Baby it’s cold outside. Take it from a girl who has experienced the effects of leaving summer in balmy Australia for Christmas in bitterly cold Canada, complete with a 70°C temperature difference: you’re going to want to pack a few things to save your face, hair and the rest of you from the frost!
This one is a bit girly but is practical and links to a few products and packing essentials I bring when going from a balmy, humid climate to a dry and icy one. I know what you’re thinking – when did Ireland get balmy? Temperatures hovered between 2°C and 8°C from November to February, sometimes dropping below zero at night. According to the media this was the coldest and most miserable winter to hit New York in years, complete with frostbite warnings not to go outside for long. But I booked that ticket anyway.
Have you ever travelled somewhere 70°C colder?
You see, over Christmas 2013 the husband and I decided it would be a good idea to leave subtropical Brisbane for a stopover in Ontario before heading across the Atlantic to make our next home in Ireland. We went from a humid 30-35°C summer to temperatures of -43°C (at the worst) in Ottawa and Toronto. We had a great time catching up with family and friends, seeing snow again and having our first Christmas in one of our home countries since we met each other, complete with turkey and Secret Santa!
It was a wonderful experience but let me tell you, it was no winter wonderland. The husband had no winter gear so we went on a shopping trip to solve that problem but he was still frozen most of the time. He also couldn’t comprehend how the cars in the ditch ended up there or why anyone would drive anywhere. Poor Irish soul. I experienced multiple skin and hair dramas due to the sudden lack of moisture in the air and couldn’t understand how my genetics had failed me. I was born in Canada and had only missed four winters! How could my skin forget how to stay hydrated and my toes forget how to stay warm!?
Protect your face and hair from the elements
The picture above has some of the products I brought with me and purchased in New York. They are not product endorsements or advertisements but they are ones that I’ve been using and find do the trick for dry and cold winter climates. Get thee to a chemist, pharmacy, department store, Mecca Cosmetica or Sephora depending on your location!
They are from top to bottom, left to right:
- Clarins Daily Energizer travel kit to start the day and step off the plane refreshed
- Trilogy Rosehip Oil for extra moisture before applying my normal moisturiser and SPF and for extra hydration at night time
- Lancôme Énergie de Vie is a great night cream if you find the air dry in your hotel, it helps you wake up with restored skin and any ruddiness from the day before is gone!
- One of the Aussie ladies brought me a tube of my much loved Lucas Papaw Ointment – this all-natural Queensland product helps heal cuts and scrapes and acts as a great lip balm
- I bought a travel-sized kit from The Drybar after my Manhattan blow dry experience to keep the memories going in Canada with their cute cocktail shampoo and conditioner and have been using my cute mini brush ever since
- Cetaphil is my favourite moisturiser regardless of the season – the one pictured is SPF 15 but I use their High Tolerance and Shea Butter ones for face and body when I need extra hydration
- The Drybar’s Detox Dry Shampoo was THE BEST I have ever used and sadly when it emptied I went back to my loyal and trusty batiste brand (note to self: must find Drybar here)
- I’ve never tried caviar but I did go for this Alterna Caviar Hair Spray – great for a refresh and taming flyaways due to static
And always, always, always remember that even if it’s freezing outside, you need to wear an SPF!
Taking winter on again: things to pack
I knew what I was in for and I wanted to make sure I had my beauty products and woolly layers at the ready. I also went on shopping duty for the Aussies since they were doing a similar trip to my 2013 debacle: swapping summer Down Under for winter on the East Coast. I stocked up on fuzzy socks, tights and cosy accessories. I squeezed tubes of my ultra-hydrating moisturisers into travel sized alternatives. I put back ups in my carry on in case my luggage didn’t make it from Dublin. And I brought my secret weapon: two pairs of hand-knitted wool socks from Newfoundland that I picked up during my October trip to St. John’s to see my sister. The kind of socks you see farmers wearing in winter that are now somewhat stylish again when paired with skinny jeans and the right boot. Once I had those babies on, frostbite was getting nowhere near my toes!
A few places I would recommend visiting if you’re travelling in winter:
- Primark in the UK (or Penneys as it’s known in Ireland) for leggings/tights, socks and winter accessories
- H&M for leggings/tights, socks, winter accessories and some warm layers and fuzzy jumpers
- River Island for all of the above
All have loads of stylish accessories for those on a budget and let’s face it – your money is best saved for cocktails, shopping and Broadway shows in New York.
If you’re having a shoe dilemma and can’t decide which stilettos or heels to pack, get a grip. If it’s snowing or sleeting wherever you’re going you will need boots. Heels are fine for short distances or if you plan on hailing a cab to get from Point A to Point B but if you’re walking a lot and braving the snow – these will not keep the cold air or wet slush out.
Budget conscious shoppers can go for all of the above stores but if you want something that will last a bit longer, go to a good shoe or department store straight off the plane or order in advance online. Most countries that don’t experience harsh winters have sky high prices and the materials just aren’t the same (suede isn’t snow’s friend). Also – don’t underestimate the value of a good shoe protector spray. When it’s that cold, the sidewalks and roads get icy so the city council constantly salts the pavement to prevent accidents. It is great for safety but bad for leather, so spray before you head outdoors if you want to avoid staining!
I brought a pair of black heeled ankle boots for nights out and wore a pair of brown leather Rieker’s as my go-to casual shoe for the 10 days in Manhattan. They were layered with a normal pair of socks and my Newfie ones of course.
If the weather is especially poor, you will need a pair of proper warm and ideally waterproof boots. The shorter the heel, the better for walking. When I found the sleet and slush to be too much, I bought a pair of Sorel’s since I knew what I was in for in Canada. To give you a better idea: it didn’t go above -10°C while I was there and was the coldest February in 115 years.
The leggings or tights can be worn with your dresses or skirts but I also keep them as a back up to wear under jeans. True Canadians all have at least one pair of long johns (cotton and cosy for extra warmth) as your denim will freeze as soon as you step out the door. Not a pleasant feeling against bare legs. I also find if you are wearing a loose, flowing top made of any kind of silk, chiffon or soft and light fabric, even if you layer a jumper or cardigan over the top, you will freeze. So I tend to wear a tank top/singlet under those and tuck it into my pants – until you feel the cold on your torso, you won’t understand what I mean.
That should do for protecting you from the various elements. What are your go-to products and packing staples for winter trips?