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Packing for Winter Travel

I will be traveling to Germany, Austria and Slovenia in mid-March 2020, and want to know what to bring. We will be trying to keep baggage within the carryon limits so need to be as efficient as possible. Weather looks like a high in the 50's and cold nights. Any recommendations are welcome. BTW I'm a woman, but my husband will be traveling with me.

Posted by
21718 posts

Whether it is going to be 0 or 30 or 50, we approach it the same way. A variety of light weight layers that can be added or delete as the temperature dictates. Lightweight underwear, top and bottom, medium weight sweater, some like turtlenecks (I don't because of the extra fabric around the neck) a medium fleece vest, good waterproof wind breaker/jacket on top, a stocking cap, lightweight knit gloves, etc.

Posted by
2987 posts

March is really unpredictable. It can be "nice" (highs in the high 50s/60s) but yes, at night it will be chilly no matter what. It could still snow, and likely you'll encounter rain.

You don't say where you're coming from so I don't know what kind of clothes you already own, but a convertable-style jacket with an outer shell and a warm fleece lining that can be removed is ideal for this season as long as you also have a warm scarf, hat, and gloves. Or just a heavier longer winter coat. Wear all this on the plane and remove (stuff scarf into arm of jacket, stuff gloves into pockets, etc). Wear your warmest, heaviest shoes for the trip on the plane with some nice clean thick socks and remove once on the plane (yes, I'm one of THOSE). Your alternate shoe can be some waterproofed sneakers/fashion boots/walking shoes in your luggage with a pair of flats.

I like to make the use of leggings and thick tights when traveling (or just existing in a cold climate) in winter. They pack lighter than pants, but you can wear dresses and skirts which are nicer for evening/dinner/just looking fabulous. Jeans are bulky and chilly and I generally avoid them until April-October. If you prefer pants, trousers with a wool blend are warmer. But for me, a few leggings/tights, casual dresses, heavier sweaters/cardis, scarf, jacket is a good combo for traveling in cities in the winter months, because you can easily shed what you've got once you enter the overheated restaurant/museum. I also layer them with knit tank tops/chemises underneath for additional warmth. The sweater tunic/legging combo is also great and space efficient if you wear the bulkiest one on the plane.

Posted by
794 posts

Boots. Waterproof boots. Preferably insulated. Well broken in. Because if your feet are miserable you will be too. You can always buy more clothes, but it's too late to be buying new boots when your walking around on vacation. There will be snow in mid-March.

Posted by
5784 posts

Layers. Moisture wicking base layer + thermal insulation layer(s) + Wind/rain outer layers. Waterproof boots and wool socks for feet, gloves for hands and cap for head. Pick combinations to match severity of the environment.
https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/layering-basics.html

Mid-march is actually almost spring. Unless you are in high mountain villages you should not have to deal with snow and ice on pavements. [Edit: corrected to add "not". If we expect snow/ice we bring our boot chains - Yaktraks, IceTrekkers, that that's not something you would need in Florida.]

Posted by
119 posts

I live in Florida and am fairly new to winter clothing. I did purchase a lightweight down jacket (on sale), and I have a nice light weight rain jacket. So for pants, what is a light weight but warm pant? I like the idea of leggings but have to think on the skirt thing as to whether I'd be comfortable in one. I generally wear shorts 24/7 for almost all months. Jeans get a little, but not a lot of wear. Any recommendations on boots? I have a pair of UGGs, but think I will need something sturdier for walking. Thats for the link Edgar...

Posted by
2987 posts

Mid-march is actually almost spring. Unless you are in high mountain villages you should have to deal with snow and ice on pavements.

Um...this can vary wildly depending on altitude and year, but even here in "sunny" Southern Germany March can quite often get below freezing at night. It's pretty common. Spring can start as late as mid-April.

I live in Florida and am fairly new to winter clothing. I did purchase a lightweight down jacket (on sale), and I have a nice light weight rain jacket. So for pants, what is a light weight but warm pant? I like the idea of leggings but have to think on the skirt thing as to whether I'd be comfortable in one. I generally wear shorts 24/7 for almost all months. Jeans get a little, but not a lot of wear. Any recommendations on boots? I have a pair of UGGs, but think I will need something sturdier for walking.

I'm from California so I feel your pain on not knowing what to pack. Until I moved here I had no concept of winter clothes. Your lightweight down jacket, if water-repellent, should be sufficent but if it's not water-repellent you're better off with the rain jacket and wearing a fleece or sweater underneath, along with the scarves/hat/gloves combo that will make all the difference, especially at night. (OK, gloves I don't wear as often, and I get by without hats much of the time, but trust me on the scarves!)

Leggings or tights with loose casual skirts or dresses are really both quite comfortable and fashionable. But if you'd prefer pants, wool-blend trousers are good. Jeggings worn with tunic sweaters are another good bet, as I find things that cling to my legs to be warmer than looser pants and are a lot more efficient for packing.

Uggs can be OK if waterproofed and for me, with an insole (too flat for too much walking otherwise) but I'd just go invest in a pair of decent walking boots. They don't have to expensive - just with some tread and support and buy a water proofing spray. The worst thing about traveling in Europe is having wet feet due to rain/slush and bad footwear.

Posted by
119 posts

Thanks for the replies...luckily I have sometime before I go, but it seems a little overwhelming at this point. Unfortunately my birks and shorts just won't do the trick...lol

Posted by
7696 posts

Look at Icebreaker layers which we used above the Arctic Circle.

Posted by
22 posts

We have traveled to Europe in November, December and March. My favorite jacket is a black hooded 3/4 length three in one. The reversible inside can be worn alone, the outer waterproof can be worn alone as a raincoat or all together for warmth. I purchased it at a Eddie Bauer Outlet. As for pants, I take ponte knits. A cashmere sweater is good because is it light weight but warm. Posters have suggested that puffy vest from Costco so will be trying that for our fall trip. As for boots, you may want to consider Skechers.
If you feel you need more layers, try Cuddle Duds long johns, which could also be used as pjs. But as other posters suggested, hat, scarf and gloves are a must.
My husband wears the Eddie Bauer packable down jacket but has a lightweight waterproof jacket to put over it for rain. If your rainjacket fits over the down that might work for you.
I roll that jacket tightly with heavy duty rubber bands and stick it in my wheelie tote on the plane so I have less stuff to deal with at the airports.
Have a great trip.

Posted by
7 posts

REI has some great wool tights that work well under pants to keep you extra warm. Keep in mind they can also make you very hot depending on the temp but they take up very little room when packing. One tip if you’re packing a rain shell (recommended) or a lightweight “puffy” jacket is to squish them down and seal them in a freezer bag. They take up way less room and fit fine in a gallon ziplock-type bag.

Posted by
2913 posts

I've been traveling to Europe in winter for years. There's not a huge difference in how I pack. I only bothered with waterproof shoes/ankle boots one year when London was alleged to be having a 'huge' snow storm. Let's just say we differ on what 'huge' is. Their's, not. They were totally unnecessary...weather proof sneakers or, in my case, usually a pair of leather shoes works fine...just one pair.

My coat is 3 season; ie, an unlined leather jacket for years, or, more recently, an early spring/late fall thin Landsend primaloft. Under it, if necessary, I wear a thin but strong layer...vest or boiled wool piece. I wear DNYJ black jeans 3 seasons a year so other than possibly one dressier pair, I'm in jeans...(I've downgraded from business casual, I'll admit). The key is to pack gloves, hat and scarf, which don't take up much room at all, but make all the difference on the coldest days. As a result your luggage is not heavier or larger, and only slightly different. Those three items are pretty small and light. To me high 50's is perfect travel weather and I would rarely have to bundle up with the hat and scarf, unless low at night or raining...leather gloves are a godsend even not in winter. Throw in a pashmina if you are at all worried for an additional layer...I always travel with one anyway.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
794 posts

I used to travel yearly to Nuremberg in mid-March for a trade show. Then I would end up visiting business partners in Prague, Vienna, or Bonn. (Yes, it was nice to be able to do this on the company credit card.) Only once did I experience time without snow, and that changed by the end of the trip. Usually it was only a couple inches, but I've seen over two feet of the white stuff too.

One thing you should know if there's snow, picking up after the dog is not as common in Europe; be careful where you walk, especially along the gutters.

Posted by
146 posts

As others have mentioned, having the right shoes is important. Pay particular attention to the soles if there is the possibility of snow. Make sure your shoes have some traction. We were in Stockholm last December and it snowed for a couple of days. It was lovely but treacherous. We are from the US northeast and accustomed to salted sidewalks which melts the snow. In Stockholm, they used grit which helped for awhile but ceased to provide traction after many people had walked over it and the sidewalks became quite icy and slippery. We became quite skilled at doing the penguin shuffle. Make sure your shoes/boots have a good tread. That would rule out Uggs in my book.

Posted by
5784 posts

RE: ...the sidewalks became quite icy and slippery.

My experience is that the icy pavements are more of a problem in the smaller towns and villages. The major cities tend to be responsive to snow removal and ice conditions, the exception being cities where snow/ice is an unusual weather event.

If you expect snow boots/shoes with lugged soles (e.g Vibram) work.

If the snow transforms to ice, boot chains are great traction anti-slip aids. That and take short steps. The original Yaktrax version has steel coils over rubber bands and is generally adequate for easy ice conditions. If you have serious ice, boot chains with spikes like the Icetrekkers will bite into glare ice. Take off you boot chains before walking on fragile floors.

Worst case slip/fall condition is light layer of new snow over glare ice.

Posted by
119 posts

Thanks everyone, great suggestions. The down jacket I bought is very light, and does fit under my rain jacket so I'm good to go on that. I also bought one of those down Costco vests, which were inexpensive and small. All of which maybe an overkill. I do need a pair of waterproof shoes, wool socks and a hat. I do have the gloves and a cashmere scarf. Do you suggest short sleeve shirts too, just in case of warmer weather than anticipated? As is my luck, I prepare for cold and get hot weather.

Posted by
119 posts

Edgar, can one get those boot chains there if needed?

Posted by
5697 posts

Rikki, when we went to Vienna and Germany one March I wore leggings under jeans -- comfortable until the day I needed to pull off the leggings in a restroom because of overheating. (Glad I had my Civita bag to carry the leggings out.) As they say, layers!

Posted by
5784 posts

Ricki,

A local would have to address local availability. I'm not sure if boot chains are more of an American/North American thing. We pack ours for winter travel because we are visiting snow zones (the reason for winter travel). And I have had ice slip falls not using my boot chains because is didn't look that bad. And as said, icy sidewalk pavements seem less of a problem in urban areas. And most large urban population centers are in the lower elevations.

Intersport is the big outdoor store in Europe. Found this in their on-line store:
https://www.intersport.at/sportarten/wandern-und-trekking/accessoires-und-ausrustung/?page=2
Not cheap in Europe.

Posted by
3789 posts

I would buy the boot cleats here in North America. Amazon will have them. Next winter you can donate them to some Canadian snow bird you know who can bring them North to their friends who can't go south for the winter. They can be life savers here in Ottawa. I need to invest in another, better pair. As for socks, fine gauge merino wool socks don't need to be just for freezing weather. I wear them a range of seasons. For travel, they keep feet warm even if wet, dry faster than athletic socks and have anti bacterial qualities making it possible to wear them more than once before laundering (just don't think about it too much). I like Darn Tough, because they are.....and now wool socks are pretty darn cute and come in various 'weights' so you can use them at home too. https://darntough.com/collections/womens-warm-weather-favorites
Several chajn stores carry them , and I expect Amazon as well.

Posted by
11288 posts

Just a warning. If you're from Florida and used to warm weather, you will feel very cold in these countries in March. So, be prepared to have to bundle up more than locals do, and more than someone used to the cold will have to.

Posted by
846 posts

My husband goes cold-tent winter camping in northern Minnesota and his contribution to the good advice you have already received is "Do not wear cotton --- it gets damp and stays damp, which will make you feel colder."

Fog makes you colder, just like humidity in summer makes you hotter.