As the temperatures in my hometown plummet to 32 F (0 C)–brrr!–I find myself thinking about different ways to keep warm when I travel. Yes, I’m from California and I get cold when it’s 62 F.
But the real problem is that when I get cold, my pain gets worse. So I’ve got to stay warm when I’m on the road or things can go very bad for me.
Here’s how I stay warm when I travel:
Visit Warm Places
The easiest way to keep from getting cold on the road is to travel to places that aren’t cold. My own state, California, has some great moderate-temp destinations that rarely get down to freezing even in the depths of February. Granted, wintertime is not bikini-time, even in San Diego. But San Diego, Palm Springs, Death Valley, Disneyland, and even San Francisco don’t get truly cold at any time–no snow, no below-zero wind chill, never even a hard frost most years. Other U.S. states with warm winter weather are Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Texas, and ever-popular Florida.
I favor Hawaii and the isles of the South Pacific as warm winter destinations. Maui is gorgeous in March. The Caribbean hurricane season ends at the first of December, which makes the balmy chain of islands a wonderful winter holiday destination. Cruise ships ply the Caribbean waters all winter long, making the most of the bathtub-temperature waters and sugar-sand beaches. Last February I went snorkeling in Cozumel wearing only a one-piece and a mask, and felt perfectly comfortable.
For travelers with more endurance for long flights and adventurous spirits when it comes to international destinations, other ways to keep warm include prowling the equatorial regions where the Earth stays warm year round, or swapping hemispheres for a season. While we’re snow-skiing North America from December through March, Australia and New Zealand are enjoying fine hot summers. And along the equator in South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa the tropical rain forests remain hot and damp even in the darkest months of winter.
Pack and Wear Layers
Forget about packing ultra-light, baggage-free travel, and all that crap. If I’m going someplace cold, I’m darn well going to bring enough clothing to keep me warm day and night.
That means turtlenecks, tank tops, long johns, and flannel jammies. Whatever pretty and warm sweaters, and attractive jeans and pants I want to wear over the sturdy under-layers. Plus sturdy fuzzy boots, long wool coat (or a ski jacket), wool scarf, warm hat, and warm gloves for time outdoors. Oh, and warm socks! Lots and lots of warm, comfy socks.
Use Heat Patches, Heat Pouches, & Heating Pads
These days, all sorts of heat patches and pouches are sold at my local Walgreens. So are electric heating pads, come to think of it. All of these work great on road trips–you can even get an adapter for your heating pad and plug it into your car. (When the car’s running–heating pads suck up tons of electricity, so don’t drain your car battery with your hot pad unless it’s really an emergency.)
While you can get the kind of heat pouches that have gel in them through airport security in the US by declaring them to be “medically necessary,” they may prove to be more trouble than they’re worth. And heating pads have wires in them, so I never bother trying to carry mine on board an airplane. That pretty much leaves the hot patches for plane flights. ThermaCare makes a nice one.
Turn Up the Heater
In the car and in my motel room, I turn the heater up to a temperature that truly keeps me comfortable. A trip in a cold winter environment is not the time nor the place to be parsimonious with the thermostat. If I’m feeling chilled when I get into my room, I will crank the temp up to 78 if I need to.
Drive Rather Than Taking Public Transit
It’s not green. It’s not PC. But it’s much, much warmer when I drive myself rather than taking public transit. Driving myself means no waiting outside in the cold at bus stations, light rail stations, or train stations. No standing on windswept corners trying to hail a cab. No sitting in an icy draft on a molded plastic seat. No long freezing hikes from the bus station to wherever it is I’m actually trying to go.
Of course, parking lots can be a long, long walk from the front door of my destination. But it’s more likely that I’ll have less walking to do if I drive rather than dealing with transit.
Take Lots of Hot Baths and Showers
Even the worst chills can be soaked away in a long hot bath. In-room spa tubs become even more important to me in the winter. For me, a shower works in a pinch but a deep tub that lets me submerge up to my neck works best. These days, many nice inns and hotels provide bath salts. But I can always bring a ziplock bag of my own blend of healing salts to throw in the water.
Fire Up the Fireplace
If my home away from home has a fireplace, I light it up and enjoy the warmth, the gentle light, and a good book.
So what do you do to keep warm when you travel? I’d love to gather up some more tips!