Winter Travel Is Really Great — Except When It’s Not

The Ugly Truth of Winter Travel

“Do you want to build a snowma—” “NO!”

For those of us who hail from tropical countries, the idea of winter holds an alluring mystery. We’ve held snow globes in our hands and wondered what it would feel like to be in the middle of it all. Flurries of snow, circling all around us. Cloudy wisps from our breath. Real sweater weather. Chestnuts roasting on an open fi — okay, you get the idea. But what happens when our dreams of winter travel become less like A Christmas Story and more like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining? Here, we give you the real low-down on this polarising season between autumn and spring. Be warned, though. It’s not always pretty.

Also read: On Winter Travel: Here Are Reasons Why I Hate It

1. Less shopping for heavy packers

Image credit: Bwag

Winter travel foreshadows many seasonal joys! Especially noteworthy are the Christmas markets, which brighten the streets of Salzburg, Moscow, Edinburgh, Prague, Taipei, and so many countries around the world. Come winter, we fantasise about packing our bags to the brim with hand-painted curiosities and trinkets from these festive stalls. In fact, we have half a mind to start our own little Christmas village back home, selling fruitcakes and wine to all our friends. Then we look down at our luggage. 

Yeah. It’s not going to work. If it were summertime, maybe we’d be able to squeeze our souvenir haul into the spaces between our clothes without a problem. But winter apparel comes in stocky and padded jackets, bulky boots, heavy mantles, and thick knitwear — al useful, all very necessary, yet ultimately wearing down the kilos of our suitcase. 

And so, with deep sadness in our hearts, we stare longingly at the twinkling baubles on display and fondly bid them goodbye. 

Also read: 2019 Holiday Guide: 10 Most Magical Christmas Markets in Asia & Beyond 

2. Icy weather conditions can curtail your activities

winter travel: snow

At its best, winter covers the ground in crystal plains and magical icy dunes. Here, rosy-cheeked kids take out their skates to glide across the ice of frozen lakes. But at the season’s worst, blizzards and snowstorms unleash their fury, trapping everyone indoors as temperatures fall below zero. Needless to say, we worked hard to earn our vacation leave. Getting stranded for days inside an Airbnb? Not our idea of a good time. 

At first, you rejoice because the crowds of tourists are nowhere in sight! All the queues at the major attractions seem to have vanished mysteriously overnight. 

Then you learn that your favourite museum is currently undergoing renovation. And those other postcard-perfect spots you wanted to visit? Closed for business. What you thought would be a winter wonderland is now a deserted wasteland.

Between the bone-chilling nights and massive amounts of snow, piled so thick and high that the locals have to close the road, it’s no wonder this is called the off-season. 

3. What’s happening to your face?

Smothered in our best wool, we’re just about ready to prance around like happy alpacas in the snow! Oh wait. What’s happening? AHHHH! 

We make it sound like we’re being attacked by the Abominable Snowman, but that’s what happens when the cold air assaults your face! Suddenly, you have flaky skin, cracked lips, eczema, and worryingly red patches from the bite of winter. Let’s not even get started on the increased risks of dehydration, fever, and hypothermia during the chilly season! Winter is simply not for the faint-hearted.

4. Winter blues can get you down

winter travel

Something about the winter season makes people feel gloomy and indescribably lonely, if they remain entrenched in the mind-numbing cold for too long. We like to think the grass is greener — or in this case, whiter — on the other side. However, there’s a reason why so many people flee the shivering air for warmer coasts and temperate climates. Waking up to grey skies can really sap your energy if you aren’t prepared for it. How do you get up in the morning to play and explore when the weather keeps telling you that it’s time to sleep? 

winter travel

If your holiday is short and sweet, then you have nothing to worry about. But if you are vacationing for long stretches of time in countries like Iceland or Finland, where pitch-dark nights can drag on for several months in a year, the absence of sunlight can severely dampen your spirits. Despite your best efforts to stay active, you become sleepy and terribly sluggish. Some people even need to rely on lamps and light therapy boxes just to make up for the lack of vitamin D.

Also read: Winter Checklist: 5 Tips to Help You Overcome the Cold Season

All the same, we can’t deny there are wonders that only make themselves known in winter travel. Blazing fires in a remote cabin nestled at the foot of snowy mountains. Hot chocolate made richer for its contrast to the weather. Even when it’s so cold that you have to rub your hands to keep warm, the stars in the sky have never seemed so clear. And out of the darkness comes another kind of light — so close, we have to remember to blink.

About Author

Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany is a writer based in Manila. When she was younger, she knew she wanted to write stories or go on adventures—now, she's learning to do both. She enjoys being swept up in books that spark her curiosity for new places, both real and imaginary. While travelling, she finds herself going off the beaten track quite often, but it's probably because she gets lost easily.

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