How to pack for a winter weekend away

Here’s proof it’s possible to keep warm on a winter holiday with only carry-on baggage.

woman with warm winter jacket up around her face

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her dream is an endless summer where bikinis are work appropriate attire.

Packing for a winter holiday is no mean feat. Unlike a summer trip, where you can throw a few pairs of bathers and T-shirts in your bag and be done with it, cold weather requires a more considered approach – especially given baggage restrictions and the bulkiness of warm clothes.

As a sunseeker who rarely chooses to voluntarily travel anywhere colder than my current climate (London), I must admit I had forgotten this until I started packing for Stockholm. In an unfortunately not so uncommon blonde moment, I had booked to go to the Swedish capital for Easter, failing to realise temperatures were in the realm of minus six to two degrees. A rookie error, I found myself faced with how to keep warm for four days with only carry-on baggage.

Here's how I managed.

It's all about the outer and underwear

  • Pick your warmest jacket (preferably a puffy down one that's in the knee length region).
  • Your warmest scarf – mine probably qualified more as a wool blanket.
  • Wear these on route so they don't take up valuable space and you don't freeze on arrival. 
  • A beanie or hat is essential as most heat escapes from your head.
  • If you'd like future use of your fingers, gloves or mittens are also a must.
  • Keep these warm accessories handy in your handbag or coat for arrival.
  • Thermals are a godsend. I wear thermal stockings that look like black tights but have a warm, thermal lining. A merino wool singlet or long sleeve fitted top will also keep you warm while letting your body breathe.

middle aged woman all rugged up for winter

Warmer outerwear means that you can wear fewer layers and easily disrobe when you enter heated restaurants and shops, without having to strip off countless layers or sit there sweating.

Choose clothes wisely
Only take clothes that can be layered over your thermals easily and choose materials that will help to keep you warm.

  • I took one pair of leather pants, a pair of jeans, two skirts and a dress. All of those could easily be worn over my thermal tights.
  • I also packed two super warm wool and cashmere jumpers, two long sleeve tops, a lightweight but warm jacket, a t-shirt and a singlet.
  • A singlet might sound strange but under the lightweight jacket or jumper and my coat it actually worked well and meant that I didn't overheat indoors.


Save on space when it comes to shoes

Wet or cold weather calls for sensible shoes. You shouldn't need more than two pairs either.

  • Pick a pair of sturdy but stylish boots and wear these on route to your destination.
  • Pack a second pair of waterproof sneakers for hitting the footpaths that you can walk in for hours on end.
  • Make sure both can withstand the elements and have a good grip so you don't go sliding down streets.

Remember unlike a warm weather holiday the main part of your outfit that people will see is your coat, scarf and shoes. If you're happy with these the rest of your outfit is largely hidden anyway. Also, even as someone who often prioritises style over practicality, there's nothing worse than being cold and miserable – warm and happy wins every time!

Do you have any tricks for packing for cold weather?

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