How to pack for air travel in the winter

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It’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to fit your holiday gifts and thick winter clothes in your suitcase.

Whether you’re jetting off for a ski vacation, venturing abroad or traveling home for the holidays, winter is a great time to get away. But, with the arrival of winter travel season, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to fit thick winter clothes, coats and boots in your suitcase. Not to mention ski equipment or, if you are traveling during the holidays, gifts. Lucky for you, Cheapflights can help you find a flight and help you pack for it. Read on for five winter air travel tips.

Layer up 

Winter travel means you’ll need plenty of warm clothing, but sweaters, coats and thermals can take up a lot of valuable luggage space. Rather than stuff these bulky items into your suitcase, wear them onto the plane. Boots, sweaters, jackets and winter coats should be worn rather than checked in a bag. The more you can wear, the more luggage room you’ll have to spare. Layer up with an undershirt, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, sweater and coat for air travel – you can always shed the heavier layers on the plane.

Quick tip: Fluffy coats can double as a pillow during long flights, or can be stuck under the seat if you get warm. Stick a reusable shopping bag (some fold into tiny, purse-ready pouches like these from Baggu) in your carry-on for easy transport once you’re in your destination (should you not need your coat there).

Mix and match

Mcfarlandmo, No339 19 Dec 2009 Packed via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Mcfarlandmo, No339 19 Dec 2009 Packed via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Have you ever returned from a trip only to unpack and realize you didn’t wear half of what you brought? The key to successful packing is to keep yourself from stuffing your entire wardrobe into your suitcase, especially when it comes to bulkier winter clothing. Opt for a limited amount of tops and bottoms that can easily be mixed and matched to create several different outfits. Consider staples in a neutral color scheme that can be easily dressed up or down.

Quick tip: Choose cashmere over other bulkier sweaters. They’ll keep you warm, but are also lightweight, making them take up a lot less room than wool.

Vacuum bag it

Robin Fernandes, Vacuum bags via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Robin Fernandes, Vacuum bags via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Vacuum bags can help condense bulky winter clothes so you’ll have more luggage space. Consider investing in a few of these bags when packing for winter travel.

Quick tip: Label bags so you know what’s in each. This will save time and effort later, when you’re looking for one particular item.

Savvy gifting

Petras Gagilas, gifts via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Petras Gagilas, gifts via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Traveling during the holidays can mean lugging around a treasure trove of gifts for loved ones you’re visiting. Large gifts can take up a lot of valuable suitcase space, so consider bringing smaller gifts or mailing presents ahead of time. Experiential gifts, like concert tickets or a gift certificate, can be just as thoughtful and far easier to pack.

Quick tip: If you do pack tips, be sure to travel with them unwrapped. TSA may have to unwrap them as part of their security procedures.

Pack smarter

Even when you wear as much as possible on the plane, clothes in the winter just take up more room. So how do you maximize suitcase space? Aside from vacuum bags, there are a number of ways you can pack smarter. Bundle or roll your clothes to make the most of valuable suitcase real estate.

Quick tip: Make a packing list check it twice. If you can’t think of two or more instances you’ll need an item, don’t pack it.

More packing tips

8 packing resolutions you definitely won’t keep this year
Suitcase snapshot: A survey of American packing habits
11 packing personalities: What does your suitcase say about you?
Quiz: Which type of getaway are you best at packing for?

What’s your go-to winter travel packing tip? Share with us in the comments and start planning your next winter getaway. When you’re ready to fly, check out our winter air travel tips.

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How to pack for air travel in the winter was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Marissa Willman
Author: Marissa Willman (786 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.