I am constantly cold, unless I’m hot. Seriously: if it’s not between 74 and 80 degrees F, I’m either breaking out in goosebumps or dripping sweat, no exaggeration.
The sweating thing I’m kinda okay with (hence living in Thailand for a year), but winter weather has some serious potential to make me miserable.
Even so, I’ve spent time living and traveling in cooler climes (see: Baltimore, Puno, England, Canada) and have developed a full-blown winter travel packing strategy to survive. These are some key items I bring along when I pack for winter travel:
This may sound excessive but trust me, there’s nothing more unpleasant than having to walk around in the winter with wet hair. Unless you know you’ll be staying exclusively in hotels with blow dryers, pack a travel blow dryer – you won’t regret it!! These blowdryers have an adjustable voltage setting and usually fold down pretty small. You can get one at a store like Target or Walmart, or online through Amazon.
Hot water bottle
I didn’t even know hot water bottles existed until traveling to Israel, where each bunk bed in our hostel was provided with our very own hot water bottle. Filling one of these up with steaming water from the water boiler before sleep is 100% necessary for me and my toes in the winter time, whether I’m in Puno with no heating or Baltimore…with heating. You can also get this at Target, Walmart, or order online.
Lightweight down or synthetic jacket
You are traveling so you probably don’t want to lug a ton of heavy stuff around. That’s where layers come in.
I have found that a body-hugging bottom layer both on top and bottom is super helpful when traveling in the winter. Then you stack on more layers for warmth: my winning cold weather layer combo is my Northface zip up fleece and Patagonia Nano Puff jacket on top. This jacket is incredibly lightweight and folds down into a ball.
I can’t express how amazing it has been to have a lightweight synthetic jacket in my possession. I don’t know how I traveled without it.
Once it dips into the 30’s F (below 0 C) and starts snowing, I need to upgrade to my down coat – and I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t found a good way to take this traveling. I just kinda stuffed it into my suitcase when I brought it to Peru :/
I got my big winter down coat used as a hand-me-down, but if you’re heading into really wintery cold snowy weather I recommend something long (at least to the knees; mine goes below), water resistant, and with a faux-fur-lined hood and elastic (tight) wrists. You could check REI or a store like Macy’s for parkas.
Fleece leggings were essential for me when living in Puno where the temperature ranged from the 40’s to the 60’s in the daytime. Regular leggings were nice for daytime hikes, but the fleece leggings actually protected me from the wind and biting cold when the temperatures dropped due to wind or the sun setting.
Bonus: guys, these are SO SOFT. You will be running your hands up and down your legs all day.
(I bought my fleece leggings at Walmart: ClimateRight by Cuddl Duds Women’s Stretch Fleece Warm Underwear Leggings. I have them in a few different patterns but I like the grey and black polka dots the best. They may be marketed as thermal underwear but I wear them by themselves and feel fine about it.)
Travel Winter Boots
There are a few options when it comes to winter shoes. If you are gonna be somewhere very cold and very snowy, you probably want snow boots. If you’re going somewhere cool but not freezing, you could get by with either leather walking boots or hiking boots depending on your needs.
I got my snow boots at DSW for like $50 but you could definitely throw down for some Sorels or UGG brand snow boots for a lot more if you think you’ll use them outside your travels. Look for boots that are tall, waterproof, and insulated. You don’t want a zipper near the bottom of the shoe where snow will be because it can rust and/or get stuck.
So these probably won’t suffice if looking “cool” or “stylish” is a travel prerequisite for you. I wore my Merrell waterproof hiking boots while traveling in Peru and they were perfect for the cooler temperatures we encountered at altitude. Obviously, they double as hiking boots for when you go trekking.
The “waterproof” part is key here, not just to protect from wet weather, but because it adds a bit of insulation to the shoe. I also like that mine are a “mid rise” boot for more ankle warmth.
Hardy leather boots
This type of shoe is perfect if you’re traveling in the winter and will encounter some wet weather but won’t necessarily be tromping through snow or hiking mountains. Perhaps you’re visiting cities in Europe in the winter. Some hardy leather boots paired with thick wool socks should do the trick. I’ve had my eye on the following boots:
Face lotion and lip balm
Windy dry cold plus the constant change from being inside in heating to outside in cold can really dry out your skin. At the very least, I recommend protecting your face (which will be the most directly exposed to the weather) with some face lotion and chapstick or lip balm.
I use . It’s parabens-free and fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and safe for sensitive skin. The bottle is small enough to bring in your carry-on while flying. Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer from Sephora
More winter travel packing tips:
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