Philadelphia weather has been all over the place this winter. I wore flip-flops at Christmas as the temps were near 70F and then I shoveled over 28” of snow in a one day February snowstorm. The past week, I woke up to snow on the ground which melted by mid-day and then dealt with the sweltering temperatures of 81F yesterday (I did not succumb to moving from the heat to the a/c as some of my Facebook friends did). In one week from winter to summer, the back of my car looks like a disheveled closet of scarves, gloves, coats (winter and fall) as well as ice scraper and rock salt. And I live here! What to do if you are just visiting for a week? How the heck to pack? That’s the biggest conundrum when traveling – what to pack for weather whiplash? So I will share my packing tips and favorite travel brands below.
When I was embarking on my round the world adventure a few years ago, I was super excited to celebrate my birthday in Sydney, Australia. More excited that I was leaving the East Coast winter to visit Australia in late spring/early summer before making my way back home via Paris in winter. I had decided to pack two bags (big mistake when I had to pay for extra bags on the domestic flights in Australia but I digress) one with warm clothes and winter sweaters for Paris and one with summer Sydney. I kept checking the ten-day forecast every day leading up to my departure date and adjusting my suitcase accordingly. The sun was expected to make a good showing during my visit so light layers and sandals were added to my bag.
And then I landed in Melbourne, Australia, a city known for experiencing four seasons in one day. Unfortunately, for my summer Sydney suitcase, it stayed closed for most of my visit as I needed to pull out socks and warm layers for the Melbourne cold (and rainy) days. The weather apps got this one wrong as I would experience an unusual cold rainy spell for spring. While I know April showers bring May flowers, it was Australia in November. I was lucky to have my Paris winter bag to pull from, unlucky that I only had three pair of socks as I needed to wash them frequently during the trip. With two bags of clothes, I consider myself fortunate, had I only packed the summer Sydney bag, I would have been buying many souvenirs in the form of warm clothes during my trip. The rains and winds of Melbourne claimed a casualty – my travel umbrella. My partner in many countries, the little packable umbrella gave out as I crossed the street in Melbourne after my Street Art Walking Tour. The Sofitel Melbourne, Pullman Sydney, Westin –Sydney and Henry Jones Art Hotel in Tasmania all provided a free massive umbrella to use for the rest of my visit.
When I actually arrived in Sydney, I had one day to chase the sun followed by three days of rain (and cold). Tasmania had the same ratio as did Paris. It was a lot of rain that trip and reminded me how my packing had evolved over the years and my shift to reliable fashion brands that travel well to accommodate weather whiplash. Here’s what’s in my bag when I travel and might serve as a reminder or packing tips for you on your next trip:
My Packing Tips and Travel Brands/Clothes for Weather Whiplash
- Pullover Fleece – I wear this on the plane as it’s always cold but is helpful if your warm destination is cool at night or unusually cold
- Scarf – I have a tissue cashmere scarf from Nordstrom (now called a wool & cashmere scarf) that I love as it serves as scarf, head covering and blanket when needed. It’s lightweight and easy to pack.
- Extra Socks – bring easy to wash and dry socks or prepare to buy socks on the road (I’ve done this a few times in London –go to M&S for socks)
- A Sturdy Umbrella (or two) – I now carry two umbrellas mostly because of my propensity to find the rain when I travel. My checked bag has a small umbrella (my $35 Australian Sydney souvenir) and my carry-on has a mini-umbrella
- Smartwool base layer– This warm/cool option is great to layer or wear alone. I brought my warmer layer (a NTS Mid250 Crew) and wore as a pajama top in air-conditioned hotels and used as a layer under sweaters. I’m always cold so this is a warm option, they also offer a lightweight 150 Crew.
- Yoga Pants – I love my Lululemon Studio Pants III (tall) as they do triple duty – pajama bottoms, workout pants and easy to wear/lounge/travel. They cost a bit more but have served me well over the years.
- Flip Flops – I love, love, love my Teva Mush Flip Flops – I always pack them to wear in the hotel as I won’t go bare foot in the room (the older I get the more germ-a-phobe I become). Great to have if surprised by warm weather. My mush flops are super comfy
- Clothes that Layer well – It’s easy to have a baseline to add or subtract from. A black cardigan and the pullover above are good pieces to start the day cold and go to warm. Add in t-shirts/cami/tank tops as the base. I love Eileen Fisher for easy to wear, layer and travel in clothes. The linen options are wonderful and the cuts are flattering for all sizes.
- Jeans – a good wash and fit makes jeans an easy all-weather option. Dress up with the cardigan and jewelry or dress down with the flip-flops. My go to options jeans from NYDJ (I buy at Nordstrom to earn points), Loft (they have Curvy and Modern fits), Lauren by Ralph Lauren (affordable version and boot cut is my favorite)
- The Shoes – flip-flops, dressy sandals, a nice heel and the shoes you wear on the plane should cover all types of weather. My go to shoes, size 11, are from Munro American (I buy at Nordstrom to earn points and because the return policy is fabulous) because they are super comfortable and made in the U.S.A. They have all sizes and widths which make them a great option for hard to fit feet. They aren’t cheap but will last. I’ve often bought two pair because I know when they finally die, I will want to replace them with the exact same style (if you have big feet you understand).
So this is my weather whiplash packing list along with my favorite travel brands. What are your preferred packing tips for weather whiplash? Do you have your favorite item or brand that works best for you? Please share in the comments below.