October 25, 2021

5 tips for smart winter travel

It’s the season not just to be jolly, but also to bring out the woolies, the warmers and the boots. Travel in winter can be great fun , with all the snow and ice, with the mulled wine and garam chai, and with the festive season in tow. On top of that, there is the advantage of off-season discounts everywhere plus lesser crowds at most places.

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But it can also be a stressful time for travel – cancelled flights, snow storms, the bitter cold and so on.

Here are a easy few tips I have for you, from my own experience travelling in winter (and I have a trip to Ladakh coming up in January!)

1. Keep track of the weather

This seems like an obvious thing but in winter, it is important to keep yourself updated on the weather conditions in your place of origin as well as your destination. Reconfirm your train and flight bookings, if only to find out whether the flight / train is on time or is going at all that day. Try to follow your airline, train company and the airports you are dealing with on twitter, because almost everyone now has a social media presence and send out updates for customers.

2. Be flexible on time

Unlike travel during other times of the year, keep a flexible schedule in winter. And that means keeping a lot of buffer time everywhere, not making tight bookings / connections and trying to travel late in the morning, rather than early mornings or late evenings. Have a Plan B, and not just during travel but also during your stay at your place of holiday, which means, say, a museum instead of a park, or a local activity instead of a day trip out, or some times even an alternate destination.

3. Go prepared for the drive

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If driving, make sure to be abreast of weather predictions to make sure you don’t get caught unawares in the middle of your journey. During a recent trip to New Zealand, it had started snowing mildly when we left Queenstown to drive towards Fox glacier – and because the weather reports were iffy, we decided to drive on instead of stopping wherever we fancied (as is normal in a road trip) – and that saved us a load of trouble because cars which left 10-15 minutes after us got caught in the snow on hilltops. Also it makes sense to keep snow chains, emergency phone numbers and some basic supplies handy (dry food, extra water, flashlight, external mobile charger, toilet paper) – I know of people who have been stranded in Ladakh in the summer months thanks to the snow!

4. Pack smart with layers and layers

Winter2Packing for winter can be a bitch, especially if you like to travel light. After years and years of struggle, I have finally learned the fine art of layering. One winter season spent in Delhi (even though nowhere close to freezing temperatures, still bitterly cold) taught me the tricks. Travel with several layers of thin, easy to pack and carry woollens (keeps you warmer and keeps the bags lighter), with one thick coat or jacket for the top layer – and also keep space for the all-important accessories like gloves, mufflers, socks, hats (and keep back-ups).

5. Make the most of your travel

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(image source: Wikipedia)

Although this seems like a truism, relevant for travel any time of the year, winter travel can be special if you plan it to coincide with festivities like Christmas markets, Thanksgiving feasts, the sauna season in Scandinavia, the skiing season in the Alps and in India, with the Lodi or Sankranti festival – you get to see a bit of local colour and culture, along with the usual travel experiences. Another tip to save money is to avoid travel in the peak season between mid to end December – many places charge a premium for this period, dropping prices immmediately after the 1st of January. So look out for these deals, so that you can plan to stay put at home or wherever you are based at that point in your travels for the holiday season.

What has been your experience and what are your tips for comfortable winter travel? Do share them here in the comments.

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