Packing for Cold Weather Trips Like a Pro


Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s the holiday season and many of us are traveling to be with family and friends. Sometimes that means traveling to areas where you’ll need to dress warmly.

This can make packing for cold weather trips pretty tricky. It’s impossible to pack light AND still have enough clothing items to keep to warm, right? No, not exactly.

You can pack light and still conquer the bitter cold. And today’s your lucky day because we’re going to tell you exactly how to do it.

Here are our tips on packing for cold weather this holiday season.

What to Pack for a Cold Weather Trip – Layers, Layers, Layers

Your first instinct when it comes to packing for cold weather is that you have to bring a bunch of bulky sweaters. While these will definitely keep you warm, they’re going to take up a lot of space in your bag.

So how do you avoid freezing to death and survive winter storms but still pack light? It’s all about layers people.

When it comes to packing for cold weather, your best bet is to pack smaller items of clothing. These pieces can be layered and worn multiple ways during your trip.


Try to pick out pieces that can be worn together or separately. If items can be used for different activities and match with multiple items you’ve packed in your bag then you’re going to be in pretty good shape.

Let’s go ahead and break down all the different types of layers you should keep in mind when you’re packing for cold weather.

Cold Weather Travel Base Layer – Tanks and Camisoles

When you think about cold weather clothing, I bet tanks and camisoles don’t top your list. But these are essential items on your packing list, trust me.

These items are lightweight, take up barely any room in your bag, and are a great first layer that can be worn under a variety of different clothing.

Roll a couple neutral tanks into your bag and mix and match them with your other layers. Trust us, they’ll come in handy.

Exterior Layer – Tunics, Thin Sweaters, and Cardigans


These are winter weather staples and should definitely be included in your packing list. Skip your really bulky knit sweaters and stick with more lightweight materials.

Items like cardigans and thin sweaters will be easier to pack in your bag. Plus they’re loose enough that you can layer up plenty of clothing underneath.


Pack neutral colors so that you can easily mix and match these outer layers with your base layers and other clothing items.

That way it’s easy to create coordinated and fashionable outfits during your trip without too much effort.

And the best part is not only will you have more outfit options and less bulky luggage but you’ll also be nice and toasty warm.

Bottom Layer – Jeans, Leggings, and Tights


When it comes to pants, I always pack jeans for cold weather. Not only are they thicker than other types of pants or leggings but a lot of the time they’re roomy enough to layer clothing underneath.

Pack one or two pairs of jeans and then use the rest of your space in your bag to pack leggings or tights to layer underneath your jeans.

A great space-saving trick is that you can layer up any of the leggings you bring and wear them on their own to give you more outfit options.

Plus leggings can double as lounge/sleepwear which means you can check a couple more clothing items off your packing list.

Cold Weather Outer Wear – Winter Jacket or Coat

You’re not going to last very long if you’re not wearing a proper winter coat. This will most likely be your biggest and bulkiest item but the great thing about it is that you shouldn’t have to worry about packing it.

Wear this item on the plane to save on space. We recommend packing a jacket that is insulated and weatherproof.


Leave your thinner, more fashionable winter wear at home and stick to the basics. You can wear nicer winter accessories to bump up your look.

Also, check into winter jackets that have multiple layers as well. Some jackets let you unzip sleeves or have a lighter exterior jacket attached that you can take advantage of.

Packing Cold Weather Travel Winter Footwear

Insulated Shoes and Socks

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than walking through the snow and realizing that your feet aren’t being protected from the wet and cold.

When you’re packing your winter footwear, be sure to bring boots that protect against the cold and also keep your feet nice and dry.

Things like sneakers or running shoes usually come with breathable panels so they won’t offer much protection when it comes to packing for cold weather.  Also, be careful wearing cotton socks on your feet.


One of the worst things someone can wear during winter (in snow conditions) are cotton socks.  They easily soak up water from slushy puddles and are next to impossible to dry.

Personally, I can’t advocate wool socks, but I will suggest that you take a look at some synthetic fabric socks that have a solid reputation for keeping your skin dry and wicking away wetness quickly.

Be sure to stick with shoes that can handle the elements. Also plan to wear them on the plane because winter shoes and boots tend to be pretty bulky.

If it’s too bothersome to wear them on your flight, try stuffing smaller items into the boots when you pack them to save space.

Accessories are Necessities for Any Winter Trip Packing List


If you’re looking at your wardrobe and thinking it looks a little drab, take this opportunity to spice it up by wearing some fashionable accessories.

There are many winter accessories that come in a variety of styles and colors that will add some much needed holiday flair to your neutral winter layers.

Use these accessories as a way to switch up your outfits from day to day as well. Packing smart doesn’t mean you still can’t look good.


Packing things like hats, gloves, and scarves isn’t just going to be a great fashion choice. It’s also very practical.

Covering your head with a winter hat will help you conserve heat and stay warm. And don’t forget about your gloves. Hands tend to get especially cold during the winter season so make sure to keep them warm.

Pack Light by Wearing Your Bulkiest Clothing on Your Flight

If you’re determined to still pack your bulkiest, ugly Christmas sweater than I advise that you wear that and any other of your more bulky items on the plane.

Wearing these items means that they won’t take up valuable space in your luggage and leave you more room to pack some extra layers.

Now, this is going to seem pretty silly, especially if you’re traveling from a warmer climate. But planes tend to keep the cabin pretty cool and if you get hot on your trip, you can take off some of your layers.

Plus, you can put those extra layers to good use. Transform that extra jacket into a pillow or blanket for the plane ride. Then just layer up again when you land.

Cold Weather Packing Tip: Invest in Compression Bags

So you’ve followed our tips but find that you still don’t have enough room in your luggage. Well never fear because we still have one more trick up our sleeve: travel compression bags.

Compression bags condense your bulky items and are great space savers. Plus they also come in handy when you want to stay organized. Use them to separate dirty clothing or to group together different outfits.

Final Thoughts on Packing for Cold Weather Trips

Save yourself the trouble and plan out your winter vacation packing list the right way. Traveling during the holiday season can be a little stressful, we know.

But if you take the time to plan out your outfits and pack the necessities, you should be in pretty good shape. Just remember to pack neutral layers and wear bulky items on your flight.

So go out there and enjoy walking in a winter wonderland while staying nice and toasty warm. ‘Tis the season!

Do you have any travel tips for packing for cold weather? Maybe you just want to brag about your best ugly Christmas sweater? Well, don’t be shy and share all your packing secrets with us in the comments below.

Meghan Ward

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