How to enjoy winter travel in Europe

Except for the Christmas time, winter is my least favourite season to travel. Days are short, temperatures are low and the sun doesn’t shine every day – this is what I’ve been repeating for a long time until I got tired of my own complaints. The weather is something we can not control and the only way to stay sane is to change an attitude towards it instead. Winter travel can be enjoyable even if you don’t like cold weather like me. All you need is good preparation and your trip will be as awesome as in any other season.  Here are some tips how you can make the most of your winter vacation.

Check the weather.

I know you are probably doing this anyway. But instead of just looking at forecast fo the days you are staying in the destination, try to find out how is the winter weather there in general so you know what is the worst you can expect. Are sudden temperature drops common? Does it snow a lot? Whether you are travelling by car, train or airplane check how winter condition can affect your means of transportation. For example, I didn’t know before that low temperature can affect railway and cause delays even if there was no snow and it almost cost me a missed plane. Some small airports are also more sensible to weather condition and can have delays. It is better to be aware of possible problems and be ready if something unexpected happens.

Dress accordingly.

You probably heard the saying “there is no bad weather, there are bad clothes”. Average winter temperatures can vary greatly in different European countries, so your packing list will also be different depending on where you are going. If you are heading to a colder place, don’t underestimate the weather and bring enough warm clothing. This is the case when packing more than you might need is actually ok. Believe me, it is much better to have a bigger and heavier suitcase than freeze or even worse get sick during travel. Remember to bring the basic winter accessories like warm socks, hats, gloves and scarfs.  Layering is also a great way to keep warm. Don’t forget good winter shoes and maybe thermal underwear depending on your cold tolerance.

Plan your activities in advance.

The disadvantage of winter is that the days are much shorter and it tends to get dark around 16-17 pm. Some attractions have shorter working hours or even close completely for winter. This means that you can’t be so spontaneous as in summer and good planning is essential.  Research the opening times of your places of interests and decide which ones you definitely want to see in daylight and which ones are also worth visiting in the evening. If you are not going to party at night, you might consider sleeping early so you can wake up earlier and have more time for sightseeing.

Do something indoors.

So you dressed well but the weather is still not the greatest to stay outside. For the worst weather plan some alternative activities you can do indoors. Museums, art galleries, concerts, spa, aquapark, food/wine tasting – I am sure you will find something to your liking.

Eat well.

Eating well in winter is very important. Your body needs the energy to keep you warm, so don’t take those calories too seriously. When travelling to colder European countries you will notice that traditional cuisine is as made for cold winter days. Try local soups, stews, and other hearty dishes. If you are a foodie like me, take advantage of the cold weather and have nice meals in local restaurants.

Explore coffee shops.

During the cold season you might want to go inside more often to warm up. Coffee culture is big in Europe and there is no better time than winter to discover it. You will find plenty of coffeehouses in every city and I understand that it is tempting just to stop by familiar Starbucks or Costa Coffee but I encourage you to explore some local cafes instead of big chains that you can also find at home. Don’t like coffee? You can always try some other typical winter hot drinks like mulled wine, hot chocolate, cocoa, punch.

Go (window) shopping.

Whether you want to buy something or not, shops are good places to warm up and there is no shame in walking out of the store without buying anything. But if shopping is your hobby, winter is a great time to do it. If you are travelling before Christmas, you can get some last minute presents back home. And after Christmas until the end of January-mid February there are big sales everywhere so this is your chance to have fun.

And last but not least, don’t be too stressed if something doesn’t go as planned. Enjoy your vacation to the fullest and don’t let the winter weather let your down. Happy travelling!

Do you have some tips to add? I would love to hear how you cope with travel in winter.


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