Support TFG by using the links in our articles to shop. We receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) so we can continue to create helpful free content. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made on Amazon in addition to other retailers featured on the blog. Thank you, we appreciate your support!
Knowing what to wear in cold weather travel can be quite daunting especially if you want to pack light. To help you make the most of your winter gear and limited luggage space, I’ve put together this guide on how to pack for cold weather!
How to Pack for Cold Weather
Table Of Contents
Start by reading these general tips on packing for winter travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Winter
- Cold Weather Winter Packing List
- How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather (without the bulk)
- The Best Travel Shoes for Winter
Use a Packing List
Refer to one of our international packing lists to determine how to pack for cold weather and what type of clothing you’ll need for your destination. Make sure all pieces work well for the weather and the activities you plan to be doing.
Plan the items in your travel wardrobe using our Signature Capsule Wardrobes as your guide. Aim for ten pieces as shown in the Travel Essentials packing list.
Click here to access the editable Google Doc printable checklist shown above. You can also download the print-friendly, PDF version here.
Below you’ll find a sample packing list for cold weather travel featuring clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Please note that the items shown in all of our visuals are meant to act as inspiration. We know now at women share the same body type, style preferences, or fall into the same age group so it’s up to you to tailor each guide to your specific needs. Learn more.
Thermal Top | Sweater | Fleece Jacket | Long Sleeve | Thermal Bottom | Winter Jacket | Turtleneck Top | Pants | Gloves | Beanie | Ankle Boots | Tall Boots
Packing List for One-Week Vacation in a Carry-On Only
It can be daunting to figure out what to pack for cold-weather and not end up with bulky suitcase. Without further ado, below is a packing list that can cover all your possible activities!
- Four long sleeve tops
- Three long sleeve sweaters
- One pair of jeans
- One pair of leggings
- One skirt
- One winter jacket
- One cardigan sweater
- One scarf
- One hat
- One pair of socks
- One pair of gloves
To offer more help, we put together a video on how to prepare for winter travel, which you can watch below.
Learn how to travel light and efficiently for winter travel in this video!
Below you’ll see how we mixed and matched the pieces from the above 10-piece packing list:
Our packing lists don’t count outerwear (jackets/coats), thermal underwear, or pajamas so these would be additional items in your total. However, even with these pieces you should still be able to pack carry-on only.
Learn how to pack carry-on only for every single trip!
Mix and Match
As with any travel capsule wardrobe, it’s important that all items can mix and match to make the most of your clothing. Dresses are surprisingly versatile in the winter for moderate temperatures and can be worn over tights or leggings.
Read these posts for the best clothing for winter:
- Warm Merino Wool Dresses
- Cozy Fleece Lined Leggings
- Best Winter Jackets to Tackle the Outdoors
- Readers Choice: Best Waterproof Boots for Rain and Snow
Here’s a step by step breakdown of how to choose each item of clothing. Remember, this capsule wardrobe can be used for a one week vacation or more!
Quince Australian Merino Wool Crew Sweater | Camii Mia Waterproof Pants
7 Tops + 3 Bottoms
Tops that fall below your hips are best paired with warm winter pants, leggings or also be tucked into jeans. Choose tops you can layer if needed. Pack a dressier top to pair with a skirt for formal events. Another option is to pair your tops with cozy fleece lined leggings!
For a one-week trips, pack different tops for each day of the week. Mix and match with three bottoms to create seven unique looks or a total of twenty-on different outfits!
Woolx Peyton Turtleneck Merino Wool Sweater
I like a nice, classic sweater in an ultra-warm yet travel-friendly fabric such as merino wool or cashmere. Since these items are on the pricey side, I stock up during sales and re-wear them over the years. Other fabrics can keep you warm, too. However, merino wool tends to be the best travel fabric because it’s the most functional yet it’s so lightweight and packable!
I’m obsessed with merino wool sweaters because they’re light yet incredibly warm. I’ve had them for years and they remain in good quality even though I’ve worn them repeatedly. Depending on how cold it is, I’ll layer two of them to keep me warm. They regulate body temperature to keep you warm but also keep you dry and comfy. To get a full list of choices, check out the best merino wool sweaters for women!
J.Crew Cashmere Classic Fit Crewneck Sweater
While merino wool reigns supreme for many travelers, some are allergic or don’t like wool; cashmere has always been a suitable replacement but a costly option in comparison. It seems things have now changed with new brands emerging and offering products with these natural fibers at relatively affordable price points. Readers love these cashmere sweaters for their polished and timeless look, incredible warmth, and versatility.
A merino wool sweater I’ve loved for years is the J.Crew Tippi sweater (sadly, no longer available) but read our complete review and watch the video below to find out why a merino wool sweater is amazing for winter!
Learn why merino wool sweaters work so well for winter travel in this video!
Alternate Option: Replace skirt with trousers or faux leather pants with thick leggings!
UGG Women’s Harrison Tall Fashion Boot
2 Pairs of Shoes
Avoid items that look overly casual. Choose a basic pair that can be dressed up or down. Choose neutral colors such as tan, brown, or black because they need to mix and match with everything and comfort is key. Three pairs is also okay if you need a little more versatility.
A sample set of travel shoes for winter would include one pair of waterproof mid-calf or tall boots (wear on plane and on travel days), one pair of ankle boots, and one pair of ballet flats. The video below gives an overview of the right shoes to help carry you through winter.
Taos Plim Sole Lux Leather Sneaker
If you’re going to wear a sneaker during this time of year, consider a solid leather one. Our top sneaker is the Taos Plim Sole Lux leather sneaker. I’ve actually worn the Taos Luxe during my summer in Europe, too, and they were fantastic!
If you’re looking for a boot, avoid snow boots unless it’s definitely going to be snowing. Remember, the key thing is to always check the weather before you travel! I saw a lot of travelers during the end of November and early December in Paris wearing snow boots and they were really heavy and a bit unnecessary because there was no snow.
Figure out how to choose winter shoes in this video!
You don’t have to wear snow boots to have waterproof boots. Even the right leather boots can be waterproof. Take a look at our article on the best waterproof boots for travel! There are a variety of styles to suit your destination, activities, and personal style preferences.
If you’re expecting some rain at your destination, the Blondo Villa ankle boot takes the prize for waterproofing, comfort, and style! It offers that magical balance between form and function. It has a bit of a heel and some arch support, and the sole makes them easy to walk in on a sidewalk. Read our review of the Blondo Villa here!
Sorel Emelie II Chelsea Waterproof Ankle Boots
Black ankle boots are simply timeless, whether it’s a Chelsea style (like in this article) or just a regular zip-up style, they’re classic. They’re also perfect if you’re traveling in the spring or fall because they strike that perfect in-between weather balance that’ll work for a range of temperatures.
Struggling to choose shoes? Read our guide on how to choose the best travel shoes!
Kirkland Signature Womens Merino Wool Trail Socks
1 Pair of Socks
While we’re on the topic of shoes, we can’t forget about socks! By far, the best socks for cold weather are merino wool socks. Some of the most popular brands are Smartwool and Icebreaker.
This blend by Kirkland is amazing, too. I’ve bought a couple of these sets over the past seven years, and they’ve been great and have stayed in relatively good condition, so I really like this brand, and it’s the top brand for all the readers in the community, too!
Take look at our article on the best winter socks to get more options. The blends are great if you tend to be allergic to wool or find wool to be itchy because they’re much less scratchy.
Icebreaker Merino Womens Light Merino Wool Crew Socks
But no matter what socks you choose, whether they’re fleece or wool, be sure to avoid cotton (and this goes for thermals, too)! When we’re walking and sightseeing, even if it’s cold, our feet will still get sweaty. Because cotton and similar fabrics like jersey or modal absorb moisture, your skin will feel cold and clammy inside of your layers. This is definitely not good from a health standpoint, especially if you’re going to spend time sightseeing outdoors.
Quince Australian Merino Wool Button Cardigan Sweater
2 Outer Layers (Warm Cardigan + Coat)
When deciding how to pack for cold weather, choose items that you can layer or wear separately, and are not too bulky. Remember thicker fabric doesn’t mean it’s warmer fabric. Find out why here. Choose a statement jacket or classic coat you love- it will be in all your trip photos!
But if it’s going to be really cold, my favorite combo by far is my waterproof Columbia Carson Pass II winter jacket with my ibex packable down jacket underneath. With the combination of these two items, you’ll be warm even if the temps get down to freezing!
One of my favorite ways to stay warm and pack relatively light in the winter is to combine a packable, hip-length jacket underneath either a wool coat or a sturdier outdoor winter jacket—depending on the destination and your activities. If you’re going to spend a lot of time sightseeing outdoors, you’ll want something that’s going to be appropriate for the elements.
LONDON FOG Women’s Double Breasted Peacoat with Scarf
A wool coat looks elegant and beautiful, but that kind of coat is best if you have tours that are going to be in a bus or a car, you won’t be spending as much time outside, or the weather will be mild. And to add a little layer of warmth, you could wear a really cute coat depending on the weather and a lightweight, packable down jacket underneath. I saw a woman doing this in Europe and thought that was a really cool hack!
Take a look at some of the most popular wool coats from the TFG community here, and some of the most recommended winter jackets here. If you’re not going to be experiencing snow, you don’t need to worry about a snow jacket, but I would recommend having a jacket that is water-repellent.
Eddie Bauer Women’s CirrusLite Down Jacket
If you’re looking for down jackets, a packable option is ideal. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, and you can even use it as a pillow on the plane, but you’ll have a nice, thin but warm layer to pull out whenever you need it. Take a look at this post on our recommendations for the best packable jackets, and this post for the best down jackets for travel in general (if you’re not planning to layer them underneath another coat).
Here’s a guide on how to choose the best travel coat!
Terramar Thermasilk Scoop-Neck Top and Pants
One Set of Thermals
Invest in one (or two) sets of thermals to wear underneath all your clothing. Here’s a list of our favorite thermal underwear for women. One set should do but if you’re going to an extreme cold weather destination then you can wear two sets if you plan to spend a large amount of time outside. My magic combo that worked for me during the winter in Paris when it was 3-6° C was a silk thermal, a merino wool thermal, a merino wool or cashmere sweater, and my Columbia jacket with a nice big, warm scarf on top of all that.
Minus 33 Merino Wool Thermal Top and Bottoms
You can re-wear your merino wool thermals for weeks without washing them, too. That may sound strange if you’re not used to that, but merino wool is moisture-wicking and odor-repellent, which is why it’s one of the most popular fabrics for travel, especially in winter.
Wear your thermals underneath everything!
Merino wool or silk thermal underwear is the best. Find out why here!
Tissue Weight Wool & Cashmere Wrap Scarf
Last but certainly not least are your stylish winter accessories. These are essential and can save you even if your clothes don’t keep you warm! Bring a warm hat, gloves, and scarf to avoid the harsh cold winter weather.
A winter hat’s, a winter hat, so it doesn’t have to be super fancy. Just a classic beanie style is timeless! Check out the many options for a warm winter hat in this article.
Cable Knit Fleece Lined Beanie
Gloves are everything. These are the most recommended winter styles by our readers, and this is the most popular style which, as a bonus, has touchscreen capabilities! A merino wool blend, even if it’s thin and simple, is fantastic. But definitely make sure you have something on your extremities to keep you warm because as long as your head, feet, and hands are warm, that’ll really help you insulate the rest of your body.
In the winter, a scarf is a must-have, whether it’s a neutral color blanket scarf like this one or this one, or a nice, warm, packable-friendly snood like this one. Aside from warmth, it can also add style if that’s your thing. But if not, still make sure that you bring one for warmth!
Tip: The sun might set as early as 4pm in some European destinations in the winter. Keep this in mind when you leave your accommodation for the day. Bring layers if you plan to stay out until the evening time.
Overall, it’s important to note that bulky fabrics won’t necessarily make you feel warmer! You have to choose the right cold-weather fabrics and layer your items strategically as explained in the video below.
Choosing clothing for winter just got easier—watch this video to learn more!
Get more ideas for layering by choosing good winter socks and gloves!
How to Pack for Cold Weather Travel
The best way to organize a winter wardrobe is to utilize packing cubes. While I’ve tried many brands over the years, I decided to create my own version that will take your packing to the next level: the Compass Rose Compression Packing Cubes shown above!
The 4-Piece Set of Carryon Packing Cubes are sized to fit the exact width of a carry-on suitcase and they also have a unique color-coded and numbered organization system.
We put together a five-part YouTube series showing you the different methods to use packing cubes. If you use this specific packing strategy, they can also compress your belongings. This is the secret to traveling carry-on only!
What are your tips on how to pack for cold weather travel? Share and comment below!
For more packing strategies, please read:
- Arctic Clothing: Extreme Cold Weather Gear for Women
- Long Term Travel Tips: Transitioning from Hot to Cold Weather
- The Easy Packing Solution for Trips with Cold and Warm Destinations
- Traveling from Cold to Hot Climates: My Layering Strategy
LIKED THIS POST? PIN THIS PIC TO SAVE IT!
We hope you liked this post on how to pack for cold weather like a boss. Please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Thank you so much for having all of this information! I always have anxiety when it comes to packing for new places, especially when those places are cold (I’m from Texas so I only know hot weather). Not only are the clothing options functional, they’re SO STINKING CUTE too!
Something I do not see mentioned is slippers when packing. I hate being barefoot and always bring slippers if we traveling to a cool or cold climate. Do you have any recommendations of slippers that would easily pack?
Hi Kelly, we do!
Have a look at this round-up of our readers recommendations for packable slippers: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/best-womens-slippers/
Thanks for the invaluable information for capsule wardrobes and most important staying warm! I am much better with heat and live in a tropical climate so I am learning so much from your blogs with regard to best fabrics, classic clothing items that will carry over year to year.
I will be using your tips on our upcoming month tour of Europe and I’m determined to use a carry on and I’m certain now I will be able to thanks to this blog.
I was lucky enough to buy several JCrew Tippi sweaters before they were discontinued. In the winter, I wear the 32 Degrees lightweight base layer top underneath for extra warmth. They pack small enough to carry in my backpack.
So many of the wonderful sites are overseas for me (based in Australia). The postage cost for many of these things are through the roof. OR items are not shipped to Australia.
Are you able to recommend something a little user-friendly for people living down under?
Thanking you 🙂
Hi there, thank you for taking the time to share this with us. We appreciate your feedback. If you are looking for our readers recommendations for products specifically for Australia, then I would recommend that you join our TFG facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Here you have the opportunity to ask for specific recommendations based on your own personal requirements. With over 20,000 members, there are women of all ages, shapes, and sizes from around the world who have the best recommendations for products to share. Happy travels! ?
Hi I need help it’s first time travelling to Guangzhou city at China their day it’s winter time now and I’m travelling for 10days please advice me accordingly what do I’ve to pack
Hi Thabile, thank you for your question! To get you as much feedback as possible for what to pack, I have gone ahead and posted your question on TFG’s facebook page. Our readers have the best advice so please keep you eyes open for their replies from Thursday: https://www.facebook.com/TravelFashionGirl/ Hope this helps! Have an awesome trip! 🙂
Going to Denmark in March. Do you recommend thermal underwear for that time of year? I am am notorious about overpacking but husband says we are only taking carryons so I need to try to decide what I really need! Thanks for your site!
Hi Katrina, it depends on the weather. Save that decision when it’s closer to your trip and you can get an idea of an accurate weather forecast. These tips are also helpful: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/winter-packing-list/
Great post. I’m traveling to southwest Ireland (muddy, rocky, windy and raw) for Christmas and wondering what you’d suggest to add for a holiday outfit? I always pack carry-on, as there’s too much transit involved, lots of walking and rental cars very small.
This was great – i didn’t quite make it all into a carry on – I needed waterproof boots that I could hike in for part of the trip…any suggestions?
Here are some good options Nancie: https://travelfashiongirl.com/best-waterproof-boots/
Just cannot get those short boots in the bag. Wearing taller ones on plane. What’s the secret?
Have you tried packing things into the boots? Like intimates and accessories? Hope that helps!
I am traveling to Ireland in late November. I’ve read that I need to prepare for cold, wind and rain. I get the layering concept but I’m a little confused about what to do about a coat for warmth and waterproof jacket to keep dry. I generally don’t see both on suggested travel lists. Can you give me some guidance? Thanks!
I would definitely find a good warm coat with a hood and a water protectant outer layer. It’s best to find one coat that covers both needs to reduce the number of items you’re bringing! Have fun and thanks for reading Sandra!
Taking my first trip ever! I’m going to Spain & Switzerland in October for 15 days and I really want to go carry-on on only. I’ve been planning since March and still unsure what to pack.
Thanks for this list and having the pictures of the suggested items is very helpful.
Wow 🙂 I hope you have an amazing time! Have a look at these posts for some more ideas and good luck with your packing! http://bit.ly/29eXBzJ + http://bit.ly/2aU6bzh
Cold weather packing for me has got to be the most difficult. The items are bulky, I never know how much to pack because the weather is so varying. Thanks for these great tips and lists!!
Thanks Christine! Happy to help 🙂
Thank you so much. Is going to be my first winter ever (Jan-Feb in Boston) and I’m starting to learn the essentials for winter.
That’s awesome! Hope you have a great trip 🙂 Boston packing list coming early Jan!
I actually purchased 4 sets of long underwear in several solid colors (white, black, gray and purple) so I can rotate them ( I also take a travel bottle of febreeze to spray and air them out- for 2 weeks, I wore each set 4 times (mixed and matched based on my outfit) Greatly reduced the need to wash other longer-drying outer layers- and I found the colors made them look (in most cases) less like long underwear- but it was Iceland- and people didn’t care much !
Great idea! What brand did you choose? Any of these: https://travelfashiongirl.com/best-thermal-underwear-for-women/
Great ideas and I wish I’d seen this a month ago. I just did something similar for two weeks in a carry-on, for a trip to Alaska. I took two sets of lightweight thermals and fewer tops. The trick for me was to wear my boots and coat, and carry my bag and sweater, so everything else would fit. And my secrets for freshness are panty liners, baby wipes, and diluted shampoo to wash out items as necessary. You can get free shampoo in most hotels, and it is a mild and pleasant smelling cleaner.
Great tips! Did you have to wash the thermals?
Great idea in theory. But if you wear the black thermals under everything it will start to smell eventually. No matter what piece of clothing – a weeks wear and you may not feel so fresh. Washing is possible but tricky if you have no option for drying…. Also, how does that work with the white tops? Isn’t that a bit odd? And white thermals looks a bit weird…
I do need to travel in cold weather quite a bit and struggle every time. Looking forward to some more ideas 😉
Another secret weapon: fleece-lined leggings! They take up very little space when packing & I wear them under my jeans (even skinny jeans) all winter long here in Chicago! Plus they’re very inexpensive 🙂
GREAT TIP! Thanks Chey!
Where can I find the best merino wool underwear for the lowest prices?
Great question! 100% merino generally has a higher price tag because of it’s premium quality and cost per wear value. You can find options that have merino wool plus another fabric such as polyester and these will be more cost effective. I always search on Amazon for best deals or sign up to the company’s websites to be notified of any specials and sales. I’ll also post your question on Facebook to get more tips for you: https://www.facebook.com/TravelFashionGirl thanks for reading!
Costco has great Merino base layers for women
Thanks for the tip! Costco always has great deals 🙂
That skirt is really cute! Do you have a source for it?
Hi Jessica, all the clothing is from H&M. Thanks!
Way overpacked for a weeks trip. That’s a month worth of travel clothes. For a week. 3 tops and 2 bottoms.
Hi Andrea, thanks for your feedback! This packing list can be used for one week, one month, or one year. The “one week” is just to help the general population of female travelers feel more comfortable with the idea of traveling carry-on only. A pro like you can manage on your own 😉
This is a great list! I travel frequently in the winter, and I would add that a merino cardigan (available at Gap, Uniqlo, Banana Republic) and a compact, packable down jacket (I have a down one from Uniqlo and a synthetic from Patagonia) are life-savers for cold weather travel. These items can be combined for a lot of warmth, and the merino cardigan can be worm many times without needing to be laundered. Sometimes I also pack a cashmere hoodie for a warm layer that looks a bit dressier.
Also if traveling to a place with snow or slush, I really recommend packing some waterproof boots. Wet feet will ruin your day! It doesn’t have to be a bulky hair or heavy snow boots either; more companies are making non-snow boots that are also waterproof. I have a pair by Teva (de la vina low) but Cole Haan makes some dressier versions, like the Evan Waterproof boot. I like the boots included in this article too. Would you mind sharing links or names of the items?
Hi Kristi, great adds! Yes, I’ll add links to boots in post. I’m also publishing a post on waterproof boots soon too. Thanks!