Packing for cold weather when you’re travelling is a whole skill in itself. This post isn’t about packing for the extreme cold, like, when you go skiing, but if you’ve got a wintry weekend break or week planned, and you don’t want to freeze, here’s my advice for your winter holiday packing list.
I’m writing this post because I went to Chicago recently, and to The Hague, in November, and if I hadn’t have been warm enough, the trip could’ve been ruined (like, that time I went to New York in December).
Genuinely, packing is preparation, and preparation is happiness.
Winter holiday packing list
1. Winter coat
Obviously, a thick, hooded coat is essential for any winter packing list. Try and get a long one to keep your bum warm too.
My favourite coat I think I’ve ever bought is this red puffa French Connection one from TKMaxx. It’s lightweight yet so warm. I’d totally recommend you have a look for something similar on SimplyHike – check out their down jackets for example.
I’d recommend you take both if you’re away for the week. It’s nice to have the variety when you need to wear a coat every day.
2. Wear layers
Travelling in winter is all about the layers. Let’s look at some of the best and warmest clothes I own. This sports top, also from TKMaxx kept me from freezing to death in the middle of the night in Canada. It’s got a hood and is made from breathable material. It’s meant to keep you cool in summer, and warm in winter.
I’d strongly advise you to go for sports clothes when you’re travelling to a cold destination, rather than high street favourites. They’re made better and designed to last a while, rather than just a few weeks.
Merino wool is a great material for a top that will keep you warm, preferably with a tshirt underneath and a thermal under that if you need. Wear a fleece on top and then a jacket over the top of that. If it’s going to rain you’ll also want some sort of rain jacket over the top of that too.
Take strappy tops but don’t put them under your thermals, the way thermals work is to work with your skin to help the air circulate. Wear over the top for an extra layer on your body.
3. Take a hat
A hat is the easiest, cheapest and most portable way to keep warm when you’re travelling. You can pick up thick and decent ones from Primark. I loved this yellow one keeping me toasty in April Lapland, until I left it at the Elves Hideaway.
Hats are a great call for those January festivals – stay warm and cool
4. Bring some scarves
A cold neck equals a cold body. Pack a few scarves in your winter suitcase, of differing thicknesses, and you can change up any outfit. Same coat, same trousers, but different scarf = new outfit. Easy.
Also can be used as shawls on the flight over, so make sure not to pack them all.
5. Take tights
Along with a hat, tights are a great portable and cheap way to stay warm when travelling to cold places. Keep a pair in your bag for emergencies. Check the denier, and bring a range along.
When I agreed to stand on the top of a bus on the open air for three hours in Chicago’s late November, in the annual Magnificent Mile parade, I knew it was going to be COLD.
And so, I took my ski thermals along.
A long sleeve top, and some trousers to keep me warm in the freezing temperatures. Thermals are specially designed to allow the heat to circulate in the best possible way to keep you toasty, and keep the body heat in. I strongly recommend you get a set of these for your winter packing list.
7. Winter trousers
Your winter travel outfits really wouldn’t be complete without trousers, obviously. On my recent cold weather trips I’ve actually just taken my usual black jeans. I’ve layered them over thermals, or tights, sometimes both.
You can get special all-weather trousers, but it’s up to you if you want to justify the expense for your winter trip.
8. Boots for winter travel
Footwear is THE most important thing when you’re packing for the cold. I got these beasts from Sorell and they’re all toasty with lambswool inside. Love the pink laces – love I can change the look using other laces too.
Hiking boots are cool too but I’m guessing if you’re going on some sort of wintry city break, you’ll want something with a bit of style. There are actually lots of lined footwear options around on the high street, but it’s up to you whether you want to splash on something that will last forever, or just the next few weeks.
Do a test run of your shoes before you go away.
I found my Guess knee high boots the other day and thought, ‘why do I not ever wear these?’ I put them on and went out for the day and by the end of a day at a rainy Winchester Christmas market, I remembered. My feet were wet and cold.
Also, buy your boots a little bigger so you can wear good socks.
9. Winter socks
Buy thermal for the best results, and invest a bit of cash.
Even in day to day life I think socks are something that are totally worth investing in. Sure, I have a few cheapo pairs, but do I get the same level of joy sliding my feet into them every day? No.
Get yourself a few good pairs of socks to keep you all the warmer on your winter holiday.
9. Winter gloves
Like socks, I believe that investing in good gloves is important.
Protect your extremities.
10. Ear muffs
Maybe you want some ear muffs to keep you warm on holiday?
Ear muffs aren’t for me. I feel too restricted and like my most important sense is being shut off, but something for you to think about.
One of the nicest things about being cold, is heating up again. A lot of the cold countries I’ve visited: Japan, Finland, Germany and Canada for example, all have excellent spa facilities.
Make sure you’re ready for any opportunity for a spa and pack your swim stuff in too.
5 tips for your winter holiday packing list
1. Think about bringing some heat pads that you warm up in the microwave. You can insert them in your boots and gloves easily to keep you toasty.
2. Even if it’s warm keep hats, gloves and tights in your day bag just in case. If you’re out and about and freezing your ass off these are the items to buy to keep you warm and having fun.
3. When you’re in a cold country they usually crank the heating up in the hotels, luring you into a false sense of security. Don’t believe the heat when you get ready for the morning and if you can’t stick your head out the window to test, make sure to check the weather apps for a real reflection.
4. Eat wisely. Think about what makes you hot at home. For me, porridge and soup. You’ll burn more calories being cold and eating well will help you to stay warm. Not that I’m suggesting you travel to a new country and then just stick with porridge and soup – but something to think about when you’re reading the menu, right? #nosalads
5. Wear your heaviest winter travel clothes on the plane, that way you can get away with the baggage fees if you’re not going for too long. They’re not going to charge you for a coat!
17. Use packing cubes to compress and organise your clothes
When you’ve got this much bulky stuff, how you pack is just as important as what you pack. Use packing cubes to organise and compress your stuff, so you can fit it all in as easily as possible.
Packing cubes are also great for organising your smaller items too, like your underwear, jewellery and socks.
I do use packing cubes, but not as in such a formulaic way. I basically have loads of smaller bags that I’ve picked up around the world and pack them together instead. If I was just starting out though, I’d totally order some packing cubes online.
Winter travel checklist
- Winter coat
- Wear layers
- Take a hat
- Bring some scarves
- Take tights
- Use thermals
- Obviously you need trousers
- Boots for winter travel
- Get really good socks
- Maybe some ear muffs?
- And you could take hot patches
- And don’t forget your toiletries, tech and first aid kit too!
– Staying warm with two hoods in Japan
Your winter packing list
Being cold on a trip can ruin it. I don’t want you to look back on a trip and just remember how cold you were rather than the amazing times you had. Often, when we can’t remember what exactly we did, we can still remember how the place made us feel.
New York is kinda tainted for me thanks to me going after a Caribbean cruise and being totally under prepared for the baltic temperatures. My winter packing list definitely needed work on that trip.
I was FREEZING.
My dream to visit New York in December, froze with the weather and not wanting to buy a whole new wardrobe for my four days. Don’t be like me. Get your winter holiday packing list sorted, so you can just enjoy the trip!
And if all else fails, MULLED WINE is the answer.
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