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Travel packing list: What to pack for a snowy winter city break

What to pack for a snowy winter city break – On the Luce travel blog

Over the years I’ve become a dab hand at travelling with just a carry-on bag. Unless I’m heading off long-haul or long-term, I can easily manage a city break or a summer holiday week without having to check in a suitcase. But cold weather means bulkier clothes and that makes it more of a challenge to squeeze everything into a carry on bag. And when I saw the temperatures for my winter trip to Tallinn were hovering around -10 degrees and snowy, I realised my usual autumn/winter city break uniform of long boots, skinny jeans and cardigans wasn’t quite going to cut it. I was going to need to get prepared for some serious cold weather.

Read more: 10 festive European winter weekend break ideas

Tallinn Old Town Square by night

Tallin’s Old Town Square

Packing for a snowy city break is a bit of a balancing act. You don’t want to be shivering in your everyday coat or slipping about on the ice in heels. But you don’t want to be dressed for an Arctic trek in walking boots and waterproof trousers either. The goal is somewhere in between – warm enough that you can spend time outside but stylish enough that you’ll still fit in with the locals. But the carry on packing lists I found online were more of the ‘chilly winter’s day’ than ‘depths of a deep freeze’ variety. So after a combination of research and trial and error, here’s my advice for what to pack for a snowy winter city break to the Baltics or Scandinavia.

Snowy winter city break packing list

Clothing to pack for a snowy winter city break

Layered up in Lapland


Packing for a cold climate is all about layering – thin layers trap the heat more effectively and keep you warmer, plus they’re much easier to pack than trying to squash a giant fluffy jumper into your case. For a three-night long weekend, I generally wear one full set of clothes and pack another set, as well as underwear and some cosy pyjamas for the evenings. And for going out at night I add some chunky or colourful jewellery to smarten things up.

Thermal layers: Thermal base layers are the key to keeping warm on a winter city break. You can pick up inexpensive thermals from Uniqlo (try their Heat Tech Extra Warm range) or Marks & Spencers. Or the Rolls Royce of thermals are New Zealand brand Icebreaker’s merino wool range, which are also odour resistant. I start with a long-sleeved thermal top and a pair of thin thermal leggings. Then if it’s really cold I top that with a ultrathin fleece under my jumper.

Tops and bottoms: I go for fairly thick jeans or trousers that aren’t too skinny so there’s room to fit a pair of thermal leggings or tights underneath, and longer jumpers that go down below my hips to keep the heat in. I have a couple of woolly jumpers from M&S that have room to fit layers underneath and add a splash of colour – try merino wool or cashmere for maximum warmth.

What to pack for a snowy winter city break – On the Luce travel blog

Coat: A thick padded coat or parka with faux fur lining really keeps the cold out. Look out for a longer style that goes below your hips to make sure no draughts get through, and a hood to protect against any snow showers. There are a lot of padded jackets available now at different price levels, but RAB jackets are some of the best – light and easy to pack but incredibly warm. They are available at different weights from microlight to Antarctic-proof.

Boots: Having frozen feet makes things miserable, so you need boots that are both warm and waterproof. Look out for sheepskin or faux fur lining to keep feet cosy, a thick rubber sole to help stop the cold coming through, and  good grips for when the ice turns the pavement into an skating rink. These black suede boots from UGG manage to combine looking smart with being weatherproof. Team them with a pair of thermal Smartwool socks.

Packing list for a snowy winter weekend


Hat, scarf and gloves: I pack a hat so I don’t have to use the hood on my coat unless it’s snowing (it’s a bit like wearing blinkers and I can’t hear anything with it up!). I have a woolly beanie with fleece lining, but quite fancy a furry hat next. Also pack a big scarf to keep the chill from around your neck, and a pair of gloves. Lined leather gloves are good if you’re taking photos as you don’t have to take them off, but mittens are warmer (and if your fingers get really cold you can wear gloves underneath).

Extras: Bitter winter winds can dry your skin out so pack some heavy-duty moisturiser. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream is pricey but worth the hype and a tube lasts for ages. There’s a lip balm in the same range or I like the Carmex ones, and Neutrogena’s ultra-concentrated Norwegian formula hand cream. Hand warmers are a good idea too – you can put them in your pockets for an extra dose of warmth.

Carry on packing list for a winter city break

So that’s my cold weather city break packing list – what are your winter packing tips?

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A winter carry on/hand luggage packing list – what to take with you to stay warm and look stylish on a snowy weekend city break to the Baltics or Scandinavia. #packinglist #winter #carryon

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Kaleigh G

Saturday 22nd of February 2020

What's the name of the coat you have pictured? I love it and your packing list! Thanks.


Tuesday 25th of February 2020

Thanks, the one in the main pic was a North Face coat, I'm not sure it's available any more though but you may be able to find one somewhere!


Saturday 15th of February 2020

Love this! I'm going on a trip to the cold next week! Where is your coat from?? Also I love the name of your blog. My name is also Lucy and my sister and our two other girl cousins who we grew up with (and are practically sisters with) always called ourselves "MaJeLin on the Luce"!!!! Because their names are Mary, Jenny, and Linda and they are all very much close in age and then I came about 6.5 years later... so they added "on the Luce"!


Tuesday 25th of February 2020

Ah that's so funny, I'm not the only Luce then! Hope you have a fantastic trip too.

David Cameron

Friday 3rd of January 2020

Thanks for the list - it is useful for a guy too (with a little modification). I am wondering what luggage do you own?


Monday 6th of January 2020

Hi I have a couple of different suitcases but usually go for as small as possible!


Tuesday 9th of February 2016

Another vote for Uniqlo and Heattech here - I love the fact they're so thin but keep me really warm. And glove liners are great too.


Tuesday 9th of February 2016

They're great – I have about 10 lots and wear them every day from about October to March!

Suzanne Jones

Monday 8th of February 2016

I have some thin liner gloves that are heat sensitive so you can keep them on and still use your mobile for taking those fabulous pics I've seen on your Instagram feed!


Monday 8th of February 2016

Thanks Suzanne – I have some silk inner gloves I bought for skiing so did pack those too (they’re white though so I do look a bit like a mime with them on!).