Tuesday 30 October 2018

Staying warm on a winter city break

I’ve been on my fair share of winter city breaks now, and it’s not like I love the cold or anything – I just love to travel, and it’s cheaper to do so in the winter. The first time I went to Poland the temperature was around the minus 20s and I honestly wasn’t prepared despite my layers and the tiger-striped onesie I took with me. But I’m a bit better at not freezing half to death during January jaunts to central and Eastern Europe so I thought it might worth sharing my top tips for keeping warm on a winter city break – if there’s anything you think I’ve missed out, please share in the comments so we can all avoid getting frostbite when we jet off to regions where the temperature is a little bit lower than our own…

It can be difficult to pack enough layers when you’ve only got hand luggage, so it’s really important to take thin layers – a tight fitting vest under your t-shirt or jumper will do a better job of keeping the heat in than a thicker (but looser) fleecy garment. Roll them up really small in your case or bag as it won’t matter if they’re creased, being under your outfit, and voila. Travel in your big jumper, big coat and big boots, too: I always do this and while it can be uncomfortable to manoeuvre around an airport feeling like the Michelin Man with a cabin bag in tow, it means you’ll be as warm as possible without having to take up valuable space in your luggage that could otherwise be utilised for slippers or toiletries. It’s important to get a coat that will actually keep you warm, rather than one that just looks stylish; if you go for a plain colour it’ll go with a lot of outfits, so you can still look nice while keeping warm. I recently shared my favourite coats on the market this year, so check that out if you’re interested.

It goes without saying that you’ll need your hat/gloves/scarf but there are a few things to note; similarly with ‘layers’, baggy gloves won’t keep you warm because there’ll be a draft so you want something tight-fitting but comfortable. A shorter scarf rather than a long one would always be my preference, otherwise they just get in the way or you get tangled in them. Hats are a tricky one for me, too – I don’t really suit hats and I don’t want to walk around looking like an idiot, but obviously they’re important as you lose most of your body heat through your head. I tend to go for ear muffs instead as I can’t stand having cold ears, and that does tend to work out fine for me. Your outfits will most likely be hidden underneath a coat, so if you’re a bit of a fashionista or you’re hoping to get some nice pictures for the ‘gram, a top tip is to mix up your accessories – maybe take two different coloured scarves and two different coloured hats, to avoid looking the same in every picture for the entire holiday. I know that won’t matter to some people, but it definitely will to others!

In terms of footwear, take something that will keep your feet warm *and* comfortable. I always wear my trusty Dr Martens which I’ve now had for almost six years; they’re completely battered but still going strong and I find them to be so comfy. I can fit thick socks under them, so I tend to wear some normal socks and some thicker ones so I don’t lose much heat through my feet which is great because if your feet are cold, it can be hard to walk. This is why shoes need to be comfy: nothing that will give you blisters as you’re walking around. I find that city breaks involve a lot more walking than other holidays, and often also involve snow and/or ice. Shoes with good grip are a must; walking boots, while not the most stylish shoes in the world, are definitely something to consider.

Slippers, if you can fit them in, are a really handy one to have – if you use Airbnb for your city breaks, you might have noticed that a lot of the apartments aren’t carpeted and some of them are pretty old and draughty. Cold feet are just a no-go for me so if I can fit in a pair of slippers then I always do, even just the footsie ones from Primark that have the grippy bits on the bottom or, if I’m really tight on space, the thickest pair of socks I can squeeze in. When it comes to pyjamas, you’ll know whether you’re the sort of person who gets too warm at night but I personally am, even when I’m in cold places. I tend to pack long pyjama pants but just those thin jersey ones, and a comfy t-shirt which is enough for when I’m asleep, and then if I’m sitting in the apartment in my PJs for whatever reason, I chuck a hoody/jumper on top and wear my slippers.

You will get warm while you’re walking from A to B – public transport can be tempting but it’ll be a shock to your system when you get off that bus a few stops later and you’re hit with cold air again. Moving really does get your blood flowing which keeps you warm. Obviously you’ll want to stop and look at monuments or street art or famous landmarks, but try not to stay still for too long or you will get cold. Hand warmers can be picked up from places like Home Bargains and it’s always handy (ha ha ha) to have some in your bag in case you do find yourself absolutely freeeeezing; just follow the instructions and pop them in your gloves. Being cold is the perfect excuse to stop and go for a coffee (or a beer) to warm yourself up a bit. If you opt for somewhere inside – sensible – then make sure to shed some of those aforementioned layers otherwise you’ll not feel the benefit when you go back outside, which is totally something my grandad used to say to me.

Above all, just be sensible in the cold weather. If you’re not used to it then it can be horrible so remember your gloves (I forgot mine last time I went to Poland and I was slightly concerned I was going to lose a finger), stop and warm up when you need to, and be bloody careful if there’s snow and ice!

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