Essential guide: How to pack for your winter holidays

With the grey clouds now rolling back in and the colder mornings making your snuggly duvet ever more difficult to leave on a Monday morning, you might be pining for that sunshine once again. Or perhaps you love the cold weather, but proper cold weather; perhaps you want blankets of snow and picturesque Christmas scenes of warm havens tucked away in the frost. Not soggy trips to the bus shelter under grey clouds and drizzly rain… 

Whatever you’re pining for, it might be time to book yourself a winter holiday to look forward to as a break from the grey gloom of the British winter months. Check out our guide below for the best destinations for walking through the cities, lounging on the beach, or dashing through the snow!

Winter snow 
Amsterdam offers picturesque winter scenes, especially when it snows. If you’re lucky, the temperature will drop far enough for the canals to freeze over into a spectacular ice-rink too! With winter markets galore and the magical Sinterklaas parade, you can’t possibly visit Amsterdam in the winter and not come away ready for all things Christmassy! 

Don’t forget… 
It will be very cold, and you’ll no doubt be doing plenty of walking, be it through the winter markets or strolling through one of Amsterdam’s museums. A good, comfy pair of flat boots will help you to keep up the pace and keep your toes snug and warm. 

Similar to Amsterdam, Vienna offers a brilliant array of winter markets, with Christkindlmarkt held at City Hall a definite must-see. Vienna can get very cold in the winter months, but there’s options to warm up from silky hot chocolates in a quaint cafĂ© retreat to…butterflies? 

The city is also home to the Imperial Butterfly House, or the Schmetterlinghaus to give it its proper name. This amazing spot is home to approximately 400 live butterflies, which enjoy a year-round summer temperature, perfect to thaw out chilly cheeks and frozen fingers for a while! 

Don’t forget… 
Your raincoat to go with your winter woollies! No matter what time of year you visit Vienna, there’s a chance of rain, but more so over the winter months. 

If you want to look fancy to your friends, tell them your reasons for visiting Bruges, as the whole city was made a World Heritage site by UNESCO. If you want to sound truthful to your friends when you tell them your reasons for visiting Bruges: Choco-Story Museum

The museum will guide you through the history of Belgian chocolate, as well as showing you the process of how chocolate is made. Plus, the museum houses incredible statues made from chocolate! Don’t eat them though — the end of the tour allows for chocolate tasting without destroying works of art. 

Don’t forget… 
Your portable charger. Bruges is a city of sights, and you’ll be snapping plenty of photos as your wander through its gorgeous streets. Be sure to keep that camera and phone (sometimes one in the same!) topped up with a handy portable charger. 

Winter sun 
Sri Lanka 
Sri Lanka’s Hiriketiya Bay was one of The Guardian’s top picks for holidays destinations that serve up a little sun over our winter months, and it’s easy to see why. The bay is a beautiful, secluded spot that sets itself apart from the usual hustle and bustle of tourist destinations. 

As well as this, Sri Lanka serves up gorgeous sunsets, and no doubt you will want to wander along the sand to take in the sights. 

Don’t forget… 
You’ll need something to cover up with, both to protect your skin from the sun and to respect local customs. Culture Trip advises that bikinis are fine by the pool or on the beach, but elsewhere, it’s better to cover up. Shawls are not only great for this, but also double up as an extra layer of protection from the sun. Don’t skip the sunscreen though! 

Dubai is the perfect destination if your idea of winter sun doesn’t necessarily mean beach-trips. With average temperatures in November between 31°C and 21°C, the city won’t let you down for seeking that summery feeling, and there’s so much to do here beyond heading to the beach. Take part in the ultimate shopping experience at Dubai Mall, the biggest shopping mall in the world by area. Or, book in early to take a trip up the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Further reading - The Ultimate Guide to Dubai by Nomad Homes.

Don’t forget… 
Like Sri Lanka, you’ll need a cover up option but perhaps for different reasons than you might expect! The Telegraph advises that the shopping malls can actually get a little chilly with their powerful air conditioning, so you will want something to cover up with when you head inside. 

Barbados offer the traditional sun-and-sand winter escape. This island has a tropical climate throughout the year, so you can spend your winter months lounging on its pristine beaches and soaking in its crystalline seas. 

The island is renowned for its amazing cuisine, particularly its super-fresh seafood selection. Notable Barbadian food orders include flying fish, fish cakes, and macaroni pie. 

Don’t forget… 
A sturdy umbrella or a raincoat, as the rainy season starts in Barbados in the latter half of the year, so you might find your sunshine broken up by a spell of rain. 

Be aware that it is illegal for non-military to wear camouflage or army gear in public in Barbados. So no camo-prints!


  1. Some great tips thanks!

  2. You've got me dreaming about warm and sunny destinations. Thank you!

  3. Would love to be in DUBAI - I'll carry on dreaming

  4. Ooh I'd love a winter holiday. Great tips.

  5. Sometimes its just hard to know what to pack, i went to spain one Winter, and it turned out to be the coldest winter they had had, so lesson learnt, i pack for both ocassions

  6. Some great advice; thank you. I had no clue it was illegal to wear camo in Barbados.