Travel Tips

How To Pack For A Cold Weather Trip

Take the Guess Work Out of Cold Weather Packing

While a lot of people go on trips to escape the cold, some embrace it!

A person wearing a parka and scarf sits while putting on winter gloves.

Whether you’re traveling to Iceland for the northern lights and incredible views, heading to the snow for winter sports, or just traveling somewhere cold to see loved ones, you must know how to pack for cold weather.

Learning how to pack for cold weather can be quite challenging, as you need more clothes and the clothes are larger than for warm-weather trips. If you have skis, snowboards, or other winter equipment to bring, the task only gets more difficult.

Find out which items to add to your packing list in order to streamline your airport security experience and learn the top helpful tips for cold-weather air travel below.

Read for the best cold-weather packing list and even more advice for winter travel.

Wear the Heaviest Clothes on the Plane

Packing for cold weather means bringing a lot of layers and a lot of bulkier items. Think about how much smaller a t-shirt is than a sweatshirt. If you’re heading to cold weather, specifically snowy activities, you may need thick jackets and proper footwear.

One of the best tips for winter packing is to wear your heaviest/biggest clothes on the plane. For example, wear your long parka and your winter boots. Wear multiple layers of heavy clothing as well, like a sweatshirt, vest, coat, etc.

This makes room and weight in your suitcase while still making sure you have everything you need. Of course, you don’t have to wear those items for the entire flight, just when checking in your bags. You can always remove them and stow them during the flight if you get too warm.

Pack Layers

To ensure you stay warm during your cold weather trip, pack layers. Layering for cold weather reduces the number of super bulky items you need and helps you adapt to weather conditions. If you’re heading to the slopes, you’ll want layers so that you don’t overheat when you’re resting indoors.

Include short sleeve tops, long sleeve shirts, a couple of sweaters, and many pairs of socks. Plan out layering, whether it’s for fashionable outfits or practical use.  Make sure you have the layers you need to dress comfortably for weather variations and activities.

Use Packing Cubes for Compression

Packing cubes are a must-have when packing for cold weather.  Compression packing cubes push the air out of your clothes, making them smaller. While this doesn’t change how much they weigh, it can make a lot more room in your suitcase. Since you’ll be bringing thicker items, compressing them down will help you fit everything you need.

There are tons of packing cube options out there. We’ve got a dedicated list of suitcase packing tips that may help. 

Cold Weather Accessories to Bring

A variety of cold weather accessories: A beanie, gloves, wool socks, and winter boots

Packing for cold weather isn’t only about the big coats and boots! Successful layering for cold weather includes the right accessories.

Aside from regular toiletries, make sure to include a few additions for the weather. For one, you’ll want to have chapstick on hand. Cold weather is very dry. Flying down the slopes will certainly leave your lips thirsting for moisture, but even walking around outside can have a similar effect.

Be sure to remember the smaller winter accessories that can make a big difference. For example, along with warm clothes add these to your packing list:

  • Hats
  • Gloves
  • Mittens
  • Beanies
  • Scarves

Another item to consider bringing is a pair of sneakers. Much like you don’t only want to have a pair of sandals with you during hot weather, only having boots is not ideal. If there’s a warmer day, you want to workout, or you’ll be doing an indoor activity, you’ll want to have a pair of sneakers with you.

Choose the Right Materials

A lot of cold-weather clothing items are big and bulky, but material can make a big difference. Opt for thinner items made from a more insulating material when you pack for cold weather. For example, choose wool sweaters and socks, fleece-lined leggings, etc.

Additionally, consider moisture. Materials that hold moisture make for a pretty painful cold-weather experience, especially if you’ll be in snow or rain. Be sure to have water-resistant outer layers, gloves, etc. If you’re spending time in Portland, a rain jacket is a must.

Packing Only a Carry-On in Winter

The vast majority of tickets don’t include a checked bag. Purchasing additional baggage can add up quickly, drastically increasing the cost of your travel. To keep costs down, you may want to use only a carry-on to pack for cold weather  

But given the size of the items you want to pack, this can seem difficult. While it does require some savvy packing skills and diligent planning, it’s completely possible to pack in only a carry-on for cold weather.

Remember, if you wear your heavy boots, thick jacket, and bulky sweater on the plane, you’ll have a lot more room in your carry-on. Not to mention, the compression packing cubes and other suitcase packing tips will help.

An example of what you may pack for cold weather in your carry-on include:

  • One set of loose pants
  • Two sets of long johns or fleece-lined tights
  • About 4 long-sleeve shirts
  • Two sweaters
  • Waterproof shoes/boots
  • Wool socks
  • A rain jacket
  • Another packable jacket
  • One pair of pajamas
  • Gloves
  • Hat

Snowboarding and Skiing Destinations

One top reason to head to the cold is for skiing and snowboarding. In that case, you’ll also have to pack gear for your trip. There are a few options for transporting your snow gear to cold destinations.

Flying with Gear

For some people, flying with their gear may make the most sense. You must check the exact rules of your airline, but you can normally transport your snowboard, skis, etc. as checked luggage.

If you are a solo traveler and only have one checked item's worth of gear, this option may be for you. You’ll be able to use all of your favorites during the trip and can pack your clothes in a carry-on to save on baggage costs.

However, make sure you confirm the cost of flying with your gear with the airline. Be sure to follow their requirements for packing and sealing your gear.

Shipping Skis/Snowboard beforehand

Consider if flying with gear is worth the hassle. Even if you check the largest items, you still have helmets, huge boots, and more to deal with. For families that can mean a LOT of big items. In some cases, it’s just not feasible to travel through the airport with all of this equipment.

It may make more sense to ship skis or ship a snowboard to your destination ahead of time. Consider a specialized shipping company. Find out the timeline, shipping locations, process, and all other conditions. Compare the cost of shipping the gear to flying with it. It may not be as expensive as you think to ship skis or ship a snowboard when you factor in the cost of checked baggage. As a nice gesture to those handling all of your snow gear, consider tipping those assisting you.

Consider Renting

Skis available for rent on your cold weather vacation.

Renting is another option. While this can get expensive if you are using the gear for multiple days, it may be worth doing.

Call ahead to find out the cost of equipment rental for all necessary people and days.  Compare this to the price of checking your skis and shipping skis. Inquire about any specials or promotions that may apply to your party. Again, the cost may be worth the convenience and in some cases, you may only pay a little more to rent than you would to haul all of your equipment there.

Not to mention, when you rent winter equipment, you won't have to worry about hauling it around with you. It can make air travel a lot simpler and less stressful, which is why it may be worth it even if the cost is slightly higher.

Other Helpful Tips for Cold Weather Travel

Keep Tabs on the Weather

When packing for cold weather, you want to know exactly what you’re packing for. Keep a close eye on the upcoming trip forecast. This will help you pack all of the right things, but it’s also important for travel considerations. Harsh winter weather may lead to flight cancellations and delays.

Backup Plan

As you monitor the weather, come up with a backup plan. For this, you must know the fine print about your flight and airline. How does the airline handle weather delays/cancellations? What is the process if your flight is canceled before takeoff vs during a layover? Knowing all of the conditions will help you come up with the best backup plans.

Allot Extra Airport Travel Time

Even if winter weather does not stop your flight, it may delay your airport travel. Snow, slush, freezing rain, and bone-chilling temperatures can all make it take longer to reach or leave the airport than usual. Factor in potential delays when you’re planning your travel day. Make sure you have plenty of time to get to the airport before your flight regardless of the weather if you’re leaving from a cold place as well. If the destination is the only cold part of your travel, allot enough time between arriving and your first event.

Plan Cold Weather Outfits First

To properly pack for cold weather, you must implement extra planning since the items are larger. Pull out everything from your list that you want to bring. Then, create outfits. Think about the itinerary for your trip, and try on potential outfits. Prioritize multi-purpose pieces that suit several outfits. When it comes to cold weather accessories, opt for neutrals that go well with different looks. By doing this, you can eliminate unnecessary items while still ensuring you have all of the cold-weather things that you need.

Winter Gear: Bring vs Buy 

Depending on the distance and purpose of your travel, it may be smarter to buy some items at your destination. This is especially true if you don’t live somewhere cold. If you’re flying from Texas or Southern California to a cold location, you may not have winter gear already available. In that case, don’t buy it in your hometown. Wait until you arrive to buy those items. Try to find used or discount ones, and gift or donate them before you head home.

Even if you do have such items, determine if it makes more sense to buy or use them in your destination. When traveling to other countries, for example, you may simply not have the room to bring every winter item. Expensive or particularly high-quality items should take priority on your packing list.

Choose the Best Airport Parking Solution

As you can see, packing for cold weather is tough, but diligent planning and preparation make all of the difference. Focus on packing layers, using space-saving compression cubes, and wearing your largest items on the plane. Additionally, compare cost and convenience to determine if it’s best to fly with winter sports equipment, ship skis/other gear, or just rent at your location.

While you’re planning your winter trip, don’t forget about airport transport. You need a convenient, affordable solution for parking your car when traveling. The Parking Spot is your trusted airport parking company. With  38 locations at 22 airports, we provide an exceptional experience to improve your trip.

The process is simple and convenient. Simply head to our website or app to choose the best deal on airport parking. Want to waive the reservation fee? Just join the Spot Club. You’ll also earn free parking and additional perks this way. Download the app and save your payment info to enjoy touchless lot entry and exit. After you park, our shuttles take you right to the airport and we can even clean your vehicle while you’re gone (at select locations).

After you return from your trip, use the Parking Spot app to find track our convenient shuttle and head back to your car. Use our app for a fast, touchless exit, or get help from one of our friendly cashiers.

With the Parking Spot, you can always count on an excellent airport parking experience. We’re committed to hospitality and safety, offering lit, fully-fenced lots and luggage assistance.

Make your next cold weather trip even easier with The Parking Spot. Reserve your spot today!


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