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This post will help you decide what to pack for a trip to Washington DC, as well as what to wear during your visit at any time of year.
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When figuring out what to pack you should focus on two things: what time of year and what you plan to do!
A lot of what to pack is based on personal style but a few things to keep in mind whether you’re jeans and tshirt or suit and tie – dress for comfort because tourist days can be jam-packed in DC!
ALL YEAR ROUND:
Since DC has such strict security in so many places, we use wipes and stick that travel easily and don’t break the “no liquid” rule:
We suggest a small portable compact umbrella (this travel umbrella fits in your hand, we suggest getting it in orange so you’ll match us!) that is easy to store in a small bag.
And we’ll talk about this a lot but its our favorite tip – bring a Scarf/Pashmina (Achillea Pashmina is our favorite)
Trying to fit in all your various layers can be difficult, so we highly recommend packing cubes to help organize and save space in your luggage. The Shacke Paks are some of the highest-rated and come with a laundry bag to keep dirty clothes separate.
“Taskin Packing Cubes are a bit pricier, but I like the extra features. It has zip compression, to shrink the bag down, AND it has a water and smell resistant other side to put dirty clothes in right away.” – Tour Guide Dan
As a popular time of year to travel to DC, we do a lot of tours in summer and the Halife Women’s summer dress is comfortable, flattering, and is easy to dress up from a day to night (and of course, has pockets).
Another key item to have is sunglasses! We love ZeroUV glasses.
“My favorite travel sunglasses are anything from ZeroUV – cheap on Amazon, awesome UV protection, fun styles and cheap enough you can pack 1-2 pairs for a trip and not stress if you lose them.” – Tour Guide Becca
Vests, scarfs, boots – these are a few of my favorite things. Fall is a great time to visit DC but with the weather so gorgeous you may not realize how much you’re walking and exploring, so make sure those stylish fall boots have good insoles! Some of our favorites are:
It does get cold and it can snow in DC in the winter so the best jacket is also waterproof. With this in mind, we shorten our longer tours like Arlington Cemetery and All in One so you can still see the best of DC without getting to cold.
We like anything from Camel Crown, their affordable 3 in 1 winter hiking jackets come in men’s and women’s cuts.
During the holidays, we partner with Georgetown BID to offer a special tour of the famous GLOW installations. These works of art can only be viewed at night, so hand warmers come in very handy on our nighttime tours in DC.
We spend a lot of time on our phones (like most people) and have yet to find a smartphone friendly pair of gloves that we love (let us know on @freetoursbyfoot if you have a recommendation!) but we do love convertible fingerless gloves with foldover mittens for when it’s really cold.
April showers are a real thing here. We invest in good rain boots that are good for walking and not just puddle jumping, like MuckBoots – which offer shoes meant for long distance walking and 100% waterproof. They are also lightweight and thus good for packing.
Also, think about what you’re going to do before deciding what to pack.
If you need help on that front, we have a whole guide to the best things to do in DC!
Packing for Museums?
DC has so many great museums that you can spend a whole visit exploring them and only going outside to get between them. In this case, you’ll want to keep in mind that many museums don’t allow large bags and that backpacks in art museums must be worn on the front.
You’ll want to plan on carrying less but an umbrella is a must. A lot of museums are located next to each other, so the best and fastest way to get from one to the other is walking but they are so big, that could still be a 5 minute walk in the rain.
We suggest small portable compact umbrella (this travel umbrella fits in your hand, we suggest getting it in orange so you’ll match us!) that is easy to store in a small bag.
Taking our Name Your Own Price Walking Tours?
We offer tours all year round and at all times of day. Our longest walking tour is only 2 miles (3.2km) over 4 hours so you can do this in any type of shoe, but a comfortable walking shoe is going to keep your feet dry and cozy.
Our tours are rain or shine so that compact umbrella is going to be a great thing to keep on you, just in case of drizzle.
And if you’re joining our night tours, a warm jacket and scarf will keep you comfortable in winter.
For our daytime tours in summer, we start earlier in the day to avoid the heat and try to find as much shade as possible but you’ll want to bring sunscreen and bug repellent with you. Since DC has such strict security in so many places, we use wipes and stick that travel easily and don’t break the “no liquid” rule:
What to Wear for a Night Out?
It gets a lot cooler once the sun goes down in winter so be sure to bring extra layers for evenings if you’re travelling October-March. Washington DC has a lot of federal and office workers so if you plan on enjoying dinner and drinks at one of our nicer restaurants, you won’t need to get too glamorous, but business casual wear will fit right in.
Some of our favorite places for a nice night out do have dress codes so bring something other than sneakers and jeans if you plan to dine at 1789 in Georgetown or take in the view from the Hotel W POV Rooftop Bar.
As above, it does depend on when you’re visiting and what activites you have planned, but there are a few tips that should help you figure out what to pack for DC in you’re visiting for a casual trip to the nation’s capital. You’ll find men’s, women’s and unisex options.
You’ll fit right in in a city full of business casual but you might still want to take in some of the attractions. We have a special Wednesday evening National Mall tour just for conference go-ers!
Unless you’re going to a gala, you won’t find a lot of reasons for diamonds and high heels in Washington DC. There are plenty of restaurants that have dress codes but they discourage athletic wear and ripped jeans. You’ll find that its acceptable and more common to wear dark, fitted jeans in even the nicest hotel restaurants.
Snacks, obviously. (Just remember you cannot bring food into the US Capitol!) But in addition to this, there are a few ideas of special things to bring to make sure everyone enjoys their trip.