I left my coat on the plane on my way to Austria in the middle of winter.
As you may know: 1) Austria is known for its amazing skiing, 2) skiing takes place on snow, and 3) snow is cold (duh!). And I had no coat. Brrrr.
It was right after Christmas and my girlfriend Judith and I were going to cruise the Danube.
We were excited because one of the special stops was an outdoor Christmas Market in front of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.
I knew it would be cold, so I packed layers – long underwear (silk, so soft), a couple of sweaters (cashmere, light and warm), and a cashmere vest— but, alas, I now had no coat.
Was I sad I’d lost the coat? Not really, I hated that coat.
But I was concerned about staying warm. Truth be told, I was even a little excited because now I had a “reason” to shop.
However, my shopping plans were foiled. We arrived late on a Saturday and the next day in the small town we were to visit, everything was closed.
Fortunately, the store on the cruise ship had a fleece jacket and a windbreaker vest, complete with the ship’s logo. Add to that a big warm scarf from the store and an extra cap and gloves I had in my bag, I figured I’d survive until I found other shopping options.
During that trip I never found a new coat, but that makeshift solution, along with my layers, worked well enough that I did not freeze.
And, I had a great travel story.
But, that outdoor Christmas Market was cold – in the 20s F cold!
Start with Trip Planning and Research
For me, one of the most enjoyable (and sometimes stressful), parts of the trip is the planning and pre-trip discovery of a new place.
Many times, I go to places where I have never been before and know nothing about.
So I do the travel research to find out what there is to see and do.
Researching the location can be fun. It is the opportunity to start a trip, long before you go.
It is during the creative discovery journey that you decide what you want to see (itinerary) and what time of year you want to be there (weather).
Two important trip planning and research items are: 1) your itinerary and, 2) the weather.
Know the Weather
By understanding your itinerary, you know what activity specific clothes and shoes you need and by knowing the weather, you can then pack the appropriate layers and outerwear.
Dressing in layers was one of those amazing discoveries that I made early in my traveling career.
I live in Southern California and have lived here almost my entire life.
It wasn’t until one of my first business trips, when I went to Montreal in early January, that I experienced winter cold.
Before I arrived, they’d had a significant snow fall in Montreal, and there was a 100 degree swing in temperature – from 94F in Cali to -6F in Montreal.
That swing in temperature was hard to wrap my head around and with my inexperience in winter cold, I was not ready for that weather.
Fortunately, I had a friend, who lived in Montreal and she lent me a heavy winter coat and scarf.
Dressing for Cold Weather Travel
It wasn’t until I later started traveling on ski trips, that I learned how to dress for cold—layers, and cold weather gear rated for the cold you will experience on your trip.
Who knew there was such a thing?
A word about long underwear. While, my favorite is silk – light and soft, depending upon how cold it is and your activities—silk may not always be the most suitable.
But the must-haves for cold weather: long underwear under blouses and pants topped with warm sweaters and finally, a heavy coat and warm, waterproof footwear.
For those of you who live in cold weather (and recently experienced an ice storm), this is a no brainer and you might be able to add additional tips in the comments below.
But for those us born, raised, and still living in warm climates, this is NOT intuitive.
I did eventually travel to enough wintery places, that I learned the value of having an ice scraper as part of my standard travel gear, but that is a story for another time.
Activities Influence Your Choice of Clothing
Looking at your itinerary, if you are going to participate in outdoor events or sports, the amount and types of layers will be slightly different than if you are going between hotels, cars, and offices.
Packing for a destination wedding in Hawaii, or a Safari in Africa, is different than packing for a cruise down the Danube in the middle of winter.
And sometimes you may take a trip where you will do multiple and diverse activities in different climates; layers will come to your rescue.
The main point here is to PLAN AHEAD, it can be a lifesaver, keep you comfortable and contribute to the fun.
How MUCH Does that Bag Weigh?
So, you’ve gathered information about your trip, you’ve used your itinerary and the weather forecast to figure out what clothes you need to bring, you’ve added in your “maintenance” gear and your travel electronics.
Now you need to cram it all in the suitcase(s) and make certain you are within the size and weight requirements!
In addition, to the size of your bag, there are constraints on the weight. You’ll want to check with your airline.
If you are part of a group trip, the group may have defined baggage or weight constraints too.
If you are anything like me, you will initially identify at least twice as much as you are allowed to bring with you.
I did that so often, I finally invested in a luggage scale so I could weigh my filled bag before I left.
I didn’t want to be embarrassed at the airport and then pay additional fees for overweight bags! Not a really fun way to start the trip.
The luggage scale may also prove to be helpful on the return trip, after buying all your souvenirs. That’s also when that “extra” fold-up duffel bag you packed will bail you out.
Enjoy the process, from to start to finish – it is all part of the adventure and fun of travelling along with meeting new people.
Keep track of your belongings while you travel and don’t leave anything behind on the plane— like a coat in winter.
Enjoy the journey!