This post will help you decide what to pack for a trip during the winter holidays.
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Packing List for Winter Travel
When figuring out what to pack you should focus on two things: where are you going and what you plan to do!
The highs and lows will vary greatly between New Orleans and New York City in winter (and if you’re interested in finding out what any given month is like in any city, we go over the average weather of each month on our things to do posts in each city!)
But there are few overall items that are just great for traveling no matter where you go – and thus they’ll be good for your next trip, too!
Trying to fit in all your various layers can be difficult, so we highly recommend packing cubes to help organize and save space in your luggage. The Shacke Paks are some of the highest-rated and come with a laundry bag to keep dirty clothes separate.
“Taskin Packing Cubes are a bit pricier, but I like the extra features. It has zip compression, to shrink the bag down, AND it has a water and smell resistant other side to put dirty clothes in right away.” – Tour Guide Dan
Scarf/Pashmina – This is an all purpose, 20 ways to wear kind of item. Rainy? Wear it like headscarf. Cold? Wear it like a cardigan/shawl. Not too cold? Wear it loose and just be stylish.
A great thing to have is a portable charger – you never know when you’ll find a working and available outlet, so why not find one that does double duty as a hand warmer. Zippo makes a rechargeable handwarmer that also has a usb port to charge your devices.
With winter weather, you’ll probably find yourself exploring a lot more of the indoor museums and attractions. Don’t forget that many places have security restrictions and bag checks (we have advice on where to store luggage in every city, too!)
- The best travel backpack is the Eagle Creek Global Companion Backpack for its number of pockets. It also zips all the way open, making it easier to find whatever ended up at the bottom.
- The Solo Duane Hybrid is a laptop bag and backpack that only takes seconds to convert.
They also make special travel scarves with hidden pockets to store cash, phones, and other small items to keep them secure and secret. The PopFashion travel scarf has a zippered compartment to keep items out of sight.
Another key item to have is sunglasses! We love ZeroUV glasses.
“My favorite travel sunglasses are anything from ZeroUV – cheap on Amazon, awesome UV protection, fun styles and cheap enough you can pack 1-2 pairs for a trip and not stress if you lose them.” – Tour Guide Becca
A few essentials that you should have no matter where you’re going:
- Ear Plugs
- Zicam Swabs (to prevent colds!)
- Nail Brush (not just for nails, it helps cleans so many things while traveling!)
- It’s best to have a small portable compact umbrella (this one fits into purses and small bags and comes in many colors!)
- Pack Towel – “My pack towel!! The XL is large enough to wrap around my whole body and packs so small!! “ – Tour Guide Johanna
What to Wear in Warmer Cities
For all about the weather and things to do in…
- New Orleans – December, January, February
- Charleston – December, January, February
- San Francisco – December, January, February
- Los Angeles – December, January, February
You won’t need to worry about very heavy jackets but it can still be cool, especially if you’re taking a night tour!
Layers are key. A good multi-purpose jacket is the Columbia Bugaboo II Interchangeable jacket. This jacket has a fleece inner jacket and then a waterproof outer shell that you can separate or wear together (basically its 3 jackets in 1) It comes in men’s, women’s and kid’s sizes!
Vests, scarfs, boots – these are a few of my favorite things. Since the weather in winter is a bit more temperate here, you may find yourself out walking more than you expected so make sure your boots have good insoles! Some of our favorites are:
If boots aren’t your thing (what?!)
- The most popular travel sneakers are Sketcher’s GoWalks Their new 4 series offer better soles and have great reviews from those on their feet often. Best of all, they are slips on so great for TSA security!
- In men’s shoes, the Merrell Range sneaker (also slip on) offers great quality and comfort.
What to Wear in Colder Cities
For all about the weather and things to do in…
- New York City – December, January, February
- Boston – December, January, February
- Chicago – December, January, February
- Washington DC – December, January, February
- London – December, January, February
It does get cold and it can snow in the winter so the best jacket is also waterproof. With this in mind, we often offer shorter tours or even ones that spend more time indoors!
We like anything from Camel Crown, their affordable 3 in 1 winter hiking jackets come in men’s and women’s cuts.
- We love down vests and the 32 DEGREES down vest is ultra-lightweight with a flattering fit, or the men’s Wantdo Packable vest (also available in jacket style) comes with a pouch for easy packing.
- You can pick from 45 different colors for an Achillea Pashmina (or get a reversible one for more outfits!)
- For kids, this Hiheart Rain Coat is cotton lined with a built-in hood.
A good pair of warm and waterproof shoes are a must as well. Vivobarefoot Gobi are hands down the best stylish winter boots for traveling, but you’ll also want some warm wool socks. No one can see them since you’ll most likely be wearing long pants so go for basic one color and you can mix and match and don’t need to worry about keeping pairs together.
Under layers are also a wise idea (especially for outdoor tours in Chicago or spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square!) Merino Wool Base Layer tights (men’s and women’s style) are a great option.
And don’t forget that hand warmers come in very handy on our nighttime tours.
We spend a lot of time on our phones (like most people) and have yet to find a smartphone friendly pair of gloves that we love (let us know on @freetoursbyfoot if you have a recommendation!) but we do love convertible fingerless gloves with foldover mittens for when it’s really cold.
For days with precipitation, in whatever form it may take:
- We think it’s smart to have a small portable compact umbrella that fits in small bags!