Ultimate Cold Weather Travel Essentials: Packing List for Winter Travel

Last Updated on May 9, 2024

Planning for a winter trip and overwhelmed with the packing errands? I get you. I have had a love hate relationship with the idea of travelling to cold weather places in winter. The hate is mainly for the cumbersome packing concerns, but I end up doing it any ways. So here in this article I am going to help you with the list of cold weather travel essentials and a printable winter trip packing list at the end.

My travels have taken me to North Sikkim, where I experienced my first snowfall at an altitude of 15,000 feet above sea level, and more recently, with my toddler to the hill stations of Kalimpong and Darjeeling, where I've never seen the Kanchanjunga in its full glory like before. So, cold weather travel is indeed enjoyable, but it requires more packing than usual, especially if you have a child.

Based on my experience and tips I have myself received from frequent explorers I have created this winter travel packing list that's the smartest way to travel light and pack right in this season.

Planning a winter trip? Don't miss out on this essential winter packing checklist. Click here to find out everything you need for a hassle-free and enjoyable winter journey!

My Packing List for Winter Vacation of 1 -Week

Here is a sample packing list for a woman for 1 week. For myself alone I consider a cabin luggage and a daypack. But now I have a toddler, so my luggage size has doubled. So here's how I pack light (and right) for winter travel.

This is my personal checklist is for winter trip where I know that the temperature throughout the day would be above freezing point but goes to sub-zero levels at night. For extreme cold conditions you will need a different list and a lot of precautions.

  • 2 sets of thermal top and bottom
  • 2 denims and 5-6 tops (mostly full-sleeves)
  • 1 long puffer zipped jacket (my favorite)
  • 1 sleeveless zipped jacket (for less colder spots)
  • 1 hooed sweatshirt
  • 1 woolen tunic
  • 2 pairs of winter trackpants
  • 4-5 pairs of socks
  • a pair of good water-resistant running shoes 
  • a pair of room-slippers
  • a pair of winter gloves with touch-screen compatibility
  • Beanie hat and scarf
  • Thermal Flask
  • Sanitizer (so that you can avoid washing your hands when it's extremely cold)
  • Baby wipes (for the same reason)
  • My first aid kit with medicines for nausea, vomiting,common cold, diarhea etc.
  • My skincare kit consists of moisturizer, an all-purpose antiseptic cream and sunscreen.

How big a luggage size I need to pack all these? Why do I carry running shoes instead of winter boots? What do I prefer – coats, puffer jackets or sweaters? I have answered them all in the later sections of this post.

Additional Notes on Packing

Check with your hotel to confirm that they provide electric kettles in the room. Most hotels in India do, but if you are booking a low-budget hotel or homestay and are not sure, doubly check. You will need to carry one to the cold-weather places if they don't provide it.

If you are visiting a place in winter where the temperatures go below 0 degrees at any time of the 24-hour day, make sure they have heaters or bedwarmers in place. If not, check with them what other facilities they have to manage the cold. Book your hotels carefully accordingly.

For kids you need to be extra careful. Since my toddler is getting potty-trained I need to room for a potty seat along with diapers. But soon he will get out of both, eagerly waiting for that.

Essential Tips for Packing for Winter Trips

Before we delve deeper into the winter essentials and why you need them, I want to share a summary of all my learnings from the winter trips condensed into this 8-point list.

1. Layer Up: The Art of Smart Clothing

  • Base Layer: Start with moisture-wicking thermal underwear. This layer keeps your skin dry, essential in preventing cold-related discomfort.
  • Mid Layer: Depending on the temperature and amount of sunshine you can either just wear a nice turtleneck top as the mid-layer or add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation.  For really cold winters (read overcast sky and less than sub-10 degrees) this is your main defense against the cold, trapping heat close to your body.
  • Outer Layer: Finish with a waterproof, windproof jacket. It’s not just about warmth; it's also about staying dry and protected from the wind.

2. Footwear: Tackling Cold, Snow, and Ice

  • Water-resistant Running Shoes: Choose shoes that are insulated and offer a good grip. Slipping on ice isn't just a minor mishap; it can ruin your day or more.
  • Socks: Don't skimp here. Pack several pairs of wool or thermal socks. Cold feet can make the whole body feel chilly.

3. Accessories: The Little Things Matter

  • Gloves: Go for waterproof and insulated gloves. They keep your fingers nimble for those perfect winter snapshots.
  • Beanie and Scarf: A warm head and neck are crucial. They're not just accessories; they're necessities.
  • Sunglasses: The winter sun reflecting off snow can be blinding. Protect your eyes from the glare.

4. Skincare: Battling Winter Dryness

  • Moisturizer: Winter air can be harsh on your skin. A heavy-duty moisturizer is your first line of defense against dryness.
  • Lip Balm: Chapped lips are a common winter woe. A good lip balm is a small but essential item.
  • Sunscreen: Believe it or not, sunburns can occur even in winter, especially when it's sunny in the hill stations and you want to keep enjoying the warmth of the winter sunshine.

5. Health and Comfort: Staying Healthy and Cozy

  • Thermal Flask: A hot drink can be a great morale booster on a cold day. Plus, staying hydrated is key.
  • Snacks: Energy bars or nuts are perfect for quick, on-the-go energy boosts.
  • First Aid Kit: Include cold and flu remedies, just in case.

6. Packing Smart: Organization and Space Saving

  • Compression Bags: Ideal for reducing the bulk of winter clothes.
  • Packing Cubes: They're not just for organization. They also help you find what you need without unpacking everything.

Now let's dive deeper into this list.

Winter Travel Essentials – What You Need and What Not

I don't particularly like shopping and stuffing my wardrobe. At least that's what I think although somehow my wardrobe is still full, I wonder why. I guess it's because of all the sarees I keep getting as gifts and never wear.

Anyways, it's really important to understand what you think you might need to pack for your winter trip  but actually don't. And things that you really can't go for a winter vacation to a cold place without.

Girl in denims jacket and Nike runninh shoes, trekking in Sikkim's forest in winter

1. Travel Footwear for Winter

Footwear is critical in cold climates. You'll need shoes that not only keep your feet warm but also prevent slips on icy surfaces.

1. 1 Water Resistant Running Shoes – My Top Pick

Running shoes are my all-time favorite for any kind of vacation. For winter in India I don't look for waterproof shoes as the chances of precipitation is low. However partially water-resistant shoes are helpful to walk on snow covered surfaces.

1.2 Water resistant walking shoes

I love my walking shoes because I can simply slip into them without opening and tying knots. These are ideal for exploring temples and monasteries where you need to frequently open your shoes before entering the sacred rooms or strolling through the cities in winter. Look for shoes with good insulation to keep your feet warm and dry.

On my recent trip where I travelled to Dooars, Kalimpong and Darjeeling, I knew that I wouldn't be going to any snow-covered region like in my earlier trip to Sikkim. Neither did I intend to do any treks here. So, I chose a pair of walking shoes by Sketchers and they served me amazingly well.

1.3 Boots – Do You Really Need It?

If you live in a cold place where you need to go out in the snow-covered streets during the winter, you need those winter boots. It's a good investment because not only do you need them for your winter trip but even at home. 

But for someone from the tropics like me, I really have no reason to invest in a pair of boots. When you go into the snow-covered spots in winter, you can rent a boot locally at Rs. 100 – Rs. 300.

Instead invest in a few pairs of long warm socks on which you can wear those rented boots.

There can be other reasons for buying a winter boot though. If you have an atypical foot size, it may be difficult to get a matching size of shoe to rent. If you regularly visit these snowfall destinations, then too it's a good idea to buy a stylish pair for yourself.

1.4 Warm Socks

Don't underestimate the power of a good pair of socks. Warm, thick socks are crucial to keep your feet cozy and are an essential item on any winter packing list.

2. Clothes and Accessories for Winter Travel

The right clothes can make or break your winter vacation. Layering is key to maintaining warmth and adapting to changing temperatures.

2.1 Thermal Inner Wear

A good base layer of thermal wear is the foundation of staying warm. These are essential for any winter trip, keeping the cold out and the warmth in.

I opt for the light-weight body hugging thermals with a deep neck which I can wear underneath with any shirt or tunic or blouse. If it isn't too cold, I can also ditch the jackets and road around in my stylish outfits as if I'm not layered up at all. 

2.2  Puffer Jackets

Black mid-length puffer jacket for winter

A puffer jacket, a staple in my winter packing list, is a type of coat that's lightweight yet incredibly warm. Distinctive for its ‘puffy' sections between the stitching, these jackets are filled with down insulation or synthetic fibers. The design creates small air pockets that trap and retain heat, making them exceptionally good at keeping you warm.

If I could pick only one winter-wear for my trip, I'd simply take my long puffer jacket along. Choose the ones with zipped pockets where you can keep your wallet and mobile phone.


2.3 Long Overcoats

For a more stylish option that still offers warmth, long overcoats are a great choice. They're perfect for evenings out in a winter wonderland.

I have seen the locals wear these bright-colored overcoats in the north-east India and they look gorgeous.

I prefer puffer coats as they are water-proof and low on maintenance. But I think the overcoats look more chic.

2.4 Hooded Jackets

Versatile and comfortable, hooded sweatshirts are my go-to in Indian winters. They come in various materials for different levels of cold. you can wear them above heavy woolens for colder regions.

2.5 Woolen Sweaters and Cardigans

These are the classical choices that most of our parents still go for. Over time I have learnt to ditch cardigans for winter travels. I wear them only for casual outings or at home.

But they are still very useful as a middle layer. Personally, I don't mind wearing my favorite long woolen Kurti

2.6 Accessories : Gloves, Beanie and Scarf

Girl in beanie hat scarves and gloves in the mountains of eastern Himalayas

To protect your hands from the biting cold, a good pair of gloves is indispensable. Waterproof and insulated options are best.

A warm beanie hat and scarf set are more than just accessories; they're vital for keeping your head and neck protected from the cold.

2.8 Denims with Thermal Bottoms

While not the warmest, denims are durable and can be paired with thermal wear for a day out in the city. I avoid denims in summer because of the humid weather in India. But they are my top choice for winter trips when combined with a layer of thermal pants.

2.9 Winter trackpants

Denims are for outdoor exploration, but when you come back to relax in your hotel, you need something more comfortable. So never forget your winter trackpants. They are useful for long-duration train journeys and flights as well.

3. Winter Skincare

Navigating the winter months means facing the harsh effects of cold weather on your skin. Thus, incorporating skincare essentials into your travel packing list is not just a luxury but a necessity.

3.1 A Good Moisturizer

The cornerstone of winter skincare is a robust moisturizer. Cold air and wind can strip moisture from your skin, leading to dryness and discomfort. A heavy-duty moisturizer combats this effectively, keeping your skin hydrated and supple throughout your winter travels.

3.2 Body Oil

Adding a layer of body oil can amplify your skin's protection against the cold. Body oils are excellent for locking in moisture and providing an extra barrier against the harsh winter elements, keeping your skin nourished and resilient.

3.3 Boroline

I normally don't mention brands, but Boroline is not a brand for Bengalis, but a part of life. That was literally the tagline for Boroline antiseptic cream back in the day and it still is for this generations.

Boroline is a multipurpose product that addresses chapped lips, dry skin patches, mosqioto bites and even minor cuts, making it a versatile and invaluable addition to your cold-weather travel essentials. Its all-in-one functionality makes it a smart packing choice.

While you could take a travel-pack of your favorite cold cream, foot cream etc., I carry this one thing.

3.4 Sunscreen Lotion

It's a common misconception that sunscreen is only for summer. In winter, the sun can be just as damaging, especially when reflected off snow.

A quality sunscreen lotion (atleast spf 50+) is essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, no matter how chilly it gets.

4. Packing Organizers

The way you pack can significantly impact your winter travel experience. Smart packing solutions not only save space but also keep you organized and stress-free.

4.1 Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a traveler's best friend, especially when dealing with bulky winter clothing. They help you compartmentalize different types of clothing, making it easier to find what you need without rummaging through your entire suitcase.

4.2 Compression Bags

organising my winter jackets with a travel compression bag

For the more voluminous items like jackets and sweaters, compression bags are a godsend. They help reduce the space these bulky items take up, allowing you to pack more efficiently and keep your winter gear well-organized.

That's a wrap to the winter packing checklist for adults. For kids, I would need a whole new post. Let me know if you want that. With this you are set to explore the best winter destinations or any place that has cold weather throughout the year.

You may also like to check out my road trip packing list and Spring packing checklist.

If you find the post useful, pin it for later.

Simplify your winter travel packing with our practical packing tips for winter trips. Click to learn how to pack efficiently and smartly, ensuring you enjoy every moment of your winter escape!

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  1. Good list for a winter vacation! I like that you also recommend taking a thermal flask. While most people think about warm clothes I feel a hot drink often helps a lot. I even take a small electric kettle in winter.

    1. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. They usually provide electric kettles even in the budget-range hotels in India, so this thought didnt come to my mind. But it’s a great point to check, I remember being shocked to not find the electric kettles in room on our Europe trip

  2. This is a great packing list! I feel like I never bring slippers with me, but think that’s a great idea to bring with you – especially in the winter when it is so cold even inside sometimes!

  3. Great list and lots of great tips for surviving travel during cold weather. I will never get cold again!

  4. This is a great post. Packing for colder weather is do difficult, it’s the only time I end up over packing. Can never have too many layers.

  5. Winter packing can be so overwhelming! Especially when you want to look cute! Appreciate all the different options you provided here!

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