Travel during winter in Europe is totally different. A lot different. Winter and all that sudden changes in weather patterns can be really stressful and may totally alter your itinerary and what you had planned. But it doesn’t mean you give up travelling during winter and just stay home with a hot cup of chocolate.
Here are my tips that I learned from my winter travel to Swedish Lapland to experience the aurora borealis.
Dress in layers
As someone who comes from the tropics and not really used to winter travel, what to pack can be a big challenge and can leave you out in the cold. Literally. So I made Uniqlo my bff when shopping for thermal wear and ordered winter boots from AliExpress. The boots were cheap, delivery arrived on time before my trip and made it thru some 2 feet of fresh snow.
Dressing in layers is the way to keep you warm for sudden drop in temperature and you can easily take off the outer layer when you get warm.
Your packing list may include one of or all of the following.
- a durable and dependable down jacket with hoodie (invest in this one!)
- a couple of long sleeves thermal inner wear ($19 at Uniqlo)
- a couple of bottom thermal inner wear (also from Uniqlo)
- a couple of long sleeve t-shirts
- a fleece jacket ($9 at AliExpress)
- 2 thick wool socks
- 2 thin wool socks
- 1 winter ski gloves
- 1 thick bonnet with lining
- 1 beanie (cute one for photos)
- 1 thick scarf, I got the one that can double as a blanket during my flight
- 1 winter ski pants, the waterproof one ($40 at AliExpress)
- Grabber Hand Warmers
- Columbia Women’s Cold Weather Boots
Allow extra buffer for travel time
Airports, train stations can be chaotic during winter travel. Flights and train schedules can be disrupted by snow and erratic weather patterns during winter. This is the same scene for road trips too. It can wreck your schedule and the entire travel itinerary you have prepared.
So when plotting your flights and land travel schedules, allow at least 4 -8 hours of buffer time. Don’t plan everything too tight and allow some flexibility too. Have back up plan too in case you need to stay an extra day in your destination.
Take note of how early it gets dark
One thing I miscalculated during my itinerary planning for my Northern Lights trip in Kiruna was how early it gets dark. December in Kiruna, Sweden means that it starts to get dark around 1PM in the afternoon and sun rises past 10AM though you don’t actually see the sun but you do know its daytime.
So it pays to check what kind of activities you have planned and timing of the day. My dog sledding trip was cancelled because the tracks were covered with fresh snow from last night’s drizzle.
Check Christmas day and New Year day schedule
During December 25th and 31st and January 1st, many shops and restaurants are closed. So plan ahead about grocery shopping, Christmas and New Year’s eve dinner menus.
Schedules of tourist attractions may vary during the winter season so better check first during your itinerary planning. This so true for Christmas markets that opens up and changes their market feel and vibe in preparation for the festive season.
Lastly, enjoy the Christmas Perks
In some countries, Christmas season is also the time where shop’s stock inventories are replenished. So that means Christmas sales are everywhere. Also, try to see as much fireworks display near where you are as the New Year’s Eve approaches. Enjoy eggnogs and Christmas bread. I stuffed myself with a lot of Christmas bread at my aunt’s house in Denmark.
So there you go, itinerary planning and the actual travel experience maybe a bit challenging during winter but it doesn’t mean you should miss the fun!
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