Winter Essentials

Travel

It’s getting chillier here and I’ve even considered putting on a scarf once or twice. (Disclaimer: it’s definitely still 70 degrees here on a regular basis.) But the cooler temps had me thinking about what I always pack when traveling in colder climates.

Maybe you’ve got a trip to Scandinavia planned or maybe you’re visiting family in Upstate New York. Either way, I hope my essentials might be helpful for your packing needs.

Like I mentioned before, I love a good scarf. My particular favorites have been a big red blanket scarf (R.I.P. – if anyone ever sees one on the DC Metro, let me know.) A good travel scarf should be thick enough to actually keep you warm, should be large enough to wrap around you like a blanket or to create a nice pillow for you. I also recommend getting one that’s somewhat colorful – every photo from my time abroad in Europe included my black winter coat and my bright red scarf. It added a pop of color to my otherwise all black ensembles.

I mentioned my black coat above – I highly recommend a light weight puffer jacket for winter travel. I believe mine is from REI but I’ve also heard good things about the Uniqlo versions. Essentially you want something that will keep you warm, will layer nicely over thicker sweaters, and that you can smush down into nothing when packing your suitcase. Some of these puffer jackets come with a little bag that they smush into. Can 10/10 recommend these for travel – especially if you’re going between temperatures.

I dream of thick sweatshirts and cozy sweaters, but unfortunately they’re quite heavy and unless you’re going to the Arctic Circle, they might be overkill. Instead I would recommend packing layers – lots of layers. The trick to layers is to start thin and work your way out. A thin turtleneck or a tighter tee shirt can be worn on their own or under another thin sweater. That next layer should be thin enough to layer under your coat but could also be worn on its own. I’m a big fan of a thin sweater over a dress with tights. And we all know you’ll be popping in and out of museums and restaurants, so you want to be able to take off layers as you’re reintroduced to the warmth.

I like tights under dresses (and under pants when it is particularly cold), but nothing beats a thick pair of socks. If you’re planning hikes or a walking tour, your toes might get chilly. Grab a thick pair of socks or two and throw them on. Your toes will be happy (and if they’re good quality- warm and dry) and you won’t feel the chill quite as much. I’ve got good pairs from REI in the past and they’re the best.

If you are planning on thick socks, make sure they will fit in your boots. Personally, I don’t think a pair of hiking boots is necessary to wander around Paris in the winter but you’ll want a nice pair of flat boots for your travels. I recommend a black pair that’ll make you look chic and European, while also going with everything you’re bringing for your trip. Top tip: wear them around the house or to work a few times to make sure they’re extra comfy before you go.

I bring a well-stocked purse with me in the winter – Chapstick is essential (this one’s my favorite), hand lotion is nice. A good moisturizer with SPF is key. (You can get sunburnt even in the winter!) Sunglasses are also helpful – especially on windy days. Hand sanitizer will keep you from getting sick, but just in case cough drops and emergency Day-Quil are also good to have around in the winter. I also try to take Vitamin D supplements because lack of sunshine really does on a number on me.

My last essential is my phone to double check hours – a lot of touristy spots have different hours in the winter. Double check before you go!

What are your winter essentials? Please let me live vicariously through your trips – where are you heading this chilly season?

Packing Light

Travel

Thanks to Ryanair I have mastered the art of packing light. No matter the weather or the adventure, I can squeeze my life into a backpack and a purse, ready for takeoff. It’s a talent I’m quite proud of, developed through the years, solidified in a serious of rules. Do I break these rules every time I travel? Why, yes! But I like to think of them as guidelines for success.

Rule Number One:

Checked luggage is a sign of weakness. If it cannot fit into my two allotted cabin bags, it will not be coming with. No checked bags. (The exception to this rule is any trip longer than two weeks, like moving to a new country.)

For my recent road trip, I had to not only manage the airline requirements, but also the fact that there would be five of us stuffed into a tiny European car for long stretches of time. Excess luggage would not do. I managed to pack all of my belongings into my purple Jansport backpack. (If you want a reliable bag that’ll hold all your belongings for years to come, Jansport is your new best friend. My mom has one from her time in college; they last forever.)

Rule Number Two:

If you’re worried your bag might burst on your trip, bring an extra bag with you. Most tote bags will roll up tiny and can be used doing the trip to carry around what you need for a day or to store food in during your road trip. Just because you need to condense for the flight, doesn’t mean everything needs to be squished at your destination.

Additionally, bring along plastic grocery bags. They’re a necessity if you don’t want all of your clean clothes to smell like your dirty clothes. You can also use them to wrap dirty sneakers or wet bathing suits.

Rule Number Three:

I wear dresses just about everyday when I can, but I understand that hiking in a dress may not always be practical. For our road trip, we went from city life to chilly mountains to hot summer weather in just two weeks. So everything I brought had to be versatile.

Layers are your friend. Bring along a tee-shirt and a sweatshirt and a long sleeve shirt that if necessary can be worn all at once. Scarfs are also handy as blankets and neck warmers, and a winter jacket that can fold up nice and small is also convenient for inconsistent weather travel.

Everything can be worn more than one time, as well. Sure your Instagram feed may start to look like you’ve traveled the world all in one day, but you don’t need a separate shirt for each day of travel. Your plain black tee-shirt can be worn multiple times. Mix and match what you have, depending on the day.

Rule Number Four:

My grandmother follows the general rule that if a piece of clothing can’t survive a whirl through the washing machine, it won’t survive on her. My rule is that if a piece of clothing won’t look nice after being rolled and smushed in a backpack, I don’t need to bring it.

My dresses are all jersey or cotton or rayon (essentially, not silk or cashmere). If it holds a wrinkle, it ain’t coming with me. If you’re unsure if your clothing will survive the trip, squish up your shirt or your dress in your hands for a minute; does it smooth out after a shake or two? Pack it. If it’s still full of wrinkles or you’re beginning to wonder if Spain has overnight dry cleaning, leave it in the closet.

Rule Number Five:

With few exceptions, you will be able to do some shopping upon arrival. On our road trip, we skipped bringing along hotel sample shampoos and made a stop for shower essentials in a local grocery store. If you’re traveling with others, your hair can survive a few days of cheap shampoo split between the group. (Do be warned that sunscreen is not popular in many places. Thailand and Croatia, for example, were both lacking in sunscreen.)

You don’t need to bring along your medicine cabinet during travel. My personal opinion is that makeup isn’t necessary on vacation to begin with, but that’s just me. Deodorant, though, should absolutely be worn at all times, in all weather conditions. Please and thank you.