Staying Warm: Winter Travel Tips

The winter forces us to get a little creative.

Heading south isn’t the only way to cope with winter – in fact – with just a few simple tips traveling during the winter might not seem so bad. As I was reminded this week during a taping of David Letterman, banish the winter blues while traveling by telling yourself, ‘I’m not at work today!’ … ‘I’m not in a boring meeting!’ … ‘I’m not paying bills!’ If attitude is everything, than following a few winter travel tips can help to make a trip not only palatable, but fantastic.

King Ludwig

This beach-addict has been converted (somewhat) to the pleasures of the season. It began a few years ago, when I arrived in Germany in January.

Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany.

Visiting King Ludwig’s castle was a highlight of my trip to Bavaria. Although the January temperatures were frigid, I was prepared with a pair of leggings beneath my jeans. This extra layer (along with an extra pair of socks) made a significant difference. While packing for cold weather is essential – there is another tip I learned from this experience.

The distance between the parking lot and the entrance to the castle was about a mile, gradually uphill. On a sunny, January day, we decided to tackle the trail on foot. Basically, to keep moving. Visitors who waited in a line to get a horse and buggy ride to the top were shivering. Instead of praying that the line would move quickly, we didn’t let ourselves get cold by standing motionless in freezing temperatures.

Winter Bonus: During this same trip, I visited the medieval walled city of Rothenburg. A January visit got me upgraded to the best room in the small family-run hotel, with no extra charge.

Christmas Market in Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden

When my plane landed in Stockholm on a Friday afternoon in December, there wasn’t a flake of snow on the ground. By the time I woke up on Saturday morning, the entire city was covered in about six inches of pristine, fluffy snow. Not only was it a beautiful sight to see – but unfortunately the pure volume of the white stuff also encouraged everyone to take a taxi.

At this point, I was glad to have studied the public transportation system before leaving home. While others were desperately trying to grab a taxi to get around the city, I had all the basics down. If you’re usually the type of traveler that likes to explore a new city on foot, you might be forced to use public transport more during the winter. That means doing a little research on the subway, and the buses or trams too.

Winter Bonus: If you need inspiration to brave the cold, the winter Christmas markets in Stockholm might do the trick. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of hot drinks available too.

Ponte Vecchio in the distance, Florence.

Florence, Italy

It almost seems silly to provide cold weather travel tips for Italy. This country is so beautiful, so full of indoor attractions, so overflowing with restaurants you’ll never want to vacate, that strategies for visiting in the winter are barely necessary. Traveling to Italy during this season also ensures a lack of crowds – or seeing Florence in its most natural state.

One February I arrived in Florence and noticed Italians wearing long, wide, colorful scarves. These warm accessories played double duty – they were a shawl in a restaurant over a sweater or a blanket during a train ride. Another accessory I was glad to have is a bag with a strap across the body. This is always a good idea in Italy, as your bag will be the most safe, but especially during the winter it allows you to be hands free and bury those hands in your pockets.

Winter Bonus: I have a soft spot for Tuscan soups, and the winter is the best time to find them. After a chilly morning of strolling around Florence, there’s no tastier lunch. This couldn’t be the same in the sweltering summer months.

Snowy Streets in Megeve, French Alps

Megeve, French Alps

I thought I was prepared when it came to packing for cold weather, and then I arrived in Megeve in the French Alps one December. I was met at the airport by a driver in the most serious pair of snow boots I have ever seen to date, and he told me repeatedly, ‘it is all about the socks. The two pairs you have on. The extra pair you have at hand. SOCKS.’ I took his word, and threw an extra pair of socks in my bag during this trip.

Another trick (especially for ladies carrying a handbag) is to bring a hot water bottle on your trip with you. A small one will easily fit into a purse and hot water from a tap will provide an instant warm up. In a place like Megeve that receives a great deal of snowfall, a jacket with a hood is necessary as well. If only they made a jacket with a hood that had a pocket for a hot water bottle…

Winter Bonus: Vin Chaud. Hot wine. Enough said.

The Chrysler Building

New York City

This is my first winter in New York City, and it’s colder and snowier than I anticipated. A pair of rubber boots (waterproof won’t even do – rubber boots with extra warm socks are the way to go) will ensure that while others stare at piles of slush with fear, you can trudge right on through and stay dry doing it.

A couple more cold weather travel tips for New York are to know where to warm up. This article I wrote for iStopOver features some of my favorite coffee houses in the city. Hot chocolate, tea, or a classic cappuccino might just give you a little extra boost of energy. If the day is too unbearable for exploring on foot, it might be time to check out some of New York’s more exotic museums. This article I wrote for iStopOver features details on the Museum of Sex, the Tenement Museum, and more.

Winter Bonus: Winter Restaurant week (going on now). Lunches for $24 and dinner for $35 – incredible value.

If all of these cold weather travel tips fail, a little warm weather dreaming (Sicilian sunshine, beaches in Croatia, Miami, and Spain) never hurt anyone.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne-Katrin says:

    Very good information! I have already been hunting for something similar to this for a little bit now. Thanks!

  2. Scott says:

    Jessica,
    I just discovered the site, enjoying it! I have been to Europe three times in September, and I have vowed that next time I go it will be in Winter. In addition to adding that cozy feeling to many of the towns which your pictures showed, of course it is more affordable!

    1. Jessica Colley says:

      Hi Scott, thanks for reading. September is a beautiful time to go to Europe, but there is also something really special about the crowd-free winter months. I love the blankets they put out at outdoor cafes to keep warm while sipping a coffee. It’s a whole different experience. When you go, report back with your thoughts! Jessica.

  3. Umbria Villa says:

    Nicely described about the places and each of them offers something unique. Great information!

    1. Jessica Colley says:

      Thanks for reading!

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