Winter travel with a baby can be difficult, but as a Chicago native, I’m no stranger to frigid temps. In fact, just last week, we braved the Polar Vortex and joined hundreds of midwesterners testing out the theory of the Mpemba Effect (Google videos on it, it’s nutty!) in the negative 40-degree weather. While I don’t recommend planning a vacation in a climate that cold with kids (cross Antartica, Siberia, and Chicago in February off the list!), I do always vote for adventure.
In my experience, some of the best adventures happen where it’s cold. Think hiking into the center of a glacier in Iceland or tubing down Mt. Norquay in Banff, Alberta. Where there’s snow, there’s always a little bit of magic and (in our family’s case) a lot of hot chocolate. But packing for a vacation in a winter wonderland is enough to deter even the most frost-covered, committed parent. However, have no fear, I’m here with a handful of helpful tips to make winter travel with a baby easy and painless.
Choose airlines that don’t charge for checked bags.
One of the easiest ways to travel with outdoor gear including snow pants, boots, and bulky layers is to pack them all in one suitcase good for the entire family. This is more reasonable when you’re booking tickets on airlines like Southwest that don’t charge for checked baggage.
Get creative on where you pack things.
Every year, my husband and I pack up our family of five and fly home for Christmas in the snowy panhandle of Idaho. We always bring along our car seats since we rent a car while there. One of the easiest ways we’ve found to pack snow pants and boots is to put them in a plastic bag and then pile the items in the seats of the car seat before they are checked at the counter. This easy hack is an amazing way to get around those airlines that do charge for extra checked bags (as most airlines do not charge for baby items-this includes car seats!).
Get creative on how you pack things.
Purchasing compression bags like these is a great way to save space when packing bulkier items such as sweaters and snow gear. Don’t want to pay for travel bags? Use rubber bands! I’ve taken many a trip with snow pants rolled and rubber-banded into fluffy (but smaller) cylinders.
Wear your layers aboard the plane.
Still don’t have enough room? Consider wearing your coats and boots aboard. Your family can always stow them under the seat or in the overhead bin once you’re settled on board. Plus, having your snow jacket with you can double up as a fluffy pillow or cozy blanket for a napping baby on a drafty flight.
Go shopping upon arrival.
This tip can be a bit of a risk, but it might be right up your alley if you’re in the mood to live a little dangerously. Plan your trip to give you time to shop locally upon arrival for purchasing all the cold weather gear you’ll need on your vacation. This is especially appealing haling from warmer climates who might not already have the right winter gear. It’s also a great way to support the local community you’re visiting if you shop small while in town.
Keep in mind the time of year your trip is planned as many stores trade out mittens and scarves for bikinis and floaties once late winter hits.
Ship your outdoor gear before leaving.
By far, the easiest ways to pack for cold climates is to just not pack in the first place. Instead, order items from your favorite stores or Amazon and have your black down coat, or as in my five-year-old’s case, a shiny hot pink puffer jacket, shipped to your hotel or Airbnb. It’ll be waiting for you upon your arrival. Just make sure to pre-arrange this with your accommodation before you press “order.”
You didn’t bring the stuff out there–so save yourself even more hassle and don’t bring it back. A quick search of local homeless shelters or charities in the area will provide you with people that would happily accept any donations you’d rather leave behind.
Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? On the other hand, you could just reject these tips, throw swimsuits for your family into a carryon and fly to the closest beach… but maybe that’s just the Polar Vortex talking. In any case, packing won’t be a bother. As John Ruskin once said, “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” So grab some gloves and your favorite wool socks and send me a postcard when you make it to Greenland! Adventure awaits!