It’s nice to chase the sun and pack for tropical vacations for warm destinations, such as Australia, Indonesia, Thailand or the Caribbean. But winter can be just as nice. But winter packing can be stressful.
I mean, snow is just so beautiful but can it be tricky to keep warm and cosy and not wish you were seated in front of an open fire snuggled up in your blanket with hot cocoa in hand. So here is your ultimate winter vacation packing list so you just have to throw in all the items and spend more time on trip planning and wanderlusting.
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Absolute Winter Travel Essentials
- Travel insurance – There is no way around it, travel insurance is a must when you leave the country. Chances are, it’s actually cheaper than at home and it covers you in cases of accidents, emergencies and sudden illnesses. You never know what kind of flu germs are fluttering about that your body is totally unprepared for. Trust me, I’ve been there. (Here’s how to deal when you’re sick during your travels.)
- Travel guides – Before heading off on vacation, you need to do a little research and preparation. This way you know what to expect, know which top attractions are on your wishlist and what you’d rather skip. Lonely Planet guides are among the best ones, offering insights into local culture, history and attractions as well as hotels and restaurants.
- Change of Clothes – No, this doesn’t mean that you should pack extra clothes just in case. It means that when you head out for a day trip, it’s wise to maybe have an extra pair of socks or a fleece jacket ready.
- Heat Packs – If you are outside for a while, snow hiking, skiing, or husky sledding maybe, you need to stay warm. A thermal flask is a good start but it won’t last long. To keep your hands warm (which is helpful when trying to operate your camera), you can just reach for your heat pack, punch it and get warm fingers instantly.
- Water proof spray – At least a day before you leave for your winter vacation, spray your shoes and maybe even your winter jacket with waterproof spray. The fumes can be annoying and you don’t want to make your other clothes in the suitcase smell, so leave it outside for a bit and let the spray sink into the fabric. Maybe even pack a smaller spray so you can freshen up during your trip as well.
- Passport/ID – Before you jet off to a foreign destination, make triple sure you have packed your passport. It seems like a nobrainer but it does happen that you leave it on the table. To be on the safe side in case your passport gets lost or stolen on your trip (have travel insurance!), upload a digital copy to your secure cloud for easy access. Also, don’t forget your visa.
What Suitcase to Bring
Depending on where you are going, you might not want to bring a suitcase along. If I had opted for that in my trip to Samí-Land, I would have had to push it through knee deep snow – even though our accommodation was not too far away from the bus parking. If you travel by car and straight to a winter resort, things might be easier. Always research in advance!
For short trips, I highly recommend picking either a small carry on suitcase or a medium sized backpack. The general rule of thumb with good travel packing is to never pack for all eventualities and never fill to the brim. Hence, the smaller the luggage, the less likely you are to overpack.
A backpack I use for both short and long term travel is my NorthFace. It even works for carry on only. If you decide on a suitcase, make sure its outer lay isn’t fabric. Trust me, it will get all damp and icy and you don’t want that. It might even get moldy if you can’t get the wetness out in your hotel room either. Instead, choose a sturdy plastic or metallic shell.
How to Pack Winter Luggage
You don’t need to travel different climate zones, it’s always hard to plan for your winter vacation packing. The main rule is to roll your clothes and dress in onion style. Layers are the way to go.
Wear thermal underwear to stay warm at the core. And then a sweater on top. Wear your bulkiest and heaviest clothes on the plane (you can take them off if it’s too warm) so you have more space in the suitcase.
Winter Clothing to Pack
One of the most important things to pack for your winter vacation is warm underwear. Depending on how cold it gets, you might want to invest in thermal underwear.
Even if it’s not too cold, you can wear it underneath lighter clothing so you don’t have to pack just heavy sweaters and fleeces. Make sure it’s breathable and made from cotton so you don’t sweat too much.
Coat, Outdoor Jacket & Fleece
The key for cold weather outer wear is breathability with wind blocking and water repellent qualities. Getting the freezing wind blown right through to your skin is the worst. And you don’t want your clothes to get all damp and wet once snowfall sets in.
Depending on the temperatures you might want to choose a long, quilted coat or shorter but warm outdoor jacket. In case you expect quite the shift between tolerable and freezing cold, opt for a fleece and a warm outdoor jacket to keep your travel luggage light.
Winter & Snow Boots
Warm shoes are an absolute must. When your feet get cold and wet, you can easily catch a cold. Bring shoes that will keep your feet warm and dry. There are in-shoe soles to ensure breathability and prevent sweating.
For outings in snow, it’s best to wear at least ankle high boots so the snow can’t get into the shows. It’s a good idea to push your pants into your shoes and maybe even pull up your socks to prevent that from happening in case the shoe is too low. High snow boots are the best for long winter walks.
Gloves, Scarves & Hat
Keep your head, hands and neck warm! A woolen hat is the way to go but be prepared for static hair. Maybe use anti static hair spray before putting it on should you need to look very presentable after your trip outside. Merino wool is especially good for extra warmth. Felt hats look really cool in case you want to spice up your outfit.
Are you using your phone outside? Invest in touch screen gloves. For scarves you can choose between eternity scarves to really get cosy. Or get a long knitted scarf.
Sweaters & Ponchos
On top of your underwear, you can wear a light top and/or a sweater. Always opt for (comfortable) woolen sweaters instead of those made from polyester. They will keep you warm and you won’t sweat as easily.
If you aren’t walking outside or not for too long (and want to look stylish), include a poncho into your winter vacation packing list. They look especially great if you style them with a simple look in minimalist colours, such as all white.
Leggings and Pants
On top of your thermal underwear or instead of them you can wear warm leggings. Alternatively, you can wear leggings underneath your winter pants.
Just make sure your pants are water resistant if you are walking around in the snow. Furthermore, they should sit tight so the cold can’t creep up easily. Jeans can look great but feel clammy get soaked quickly.
The right wool socks are absolutely necessary in keeping your feet warm. Fun fact: the sami people in Samí-Land used to wear thick self knitted woolen socks and stuffed hay into their boots to keep warm and dry.
If you are not sure which socks are good for outdoor adventures, browse through the options in a sports or outdoor shop. They are especially catered to an active lifestyle. Even though prices are higher, the investment is really worth it. Those socks don’t fall apart as easily as regular ones either. Again, try merino wool socks.
Winter Packing Beauty Regimen
The terrible combination of cold outside and dry heat inside can wreak havoc to your already irritated skin. It will feel dry fast. So make sure you adapt your regular beauty routine to the cold climate. It should be hydrating but also contain more oils. Let any lotion – face, hand or body – fully sink into your skin before heading out. You don’t want freezing temperatures to harm your skin through the water in the lotion.
Lip Balm & Sun Lotion
Again, lip balm should be protective AND come with a UV filter. Snow bounces off the sun light and you can get a sun burn in the snow. That’s a actual thing. Most people forget how thin the skin on your lips is, so lip balm for this is very important.
Speaking of sun protection, sun lotion is key too. I recommend getting a facial cream that already contains light sun protection so you don’t have to cover up all the time, especially during short walks. For regular outings, get your normal sunglasses on your winter vacation packing list.
Are you doing winter sports? Get special polarized glasses for that. To get extra hold and not have sneaky sunlight come in from the sides, pack wrap-around sunglasses. Depending on the light situation, you need to choose the tint. For instance, yellow is ideal for low light conditions, ornagefor cloudy days and green for good contrast.
For cold, wet weather, water proof makeup is a wise choice. You don’t want snowflakes to instantly dissolve your mascara or it to run down and freeze on your cheeks. Additionally, switch up your makeup so it doesn’t dry out your skin even more.
If you are planning on taking your electronics with you, make sure they stay out of the cold as much as possible as it will affect battery life and might even cause possible damage I always bring my charging cable and external battery along for emergency charges.
In case you want to take photos outside – especially in temperatures below freezing point – take extra batteries with you and keep them close to your body so they stay warm and don’t lose their power as quickly. To reduce the glare from the snow or bring out the sky and clouds, opt for a polarizing filter or at least a UV filter to protect your lens. Moreover, carry your camera in a waterproof bag.
Also, to stay connected all the time, try a portable hot spot. It comes in handy if you get a little bit off the grid, such as at the snow monkey park in Japan.
Tell me: Where are you planning on going on your winter vacation?
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A great guide – I love your advise on waterproof makeup :) I always forget that!
Hi Katie, I know right? I tend to forget it too and thought I really need to include it here so I have the list as a reference point for myself, too.^^
Claire P says
Hi Anne Marie, this resourceful article will be of great help for me and my friends as we are planning to go on a vacation this winter season. I know how much efforts you have invested in sharing this and I would like to thank you on behalf of my friends as well.
Hi Claire, thanks for leaving a comment. I hope you have a great winter getaway with your friends. :D