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What You Need in your Seattle Packing List

Seattle, the city that made even ferry boats a romanticized event (thanks, “Grey’s Anatomy”), is a special place for a lot of travelers. This metropolis in the Pacific Northwest, also known as the Emerald City is a hub for the artistic, craft beer enthusiast, coffee nerds, and it seems just about anyone. No matter your reason for embarking on a journey to Seattle, you want to be prepared for all that entails. 

One of the things that makes Seattle unique is its proximity to the great outdoors. Despite being a mid-sized city with traditional city offerings, you are surrounded by all kinds of outdoorsy adventures, from hiking trails at Snoqualmie Pass to hanging out near Puget Sound; even this known-to-be gloomy place is beckoning you to be outside. 

With that in mind, we’ve compiled your go-to packing list. This list is well-suited to Seattle’s rainy-day reputation and hopefully makes your luggage a bit easier to manage. 

In a hurry and need help quick?

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Essentials for Every Traveler

After settling on where to stay for your first time in Seattle, your next concern might be how to pack for the adventure. Before worrying too much about accounting for the nearly 45% of days with some kind of rainfall, remember the handful of things you want for every trip, no matter the destination.

Keep in mind that all of the following things should be kept in your personal item or carry-on bag – never in your checked baggage. Checked bags can be easily lost, so having these essentials with you is vital. 

Here they are so you don’t forget while preparing for your trip: 

  • Plug adaptor (if traveling from outside of the United States)
  • Passport (or other government ID if a U.S. citizen)
  • Cash, just in case
  • More than one payment card, just in case
  • Medications/prescriptions 
Woman traveller with travel bag or luggage walking in airport terminal walkway for travel abroad.

Clothing and Footwear

We’d be remiss not to mention Seattle’s potential for rain when planning your PNW wardrobe. Contrary to the stereotype, Seattle doesn’t get much more precipitation than other parts of the country; it rains more often in smaller amounts. One way to work around rainy times is to visit Seattle during the not-so-rainy months. 

November, December, January, and March are the months with the most precipitation in the city. Not surprisingly, these months are also the low season in Seattle. So you’ll save money by visiting during the winter but will want to pack more judiciously to combat the rainy atmosphere. Luckily, those same months don’t bring about a ton of cold, with the winter low temps ranging from the high 30s to the low 40s (Fahrenheit). 

For all seasons, I recommend packing a poncho or light raincoat. Travel ponchos, when folded tightly, take up barely any room in your luggage, so they’re great to have even if you never use them. I recommend them over umbrellas because you won’t have to worry about lugging them around or dodging other people when you’re trying to enjoy your time in downtown Seattle or Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill. 

Winter essentials:

Spring essentials:

  • Extra shirt, in case you get caught in the rain
  • Light cardigan or jacket
  • Poncho/raincoat
  • Rain boots

Summer essentials: 

  • Fun sunnies (I love RainbowOPTX)
  • Poncho/raincoat
  • Extra shirt, in case you get caught in the rain
  • Sun hat
  • Breathable clothes, especially cotton or linen
  • Light cardigan or jacket
  • Bathing suit (for beaches like the Magnuson Park Swimming Beach)

Fall essentials: 

  • Light cardigan or jacket
  • Poncho/raincoat
  • At least a pair of warm socks
  • Pullover sweatshirt
  • Scarf
Travel and vacation concept, happiness woman packing stuff and a lot of clothes into suitcase on bed prepare for her travel and journey trip.

Although it is widely considered one of (if not THE most) walkable cities in the United States, Seattle also has a well-developed public transportation system. Still, you’ll be on your feet a lot, especially if you’re downtown or exploring areas like Pike Place Market or the Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle. Rain or shine, you’ll want shoes that can keep you moving to Seattle’s unique beat. 

That said, be sure to pack shoes you know will keep your feet happy. 

Gadgets

When folks think of Seattle, they usually think of the obvious points of interest like Dave Chihuly’s glass sculptures or Starbucks. Yet there is so much more in this city to appreciate (and photograph), so having your gadgets locked down is so important. Did you know that Seattle is home to over 400 pieces of public art

Plus, you’ve got to capture the sights from the Space Needle observation deck and the famous gum wall along Post Alley, if that’s to your taste—pun intended. To do all of that, you want to be ready for midday recharges and keep your gadgets safe from the rain. 

I also want to make a quick plug warning you about juice jacking. This is a somewhat new practice where a hacker makes a public USB charging port unsafe. If you connect to a compromised port, it may ask you if you want to share your data. To avoid this altogether, it’s better to use traditional pronged outlets instead. 

  • Portable battery for phone (your phone battery may drain faster than usual while you’re in the city, especially in museums where you may not get a signal)
  • Earbuds or headphones
  • Chargers for all your tech
  • 3-in-1 portable charging stand to conserve hotel nightstand space (I LOVE my iLive charging stand, which folds up and is perfect for travel)
  • LectroFan Micro2 mini sound machine/speaker (this little device is perfect for travel, it’s so small it can even fit in your pocket)
  • Camera
  • Rain cover for camera
  • Lens wipes (for phone, camera, and/or glasses)
  • A universal, waterproof phone pouch
Belkin Active Pro Backpack (aka the Best Laptop Bag Ever!)

Gear

Even on something as condensed as a two-day itinerary in Seattle, you might be in for all kinds of adventures with or without rain. I’ll list some pieces of gear at the top that you’ll want to bring if you’re coming in the winter or spring when there’s a higher likelihood of more rain. As always, keep an eye on the weather ahead of your Seattle trip to adjust your packing list as needed.  

  • Backpack or day pack
  • Travel umbrella
  • Reusable water bottle or tumbler (I highly recommend anything by MyBevi for hot or cold drinks)
  • WanderFull HydroBag (a water-resistant bag perfect for exploring since it holds a water bottle and your daily essentials)
  • Towel (perfect for summer, I love my COR Surf towel robe, which can also double as a changing poncho)
  • Sleep mask (Manta Sleep masks are the best)

Health and Safety

When you visit Seattle for the first time, you’ll notice the city has fairly mild weather. There are hot and cold days, to be sure, but mostly, it’s just surprisingly mild. Because of that, there aren’t a lot of health or safety precautions you need to take, but I’d still recommend a few basics. 

Toiletries

Keeping in mind the TSA 3-1-1 rule, packing toiletries if you’re traveling in Seattle without a car can be tricky. Although you can buy things you might need while you’re there, that takes away precious tourist time. At a bare minimum, if you pack these things, you might not have to make a CVS run. 

  • Deodorant (I love Crystal roll-on deodorant, which is all-natural)
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face care products (Kuumba Made is a cruelty-free, handmade company I highly recommend for their incredible products)
Skin care. Sun protection. Woman apply sun cream. Woman With Suntan Lotion On Beach In Form Of The Sun. Portrait Of Female With Drawn Sun On A Shoulder. Suncream. Girl Holding Moisturizing Sunblock.

Adventure Activities

Nestled between two mountains, the amount of adventure activity you do in Seattle varies by quite a bit. If you’re a super outdoorsy person who wants to see the sights, here are some things to consider for the trip – which depend widely on your level of physical activity. 

Packing Tips

Rainy day potential aside, packing for a Seattle trip is a piece of cake. You don’t have to worry as much about things like frigid cold or unfamiliar biting insects, making your luggage (and your mind) lighter. I’ve rounded up the more basic (non-weather or activity-dependent) items in a checklist format below for you to use as you’re preparing for your trip. 

In the meantime, here are some packing tips to keep in mind: 

  • If you’re bringing trekking poles, they are not allowed in the airplane cabin and must be checked with luggage.
  • If you don’t want to wear your boots on the plane, you can tie them off and hang them on your backpack or personal item. Just be mindful of other passengers are you walk by so you don’t accidentally whack them.
  • A hotel ice bucket bag will work in a pinch to protect items in your bag from rain/wetness
  • Hotels may also have umbrellas you can borrow for the day if you need to. Even if you don’t see any around, ask at the front desk
  • Pack wheeled suitcases with the heaviest items on the bottom near the wheels, it will help it roll more smoothly. 

Author

  • Amanda Finn

    Amanda, a Chicago-based travel journalist, has explored 20 countries and 27 states since childhood. Featured in publications like Huffington Post and Ms. Magazine, they specialize in LGBTQIA+ travel, theme parks, itineraries, traveling with pets, and purposeful travel.

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