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Planning a winter vacation can be a little tricky. It’s one thing to throw a swimsuit and some shorts in your bag for a summer beach trip…but planning a cold-weather adventure is quite another story.
But don’t worry – we have a winter vacation guide with 10 helpful travel tips to help make your winter vacation a breeze, even if you are traveling in the peak season!
1. Research Your Accommodations
It’s always wise to take a good look at where you’ll be staying, but it’s even more critical during the wintertime.
Make sure you’ve double-checked essential details like:
- Will bedding be provided?
- Is there heat? (Looking at you, rustic mountain cabin)
- Do you need a 4-wheel drive to access it when there’s snow?
- Is it close to things you want to do?
- Will you be able to stock up on or have easy access to food if you’re snowed in?
Few people like these kinds of surprises, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you book.
2. Add on Travel Insurance
Some people swear by travel insurance, and others prefer to take their chances. However, traveling during the winter definitely increases those chances due to ice and snow. Most basic travel insurance packages protect you against bad weather cancellations, significant travel delays, and alternative transportation costs.
If you don’t want a comprehensive package, there are always options that you can customize for your specific vacation. For example, add skiing or snowboarding insurance to your mountain resort trip to cover injuries and/or booking cancellations.
Our recommendation for your winter trip: Travelex Insurance
3. Pack a Hard Shell Suitcase
Winter trips are an excellent reason to buy a hard shell suitcase if you don’t have one in your travel arsenal. Besides containing all your bulky winter clothes into a defined space, hard shells also protect your belongings from all the cold wetness that the season brings.
When packing for a winter vacation, it is important to think about the activities you will be participating in. If you will be skiing or snowboarding, you will need to pack warm clothes and accessories such as hats, gloves, and boots. If you will be spending most of your time indoors, you can pack lighter items such as sweaters and jackets.
It is also important to pack sunscreen and sunglasses, as the sun can be very strong in winter. Other items to consider packing include toiletries, medications, and your passport if you are traveling internationally. By keeping these things in mind, you can ensure you are prepared for a fun and safe winter vacation.
4. Be Smart About Storms
We all love winter vacations and entering a winter wonderland, but don’t forget about the challenges with winter weather. Winter storms affect all forms of travel, but drivers need to be extra cautious this time of year.
Keep an eye on the weather along your route, so you have a heads-up if something bad is coming your way. And if there is any chance you’ll be driving into (or near) storms, it’s always best to stay off the roads until they pass.
However, in case you get hit by surprise, be sure you have cold-weather necessities prepared, including an extra tank of gas, warm winter clothes, fully charged phones, and even emergency flares. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
5. Book Activities Ahead of Time
If you’re planning to fill your schedule with any winter activities, it’s always wise to book your time slots well in advance. Especially at places like ski resorts, where everyone is there for the same things, reservations can fill up fast! It never hurts to plan ahead but waiting until the last second may mean missing out.
This is particularly crucial if you’re planning on cross country skiing or snowboarding, The slopes can get very busy, and unless you want to be waiting in line for an hour or more, booking a time slot is your best bet. The same goes for other popular activities like tubing or ice skating – especially if you’re going during a busier time of the year.
If you’re planning to attend any holiday events, like Christmas concerts or ice skating rinks, make sure to book your reservations as early as possible. The holiday season is especially popular, so you don’t want to miss out on any events!
If you’re worried about a holiday rush or just don’t like the hassle of driving or flying or taking a road trip, why not give train travel a go? Most trains offer comfortable and relaxing seating for your trip, and you can even book overnight accommodations for longer excursions. Plus, you can simply sit back and enjoy the entire trip with easy access to food and restrooms the whole way. No need to worry about current road conditions or the next winter storm.
One more bonus: Train baggage limits are often much more lenient. For example, Amtrak lets you bring two 50-pound suitcases for free, making it significantly easier to pack those winter clothes and even presents.
7. Don’t Overpack
“If I have the space, why not bring it?” Because then you have to carry it and repack it! Be conscientious about your winter wardrobe and stick to the essentials for your trip.
Especially with airlines, over-packing can mean hefty fees, so packing light is your best option. Pick items that are warm but not bulky and that you can wear multiple times in different combinations if necessary. Use packing cubes to stay organized.
Tip: If you book your activities in advance, you’ll already know what counts as essential, and you can cull unnecessary coats, boots, and gear.
8. Have Backup Plans
‘Tis the season of canceled plans, so always have a plan B. Bring games to play indoors if your outdoor plans get snowed out, and keep an eye on other flights to your destination if yours gets canceled or heavily delayed. You may even have a secondary location for the winter season in mind in case yours becomes suddenly inaccessible. Don’t forget to read the cancellation policies for each part of your trip so you can maximize refunds and put them toward your plan B.
9. Fly Nonstop Whenever Possible
Have you noticed that weather always seems to hit while you’re at a connecting airport? Cut down your chances of being stuck mid-route by booking non-stop flights whenever you can.
If your flight gets delayed from your hometown, you can simply return home and wait it out. And if it happens on your return trip, there’s a good chance that the place you rented is still available for a few more hours.
10. Choose the Right Winter Destination for You
Traveling during the winter doesn’t mean you have to go someplace with snow! If you hate being cold and trekking through snow, don’t cave in to pressure to stay at a ski resort or mountain cabin. Conversely, you don’t have to find an idyllic tropical paradise to escape the cold and get those perfect social media pics. No matter what you’re looking for, there are countless options to accommodate your travel dreams during the winter.
Think of the kind of place that would make you the happiest during your winter getaway and do your research to see what’s available within your time and budget range. There are plenty of wonder winter vacation destinations.
Ideas For Winter Getaways
Here are some ideas for exciting types of winter vacations whether you prefer winter wonderlands or warm winter destinations with sunny beaches:
1. Escaping to a tropical destination
If you’re looking for a winter escape to a tropical destination, some great options include Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Costa Rica. These destinations offer sandy beaches, stunning sunsets, and plenty of activities to keep you busy, like swimming, snorkeling, and hiking.
2. Checking Out Bustling Urban Centers
If you’re looking for the bright lights of a big city, we recommend checking out New York City during Christmas time. The holidays bring beautiful holiday décor to the city, and there are plenty of shows and events going on around town.
3. Experiencing a Unique Culture in a Charming Small Town
If you’re looking for a slower-paced winter vacation, consider checking out some of the charming small towns in Europe. These towns offer a unique glimpse into European culture, and they’re typically much cheaper to visit than big cities. Due to Covid-19, most European countries need proof of vaccination or a negative test result to enter. Make sure to check the latest entry requirements.
4. Skiing at World-Famous Ski Resort
If you’re a skiing enthusiast, there are plenty of world-renowned ski resorts to choose from this winter. Some popular ski destinations include Aspen, Vail, and Banff.
No matter where you choose to ski, keep in mind that many ski resorts are in very rural areas, which can limit your nearby dining and entertainment options.
5. Winter Camping with the Family
For those of you who like to rough it in nature during the winter months, consider spending your winter vacation this year at a winter campground. Many campsites have built-in snow activities, like sledding, ice fishing, or ice skating.
Keep in mind that winter camping has a different set of considerations than regular camping. Make sure you know what to bring – as well as what NOT to bring!- and plan accordingly.
Winter camping offers a fun break from cookie-cutter vacations; why not give it a try this year?
6. Visiting a Historic Location
Are you looking for a winter vacation with a historic twist? Look no further. Boston, Philadelphia, Budapest, Paris, Rome, Chichen Itza, and Petra are all great options for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the past. Explore freedom’s origins in the American Revolution with a visit to Boston’s Freedom Trail or the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
Take in the grandeur of European royalty at Paris’ Louvre or Rome’s Colosseum. And marvel at ancient civilizations with a trip to Mexico’s Chichen Itza or Jordan’s Petra. Mixing culture and history with your vacation can give it added depth and meaning. So why not make your next winter getaway an educational journey through time? You won’t be disappointed.
7. Taking a Cruise
Winter can be a great time to take a cruise. Escape the cold and snow with a tropical getaway, explore the beautiful cities and scenery of a Mediterranean itinerary, or even catch the Northern Lights on an Arctic voyage.
With so many destinations to choose from, there’s sure to be a cruise for anyone’s taste. Plus, cruises offer all-inclusive dining options and a wide range of activities and entertainment on board, making them a convenient vacation choice. And with off-season deals available, now is the perfect time to set sail on your winter escape. So why not book that dream cruise and indulge in some much-needed relaxation? Trust us – you won’t regret it.
Our recommendation for great winter cruise deals: CruiseDirect
8. Seeing the Northern Lights
Have you always dreamed of experiencing the beauty and wonder of the Northern Lights? Pack your bags and head to Scandinavia, Iceland, or Finland for your chance to see this mesmerizing natural phenomenon. The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, occur when charged particles from the sun interact with Earth’s magnetic field, creating colorful streams of light in the sky.
The months from late September to early April are typically the best time to witness this spectacular display. While some simply appreciate its beauty, others believe that it brings good luck or represents a spiritual experience. So why not add seeing the Northern Lights to your bucket list? You won’t regret it. Let the ethereal colors fill you with awe and leave you speechless as they dance across the night sky. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
9. Hitting the Slopes
Winter is the perfect time to grab your gear and head to the mountains. Skiing and snowboarding offer a unique combination of thrill and relaxation, as you carve through fresh powder while taking in stunning views.
Plus, there are options for every level of experience. Beginners can take lessons or opt for gentler slopes, while advanced riders can challenge themselves with black diamond runs or try their hand at off-piste terrain. And with skiing and snowboarding destinations across the globe, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for a winter getaway. So gather your friends and family, pack your bags, and hit the slopes for an unforgettable experience.
10. Visit A National Park
If you’re looking for a winter getaway that’s closer to home, consider visiting one of America’s beautiful national parks. From the majestic mountains of Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park to the stunning landscapes of Joshua Tree and Death Valley, there’s no shortage of spectacular scenery to take in.
And with many parks offering winter activities like ranger-led snowshoe hikes, cross-country skiing, and wildlife watching, you’re sure to find something to keep you entertained. So why not explore one of America’s national treasures this winter? You’ll be glad you did.
No matter what type of winter vacation you’re looking for, we hope this list gives you some ideas to get started. Whether you’re looking for a family vacation or a romantic getaway, there are plenty of great winter getaways to choose from. Happy travels!
Where will you go this winter? No matter what your winter destination is, make waiting for your trip more fun by using our Vacation Countdown App to countdown to your winter vacation!