Traveling in Cold Weather
Traditionally, summer is the high tourist season for many popular destinations. It makes sense, as it’s much more pleasant to go sightseeing in warm sunny weather than in a blizzard. However, if you don’t mind cold weather, winter traveling can save you from over-crowded streets, high prices, and fully booked hotels. You’ll just need to remember a couple of tricks if you don’t want to freeze your ass off.
Choice of a Destination
Be reasonable about what you can and cannot survive. There may be few tourists in Alaska in February, but that’s because even the polar bears are freezing! OK, the bears may be fine, but we bet you won’t be. On the other hand, winter in Central Europe is usually very mild, and you can be sure that you won’t turn into a snowman there. It’s always a good idea to check usual temperatures for your destination online before booking a ticket. If the weather is too cold for your taste, skip nature trips and stay in cities, where a nearby cafe or a museum can save you from freezing to death.
The main rule of traveling in winter is to give up fashion for the sake of comfort and warmth. The key to good insulation is layers. Put on good thermal underwear first, then add a layer of fleece/wool for warmth and put water/wind-proof pants and jacket on the top. A good place to buy all that is sports equipment shops. Skiing gear is especially versatile, and can actually look good! Need we say that a hat, gloves, and thick socks are absolutely necessary?
In summer you can choose to reach destinations by walking or hitchhike your way everywhere. In winter, however, you need to plan your route to minimize your time outside. Use public transport as much as possible and try to plan your connections with minimal leeway. If you know you’ll have to wait for a transport, check that the station has an inside – usually, travellers’ forums provide such information. And if you’re stuck somewhere – don’t try to save a penny and just take a taxi. It will be cheaper than treating a cold anyway.
For your body to feel comfy in cold weather it needs to get enough energy. Did you know that in Tibet they keep warm with butter tea, that gives them enough calories to go outside in the harsh climate? This might be an acquired taste, but a hot thick soup will have a similar effect. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to eat hot meals rich in fats. Don’t worry about your diet – this fat will burn fast while keeping you warm. Always have some snacks with you to keep the calories coming – hungry means freezing!
Devil in the Details
Generations of travelers have perfected the art of staying warm in cold climate and invented quite a few tricks to add to their comfort. Have you heard of warming bags that you can attach to your wrists to keep your hands comfy? There are also warm soles that work for hours. You can protect your face with special winter creams and never get another frostbite again. Buffs can be put over the lover part of your face to protect you from the wind. And having a thermos of hot tea with you is always a nice idea! Contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn’t help you stay warm, it just temporarily widens your blood vessels, so best not get too enthusiastic about that mulled wine.
A lot of destinations are beautiful in winter and well worth exploring off-season. Hopefully, these tips will help you do so safely and in comfort!