Traveling in the winter isn’t the easiest thing to do – you have to pack way more clothing than you do in the summer and are often at the mercy of the weather – but it’s also incredibly rewarding and if you plan on visiting German Christmas markets, viewing the Northern Lights, or planning a ski vacation, you’ll have to venture out into the cold. These winter travel tips from experienced bloggers should prepare you to face winter weather.
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Pick the right clothes to keep you warm
By Cat from The Compass is Calling
Having lived in Finland, we know cold weather firsthand. Layers are KEY to staying warm in cold climates. Choose a base layer and wear the top and bottom under your sweater and jeans or waterproof pants. Wool socks are best, they wick away moisture and also have antibacterial properties! Bonus, wool socks can be worn a few times without washing because of their antibacterial properties (I know, it sounds gross, but trust me…they don’t even smell).
Top off your outfit with a down jacket, a scarf, hat that covers your ears and gloves and you’ll be set! Scarves are a critical component – don’t leave this out.
Depending upon what you plan to do in the wintery climate, your shoe choice will vary, but if you have wool socks, your feet will stay warm.
Invest in good snow boots for winter travel
By Kaitlin from Around the World in Katy Days
A good pair of boots will make your winter experience exponentially better. When you think about it, your feet are the part of your body that are most commonly in contact with the snow, so why wouldn’t you want to make sure they’re warm enough to brave the winter? Feet have a large surface area and a lot of blood cells. Because the feet are at the end of our limbs, they’re prone to cooling faster than other parts of our body. By warming up our feet, we can quickly warm up the rest of the body, helping to keep us comfortable when we’re out in the cold.
I live in south Texas, where it rarely drops below 65 degrees. So when I was planning for my Christmas trip to Canada, I knew I had to invest in good gear. Along with a good jacket, the boots were at the top of my list. After lots of research, I bought myself a pair of Columbia Minx boots. They’re lightweight, but still sturdy, have a lot of traction, are completely waterproof, and so warm! I’m still in disbelief of how amazingly these boots stood up to the Canadian winter! Definitely research before you buy, since different activities will require different styles.
Check out the boots that Kaitlin recommends on Amazon:
Wear layers and warm accessories in cold weather
By Tihana from Wandering Polka Dot
I once lived in Finland during the winter. That alone might be one of the craziest things I did in my life and travels! But I also traveled to far north of Europe twice in that period: to northern Finland and northern Norway. To do that in December and January, you really need to be careful, especially if you want to spend a lot of time outdoors. The secret is in layers. If in doubt, take another layer. Seriously! I remember how I hated tights and undershirts when I was little, but when I had to walk to the university every day in -26 degrees Celsius, I understood it all. Severe winter is the time when fashion becomes less important than function of the clothes: to keep you warm. So make sure you pack enough layers that will keep you warm but let your skin breathe, and opt for natural materials.
Other things you want to include in your bag: a good lip balm, and a hand cream. Lips are especially sensitive during winter, and applying a lip balm whenever you remember can prevent dry lips and ugly (and painful!) cracks. I suggest keeping a hand cream in your purse, because even if you are wearing gloves (which you should!), you’ll probably take them off all the time to use your phone or take a photo with your camera.
My last piece of advice that I would have probably scoffed at prior to my northern experience: get yourself a winter hat! I couldn’t wait to ditch it at the age of 12—that’s when I considered myself grownup enough to do it, haha—but my ears would probably have frozen and fell off had I not bought a very warm faux fur hat. But honestly, even after that there were times, in places much less cold than the north of Europe, when I would wish for that hat. Reason I never wore it in the south anyway? I look awful with it. (Or so I think.) I’m so glad I got to experience the absolute necessity of looking bad
Check out Kris’ favorite winter coat here:
Keep your feet warm in the winter
By Stephanie from Road Unraveled
I took a trip to Iceland to experience New Year’s Eve, a time of year that is steeped in local tradition– and very, very cold. With just five hours of sunlight each day, I spent most of my time outside facing freezing wind and plenty of snow squalls, and yet I loved every second. What was my secret to a successful winter trip? I kept my feet warm.
Hypothermia most often starts in the hands and feet, so keeping your extremities warm is crucial to keeping the rest of your body warm—in fact, feet play an important role in how our bodies regulate temperature. Before leaving home I invested in a pair of waterproof snow boots and some thick socks made from merino wool. Merino wool is perfect for cold temperatures; it wicks away moisture like water or sweat from your skin, which keeps your feet drier and warmer.
The boots are made from leather and rubber, which are a dynamic duo when it comes to keeping snow, ice, and rain away from your feet. Whether I was standing in the snow or in an ankle-deep puddle, my feet never once felt cold or wet. When it comes to preparing and packing, don’t neglect your feet—your whole body will thank you!
Check out Kris’ favorite winter socks here:
Drive safely in winter conditions
By Maria from Both-Paths
If you are planning on going on a road trip during winter in a cold place, you need to be prepared to drive in snow and on icy roads. A road trip through a snow filled landscape is amazing. You get to see scenery up close and you can stop whenever and wherever you want to take beautiful pictures. However it can be a challenge, especially if you are not used to driving in these conditions.
The most important precaution to take is winter tires. Whether you are renting a car or driving your own, you must have winter tires for driving in sub-freezing temperatures. If you do not have prior knowledge about winter tires, talk to a local mechanic or your car rental agency to make sure you are taking the right precautionary steps.
Make sure your travel insurance is valid. Always travel with insurance, and make sure they cover you when driving. If you are renting a car you will also make sure with the rental agency or your travel insurance what will happen and who is liable in case of damage to the car.
When driving on ice/snow you will want to drive slowly. The biggest danger is driving/sliding off the road. You want to drive at a speed where you feel in control, and you are able to brake if you need to. Always test the brakes to see how slippery the road is. Do not feel pressured by other drivers at your back. Never drive in a speed you feel uncomfortable driving.
Most importantly enjoy your ride and just drive sensibly.
Get a flu shot before your trip
By Erica from Girl Unspotted
Getting a flu shot prior to your trip can be very beneficial not only to your health, but to the outcome of your holiday as well. Weather changes can be accountable to compromising our immune system, just like the stress of moving around too much. It’s better to be safe than sorry because personally, although very common, winter is the worst season to be sick. Especially if you’re on a holiday– you wouldn’t want to miss out on the snow, the Christmas markets, or the skiing! So it’s best to protect yourself and get vaccinated at least two weeks before your trip just to relieve that concern. Plus, do you know how easy it is to contract a virus at the airport itself, with thousands of people coming in and out? You’re not even at your destination yet and you’re already at risk.
Choose local ski areas over fancy resorts
By Jen and Ryan of Passions and Places
It’s true that the famous ski resorts like Vail and Park City have some of the best terrain, but unless you’re a connoisseur of ski hills, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. What you will notice, though, is how much more fun skiing is when you haven’t spent a whole day’s pay (or more) on just the lift ticket.
Fortunately, the smaller local ski areas in many places are much cheaper and often offer a more interesting experience. They don’t need to appeal to (or be able to accommodate) the masses, which gives them more character.
And if it’s your first time, lessons will also be cheaper at local ski hills and definitely worth the cost. It’s possible to learn to ski on your own, but a vacation is no time to do it. You’ll have a much better trip (and your travel companions will like you more) if you don’t spend the day frustrated.
Use food (and chocolate!) to stay warm in the winter
By Eva from Electric Blue Food
When packing for a winter destination the focus is probably mostly on the right clothes, but don’t forget about food! There is one food in particular that should never go amiss in your bag and that is… chocolate! Well, if not chocolate, let it be a little snack, possibly sweet.
When staying out in the cold for many hours, your body is burning a lot of energy in order to keep warm. Having a treat is not only a reward, but a necessity. Plus, in such climatic conditions you’ll be burning it off fast! This is a tip I learned when spending a winter in Norway: when you go out on a cross country skiing adventure, always have some chocolate with you. I’ve been following this rule ever since.
Another precious item is a thermos of hot chocolate, tea or coffee. It’s easier to imagine dehydration happening in hot locations where you get to sweat it all out. But you can get easily dehydrated also in the cold, especially because the temperature might not make you feel like drinking that often. So trade your regular water bottle for a thermos instead, and enjoy a hot drink whenever you feel like having something to drink. It will keep you hydrated and warm you up from the inside.
Drink the mulled wine at Christmas markets
By Maria from 203 Challenges
Cozy German-style Christmas markets pop up everywhere in the world in December and they make the life of the freezing traveler so much easier. I just head to the nearest mulled wine seller and keep on bringing tingly warmth inside my blood circulation until it becomes wine circulation. What helped even more during my last trip in Munich (snowing all the time but thankfully, right before Christmas) was a butcher’s where some of the salami was Christmas tree-shaped and that attracted me inside the warm store for an hour of tasting local culinary delights.
Save luggage space by packing smart
By Ha from Expatolife
Traveling in the winter is not a piece of cake, so I always prepare well in advance to avoid bad circumstances. I always bring extra-warm inner T-shirts and extra-warm tights to wear inside my clothes. They are super lightweight and do not take much space in luggage, so it’s a good idea to have them. You won’t need to wear many layers if you have these items, so you can help reduce your luggage weight. Also, you should wear hoodies and jackets outside your normal clothes when you get to the airport, because they will take a lot of space in your luggage. You also need to know well in advance where you are going to, because it’s not a good idea to get lost in the winter.
Come prepared for the cold
By Petro from World Mission196
What not do for winter in Europe… I had just spent a glorious two weeks on the beach in Seychelles and Mauritius when I arrived for my first Euro-trip. I had no jacket. Couple of long sleeve shirts, a set of boots that only lasted 3 weeks since they were not built for snow. The first day I wandered the streets of London spending about 600 Euros on equipping myself for the 3 weeks I had ahead in Europe. I ended up buying boots too small that I gave away. A jacket with no inner protection. A week later when I showed up in Frankfurt my mum-in-law came to the rescue with proper winter gear. This was already after I braved the snow in Amsterdam. Slight chance I may repeat these mistakes again this year when I show up for Christmas since I have zero winter gear on me.
See more from Petro on Instagram.
Have these winter travel tips convinced you to book a cold weather trip? Check out these posts for more wintery content:
- What to Pack for Winter in Iceland
- Iceland’s Golden Circle in Winter
- The Amateur’s Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights
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