opt for comfy shoes that can withstand potential long lines. Pro tip: Go early to beat the crowds and get to the top for the best selfies and views of Mt. Rainier.
What should I bring to hangout in Seattle’s coffee shops?
Checking out the city’s numerous coffee shops offers an opportunity to relax and enjoy the perfect cup of joe (or an iced latte macchiato with extra whip, no judgment). Bring a good book, notebook, or whatever else helps you chill and soak up the atmosphere.
If you’re struggling to find your perfect brew, then check out a coffee cupping. Available at cafes around Seattle, these weekly tastings help you to identify the best notes, aroma, and taste for your palate. Bring a notebook to write it all down.
Any tips for visiting Woodland Park Zoo?
Want to combine music with animal sightings? Check out the Woodland Park Zoo’s summer concert series, Becu Zootunes, for live performances by such artists as Feist, Flock of Seagulls, and the Indigo Girls.