Winter [Travel] Outfit Guide

Do you struggle with packing for your winter destination? I did for many years.

However, in my travels to winter havens like Aspen and Breckenridge in the USA, the enchanting Lapland in Finland, or the fairy-tale-like town of Hallstatt in Austria, I’ve learned the importance of packing the right winter outfits.

💡 Make sure to read the 5 Biggest Winter Clothing Mistakes below.

Additionally, as someone who has visited Alaska during the winter season, I have gained knowledge about how to handle frigid temperatures and which clothing is appropriate to wear.

💡 Don’t forget to check out the packing checklist at the end of this article.

Now, let’s break down each item you should consider for your winter vacation and share my experience.

Please keep in mind that winter destinations can have different weather conditions and temperatures every year. Of course, they don’t drastically change from one year to another, but some winters can be a lot harsher than others.

For example, I lived in Germany for a while, and during some winters, I didn’t even need a heavy winter coat. On the other hand, there was one winter when I would have frozen to death without it. Checking the weather forecast before flying or driving is always a good idea.

For winter travel outfits, pack a heavy coat, thermal underwear, mid-layers like a sweater, and warm pants. Additionally, you wear thermal socks and waterproof boots and pack gloves, scarves, and a hat in any colder destination.

Read our full guide:

Heavy Coat

Amazon Essentials Women's Heavyweight Long-Sleeve Hooded Puffer Coat (Available...
  • REGULAR FIT: Close but comfortable fit through chest, waist, and hips.

A heavy coat is your winter armor and the most critical part of your cold-weather gear. When temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C), it becomes indispensable. But remember, we’re not just talking about any coat; this is a specially designed heavy coat to protect you from the harshest winter conditions.

Best for Temperatures Below Freezing & City Tours

Look for coats with down insulation as they offer great warmth-to-weight ratio and pack down small, making them ideal for travel. Alternatively, a parka with synthetic insulation can be a good option. It might be a bit heavier but performs well even when wet.

Color Tips

For winter coats, darker colors like black, navy, or charcoal can be versatile and more resistant to visible staining. However, a pop of color can brighten your winter days – consider hues like burgundy, emerald, or even a cheerful yellow!

Thermal Underwear

Thermajane Women's Classic
  • Heat Retention: Thermajane womens thermal underwear keeps your body heat from escaping. They provide extra warmth...

A good base layer, like thermal underwear, can make the difference between enjoying your trip and feeling constantly chilled. This layer traps heat and wicks away moisture, keeping you warm and dry.

For Sub-Zero Temperatures & Outdoor Explorations

Merino wool thermals are excellent for outdoor activities such as sightseeing, known for their warmth, breathability, and odor-resistance. For city tours, thermal underwear made of synthetic materials like polyester can be a good fit.

Thermal Color Tips

Sticking to neutral colors like black or white ensures your thermals stay discreet under your outfits. Remember, function comes before the fashion for this layer!

Mid-Layers

Mid-layers trap heat and provide additional warmth. This can be a sweater, a fleece jacket, or even a stylish shawl or poncho.

Good for All Temperatures & Activities

A thick woolen sweater or a fleece jacket is an excellent choice when temperatures range between 20°F (-6°C) and 32°F (0°C). They also layer well under a heavy coat for more extreme cold.

Mid-Layer Color Tips

As mid-layers are more visible, this is your chance to play with colors and patterns. A striped sweater or a bright poncho can add a fashionable flair to your winter look.

Winter Pants

Arctix Women's Insulated Snow Pants
  • Thermalock: Durable coating that offers a higher resistant to outdoor elements including wind, water and snow. Also...

Don’t forget about the lower half of your body. A pair of thermal-lined winter pants can make a big difference in your comfort level.

Essential for Low Temperatures & Outdoor Activities

Winter pants lined with flannel or thermal material can help retain heat. These are perfect for outdoor activities like walking or snowshoeing.

Pants Color Tips

Stick to neutral and darker colors for winter pants. They tend to match well with other items and are less likely to show stains from slush and mud.

Socks & Boots

Sale
Columbia Women's ICE Maiden II Snow Boot, Black, Grey, 5 B US
  • ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: The waterproof leather upper features our seem-sealed membrane bootie construction, and our...

Cold feet can make your whole body feel cold. Investing in quality thermal socks and waterproof winter boots is a good strategy to keep your feet warm and dry.

Best for All Winter Conditions & Activities

For socks, nothing beats the warmth of wool. As for boots, go for waterproof, insulated options that offer good traction on icy surfaces.

Socks & Boots Color Tips

Colorful socks can add a fun element to your outfit, while boots in black or brown are versatile and easy to match.

Winter Accessories

Sale
TRENDOUX Winter Gloves, Knit Touch Screen Glove Men Women Texting Smartphone...
  • ☛HIGH SENSITIVE TOUCHSCREEN: Featuring high sensitive conductive material on thumbs, forefingers and middle...

Accessories like gloves, scarves, hats, and earmuffs complete your winter gear and provide that extra warmth and protection you need.

Best for All Winter Temperatures & Activities

Opt for thermal gloves, a thick scarf to protect your neck, and a hat or beanie to prevent heat loss through your head.

Accessory Color Tips

Accessories are great for expressing your style. Go bold with colors and patterns, or stick to neutrals for a more refined look.

Layering: The Key to Staying Warm

Sale
WEERTI Thermal Underwear for Women Long Johns Women with Fleece Lined, Base...
  • ✅[ALL-DAY COMFORTABLE WEARING EXPERIENCE]: Long johns for women fit snug like a second skin for minimizing heat...

Layering your clothing helps maintain your body temperature in the face of changing weather conditions. The base layer helps manage moisture and sweat, the middle layer provides insulation and retains body heat, and the outer layer protects from elements like wind and rain.

Moreover, the temperatures can vary significantly from outdoors to indoors. While it may be freezing outside, indoor areas such as museums, restaurants, and shops are usually well-heated. If you’re dressed only in a heavy winter jacket without adequate layers underneath, you might end up feeling too hot and uncomfortable once inside.

So, when packing, include a variety of clothes that can be easily layered. This may include thermal undergarments, t-shirts, sweaters, light jackets, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. The key is to ensure that each layer is breathable so moisture can escape, keeping you dry and warm.

Forgetting to pack for layering can limit your comfort and enjoyment during your winter vacation, making it a critical aspect to consider when preparing your winter clothing checklist.

  • Base Layer: This should be a tight fit to wick away moisture. As mentioned, thermal underwear is perfect.
  • Mid Layer: This layer retains the heat your body produces. Sweaters and fleece jackets are ideal mid-layers.
  • Outer Layer: This layer shields you from the weather – wind, rain, and snow. Your heavy coat is your outer layer.

5 Winter Clothing Mistakes

Dressing for winter activities during your trip is a fine balance between staying warm and remaining comfortable. Here are the four most common mistakes to avoid:

1. Overdressing

One common mistake travelers make is overloading on clothes to the point where it restricts their movement and causes discomfort. Opt for a layering system where each layer serves a specific function. This will allow you to maintain comfort even during winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding.

2. Not Wearing Waterproof Clothing in Snowy Destinations

Snow is frozen water, and if you engage in snow activities wearing cotton clothes, regular sneakers, or wool gloves, you’ll find yourself wet and cold. It’s essential to have waterproof items, such as boots and jackets when visiting snowy destinations.

3. Neglecting the Extremities

While packing for a winter vacation, travelers often focus on getting the perfect winter jacket and overlook the areas of the body most vulnerable to cold, such as fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Make sure to pack warm socks, gloves, a beanie, and a scarf to keep these areas protected.

4. Overlooking the Importance of Proper Technology

Fashionable winter clothes and accessories may not always serve the purpose. Understanding the technology and characteristics of winter wear is crucial to maintaining comfort and making the most out of your trip.

5. Neglecting the Importance of Layering

A common mistake travelers often make when packing for winter vacations is neglecting the importance of layering. It’s easy to think that a heavy winter jacket will be enough to keep you warm, but the reality is, the effectiveness of your winter clothing depends heavily on your ability to layer properly. Read our laying tips below.

How to Layer Winter Clothes?

Layering your clothes in winter is more of an art than a science. Here’s a guide to doing it right:

Base Layer

The base layer maintains your body temperature and wicks sweat away from your body, keeping you dry even after prolonged physical activity. Consider investing in base layers with thermal reflectivity, which uses metallic dots to reflect your body heat back to you.

Fleece or Down Jacket

A fleece jacket or a down jacket serves as the second layer. Fleece is soft, lightweight, easy-drying, and perfect for mild to moderate cold weather. A down jacket, on the other hand, is an excellent lightweight thermal insulator and compresses down to a compact size, making it ideal for moderate to intense cold weather.

Waterproof Outer Layer

The outer layer should be waterproof to protect you from wind, snow, or rain. It’s important that this layer is also breathable, allowing sweat to evaporate.

Packing Tips for Different Temps

Depending on your destination and the month, you might want to pack slightly lighter clothing items or heavier ones. We summarized packing tips for three different temperature ranges for you:

Packing for Mildly Cold Temperatures (50ºF to 68ºF / 10ºC to 20ºC)

For destinations with a mildly cold climate, a fleece jacket, a windbreaker, and waterproof boots should suffice.

Packing for Moderate Cold (32ºF to 50ºF | 0ºC to 10ºC)

For moderately cold destinations, where temperatures can drop below 10ºC – 50ºF, you’ll need a base layer (second skin), a down jacket, and a waterproof, windproof jacket.

Packing for Intense Cold (Below 0ºC / Below 32ºF)

For extremely cold destinations like Alaska, Iceland, and Norway, where temperatures often drop below 0ºC – 32ºF, you’ll need a more powerful base layer with thermal reflectivity, a heavier fleece, and possibly a vest, topped with a waterproof, highly thermally insulated down jacket.

Waterproof, breathable pants and waterproof snow boots with a strong thermal insulator are also crucial, as are waterproof gloves, a neck protector, and a beanie.

25 Destinations | With Winter Coat Recommendation

Prague in the winter!

Below, we provide you with the 25 most popular winter destinations in the world with their average temperatures. Remember that these temperatures are averages and can vary based on specific years and climate changes.

Please note that numbers 20-25 are US destinations:

1. Berlin, Germany
  • Average High: 39°F (4°C)
  • Average Low: 29°F (-2°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional/Recommended
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Average High: 42°F (6°C)
  • Average Low: 34°F (1°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional
3. Paris, France
  • Average High: 46°F (8°C)
  • Average Low: 36°F (2°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional
4. Vienna, Austria
  • Average High: 39°F (4°C)
  • Average Low: 30°F (-1°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional/Recommended
5. Prague, Czech Republic
  • Average High: 37°F (3°C)
  • Average Low: 27°F (-3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
6. Zurich, Switzerland
  • Average High: 39°F (4°C)
  • Average Low: 29°F (-2°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional/Recommended
7. Stockholm, Sweden
  • Average High: 35°F (2°C)
  • Average Low: 27°F (-3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
8. Oslo, Norway
  • Average High: 34°F (1°C)
  • Average Low: 26°F (-3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Average High: 39°F (4°C)
  • Average Low: 32°F (0°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional/Recommended
10. Helsinki, Finland
  • Average High: 30°F (-1°C)
  • Average Low: 20°F (-6°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
11. Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Average High: 37°F (3°C)
  • Average Low: 27°F (-3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
12. Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Average High: 46°F (8°C)
  • Average Low: 36°F (2°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional
13. Moscow, Russia
  • Average High: 21°F (-6°C)
  • Average Low: 10°F (-12°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
14. Warsaw, Poland
  • Average High: 35°F (2°C)
  • Average Low: 26°F (-3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
15. Tallinn, Estonia
  • Average High: 32°F (0°C)
  • Average Low: 24°F (-4°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
16. Riga, Latvia
  • Average High: 34°F (1°C)
  • Average Low: 26°F (-3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
17. Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Average High: 32°F (0°C)
  • Average Low: 24°F (-4°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
18. Dublin, Ireland
  • Average High: 46°F (8°C)
  • Average Low: 37°F (3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional
19. Brussels, Belgium
  • Average High: 41°F (5°C)
  • Average Low: 32°F (0°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional/Recommended
20. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
  • Average High: 40°F (4°C)
  • Average Low: 30°F (-1°C)
  • Winter Coat: Optional/Recommended
21. New York City, USA
  • Average High: 38°F (3°C)
  • Average Low: 26°F (-3°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
22. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada, USA
  • Average High: 45°F (7°C)
  • Average Low: 22°F (-6°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
23. Aspen, Colorado, USA
  • Average High: 36°F (2°C)
  • Average Low: 10°F (-12°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
24. Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Average High: 32°F (0°C)
  • Average Low: 18°F (-8°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended
25. Anchorage, Alaska, USA
  • Average High: 25°F (-4°C)
  • Average Low: 11°F (-12°C)
  • Winter Coat: Recommended

Packing Checklist | For Women

The following list includes the essential clothing items that I generally pack for my travels. They have proven their utility time and again and will adequately equip you for mildly cold temperatures.

Basic Equipment:
  • A casual but stylish lightweight sweater
  • A pair of jeggings or jeans: I love both equally, as they make for ideal travel companions!
  • A thin vest/sweatshirt or a light and casual sweater: I usually opt for a thin sweatshirt. However, if I’m on a longer trip, I also like to bring along a comfortable, thin sweater. It’s great for lounging around.
  • Three stylish and comfortable t-shirts: When worn under a sweater, they can provide an extra layer of warmth if needed.
  • Three pairs of sneaker socks
  • Underwear
  • Two comfortable, wire-free bras
  • Panties (as many as you need to feel comfortable)
  • Pajamas: I often pair a comfortable shirt with leggings.
  • A stylish scarf or shawl

With these basics, you’re well-prepared for cool weather during your holiday. You also have t-shirts on hand for when the sun comes out. I found this especially useful in Ireland, where the weather changes between wind, sun, and rain.

For colder (and wetter) destinations, the following items should also be included in your packing list:

Additional Items:
  • A softshell jacket: Windproof & water-resistant
  • A second pair of jeggings or jeans: So you have a spare. If you’re staying longer, a third pair wouldn’t hurt.
  • One or two pairs of thermal leggings or thermal tights: Great for wearing under jeggings/jeans, especially when it’s really wet and cold.
  • One or two long-sleeve shirts
  • A cozy fleece jacket with a large hood
  • A winter jacket or a functional jacket (e.g., a softshell jacket, which is water and wind-resistant and ideal with the right underwear, even in rain or snow)
  • Additionally:
    • Wool socks, if needed
    • Thick beanie or headband
    • Gloves

Packing Checklist | For Men

I also have corresponding basic clothing recommendations for men for cold destinations.

The Basics:
  • One pair of long pants, e.g., comfortable chinos & jeans
  • A hoodie or light sweater
  • Three t-shirts or shirts
  • Underwear
  • Socks (e.g., sneaker socks)
  • Pajamas
  • A Buff (can be worn as a hat, headband, or scarf)

With this equipment, you’re prepared for slightly cooler destinations and have a good base for further additions:

Additional Items:
  • A lightweight, but warming jacket
  • A second pair of long pants (or three if you’re staying longer)
  • One or two long-sleeve shirts
  • A cozy fleece vest (may be enough as a jacket on warm, sunny winter days)
  • A winter jacket or functional jacket
  • If needed: One or two sets of thermal underwear (shirt & leggings)
  • Additionally:
    • Thicker socks if needed, e.g., wool socks or hiking socks
    • Thick beanie or headband
    • Gloves

Packing Tip

6 Set Packing Cubes for Suitcases, Travel Organizer Bags for Carry on Luggage,...
  • Stress Free Traveling: Enthralled by travel, yet frazzled by packing chaos? Introduce packing cubes to your travel...

For packing all my clothes, I have been using packing cubes for years. They are super practical, and my husband and I wouldn’t want to miss them. Plus, it’s really amazing how much you can fit into these little things!

In the beginning, when we still had a 65-liter travel backpack, we used medium-sized packing bags. Now, we travel with a smaller backpack (40 liters) and have therefore switched to smaller packing cubes. They fit better in the smaller backpack.

 

Final Thoughts

Packing for a winter vacation can seem daunting, but with the right gear and understanding of layering, you can easily enjoy your winter adventures. Remember, each winter destination has its unique charm and weather patterns, so always check the forecast before you pack!